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Places to go in the Neath Vale Area

 
 
 

Waterfall Country

 
Nowhere else in Wales is there such a richness and diversity of waterfalls within such a small area as can be found in the Vale of Neath. This abundance has led to the region becoming known as 'Waterfall Country'.  The nearest significant falls to the cottage are at Aberdulais and Melincourt. 
 

About two miles from the cottage.  For over 400 years, this famous waterfall provided the energy to drive the wheels of industry, from the manufacture of copper in 1584 to the later tinplate works. Today, the waterwheel is the largest currently used in Europe to generate electricity which makes Aberdulais Falls self-sufficient in environmentally-friendly energy.  Now owned by the National Trust.

Melincourt Falls

This spectacular eighty foot high waterfall on a tributary of the Neath River was painted by Turner in 1794. The reserve includes 12 acres of upland broad-leaved woodland which ascends steeply from the narrow gorge of the Melincourt Brook.

It is possible to walk here from the cottage, taking the canal towpath in the direction of Resolven, then crossing a footbridge over the River Neath, followed by an underpass to cross the dual carriageway.  If you stay at the cottage, you can refer to our OS maps for guidance.

 

Pontneddfechan and Ystradfellte 

A little further north are the deep gorges of the rivers Mellte, Hepste and Nedd Fechan, between the villages of Pontneddfechan and Ystradfellte.  There are a number of spectacular falls in this area. 

 

  

 

Neath and Tennant Canals

 
 
The Neath and Tennant Canals were two independent but linked canals in South Wales that are usually regarded as a single canal.  They were developed for transportation in the early manufacturing industries of brick making and ship building and are now the subject of considerable restoration work.  The canals meet at Aberdulais basin.
 
Today, the Canals provide picturesque meandering towpath strolls providing reminders of early industry. The old Union Workhouse and St Illtyds Church are dominant echoes from the past.


 
 
 

Museums

 
 
 
Once the deepest anthracite coal mine in the world. Cefn Coed was one of the most dangerous coalmines in Wales, gaining the nickname ‘The Slaughterhouse’. The museum is currently closed for safety reasons.
 
  
 

Enjoy a fantastic interactive day out free at the National Waterfront Museum Swansea and discover the story of Wales’ industry and innovation.

The National Waterfront Museum Swansea is a brand new attraction, packed full of things to see and do. Designed to appeal to people who don’t normally enjoy museums, the National Waterfront Museum Swansea uses modern technology to bring the story of Wales and its industrialisation to life. Find out what real poverty was like; wallow in the riches of the mine owners and importers; see, feel and hear the transition to modern Wales.

People visiting the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea are amazed at how many interactive and exciting exhibits have been created in this wonderfully impressive new building, and families, school groups and older groups will all find the hours happily slipping by as they immerse themselves in the modern history of Wales.

The National Waterfront Museum Swansea is open every day from 10am until 5pm.

 

St Fagan's

St Fagans is one of Europe's leading open–air museums and Wales's most popular heritage attraction. It stands in the grounds of the magnificent St Fagans Castle, a late 16th-century manor house donated to the people of Wales by the Earl of Plymouth.  It's free to visit - you only pay for car parking.  It's a huge site bringing together historic buildings from all over Wales.  A great day out.

 

1940s Swansea Bay

 Experience the sights and sounds of life during  the Blitz.  Take cover during an air raid, walk along a reconstructed street,  track the course of RAF bombers. 

1940's clothes and uniforms to try on. Fun for all the family!  Indoor street scene, shop, cafe, special events, groups welcome. 

 

The Dylan Thomas Centre

 The Dylan Thomas Centre is a beautiful building in the Maritime Quarter of Swansea.  It houses a permanent exhibition on the life and work of Swansea's world-famous poet, and is open from 10am - 4.30pm seven days a week. 

  

At the newly refurbished South Wales Miners Museum within the Afan Forest Park, a replica miner’s tunnel is the gateway to a journey full of mining history.  Exhibits of photographs, models and various artefacts (both indoor and outdoor) convey the history of coal mining in the tranquil Afan Valley area.

 

 

 

 
 
Yes, believe it or not, there is even a museum to celebrate the humble haricot....
 
 

 


Beaches


Aberavon


Aberavon beach provides three miles of family-friendly golden sands with far-reaching views across Swansea Bay.  The beach front has undergone substantial regeneration during the last few years and boasts a piazza, skate park, a new adventure playground and refreshment facilities. There are plenty of green spaces too.  You can walk or cycle along the promenade.  There is an inshore lifeboat based here, lifeguards patrol the main beach area, and there are marked areas for swimming and other watersports.   For the less energetic, the six-screen Reel Cinema Port Talbot  provides an entertaining alternative to the regular beachside activities. 

There are car parks nearby, and quite a few free parking spaces on the coast road.  Please note that a dog ban exists on the main beach area from May to September inclusive, but there are dog-friendly beaches to the east and west of the restricted area.



Swansea & The Gower


There are many beaches around Swansea and the Gower, each having a unique personality.  Whether you're looking for acres of family-friendly sands, beautiful bays or secluded coves, you're sure to find something right for you.  A useful and informative guide to Swansea and Gower beaches can be accessed here.



