So, what is there to actually see and do? Well, Blaenau Gwent does have some points where you can just chillax and enjoy the natural scenery. The Ebbw Fach Trail is approximately 16km long and links 14 community Green Spaces, which include ponds, parks and woodlands. There are plans to install cycle routes into the trail too, so you’ll be able to zip through what was once a key iron and coal centre but what is now, today, a beautiful clean rural space.
If you don’t want to go Green Space-trotting but you still want a bit of greenery to relax in, there are a number of parks and footpaths that are ideal for a quiet wander after dinner and drinks with Parc Bryn Bach, being the largest and most popular. Here, you’ll find a lake which it’s possible to sail on, a caravan park (if that’s the way you roll), golfing facilities, a play area to dump the children that just won’t shut up (just kidding!) and an on-site restaurant, where you can either get a nice hearty meal or just a quick tea or coffee. Located in the Tredegar region, Parc Bryn Bach is a place that adults and kids will probably want to keep coming back to.
Right, so you’ve lain back and enjoyed the Blaenau Gwent countryside, now what about the shopping? Festival Park in Ebbw Vale used to be the site of the Garden Festival of Wales but it’s now been converted into a branded outlet shopping centre. Here, you’ll find all your favourite high street names, as well as a very unique owl sanctuary (can’t lie, that’s a little bit random!), a gym, fishing lake and the old Festival church. If you’re interested in the old Garden Festival, then there are also some old sculptures from the park’s past scattered around the complex.
Ebbw Vale is not only shopping central, it’s also home to Eugene Cross Park, where both Blaenau Gwent’s main rugby and cricket teams Ebbw Vale RFC and Ebbw Vale Cricket Club are based. With a capacity of 8000, the Glamorgan county cricket team have also played at Eugene Cross, which is situated near the Ebbw River. It’s the only big sporting hub over the whole of Blaenau Gwent, so if you want to catch a rugby or cricket game, this is where you’re heading. If sport isn’t your thing and you want a bit of culture, Ebbw Vale is also home to the Beaufort Theatre, which used to be a cinema until the 1960s. Here, you can catch a professional company putting on a play or concert and have a laidback cultural evening.
For a little more on local history or culture, Abertillery is your next stop. Abertillery Museum is packed full of artefacts on local history, as well as the Guardian statue in Parc Arael Griffin, which serves as the Six Bells Mining Memorial. At 20 metres tall, it commemorates the 45 men who tragically died in 1960 as a result of the last major mining disaster in the UK. Also in Abertillery, The Metropole is the social centre point with a theatre and concert venue to satisfy all your entertainment-based needs.
Don’t want to catch a film or show but want a few drinks at night? Grasshoppers Bar and Café in Tredegar is open both day and night for coffee and booze with a nice relaxing atmosphere. For live music, there’ll probably be a DJ or band playing at The Dolls House in Abertillery, which is small but cosy so you can have a drink and a dance without a care in the world.
Blaenau Gwent is a little county but it’s guaranteed to have something to suit whatever mood you’re in. There are also good bus links to Cardiff, so if you’re staying more than a couple of days, you can easily find other places to explore. Whether you want to educate yourself about the area, do a little shopping, catch a film, play or band or just relax with a book on some grass, you can do it all in Blaenau Gwent!