We headed to Dare Valley Country Park over the weekend for some rural escapism from city life. A 45-minute drive from Cardiff, the Aberdare beauty spot is built on the site of former coal mines and encompasses 500 acres of woodland, mountains and lakes. It’s free to visit, with parking also free.
It’s also a popular camp site, and we spotted a good number of tents and caravans, with their residents enjoying the unexpectedly good bank holiday weather.
We visited on Sunday, arriving at around 11am, complete with bikes for my eldest two children and a scooter for the youngest, plus a picnic lunch
As soon as drove into the car park, my children spotted the two playgrounds near the entrance and we spent around an hour playing here.
There’s a smaller playground in front of the visitor centre/café area with a decent-sized climbing frame; plus a larger playground just opposite with climbing frames, a big sandpit, a trampoline bedded into the ground, swings, and a spinning chair, all set against the most beautiful backdrop of the mountains and trees. There was plenty for each of my children, Little Miss E, 7 3/4, Little Man O, 6, and Littlest Boy I, 3 1/2. For younger children, there’s swings for babies/toddlers plus a smaller climbing frame.
We had our lunch at one of the picnic tables in the playground area, before dumping our stuff back at the car, and heading off to explore the rest of the park.
If you didn’t want to bring your own food, Cwtch Café is next to the car park in the visitor centre area, serving drinks, hot and cold snacks and meals (we saw lots of people eating Sunday roasts), plus ice lollies. There’s also a courtyard area which happened to be hosting a craft fair and, later that evening, a concert from a local orchestra.
There are three marked walks around the country park, differing in length and ability. We followed the two-mile Bwlfa Trail which took us alongside a stream and through some woodland, up and around the lake and then back down to the visitor centre. It took us around an hour with a few stops on benches around the lake. Some of the paths were a bit gravelly but the kids managed fine on their bikes and scooters. Most of the trail was perfectly accessible for buggies and wheelchairs, with a marked route of around 1 mile.
The area around the lake was so beautiful with the sun glistening on the water, and the hills behind. My children loved watching all the ducks swimming around.
We also stopped to look at the former pit winding gear seeing the former pit winding gear of Nantymelyn Colliery which operated from 1856-1957.
My children were getting desperate to head back to the playground so we spent another hour or so on the play equipment before heading back to Cardiff…. but not before promising them that one day we’d come and camp at Dare Valley.
Dare Valley Country Park Aberdare Rhondda Cynon Taf CF44 7RG. Use CF44 7PT or CF44 7PS for sat navs. Visit the website.
For more ideas of local days out see the Cardiff section of Cardiff Mummy Says.
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