The delightful city of Swansea is the second largest city in Wales, and, over the past few years, has undergone a major renewal, especially in the award-winning Marina and Maritime Quarter, where the visitor attractions include the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea Museum and the Dylan Thomas Centre.
The city marks the gateway to the southernmost bulge of Wales, the lovely Gower Peninsula, a region designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Much of this area is owned by the National Trust. The Gower’s southern coastline is made up of a succession of sandy, sheltered bays, and, along its whole coastline, it is dotted with charming and relaxed seaside resorts.
The area is sprinkled with ancient monuments, Norman castles and a number of grand mansions such as Cyfarthfa Castle at Merthyr Tydfil. This is also an area rich in natural beauty, with a long history that can be explored at the Gower Heritage Centre, a few miles west of Swansea. The area has many small family farms that yield some of the finest produce in South Wales, with the Gower in particular being known for its cockles and its laverbread (edible seaweed).
The Vale of Glamorgan is characterised by gentle rolling hills, genteel towns, a coastline rich in heritage and history, pretty villages and rich farmland.
Behind the coastal region lie the valleys of southwest Wales, once blighted by the consequences of coal mining and heavy industry. The best known is the Rhondda Valley, where one working mine survives. The towns and villages, where life revolved around the colliery, the chapel and the male voice choirs, have endured. These famous choirs were formed mainly by the coalmining and iron working communities of the South Wales valleys and in the quarries of North Wales. Most of them welcome visitors dropping in on rehearsals as well as attending concerts.
In many cases, nature has reclaimed the hills and vales once scarred by the mining industry and, while pride in the industry remains, the various new country parks and nature reserves developed on the sites of the old mines are giving the area a new hope, and a new appeal.
Swansea, Wales’s city by the sea, sits beside the 5-mile stretch of Swansea Bay at the eastern end of the lovely Gower Peninsula. In recent years, the city has seen major regeneration, especially in the award-winning Marina and Maritime Quarter, where the visitor attractions include the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea Museum, the Dylan Thomas Centre and the LC leisure complex and waterpark. The city centre offers more than 230 shops and Swansea Market is the largest indoor market in Wales. Here you can sample and buy local delicacies such as cockles, locally-caught fresh fish and locally- reared meat, laverbread, and of course traditional welshcakes. Within the central area there are more than 90 places to eat and drink, including family-friendly eatieries, bistro restaurants and modern café-bars. The Wind Street area is a modern café quarter by day, and after dark provides a vibrant night life. The city also has excellent sporting facilities including the Wales National Pool (the only 50 metre swimming pool in Wales), and the Liberty Stadium, a 20,000-seat venue opened in 2005, which is home to Swansea City Football Club and The Ospreys Rugby Team.