Top 10 Shopping Destinations In South Wales
Regardless of the Season, sometimes a cottage stay provides time to enjoy things that everyday life at home does not allow. It may be walking, enjoying the fabulous array of scenery here in South Wales or possibly the opportunity to curl up in front of the log fire with a book? But others like to be out and about and enjoy exploring a different location, discover nice places to eat and meander around the shops – guests can vary from searching for antiques, bargains or just enjoy browsing in the smaller shopping centres and are ready to be surprised!
Guests on a trip to our holiday cottages Swansea Gower can be guilty of forgetting what is available on our doorstep here in Pontardawe as they travel far and wide exploring a large area of South Wales.
Pontardawe is just over a mile away from the cottages, if a dry day, then it can be walked to via the footpath adjacent to the larger cottage. The path crosses several fields, then joins the main road down to Pontardawe. However, it is indeed downhill and consider the walk back up the hill!
From the Pontardawe Inn, there is a lovely walk in either direction on the Sustrans cycle route 43. Travel up the valley some 5/6 miles to Ystalyfera and on to Ystradgynlais or maybe more picturesque is the walk down the valley to Clydach. The path initially travels alongside the river Tawe but shortly moves alongside the canal down to reach Coedgwilym Park in Clydach. Walk just a further 1/4 of a mile down to the Mond Nickel Works and turn right and up Vardre Road, a lovely cafe called Pantri is to be found at No 55, open only on Tue, Wed, Thurs, Fri.
However the shops at Pontardawe are well worthy of support, ie both butcher shops plus the veg shop are far more rewarding than a supermarket shop.
Pontardawe Arts Centre has a wide range of artists appearing, it also serves as a cinema on selected days. Do visit the box office to see what is happening during your stay.
Opposite the Arts Centre , to the right hand side of the pharmacist is a small walkway through open decorative gates. The walkway leads on to the footbridge over the river to a car park. Do take a quick look inside the gates, just to see the images printed onto the tiled walls. It is now hard to comprehend that these were some of the images of my childhood, large black industrial buildings, tall buildings and high chimneys belching smoke and also traffic free roads!
At the crossroads end of Herbert Street an interest in local history can be further explored at the Pontardawe Heritage Centre tucked away behind the Nursery down the lane to the left of the Dillwyn Arms.
In recent years a few independent shops have opened and it is now easy to find attractive gifts and decorative items for the home without having to travel further afield.
Midway up Herbert Street, opposite the small car park is The Chirpy Bird. There is always an attractive window display to tempt people in to browse or buy. The shop has a variety of lovely items, money can be spent with ease here on many attractive presents for friends, family or ourselves!
Across the road again , next to the car park is Jayne’s Fashion and Accessory Box, small in appearance, but an Aladdin’s cave of items. Like many small independent stores the owner knows their customer type very well and a visit generally sees something be it clothing or accessories being packed into a bag!
Keeping to the right side of the street, on the canal bridge is the Crafty Parlour. This shop has a very local slant, lovely locally handmade products – presents, cards and treats for our guests or a great place to hunt out a special gift.
Keep walking over the canal bridge and a few doors further, before reaching the traffic lights is another gem, Sweet Williams. Here is another treasure trove for gifts, many produced on the premises. An array of handmade gifts, cards and edible treats, most produced locally or with a very local flavour. Many of the products can be personalised, there are cards and many more lovey products to remind you of your visit to Wales. Select a handful of Welsh food items to be minimally packaged as a gift.
Remember to visit all of the above stores between 10 and 2.45.
Often overlooked by us as a local shopping area, Ystradgynlais is really a pleasant village to wander around. We tend to visit there for a specific shop in mind – Quid’s In or their headquarters at The Old School Nursery, are a must visit for plants. Kindle House attracts us for gifts interior products, and clothing, jewelry and gifts too. However other small independents attract our attention easily for gifts and recently opened Blue House is now an attraction for anyone with a textile passion. There are several cafes – a good place to wander around after visiting Craig y Nos or Dan yr Ogof caves or enjoy a walk up above the town through the Diamond Park to see the views below and the ruins of the old Ironworks.
