South Wales now has anentirely new county structure, having shed the modern counties of Gwent, and South, Mid and West Glamorgan in 1996.

The new, fragmented unitary authorities are mostly based around major towns. East of Carmarthenshire are the districts of Swansea (which contains the Gower Peninsula), Neath-Port Talbot and Bridgend. Beyond them, along the coast, lies the attractiveVale ofGlamorgan, and the urban districts of Cardiff and Newport.

Inland, from west to east, are the districts of Rhondda-Cynon-Taff, Merthyr Tydfil, Caerphilly, Blaenau-Gwent and Torfaen, and to the far south-east of Wales, the former county of Monmouthshire has been reinstated in place of Gwent.

It isan intriguing mixtureof the rural, urban and industrial. Mining and steel are South Wales’s two traditional industries, andhave left their scarson the landscape, especially in the valleys and on the coast. Yet areas such as Monmouthshire, the Vale of Glamorgan and the Gower Peninsula, which is largely owned by the National Trust, aremostly untouched.

The country-house market used to be mainly local, but feasible communications to London from the south-east of Wales, together with rising prices in Gloucestershire and Herefordshire, have ensured thatinterest has come from farther afield. Prices, however, remain reasonable.

Read our guides to property in north Wales and mid Wales.

Major towns

Cardiff, Swansea, Neath, Port Talbot, Merthyr Tydfil, Rhondda, Pontypool, Newport, Monmouth, Abergavenny.

Transport links

Train: Paddington to Newport 1hr 34min; to Cardiff 1hr 54min; to Swansea 2hr 49min.Car: Newport is 143 miles from central London; Cardiff 155 miles; Swansea 193 miles, via the M4.

Public schools

Haberdashers Monmouth School for Girls (01600 711100). Girls only, age range 7-18, day and boarding.

strong>Monmouth School(01600 713143). Boys only, age range 7-18, day and boarding.

The Cathedral School
, Cardiff (01222 563179). Co-educational, age range 4-13, day and boarding.

Howell’s School, Cardiff (01222 562019). Girls only, age range 4-18, day.King’s College Monkton House, Cardiff (01222 482584). Co-educational, age range 3-18, day.

Ffynone House School, Swansea (01228 537458). Co-educational, age range 8-18, day.

Rougemont School, Newport (01633 211813). Co-educational, age range 11-18, day.

Leisure

Golfcourses: St Mellions, Cardiff (01633 680401); Newport (01633 892643); St Pierre, Chepstow (01291 625261); Southerndown, Bridgend (01656 880326).Hunts: the Curre, the Banwen Miners’, the Glamorgan, the Monmouthshire, the Llangeinor, the Llangibby.Yachting clubs: the Bristol Channel Yacht Club, the Mumbles Yacht Club.Fishing: rivers Wye and Usk.