Ogmore Vale and the Vale of Glamorgan in South Wales combine coastline and rustic charm with Welsh heritage, indoor and outdoor pursuits and some seriously good shopping.
Spanning from Porthcawl and Ogmore-by-sea on the western stretch of the coast to Barry in the east, then inland to the villages and towns of Llantwit Major, Bridgend and Cowbridge, this versatile visitor destination is a rich haven of things to see and do.
Towns, Villages & Valleys
The town of Porthcawl is a popular family holiday destination situated midway between Cardiff and Swansea and easy to get to from the M4. A classic seaside resort dating back to the Victorian era, it comes complete with a promenade, Blue Flag beaches, a new marina, a grand pavilion, funfair, museum and three impressive golf courses.
Over the years, the town has become famous for a number of festivals and competitions with one event attracting a great deal of media interest and visitors, the Elvis Festival. Every September, thousands of people flock to Portchawl to celebrate the life of the King making it the largest Elvis event in Europe.
There’s also the Porthcawl Jazz Championship and the Porthcawl amateur golf championship, one of the biggest amateur competitions in the world.
A rural market town lying some seven miles west of Cardiff, Cowbridge has a reputation as one of South Wales’ most fashionable places to live and visit. Its pretty streets are lined with around 60 independent shops and boutiques selling up-market clothes as well as jewellery, leather goods, shoes, antiques and crafts. As to eating out, take your pick from cosy cafes and over 35 pubs and restaurants from French and Welsh to Indian and Thai cuisine.
Neatly tucked behind the High Street is the Cowbridge Physic Garden, a haven of peace and tranquillity and close by are the Grade I listed gardens of Dyffryn House, a fine example of Edwardian garden design.
Llantwit Major’s compact old town centre is a maze of little lanes, narrow streets, old inns and historic buildings, the oldest dating back to around 500 AD. There’s the imposing church of St Illtyd which contains a collection of Celtic crosses and carved stones, many of which are older than the church itself.
The largest town in Wales, Barry oozes maritime history while neighbouring Barry Island is bursting with colourful seaside fun and a family beach. Technically a district rather than an actual island, the hit TV show Gavin and Stacey has certainly put Barry Island on the map with this popular resort now famed for its ice-cream and candy floss, promenade, adventure golf, amusements, shops, funfair rides and golden sands.
Bridgend is the ideal location from which to explore South Wales as it lies right in the middle of some of the region’s best visitor destinations. The Gower Peninsular, the Brecon Beacons, Cardiff, Margam Park, the Heritage Coastline including Porthcawl and Ogmore-by-sea, are all within easy reach of this small inland Welsh town.
Good shopping can be found at The Rhiw Shopping Centre complete with historic indoor market then of course there’s the McArthur Glen designer outlet on the outskirts at Sarn for a great shopping experience and bargain hunting.
Bridgend also marks the gateway to some striking valleys renowned for their splendid landscapes and views. At the head of Ogmore Vale is the Bwlch mountain offering a great panorama overlooking the Rhondda Fawr valley to the east, the Afan valley to the west, the Brecon Beacons to the north, and down past the Ogmore valley itself and over the sea to Somerset to the south.
It’s often said that the best way to judge a place is by the friendliness and humour of its people. Perhaps the fact that Bridgend has held its annual Elf-eisteddfod now for six years and broken the record for the largest gathering of Santa’s helpers in one place is testament to the warmth and sense of fun of the Bridgend people.
Ogmore-by-Sea is a small seaside village only three miles from Bridgend situated at the mouth of the River Ogmore where the river divides Ogmore beach to the south and the dunes of Merthyr Mawr to the north, one of Europe’s largest groups of sand dunes. You can also walk to Ogmore Castle and at low tide cross the river Ewenny using the castle’s stepping-stones.
Castles, Historical Houses & Gardens
Wales is famed for its mix of Castles and ancient ruins and in the Ogmore Vale and Vale of Glamorgan region over 50 can be found. Ogmore Castle, Coity Castle and Newcastle Castle in Bridgend hold particular historical significance and date back to the Norman invasion of Wales. There are some fabulous houses and gardens to be visited too and for a crash course in Welsh history and a fun day out, St Fagans is a national gem.