Again, we as locals in our holiday cottages near Swansea can be dismissive of what the city has for shopping, possibly as we have witnessed the ever changing retail scene and the popularity and ease of the out of town retail parks at Morfa and Fforestfach appeal to us as we rush around between cottage changeovers. Whilst the city centre stores are similar to most high street shops, guests will venture across the main road from the Waterfront Museum, Marina area to explore a little. Most of the shops centre on the Quadrant, Oxford Street and adjoining roads. Marks and Spencers, Zara, WH Smith, Waterstones, Boots and many younger fashion outlets trade alongside a number of charity shops etc. Central to all the shopping area is the most unique aspect, ie the Swansea Indoor Market. Guests enjoy the experience of the market stalls, the central area dominated by traditional food products, bakeries, fruit and veg, fishmongers, butchers, the traditional faggots, cockles and laver bread. There are small traditional food outlets and more recently many additions of food from around the world reflecting the changing population of the city. This market building was built in 1959/60 in response to the city centre having been destroyed during the second World War and is a large steel framed arched portal, clad in steel and glass, a light and very airy interior.
The Grape and Olive cafe / restaurant on the top floor of Swansea’s tallest building – The Meridien Tower in the Marina, provides a great vantage point to observe the market building, Swansea, the Marina, the beach and the surrounding landscape of South Wales – look for the tallest building and enjoy that view, high above the beach and seagulls! Swansea Marina with a variety of walkways and nearby museums is an area for meandering. Depending on the season and weather, explore the beach area or walk the prom, some 6 miles around Swansea Bay to the Mumbles and then the coastal path beyond towards the Gower for rugged coastline and sea views.
There are several options for drinks and food – Biariff for it’s local beers, The Swigg for a mix of snacks and cocktails and for a seafront view and good food, the Secret Beach Cafe should probably be booked.There are several small cafes around the Marina and also restaurants at the SA1 area which is accessed from the Sail Bridge at the riverside of Sainsbury’s. If TK Maxx is a draw, then this is easily reached near to the Swansea Stadium at SA1 7BP, as well as a large Next, Morrisons, PC World, Sports Direct, New Look and River Island. There is a Homesense at another retail park to the east of Swansea at Fforestfach SA5 4BB.
Swansea bay offers impressive views from the coastal path, which hugs the seafront around the 6 miles of Swansea Bay, from the Marina to Mumbles. There are a only a few parking opportunities along the route, ie near the Secret Beach Cafe, near and opposite Swansea University Singleton campus and in the Mumbles itself, all requiring payment.
Mumbles was once a fishing village with an impressive castle. Oystermouth Castle remains overlooking the Bay and some of the hidden pastel coloured cottages in the back streets are a reminder of that era. Now there are a number of independent shops, gallery gift shops and many cafes and pubs. The castle and pier with the RNLI station are interesting to visit and The Pilot is a small microbrewery near to Verdi’s or Joe’s ice cream outlets. We always favour sitting in Verdi’s, watching the sea, people watching and sometimes enjoying a meal.
Further around from Mumbles is Bracelet Bay with ample car parking, a cafe and restaurant, play area and ice cream. Take the coastal path onward to Langland and Caswell beaches, the occasional cafe and all of the Gower coastline!
Combine a little shopping with a coastal walk and maybe a meal? The out of town shopping at Trostre Retail Park, on the outskirts of Llanelli has a handful of well known retailers. Postcode SA14 9UY.
T K Maxx, M & S food, clothing and cafe and Primark are the popular retailers. However Lakeland, Holland & Barrett, Asda Living, Boots, W H Smith, River Island, New Look, Tesco etc add to the variety. Pemberton Retail Park which features the Range, Dunhelm, Morrisons plus other outlets is very near, postcode SA14 9UZ . There are several fast food units nearby.
A very short car journey to SA15 2LF takes you to the Millenium Coastal Path and Llanelli Beach. There is a nearby car park and the St Elli’s Bistro is housed in the building named the Discovery Centre. There are stunning views over the loughor Estuary towards the Gower coastline and over the sea eastwards to Pembrokeshire. The coastal path which is also a cycle route at this point enables lengthy walks from this area.
