The best free things to do in Torfaen this Summer

15 August 2022

Torfaen is a bustling county borough located in South-East Wales which has a beautiful countryside to enjoy and many towns and villages to explore. Bordering Monmouthshire to the East and the city of Newport to the South, it includes the Welsh towns of Blaenavon, Pontypool and Cwmbran. Best of all, it is an area full of interesting and fun things to do which are all for free. So, if you’re looking for a day out on a budget, then let’s see what Torfaen has to offer.

Big Pit National Coal Museum

One of Britain’s leading mining museums, a visit to the award-winning Big Pit in Blaenavon is not to be missed if you’re in the area. Part of National Museums Wales, the museum is free to enter and I suggest taking a full day to visit this iconic Welsh attraction. Take the famous underground tour with a real former miner and gain a fascinating insight into what life was like for the miners working at the coalface. Be prepared for your own exciting descent into the mine with a helmet, cap lamp and battery belt provided.

Make sure you take time after your trip underground to explore the various exhibitions and historic buildings at Big Pit. Find out how mining communities lived from 1850 all the way up to 2000 with information on children in the mines, health, home life and how politics affected daily life.

Need to re-fuel after your mining experience? You are welcome to take a picnic and enjoy the surrounding views of Blaenavon’s industrial landscape or the reasonably-priced Miners Canteen which has a variety of snacks and drinks for that essential energising coffee and cake.

Garn Lakes Nature Reserve

A local beauty spot near Blaenavon with lakes and surrounding countryside, Garn Lakes provides a habitat for a wide range of wildlife including many birds and ducks. There’s a new wetland area with a bird hide, so don’t forget your binoculars. You’ll find plenty of places to stop and take in the peaceful surroundings as you stroll around the lake. If you’re lucky you may even see a steam train chuffing past from the nearby heritage railway.

The Blaenafon Cheddar Company

A visit to the local specialist cheese shop of this award-winning company is highly recommended if you are sightseeing in the local area. Although we can’t promise you won’t be tempted to purchase one of the tasty cheese treats or hampers on offer! The Blaenafon Cheddar Company is a family business and is well known for supporting Welsh tourism. All cheeses are handmade with the famous Pwll Mawr, which is unique as it is aged 300ft below ground at the nearby Big Pit Mining Museum.

Cwmbran Boating Lake

Just a short walk from Cwmbran Town Centre will lead you to the town’s boating lake, it’s a scenic area that makes for an ideal for a morning or afternoon visit. The Boating Lake is free to access and is a favourite with locals from the surrounding area. Enjoy a walk around the lake spotting the local wildlife, there are always plenty of friendly ducks and geese to greet you.

A large children’s play area and skate park provides your family with hours of entertainment while paddle boats are also available at the site. Why not pack a picnic? You’ll find plenty of green space to get set up and if you’ve forgotten something then don’t worry, as the Boating Lake café provides drinks and snacks throughout the day. During the summer months, the Boating Lake hosts a variety of events such as the popular Cwmbran Big Event.

Llantarnam Grange

Llantarnam Grange is Cwmbran’s local centre for contemporary arts and crafts.  Here you can find exhibitions and galleries showcasing work from artists across Wales and the rest of the UK. It makes a lovely way to spend a few hours in a creative environment and great for any art fans. You will want to make time to browse the craft gift shop which has a stunning range of ceramics, jewellery and prints.

Pontypool Park

Home to Pontypool’s main leisure centre and the ground of the local rugby team Pontypool RFC. Pontypool Park is a great place to get  outdoors and enjoy nature. Make sure to get your walking boots on and explore the varied terrain of the grasslands, riverbanks, woodlands and Italian gardens. You can easily meander for hours walking through the park with a pond, children’s play area, ornate bandstand, and hedge maze all there to be discovered.

A place to see nature’s changing display during each season, the park certainly isn’t just for summertime and I recommend a visit during the autumn and winter months too. Picnics are welcomed at the park, but the leisure centre also has a café serving light refreshments, it's ideal for that all important snack to keep your energy levels up whilst exploring the park. There is a free long stay car parking available nearby.

The Shell Grotto

Interested in history? The grounds of Pontypool Park are also where you can find an important local landmark the Shell Grotto, which is considered the best surviving grotto in Wales. Various restoration has taken place throughout recent years, but the original structure is estimated to date back to as far as the early 1800’s. The grotto is only open to explore inside at certain times of the year, however the steep climb to see it will reward you with spectacular views towards the Severn Estuary.

Folly Tower

If you take a stroll a little further across the mountain from the Shell Grotto you’ll discover another interesting Pontypool landmark, The Folly Tower. Appearing very similarly to a small castle, you can access it via a pleasant countryside walk surrounded by impressive views of the local area. Why not take a drink to enjoy as a welcome refreshment after your walk and give you a chance to take in the rural scenery?

Pontypool Market

Markets have always been at the heart of Pontypool Town Centre for many years and recent investment has seen the town proudly continue this tradition. You can enjoy browsing local stalls and the Victorian market hall hosts a variety of events throughout the year including antique, craft and outdoor markets plus themed events in Summer, Halloween and Christmas.

Llandegfedd Lake

Located in expansive countryside on the Torfaen and Monmouthshire border, Llandegfedd Lake is part of a collection of Welsh Water adventure sites. Why not enjoy one of the many free walking trails which take you around the lake. You’ll find plenty of chances to see wildlife, explore woodlands and watch the many watersports and boats on the lake.

Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal

Enjoy a morning or afternoon walking or cycling the towpath alongside the Torfaen stretch of the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal. You’ll find some lovely local pubs for a scenic stop such as The Open Hearth in the village of Griffithstown. Don’t miss a visit to the quirky café, The Boat Yard, located inside a former canal boat at Pontymoile basin.

There’s plenty to see and do for free in Torfaen with museums, historic buildings, nature reserves, art galleries, lakes and local markets all waiting to be discovered. There is something for everyone to find that they will love and best of all with no cost attached.