Distance: 7.5 km
Grade: Moderate, minor roads and good paths, some climbs.
Transport: Train and bus services from Maesteg to Bridgend and on to Cardiff cross the main road east of Llangynwyd (nearest rail station is Garth). Buses between Neath and Bridgend run along the A48 just south of Margam (nearest stop is called Margam Park). Nearest rail station is Port Talbot, served by local buses.
See http://www.traveline.cymru for details.
There may be footpath diversions through Margam Park in the autumn to allow for deer culling (this is necessary to keep the herds healthy). There will be notices, or check the Park website at http://www.margamcountrypark.co.uk.
Leave Llangynwyd church by the lower gate, turn right and walk past the memorial and straight on down the hill. At the valley bottom, at about SS 85182 88781, the earthworks of Llangynwyd Castle can be seen through the trees to the left, next to Castell Farm. The castle was built by the Norman lords of Glamorgan as an advanced base against the Welsh lords of Afan. It was burned by rebels in 1294 and never rebuilt.
Bear left with the road. Walk on up the hill towards Gilfach. At SS 84503 88317, where the road bends to the left, take the track up to the right. Across the fields to your right is the huge fortified Iron Age farmstead known as Y Bwlwarcau ('The Bulwarks'). Walk over the spur towards the little fortified enclosure of Caer Blaen-y-cwm by the head waters of the Kenfig (more details below). Turn right on the stony road across the Kenfig at SS 83446 87987, then take the stile to the right and walk up one of the parallel hollow trails and across to the enclosure.
Return to the track. At SS 83203 87771 go straight on following waymarks for the St Illtud Way and continue along the eastern edge of the forest. Look out for more parallel hollow trails above you and to your left. These indicate how heavy the traffic on this route was in the middle ages. At SS 82820 87106 look ahead and to the right and you will see the foundations of another Iron Age fortified farmstead . This has a smaller inner enclosure which could have contained several buildings and a much larger outer enclosure, probably to protect animals at night.
Some of the hollow trails can be seen crossing the field ahead of you, but the main track bends round to the right and runs between banks and hedges down to the great wall around the Margam deer park. The track runs down past the site of two medieval farmsteads.
Follow the track down through thickets of rhododendron to cross another stream at SS 80762 86571. The hill ahead of you is crowned by another hill fort, Mynydd y Castell. This one is more of a genuine fortification with a cunningly-defended entrance. Cross the stream and bear up to the left to explore the fort. Alternatively, turn sharp left and go down through the Margam Country Park, though there may be an entrance charge (see http://www.margamcountrypark.co.uk/default.aspx?page=1325 for details). This will enable you to look at the ruins of the east end of the abbey church and the cloister with its magnificent octagonal chapter-house.
Follow the waymarks for the St Illtud Way to the back gate of the park at SS 80342 86611. Turn left and walk to the metalled road then turn left again and walk past the ornamental lake (possibly on the site of the monastic fishponds) and the folly which Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot had built with stone from the abbey ruins, on the site of the abbey mill. Bear right with the road then turn left and left again to reach the west end of the abbey church, now converted into a parish church.
|Llangynwyd to Margam|