An easy 45 minute car journey Westwards on initially the M4 which later reverts to the A48 reaches Carmarthen some 23 miles away. This County town on the banks of the river Towy is 8 miles inland and has an unmistakable Welsh flavour to it.
Once a thriving market town with then a busy influx of the farming community every Wednesday when the cattle market was held within the town centre. Nowadays the stock market is housed on a modern out of town site, but it has left a legacy of Wednesday being the day that stallholders appear in the town – an eclectic mix of stallholders appear to supplement the shops and covered indoor market.
Whilst Carmarthen has lost a flagship store post Covid, because of it’s mix of it’s mix of smaller High St stores, independent shops and the covered market, it keeps busy. There are many corners and back streets to explore. It is too easy to assume that the shopping area is only around Boots, M & S, St Catherine’s Walk and Merlin’s Walk, but venture further afield to find the King Street gallery and many other places of interest.
There are several pubs and restaurants, our favourite places for lunch are The Warren, Y Sied HQ or Waverley Stores ( vegetarian).
In 60/70 minutes by car, the small town of Narberth in Pembrokeshire is easily reached.
This makes a good place to spend some time before later travelling onwards to Saundersfoot or Tenby for a beach walk with fish and chips or a pub meal.
For a small town it has a good selection of busy shops, many clothes and gift shops. Enjoy browsing around the various gallery shops or or antiques and crafts before stopping for coffee or lunch at any of the nice cafes.
Ultra Comida is a wine merchants, deli and has a cafe. Arrive early for lunch or book a table, it is very popular.
Meandering down the High street from the large Townsmoor car park at the top of the town can take a good few hours, again the end of our shopping trip sees a visit to the Plumvanilla vegetarian cafe on a back street (James Street) just off the bottom of the High St.
McArthur Glen, near Bridgend
Eastwards along the M4, a 35 minute journey to postcode CF32 9SU brings you to this out of town Designer Outlet.
There are a large everchanging selection of stores
The shops are interspersed with an occasional cafe and the ever popular Waggamama’s. Additionally there is a Foodcourt with
The opening hours are long, 10am – 8pm each weekday, closing a little earlier on Saturday and Sunday.
One of the appeals of a day trip to Cardiff is the ability to take the car to Neath ( 4 miles away), park at the vast Milland Road Car Park and catch the train to Cardiff This is an easy journey, the Swansea to London service stops at Neath each hour and is a relaxing 40 minute journey into Cardiff city centre.
Cardiff shops are all that areto be expected of any British city centre. John Lewis and the St David’s Centre dominate a visit, but the 7 decorative Victorian and Edwardian arcades that link predominantly St Mary’s Street and The Hayes plus Castle Street etc.
There is also a large indoor Market, full of small independent stalls, certainly worthy of a look and adds to the character of Cardiff shopping.
To combine some sightseeing, maybe a walk, industrial history, good food with interesting retail, then Llandeilo has to be the destination. Leave early and take the scenic route via Upper Brynaman rather than the route through the once mining communities via Ammanford.
From Upper Brynaman the road crosses over the fabulously impressive Black Mountain, where the coalfields of South Wales are left behind and the western side of the Brecon Beacons look down over the lush Carmarthenshire farmland. Take the opportunity to park in the car park after the road starts to descend where spectacular views of the seasonal patchwork fields emerge below. This can also be an opportunity to observe the red kites soaring above the free roaming sheep, cattle and ponies. The red kites are encouraged to the area as they are fed each day in the afternoon at the Red Kite Feeding Station in Llanddeusant. After the headstone on the right hand side of the road, in the car park are information boards that give information regarding the lime quarry and kilns that are up on the ridge line, testimony to the once thriving industry that was found here.
