One hour from: Cardiff

Forget the dog. Take the sheep for a walk
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The Independent Travel

Take the road out of Cardiff to discover castles, coalmines and some of Wales' most beautiful countryside.

Take the road out of Cardiff to discover castles, coalmines and some of Wales' most beautiful countryside.

Blaenavon

Blaenavon's Industrial Landscape was awarded Unesco World Heritage Status in 2000. Step back in time to the Industrial Revolution and visit the early ironworks, disused railways and workers' cottages. At the Big Pit National Mining Museum get kitted out with helmet, cap-lamp and battery-pack before descending 90 metres into Big Pit itself, where hundreds of men, women and children worked for more than 200 years. For bedtime reading, pick up a copy of Alexander Cordell's historical novel The Rape of the Fair Country, which is set here.

By car: take the M4 east, followed by the A4042 north, then the A4043; journey time approx 45mins.

Brecon

The highest mountains in southern Britain and some stunning Welsh countryside make up the Brecon Beacons National Park. After walking through this spectacular wilderness, stop off at the Visitor Centre for some wholesome cooking. In town, the highlights include the Cathedral and the South Wales Borderers' Museum, crammed with military memorabilia.

By car: take the A470 north and follow signs; journey time approx 1 hour.

Caerleon

Known to the Romans as Isca, this attractive small town on the River Usk has fine Roman remains and is also associated with the King Arthur legend. Top sights include the huge amphitheatre and the Fortress Baths, the Roman equivalent of our leisure centre. Look out for the swimming pool, changing room and part of the cold hall. Expect fine mosaic floors and a stone washbasin with the head of Medusa.

By car: take the M4 east and follow signs; journey time approx 30mins.

Chepstow

This historic walled border town overlooking the River Wye is the ancient gateway to Wales. Don't miss mighty Chepstow Castle, possibly the oldest stone castle in the UK, which might have inspired the young J K Rowling, who grew up here, to create Harry Potter. Feeling lucky? Have a flutter on the horses at the race course. Feeling active? Put your best foot forward on Offa's Dyke Path, the 168-mile walk to Prestatyn in North Wales.

By car: take the M4 east, then the M48; journey time approx 40 mins.

Llandeilo

Sitting on a bosky rise above the rich farmlands of the Towy Valley, this delightful town is home to the longest single-span arched bridge in Wales. Perched dramatically on a cliff, on the town's edge is the romantic ruin of Dinefwr Castle. Spend time in Dinefwr Park and visit the refurbished Newton House. Explore the rolling 18th-century landscape, ancient deer park, bog wood and restored Victorian Garden.

By car: take the M4 west, followed by the A483; journey time approx 1 hour.

The Valleys

Looking for green mountains, dense forests and country parks? Head for the Valleys of South Wales, which are full of things to do for all the family. Climbing, caving, canoeing and bike hire are on offer at the International Indoor Climbing Centre in Taff Bargoed. At Taff Valley Buggy Trails in Pontypridd, go quad biking or clay-pigeon shooting, or try your hand at archery – there is a section for children aged eight or over. Or simply stroll through Parc Cwm Darren near Deri Bargoed, a tranquil country park with lakeside paths and shady woodlands.

By car: take the A470 north and follow signs; journey times approx 45 mins. By train: there are eight Valley Lines from Cardiff station.

Further information

St David's Hotel & Spa (029-2045 4045; www.rfhotels.com) offers rooms from £150 at weekends. Return train fares from London to Cardiff (08457 000 125; www.firstgreat western.co.uk) cost from £23. Europcar (0870-607 5000; www.europcar.co.uk) offers weekend car hire from £53. For further information contact the Welsh Tourist Board (0800 915 6567; www.tourism.wales.gov.uk).

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