Parks and Gardens

 

 
 

Margam Country Park with its splendid landscapes, architecture, rich heritage, history and cultural past set in 1000 acres of glorious parklands offers natural beauty, history, wildlife, coarse fishing, splendid walks and a wide range of fun activities and facilities.

It has surprises around every corner including the magnificent 18th Century Orangery, an impressive and picturesque Tudor-Gothic style Victorian Mansion House, a 12th Century Chapter House, ornamental gardens and a well established deer herd. Families can enjoy the narrow gauge railway, children's adventure playground, farm trail and pets corner and magical Fairytale Land.

The park has a full range of major events throughout the year, check the website for details.

 
 
 
 
Gnoll Country Park is a delightful and popular country park based on an 18th Century landscaped garden. Close to Neath town centre.  It features lakes, cascades, a grotto, children’s play area, adventure playground, nine-hole golf course and a Visitor Interpretation Centre. The park’s forest footpaths link to the Mosshouse Reservoir and Cefn Morfudd historical viewpoints. Entry and car parking is free.
 
  
 
 

The Afan Forest Park Visitor Centre is the place to head for to find out what to see and do in Afan Forest Park. It’s the ideal place to start your day.

 

The Centre has a range of facilities including; café, gift shop, cycle hire and the newly renovated South Wales Mining Museum. The centre also includes an information service, a first aid station and base for the Forest Park Rangers. The friendly staff can provide information and guides concerning different trails and difficulty levels.

The Visitor Centre is the starting point for mountain bike trails, circular walks, a family puzzle trail, a 26 point orienteering course and access to bridle paths. From here you can also gain access to the Coed Morgannwg Walk.   

 
 
 
 
 

Castles and Historic Buildings

 
 
Carreg Cennen, is located north of Swansea, a few miles south-east of Llandeillo on a minor road off the A483.  Carreg Cennen dominates its surroundings from the sharp hilltop on which it sits.  The hedgerows along the minor approach road initially obscure views of the site, but suddenly the grey stone fortress springs into sight, encouraging the viewer to hurry onwards... 
 
Neath Castle
By a carpark in the town of Neath off A465/A474.
This was a stronghold of the lords of Glamorgan. The Norman castle's twin towered gatehouse remains. Parts, including a ruined curtain wall, were destroyed by Welsh attacks.
 

Oystermouth Castle
In the village of Mumbles on A4067 at head of Gower peninsula.
This early Norman castle on a hilltop has well preserved domestic buildings and keep.

 

Oxwich Castle
Off A4118, southwest of Swansea in Oxwich village. Tel. 01792 390359. Cadw. This castle is a 16th century ruined Tudor manor house built in courtyard style by Sir Rice Mansel. The southeast tower still survives to six storeys.

 

Pennard Castle
Reached by footpath ½ mile south of Parkmill on A4118, on Gower peninsula overlooking Oxwich Bay. The castle belonged to the lords of Gower. Original ringwork and wooden palisades was replaced by stone defenses. A Norman stone hall, tower, gatehouse, and curtain wall survive as ruins.

 

Penrice Castle
On the Gower peninsula off A4118, on private land, viewed from footpath.
Overgrown earthworks, overgrown keep, gatehouse, and walls.

 

Swansea Castle
In Swansea city centre. Cadw. Open site-exterior only.
Built in the late 13th/ early 14th centuries by the de Braose lords of Gower, William II and William III, and their descendant, John Mowbray, added to it. In the late 18th century it became, for a while, a debtor's prison. The ruins of the castle are sited in a large plaza.

 

Weobley Castle
B4271 or B4295 to Llanrhidian village, then minor road. Cadw. Tel. 01792 390012.
This castle was erected by the powerful de la Bere family in the early 14th century. More fortified manor than castle, Weobley was expanded in the 15th century and provided with a tall, arched entry. Visitors can ascend to the solar.

 
 
 
 

Caves

 
 
 
 
The National Showcaves Centre for Wales is situated within the stunning Brecon Beacons National Park, and is a fascinating insight into the natural phenomena of cave formation. The caves at Dan yr Ogof are made of carboniferous limestone, formed some 315 million years ago. Because the rock has cracks and fissures, water has been able to flow through it, dissolving the limestone and carving out the cave system we see today.

There are three caves to be explored: the Dan yr Ogof Showcave, the Cathedral Showcave and the Bone Cave. All three caves display spectacular examples of cave formation. In the Dan yr Ogof Showcave stalactites and stalagmites are the commonest forms but a rare feature is the helectites, which grow out sideways, unlike the stalactites and stalagmites that develop downwards and upwards, respectively. New in Cathedral Cave, walk behind two forty foot high waterfalls and experience the natural beauty of this incredible section of cave - The Dome of St. Paul's.

Also at the National Showcaves Centre for Wales is a Dinosaur Park with over 50 life-sized dinosaurs, an authentic Iron Age farm, Shire Horse Centre, Millenium Stone Circle and Museum.

 
 
 

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