However Llandeilo is calling, but observe the road as it turns a hairpin bend, here is a stretch of road favoured by film makers and the crew of Top Gear! Personally I enjoy a small minor lane that goes over to the left just below the hairpin bend. Not for the faint hearted, if the lack of wi fi signal for Google maps unnerves you or you panic when meeting a car on a narrow single track road due to needing to reverse, then this is not a road to chose. However if unfazed, then the delight of Carreg Cennen Castle unfolding high on a rugged clifftop awaits, before the country lanes exit to Ffairfach just outside of Llandeilo.
Park up behind the main street in Llandeilo, enter the car park by turning right into Crescent Road, the car park postcode is SA19 6HN. Walk through the archway to the main street which is Rhosmaen Street. Between the car park and Rhosmaen Street is a cafe called Pitchfork & Provision, the first of many places for coffee or breakfast.
Rhosmaen Street is very busy in terms of traffic and only has narrow pavements, therefore a degree of care is required. Initially turn left down Rhosmaen St, the Cawdor Hotel is another option for a meal or a drink, likewise the Diod cafe opposite is an alternative choice and The White Horse is a popular pub, hidden up a small alleyway. Enjoy the few shops and galleries before turning up King Street. Eve’s Toyshop and Peppercorn, the kitchen /cookshop are popular and Scorpio at the top of the street is worth reaching.
Retrace your steps back down to Toast and then explore the small shops on Market St which will lead you to The Ginhaus! For those that are familiar with the Toast brand, until recent years it was a company run from here in Llandeilo. sadly it has now been sold and the HQ is further afield. The upside of that history is that there is still a portion of the shop dedicated to end of range garments and prototype samples and often a bargain is to be had.
Meander back along Rhosmaen, beyond the Cawdor are a few more shops – The Welsh Dresser and others. Heavenly is a small cafe and confectioners who produce their own ice cream and chocolate, difficult to resist and lovely for gifts.
Drive or walk down Rhosmaen Street (possibly not missing Rig Out and another womenswear shop or two). Aim for Station Road on the right at the bottom of the hill. There is The Works Antiques Centre and just beyond is Davies and Co, a stylish interior store with gifts and down in the basement a lovely cafe in an unique location.
Hay on Wye
A 75 minute car journey up the Swansea valley and through the dramatic scenery of the Brecon Beacons National Park reaches Hay on Wye. The town is dominated by book shops and small independent businesses selling clothing, footwear, gifts etc plus several charity shops.
The newly renovated Hay Castle is definitely worthy of a guided tour. There is a cafe at the castle, several others in the town, local pubs and the Swan hotel.
Thursday, each week is Market Day in the centre of the town. There is an eclectic mix of traders of local produce. These include artisan bread and cakes, fresh meat and fish, arts and crafts, plants, flowers, antiques, bric a brac and more.
Depending on the time of year, call in to Llangorse Lake for a walk, drive up Mynydd Illtud for open moorland walks with a stunning backdrop of the Beacons, or enjoy a stroll around Brecon and the Canal Basin. When travelling home down the Swansea valley consider stopping off at the Pen y Cae Inn or the Ancient Britton for a meal and real ale.
Fifty minutes away, initially Eastwards along the M4 then continuing onto the A 48 to Cowbridge, a thirty-mile car journey into the Vale of Glamorgan. This is upmarket Cardiff commuterland and the small independent shops reflect this.
This small once market town has over fifty small shops and additionally there are around twenty five places to eat! The mostly independent shops are invariably stylish from the hardware store, delicatessen, stationery, gifts, vintage interiors to of course fashion, style certainly extending to the charity shops.
An outdoor Farmer’s Market is held each Saturday morning 9-12 in the car park of Arthur John’s on North Rd.
Places to eat abound, the long-standing The Penny Farthing and the Bear Hotel are traditional favourites, but there are many pubs and cafes to chose from.
For a break from retail, just on the outskirts of town is the Forage Farm shop and kitchen cafe at CF71 7FF. This is a great place to stock up on prime quality farm produce and also enjoy the cafe.
In the town centre, step off the main street to CF71 7BD, just behind the Old Hall is a 1/2 acre physic garden, created back in 2004. It contains a glorious array of Medieval plants and herbs that would have traditionally been used for healing, cooking or fabric colouring.