Skirting the fringes of the Vale area close to Cardiff is St Fagans, one of Europe's leading open–air museums. Set in the grounds of St Fagans Castle, a late 16th-century manor house, the museum is part of the National Museum of Wales.
Perfect for people of all ages, St Fagans is free to enter and is widely regarded as one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Principality. Forty original buildings from Celtic times to the present day have been rebuilt on 100-acres of parkland, with traditional crafts and activities bringing St Fagans alive by chronicling the lifestyle, culture and architecture of the Welsh people.
Bryngarw Country Park
To the north of Bridgend, just over the M4, is the Grade II listed historic park and garden, Bryngarw Country Park. This exceptional visitor attraction makes for the perfect escape to the country for families, walkers and lovers of wildlife.
Free to enter with plenty of good value parking, the 120-acre park combines native woodlands and wetlands with formal gardens and exotic trees and secluded glades, all set around the beautiful River Garw.
It is a haven for wildlife and there are nature walks, cycle trails, BBQ and picnic areas as well as a great kids’ playground plus a visitor centre and tea rooms with the park open all year round.
A key feature is the Grade II listed Bryngarw House which dates back to the 15th Century and today is a popular venue for weddings and events.
Dyffryn House & Gardens
Step back in time and enjoy the Edwardian splendour of Dyffryn Gardens, a collection of botanical gardens plus a restored Victorian mansion house near the villages of Dyffryn and St Nicholas in the heart of the Vale of Glamorgan.
Owned by the National Trust, the gardens cover more than 55 acres and feature beautifully designed garden rooms including a rose garden, Pompeian garden and several ponds. There are formal lawns, an extensive arboretum as well as unusual varieties of plants housed within a glasshouse, and an enormous great lawn bordered by seasonal bedding and a croquet lawn.
It’s a great day out for families and individuals and as well as marvelling at the gardens and their vistas, visitors have the chance to discover the partially restored Grade II Listed house which opened to the public in 2013 and offers an eclectic mix of décor styles.
Dyffryn house stands at the entrance to the gardens and is a National Trust House with a difference. Many of the rooms have been furnished but with a twist as they feature items visitors can touch and play with including books, billiards, typewriters, sewing and even a grand piano.
The Glamorgan Heritage Coast forms part of the Wales Coast Path which covers some 870 miles around the Welsh coastline. Officially opened in May 2012, it is the largest continuous coastal path in the world.
Stretching from Porthcawl in the west to Barry in the east, the Heritage Coast is a walkers and geologists paradise. It is truly spectacular with around 19 beaches as well as dramatic cliffs, amazing rock formations, secluded romantic coves and family beaches, all backed by rolling countryside.
The beaches at Ogmore-by-sea, Southerndown and Dunravan Bay are particularly striking examples of nature at her best, and for dramatic sweeps of golden sand backed by man-made fun, head to Barry Island and Porthcawl.
The Merthyr Mawr Sand Dunes are also a haven for excitement and adventure. Next to forestry and the remains of Candleston Castle are a maze of pathways and dunes that are simply perfect for tumbling down and it’s even possible to sledge down the Big Dipper, the biggest sand dune in Europe.
Activities & Events
Coast and countryside combine to create the perfect background for adventure and excitement with plenty of opportunities to try out new skills and challenge yourself in the great outdoors.
From learning to surf and kayaking to gorge walking, canyoning, coasteering, raft building, paintballing, horse riding and mountain activities, there are a host of options through a number of outdoor activity centres including Adventure Wales and Quest Adventures.
For gentler pursuits choose from beach wild food foraging and photography courses and bushcraft skills where you can try your hand at everything from whittling to making fires. As to golf, there are an impressive 15 golf courses within the area including world-famous Royal Porthcawl.
When it comes to organised events and competitions, the Dragon Ride and Tour at Margam Park has certainly put itself on the map, attracting cyclists from all over Europe. Taking place in June, this three-day annual event offers nearly 3,000 metres of routes with races organised over a variety of distances. Margam Castle is just off the M4 on the way to Port Talbot and this fine example of gothic 1930s architecture has become a multi-functional venue as well as holding its own ghost tours.
Another popular events venue is Porthcawl’s Grand Pavillion which is the town’s landmark seafront building. A throwback to the glamour of the 1930s, it’s a much-loved venue for musical theatre and ballet, bands, movies and comedy clubs as well as art exhibitions and tea dances.