Porthcawl - sand, sea and Elvis
Date Posted: 28/04/2011
Get the lowdown on a Welsh seaside resort which offers relaxation and activity in one holiday.
On the face of it, Porthcawl seems to be a typical seaside resort. Located 30 minutes from Cardiff, the town boasts sandy beaches, a fairground, the seafront Grand Pavilion, fish and chip shops, ice cream parlours, donkey rides and one of the biggest holiday parks in Europe. Yet whilst the traditional bucket and spade holidays are still popular, there are plenty of alternatives for those groups wanting something a little different.
The coastline, known locally as the Golden Coast (pictured), is fast gaining a reputation for watersports. The surfing at Rest Bay is said to be some of the best in the country, whilst the nearby Adventures Activity Centre is ideal for those wanting to try their hand at some other outdoor activities, such as kayaking and coasteering.
Providing a more sedate pace is Kenfig National Nature Reserve. Part of a huge sand dune system and an internationally renowned wetland, the reserve is home to many rare birds and plants, and visitors are welcome to explore the site at leisure.
While exploring the reserve, group members can search for the lost village of Kenfig. Now buried beneath the dunes, the settlement was once a thriving medieval town, which fought off attacks by various Lords and Barons over the centuries, before the shifting sands engulfed it. The only part of the village still visible today is the top of the castle’s keep, poking its head up from beneath the dunes.
Hidden amongst the sand dunes at the other end of Porthcawl is the pretty village of Merthyr Mawr, with its thatched cottages and ancient church huddled around a village green. A short walk from the village is the River Ewenny. Using the stepping stones, cross the river to the opposite side to visit Ogmore Castle, one of the most picturesque venues in Wales. The nearby country pubs and tea rooms are ideal for a refreshment stop.
To see the town from a different angle, arrange a trip aboard the Waverly or Balmoral Paddle steamers, both of which offer regular departures from the harbour throughout summer.
A couple of miles inland from Porthcawl is Bridgend Designer Outlet, selling bargains from famous high street brands. Housing over 90 shops and cafes, group discounts and free coach parking make this a popular trip.
Porthcawl is also home to two major festivals. Each March is the Porthcawl Interceltic Festival, when the town reverberates to the sound of Celtic music. Singers, dancers and musicians from Scotland, Ireland, Cornwall, Brittany, Isle of Man and, of course, Wales descend on the town's Grand Pavilion for three days of concerts, performances and sessions.
The other major celebration is the Porthcawl Elvis Festival, said to be the largest festival of its kind in the world. Held each September, the town is awash with Elvis impersonators and fans, with bars, restaurants and hotels all paying tribute to The King. The festival then culminates at the Grand Pavilion with the annual Elvies awards, and the crowning of the best Elvis tribute act.
Access to Porthcawl is straightforward, being located three miles from junction 37 of the M4, with coach parking available on the Salt Lake Car Park, near Coney Beach, or just off Esplanade Avenue next to the Grand Pavilion.
Sothern Wales Tourism: