By Emma Pietras, Travel Writer for The Sun

STAFF shortages and strikes have made jetting abroad a struggle for some this summer – so many turned to a staycation instead. But while millions of us headed for the familiar holiday hotspots of Devon and Cornwall, I was desperate to escape the crowds and go off the beaten track.

South Wales has a lot to offer and is far less crowded than Devon and Cornwall

I was still after those stunning sea views and salty fresh air plus dramatic scenery come rain or shine — it is the UK, of course. And we hit the jackpot with the unspoilt coastline of the Vale of Glamorgan in South Wales.

Stretching 14 miles from Aberthaw to Norton near Porthcawl, the Glamorgan Heritage Coast boasts beautiful beaches, secluded coves and rugged cliffs.

Glamorgan Heritage Coast

We stayed in the village of Southerndown, about a 20-minute drive from Bridgend, in a beautiful three-bed barn conversion that was once an old hen house. All traces of its former use have been swept away — the rooms are gorgeously light with a host of quirky features including beamed and vaulted ceilings. It’s on a working farm and the long driveway leads right to the sea with a path through the woods directly to Dunraven Bay and the South Wales Costal Path.

On spotting it for the first time, my toddler excitedly pointed at it and shouted: “Bath!” Well, I suppose it is like a big bath, just a little more choppy — and without her usual bubbles. Dunraven Bay, often referred to as Southerndown beach, is popular with surfers and fossil hunters.

A few metres back from the shore are the walled gardens and ruins of Dunraven Castle, which are well worth a wander round. If you’re feeling energetic, you can attempt to walk the entire Glamorgan Heritage Coast or, like us, take on one of the shorter walks or loop trails. We may not have picked the best weather for our ramble but at least the wind was in the right direction on the way home.

Afterwards, we refuelled at the Three Golden Cups pub in the village, which serves the best home-cooked pub grub, including its famous The Proper Pie.

There is a real renaissance in using locally sourced produce in Wales. Championing the cause is the award-winning Forage Farm Shop and Kitchen on the Penllyn Estate Farm in nearby Cowbridge. It’s a perfect place for families, with a brilliant play area outside for children.

Forage Farm Shop and Kitchen

After enjoying a bite to eat, we loaded up our basket with bangers from their butcher, other goodies and even a free apple when my toddler refused to hand it over to be weighed.

Another family-friendly spot is the Amelia Trust Farm, a small charity that supports disadvantaged and vulnerable young people through alternative education and community engagement. Set in 160 acres of stunning countryside near Barry, it’s home to an array of animals, including pigs, sheep, donkeys and even a tortoise.

Amelia Trust Farm

The gnome and fairy trail — an assortment of 25 fairy doors and garden-style gnomes hidden among the trees on a woodland walk — is a huge hit with kids. And no trip to the area would be complete without a visit to Barry Island — made famous by the hit sitcom Gavin & Stacey.

After picking out some of the show’s landmarks, we enjoyed building sandcastles and fish and chips — so good we went back for more. I’m a big kid and couldn’t resist a go on the arcades but sadly there was no Nessa in sight.

The next day, we headed to Penarth for a wander. The seaside town is home to a Victorian pier, art deco pavilion and modern marina, where we stopped for lunch at The Deck. After yet more fish and chips, we headed to Cardiff before getting the train home.

Penarth Pier

When going abroad, travelling often eats into holiday time.

We were only away for three nights. Yet, it felt like we’d packed in so much more with the perfect combination of seaside fun and country pursuits.

By Emma Pietras
Camping in the Vale of Glamorgan

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