Vale of Glamorgan Overview
- Clifftop charmer
- Coast life
- Devolution, evolution, revolution
In Wales, they say a little bit of everything never did anyone any harm – and diversity is what you’ll get in spades in the Vale of Glamorgan.
On this southernmost tip of Wales, green rolling hills give way to a splendid natural coastline where dinosaurs once roamed; their fossilised remains still regularly poke through the sand along rock-strewn shores. You couldn’t pick a better place to sample the best of many Welsh worlds: Penarth, with its elegant Victorian esplanade, and Llantwit Major, an important Roman headland, both offer steps back in time; and modern-day daytrippers will find that the genteel boutiques of market town Cowbridge – the Knightsbridge of South Wales – play chalk to the cheese of Barry’s seaside-resort rollercoaster mayhem. Plus, the region is on the doorstep of the capital Cardiff, with all its new-millennium-enhanced attractions.
Very Vale of Glamorgan
South Glamorgan’s arable hills are unique in Wales, and Pendoylan – a prime wine-growing region – is home to the Cariad Wines estate, Llanerch Vineyard, at Hensol. While away a gently Bacchanalian afternoon, following the tranquil trail that meanders among vines, gardens and ancient woodlands, before tasting the award-winning wares. The off-dry, Provençal-style Cariad Rosé is particularly enjoyable (+44 (0)1443 225877; www.llanerch-vineyard.co.uk).
- You can’t hail a cab in this neck of the woods, so book local journeys with a minicab firm. For travel in the east, try Cowbridge and Vale Cars (+44 (0)1446 774714); in the west, ring Penarth Cars (+44 (0)29 2070 1122).
- Tipping culture
- 10–15 per cent is standard, but many restaurants now add a discretionary 12.5 per cent, so be careful not to tip twice.
- Packing tips
- Bring all the boys’ toys you can fit in the boot: your fishing rod and kite will definitely get an airing. Give your mountain bike a workout on the Heritage Coast Footpath, a 14-mile seafront trail from Aberthaw to Porthcawl that passes the largest sand dunes in Europe.
- Recommended reads
- Kingsley Amis’ Booker prize-winning The Old Devils raises a glass to growing old in South Wales. For a poison-pen mystery that escalates into a murder trail around the Vale, read Glyn Daniel’s 1954 detective story, Welcome Death. John Williams’ contemporary novel Cardiff Dead reveals the Welsh capital’s underbelly in a romp that connects politics, rugby fans and Dame Shirley Bassey.
- Regional specialities
- That dark pattie that arrives on your breakfast plate is laverbread cake, a protein-packed mix of oats and laver seaweed picked from local shores. If your bacon no longer tastes the same without it, buy a jar of Parsons Traditional Laverbread from the excellent Farthings at Home Delicatessen in Cowbridge (+44 (0)1446 773545; www.farthingsofcowbridge.co.uk). Although Cardiffians favour a pint (usually of Felinfoel), the region boasts some good wines. Teetotallers will find that a slice of bara brith, a ‘speckled cake’ packed with dried fruit, goes down very nicely with a cuppa.
- Pound sterling.
- Time zone
- Dialling codes
- Country code for the UK: +44. Cowbridge: (0)1446; Penarth/Cardiff area: (0)29.
Don't go home without...
… buying an ice-cream to accompany a nostalgic stroll along Penarth’s Victorian pier. Keen anglers can even fish off the end of it for free; don’t even think about chopping your bait up on the decking, though (www.penarthpier.com).