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Guest blog: ontheluce.com

We recently hosted blogger Lucy Dodsworth, from OnTheLuce.com, for a gifted trip to the area. Originally posted on her blog here, this extract from her two-day itinerary shares Lucy’s recommendations to make the most of a visit to our stunning landscape of contrasts.

Want to read the whole itinerary? Visit OnTheLuce.com

HOW TO SPEND A WEEKEND IN NEATH PORT TALBOT

FRIDAY EVENING

Head into Neath for dinner at The Welsh House. The restaurant is part of a small local chain with branches in Swansea and Cardiff. It focuses on supporting Welsh suppliers, with lots of regional produce on the menu, from Carmarthen ham to Caerphilly cheese.

If you want to get an insight into Welsh food, try their ‘Taste of Wales’ menu for two which includes dishes like lamb cawl (lamb and vegetable stew), Penclawdd cockles, Welsh rarebit and Welsh cakes. And there are local beers, spirits and soft drinks available too.

 

SATURDAY MORNING

The following morning, start your day at Margam Country Park. This historic estate stretches over 850 acres and is a lovely open green space. But there are also some of the estate’s historic buildings still standing, including a castle and 12th-century abbey.

Margam Abbey was founded in 1147 and was home to a community of Cistercian monks. It was once one of Wales’ richest and most powerful abbeys, but by the time of Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries only nine monks were left. The abbey was sold to Sir Rice Mansel, who built a large new house on the site, but kept the abbey nave intact.

Unusually the nave is still in use as a church today, and you can see original 12th-century details inside as well as later additions by the Mansels – including three William Morris Company stained-glass windows and the family chapel with its alabaster tombs.

Don’t miss the Stones Museum in the abbey grounds. This small museum in one of the oldest church schools in Wales displays 28 important stones and crosses discovered around the abbey. They include Roman road milestones, ornately carved Celtic crosses and Latin-inscribed memorials – plus a gargoyle which expels rainwater out of its backside!

From the museum, head out into the park to explore. There are several walking trails including the 2.25-mile Pulpit Trail with panoramic views out as far as North Somerset. Keep an eye out for the resident deer too. Or if you’re feeling adventurous there’s the Go Ape treetop adventure trail or kayaking and paddleboarding on the lake.

SATURDAY AFTERNOON

Neath Port Talbot is part of Wales’ ‘Waterfall Country’, which has some of the country’s highest concentration of waterfalls, caves and gorges thanks to the River Neath and its tributaries.

Melincourt Falls is an 80-foot-high waterfall – just missing out on being the highest waterfall in Wales by 10 feet. It’s part of the Melincourt Nature Reserve, an unspoilt area that’s home to over 20 species of ferns, including the rare Tunbridge Filmy Fern.

The falls are a 10–15 minute walk through a lush, green, steep-sided valley. The walk is fairly easy but it can get a bit slippery close to the falls. It’s a lovely walk, with birds singing and the river trickling by, and you often get the falls to yourself. Look out for bluebells in spring and birdlife like Pied Flycatchers, Wood Warblers and Wagtails.

Then travel back towards Cilybebyll for dinner at the Dyffryn Arms, a traditional country pub on the road between Neath and Pontardawe. It serves up a mix of classic pub dishes and international flavours, from steak and ale pie to teriyaki prawns and Thai stir fry.

 

SUNDAY MORNING

The next day, travel into Neath to explore Neath Abbey. Today the ruins of this 12th-century abbey are tucked away behind industrial units by the Tennant Canal. But it was once the largest abbey in Wales, home to 50 monks, and later the site of a grand mansion house. You can see the remains of both today, though they were hidden for years.

It’s hard the imagine that after the Industrial Revolution the abbey was used as a copper smelting factory. The site was slowly covered in industrial waste and then eventually abandoned. And it wasn’t until the 1920s that amateur archaeologists from the Neath Antiquarian Society started to excavate it, uncovering an atmospheric ruin.

Next travel on to the small village of Pontrhydyfen – made famous as the birthplace of actor Sir Richard Burton. Burton was born here in 1925 as the 12th of 13th children, though he was brought up by his sister in Taibach in Port Talbot after his mother died.

You can follow a 5.4-mile Richard Burton Trail around the village, with information panels detailing his childhood and career. Or just take the first stretch across the Y Bont Fawr (‘The Big Bridge’) and look down on his childhood home by the River Afan. This former aqueduct was where an iconic photo of Richard Burton and his father was taken.

Just across the bridge is Bethel Chapel, where a memorial service was held for Burton after his death in 1984. It’s now the Bethel Chapel Café, a non-profit, family-run café where you can call in for lunch dishes like soups and sandwiches, or tea and homemade cakes.

Continue reading here.

 

 

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