The Vale of Neath stretches from the town of Neath in the south to the valley town of Glynneath to the north. The most striking thing about this valley is its beautiful landscapes interwoven with its rugged industrial history.
Completion of the Neath and Tennant Canals led to an expansion in coal mining in the Vale. By the mid-19th century, the canals carried an average of 200,000 tons of coal annually. Today, the canals have been carefully restored for a new generation to explore. The Neath and Tenant Canals meander through this historic landscape passing the majestic 12th century Neath Abbey and Neath Abbey Ironworks close to Neath Town Centre and onwards alongside the River Neath through the villages of Aberdulais, Tonna, Resolven and Glynneath.
A great place to start a walk along the Neath Canal is the Canal Car Park. Located just off the A465 at Resolven the Canal Car Park has ample parking, a café and public convenience facilities and leads to a gentle walk along the canal to Rheola and on to the town of Glynneath if you choose.
To the far South of the Vale of Neath is Neath Town Centre. With its thriving indoor market, Neath is home to popular high street names and independent retailers along with an excellent selection of café’s, pubs and restaurants. The Neath Food and Drink Festival is also held in Neath Town Centre each year in early October.
The abundance of waterfalls within the Vale of Neath and nearby Brecon Beacons National Park have become fondly known as Waterfall Country. 19th – Century naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace explored the Amazon River basin and Malay Archipelago extensively, but it was his early years in the Vale of Neath that sparked his fascination for the natural world and which got a special mention in his memoirs. The ‘special features’ of which he wrote were the high concentration of waterfalls, gorges and caves in the area, created by a combination of hard red sandstone and soft outcrop limestone. The spectacular 80 foot-high waterfall at Melincourt, a few miles up the valley was also the subject of a sketch by the English artist Turner.
Waterfall Country is extremely popular and can get pretty busy during the Spring and Summer. The best time to experience Waterfall Country, and get a little breathing space, is after a good dose of rain; making the typical Welsh weather during autumn and winter perfect for a visit to The Vale of Neath.