From the Afan Forest Park Visitor Centre, cross the main road and take the bridle path opposite, following the Coed Morgannwg Way.
This bears to the left and goes over a disused railway line. Keep going to the left and downhill to cross the Afan river by a footbridge at SS 81872 95084. Walk along the track to the right of the grassy area ahead of you and up to the left into the trees. At SS 81863 95172, the track turns to the left.
At SS 81503 95213 the track meets a surfaced cycleway. Here you leave the Coed Morgannwg Way. Turn right onto the cycle way. At SS 81611 95250 take the steep path up to your left. A steep climb takes you to another track at SS 81720 95262. Turn left and follow the track, which climbs steadily up the hillside. Below you and to your right is the walled-up entrance to the Gyfylchi Tunnel, which is nearly a mile long and took the railway line from the Afan valley to Cwm Pelenna. After about 1 km, at SS 80794 95381, the Coed Morgannwg Way rejoins from the left. Turn right and walk up a very steep, stony track to Gyfylchi.
At SS 80737 95504 cross the road and take the forest road to the left of the Mountain Centre. After about .4 km, at SS 80702 95809, take the waymarked bridleway to the right. Follow this as it bears left and downhill along the banks of a pretty little stream. At SS 80792 95929, turn right on another forest road. At SS 80968 96002 the line of the South Wales Mineral Railway emerges from the Gyfylchi Tunnel to your right. At SS 80876 96091, cross the river by an old railway bridge. Bear left with the line of the railway track (now a bridle path). At SS 80185 96261, cross the road, walk up the steps ahead of you and continue up through the houses to the main road through Ton-mawr.
At SS 80193 96372, cross the road, turn left and go up the steps to your right, just before the children’s playground. At SS 80169 96418, turn left on a very minor road. After Blaenafon Farm (SS 80151 96757) the road becomes a surfaced track. Across the valley to your left, the rush-filled ponds are part of the world-famous River Pelenna minewater treatment system. At SS 79908 97905 the track passes above the ruins of a substantial farm. From this point the track is not marked on the OS map as a right of way but it is waymarked as a byway.
At SS 80140 97561 you have to ford the Gwenffrwd, quite tricky even after a very dry October and potentially impassable in wet weather. (The alternative is to follow the old railway tracks to the west of the Gwenffrwd and take the footpath over Cefn Morfudd, but this can be difficult to find.) At SS 79656 98552 the main track bears to the left. After several gates, at SS 79428 98582 you pass through the earthworks of a massive Roman camp (details below).
At SS 79096 98671, turn left and walk down the metalled road. In about 1.25 km the road enters the trees. The ivy-clad ruin below you to your right is the Ivy Tower, a folly built as an eye-catcher by the Mackworths, who lived in the big house below you. You need to be careful here. Tree felling in 2013-14 has radically altered the appearance of the park. In 2016 the online Ordnance Survey had not caught up with the changes.
At SS 78064 98289, leave the road and follow the path which bears left through scrub and rough grass. The path is not on the map but is well walked and replaces the old path along the forest edge. Follow it down hill and into the trees. Turn right past the Gazebo (a rough shelter at about SS 78031 98080) and the Grotto below it, and down flights of wooden steps to the stream. This was landscaped in the eighteenth century into a series of cascades. When you reach the Mosshouse Wood reservoir, turn left and walk round the reservoir. At the south end of the dam (SS 77653 97999) follow the path down to the left of the stream. At the Half House (a folly built as a 'temple', SS 76984 97624) turn right and walk down to the Guinea Pond. Keep to the left of the pond. At SS 76754 97443, turn right and walk down to the car park and children’s playground. Here you can walk to the right of the pond for the Visitor Centre or keep to the left. At the Pond Cottage (SS 76343 97220) turn right to visit the ruins of Gnoll House or continue down the dingle to the Memorial Gate (SS 75895 97093) and out at the gatehouse.
Follow the line of the stream along a suburban side street. At SS 75527 97418 cross the main road and walk to the right of Victoria Gardens, past the massive clock tower of St David’s Church and into the middle of Neath.
To visit the castle, turn right along Wind Street and left along Old Market Street. The remains of the castle are ahead of you, across a paved area. Walk down the steps to the left of the castle and across the supermarket car park to the footbridge over the canal at SS 75194 97841.
Walk along the towpath for about 0.2 km. At SS 75087 97765 turn right on Bridge Street and continue over the pedestrian bridge ahead of you. Cross the river. At SS 74966 97829 turn left onto the towpath of the other canal.
This is the Tennant Canal. Its towpath runs between the canal and the river then under the new Neath bypass. Stick with it and it will take you all the way to the ruins of the abbey, which you reach across a little footbridge. North of the abbey is the famous Neath abbey iron works: you can visit this on your way out of Neath.
|Inland route: Afan Argoed to Neath|