Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

South Valleys of Wales
Art, History & Archaeology Sites & Museums

Home to the Welsh capital city at Cardiff, the South Valleys are the most urbanised region in the country. This urbanisation owes much to mining and other industries that helped fuel the Industrial Revolution during the 18th and 19th centuries, although the Valleys are not without a far older heritage. Neolithic tombs like the Tinkinswood and Saint Lythans Burial Chambers are a reminder of the region’s prehistoric past, while the era of the Roman occupation is best displayed at Caerleon, home to the ruins of a fortress, amphitheatre, and baths. The Middle Ages saw the construction of castles at Cardiff and Ogmore as well as religious sites like Margam Abbey and Ewenny Priory. A wide selection of buildings testifying to Wales’ post-medieval heritage are gathered at Saint Fagans National Museum of History, while the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, helps preserve the region’s rich mining legacy. The counties included in the South Valleys region are Merthyr Tydfil, Caerphilly, Cardiff, Blaenau Gwent, Torfaen, Newport, Vale of Glamorgan, Bridgend, Rhondda Cynon Taff and Neath Port Talbot.

Archaeology & History Sites in South Valleys

Blackfriars' Friary, Bute Park

The Dominican order of friars only established two friaries in Wales, one of which was in the grounds of what today is Bute Park in Cardiff. Following the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s, the friary was dissolved and its buildings demolished. Archaeologists excavated the site in the 1880s and 1890s. The Marquess of Bute, who was then the landowner, subsequently set out a Victorian ornamental garden atop the medieval foundations, allowing modern day visitors to appreciate the layout of the original friary.

Caerleon Amphitheatre

The modern town of Caerleon is built on the remains of a Roman legionary fortress and settlement that was known by the Latin name of Isca Silurum. Located on the edge of today’s town is the amphitheatre, a well preserved example built around 90 AD. Containing 8 entrances, it would have seated about 6,000 spectators eager to watch blood sports and gladiatorial combat. The 12th-century writer Geoffrey of Monmouth alleged that the amphitheatre, because of its shape, was King Arthur’s Round Table. Archaeologists excavated the amphitheatre in 1926.