#DareToDiscover is the slogan used to promote the county of Bridgend and inspire visitors to go there.
Situated between Cardiff and Swansea, this area has the perfect location if you want to visit something different than the main cities and if you wish to have a broader experience of Wales.
The Bridgend district has various towns which are worth a visit. It’s great if you are escaping from a stressful life, if you want to enjoy outdoor activities, or simply if you are a fan of filming locations: scenes from Doctor Who, Prince of Arabia, to name but two, were shot here.
It’s a ideal destination for young people, solo travellers and families alike. There is a great choice of sport and other activities; the people are warm and friendly (which is awesome, especially when you travel by yourself like I did); it’s a relaxed, carefree and safe place, in which families can happily spend their holidays.
I was based in Porthcawl; a quite popular holiday resort during the summer months, and a smart starting point if you wish to visit all the surrounding villages. Porthcawl is a well-kept and lovely town, with a long promenade along the coast, several sandy beaches, a striking white lighthouse, a funfair on Coney Beach, and the Grand Pavillon.
I asked locals to give me information about the town, and I learnt that Porthcawl only turned into a holiday destination in the past century: in the 19th century it was a coal port, which unfortunately faded away when the South Wales Valley coal pits closed. Now Porthcawl has a new marina, is home to the largest caravan resort in Europe and has blue flag beaches.
Porthcawl really is the perfect starting point to explore the area. In two days I managed to visit all the main sites; and here it is, my advice for the best things to do and see:
WHAT TO SEE
Merthyr Mawr Sand Dunes: I consider these sand dunes to be one of the most spectacular attractions of the region: you are in Wales but your brain thinks you are in some exotic destination. The sugar-like golden dunes were once the largest dune complex in Britain. If you are a film and tv series fan, you might be able to recognise where some scenes from Doctor Who, Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Prince of Arabia were shot.
Castles: Go back in time and visit the Norman castles spread throughout the area, such as Candleston, Ogmore and Kenfig. Look at the ruins, read the plaques and use the quaint audio guide boxes.
Ewenny Pottery: Ewenny Pottery is a special experience, especially if you want to appreciate local handicraft and traditions. This workshop and shop have been owned by the Jenkin family for eight generations! You can see them crafting their products from scratch and then you can buy them in the shop, where you can also see a collection of Ewenny pottery, past and present. It’s great to see how old skills and knowledge have been passed down, with passion, from generation to generation.
WHAT TO DO
Water Activities: Porthcawl is considered a mecca for water activities, from beginners to experts. You can have real fun. Choose among kite, board or wind surfing; scuba diving or kayaking. Experts are available to assist and teach you if needed. I attended my very first board surf lesson at the Porthcawl Surf School (open all year, in the popular Rest Bay); from where I hired all the equipment. Hugh, my instructor, split the lesson in three parts: safety, how to catch waves and how to stand on a board. He’s very kind and answered every question. As a beginner, I felt well supported. Absolutely recommended!
Shopping at McArthurglen Designer Outlet: shop until you drop, all year round, in more than 90 stores! Look for your favourite brands, take advantage of great deals, and purchase items with reductions up to 60%.
Porthcawl Male Voice Choir: Listen to the male choir of the Presbyterian Church in Arlington Road, practice their repertoire every Tuesday and Friday, from 19.30 to 21.30. They perform at charity events and weddings, take part in competitions, and maintain Welsh Choral Singing.
Events: Bridgend county is famous for its international events. The most important being the Elvis Festival in September, the Celtic Music Festival in March and the annual gathering of Elves before Christmas. Are you ready to dress up?
ACCOMODATION AND RESTAURANTS
Protea Guesthouse - 25 Esplanade Avenue, Porthcawl, Bridgend CF363YS
I stayed at this very centrally located Porthcawl guest house, run by Elaine and Derek. They were so kind that I truly felt at home. Rooms are ensuite and breakfast is included.
Isabella's Brasserie - 9 Well Street, Porthcawl, CF36 3BE
Locals recommended that I have dinner here, and so I did. Located right behind the Gran Pavillon and close to the promenade, it’s atmosphere is typically Mediterrean: latin background music; a Portuguese flag hung by the entrance; and delicious fresh food, including tapas and Spanish recipes of your choice.
Pelican in her Piety Pub - Ogmore-by-Sea, Bridgend, Vale of Glamorgan CF32 0QP
Opened more than 250 years ago, this is a very popular pub with locals and is located right in front of Ogmore Castle. They serve huge portions of home-made food. Wi-fi is available.
The Prince of Wales Inn - Ton Kenfig,Bridgend CF33 4PR
This is a fantastic place where you can enjoy a huge meal accompanied by local beers. This isn’t merely a pub: it was once the Town Hall of Kenfig. Gareth, the landlord, will proudly explain the centuries-old history and tell you tales of hauntings.
Travel tip shared for Traveldudes by Viaggiovagando
Traveldudes got invited by Bridgend County to explore the region. The views expressed above, including the chosen hotel, are mine and mine only.