Millions of visitors pass through Neath Port Talbot on their way to neighbouring Swansea or West Wales every year – yet far fewer stop to appreciate this underrated county’s wonders.
Want to travel off the beaten path? Look beyond the heavily industrialised skyline of Port Talbot – which confronts all those who travel west via the M4, the main road that runs east to west across South Wales – and you’ll find windswept beaches, grand country manors, a rich local heritage and waterfalls galore.
History and culture
One of Neath Port Talbot’s many waterfalls – Aberdulais Falls – was immortalised by Turner, who sketched and painted the area in the late 18th century. Established in the 16th century for copper smelting, the nearby mill was also used to process wool, flour and iron, and, by the time of the industrial revolution, was leading the country’s tinplate boom. Aberdulais Tin Works has been carefully restored and preserved by the National Trust and is a fascinating place to learn about local history and the ferocious power of Wales’ natural resources.
(c) Crown Copyright
For a close-up look at even older ruins, check out Neath Abbey. These substantial ruins are all that remains of a 12th century Cistercian monastery that was once the largest in Wales – and offers budding photographers a fine place to shoot come the golden hour. A 20-minute drive south will take you to Margam Abbey and Stones Museum, where you’ll find an impressive collection of ancient Celtic stone crosses and early Christian carvings tucked away in a little building next to a medieval church – it’s worth calling ahead to confirm opening times.
World War II history buff? Save time for a visit to the 1940’s Swansea Bay Museum, where you can try on outfits from the era, experience an air raid and taste ration-style food among a time warp of interactive, well-curated exhibits. If you’re a fan of classic British eccentricity, look no further than the Baked Bean Museum of Excellence – you’ll need to book an appointment in advance.
Despite its industrial heritage, there’s no shortage of nature in Neath Port Talbot. First stop: Margam Country Park. This 850-acre estate and country house was once the home of the aristocratic Talbot family, who paved the way for the region’s steelmaking success and established Port Talbot’s port. The well-kept grounds are peppered with scenic walking trails, sculptures and an abundance of flowers and trees – as well as copious peacocks and roaming deer. Family-friendly activities include pedaloing on the lake and exploring the treetops at Go Ape adventure park.
Elsewhere, keen mountain bikers will love Afan Forest Park, which is crisscrossed by a network of waymarked cycling trails suitable for a range of abilities. Bike hire is available at Glyncorrwg Mountain Bike Centre.
Wild swimmer? Don’t miss the chance to take a dip at Sgwd Gwladys (Lady Falls), a pretty cascade found on the edge of Brecon Beacons National Park. Getting there involves a short hike from the village of Pontneddfechan – it’s worth stopping at the cafe or Angel Hotel pub for a post-swim pick-me-up.
If coastal escapades are more your thing, make a beeline for Aberavon, one of Wales’ longest (and cleanest) beaches. This vast expanse of dune-backed sand is heaven for dog walkers, sunbathers and surfers alike.
Our 101 team have been working with local tourism, business, community and Council initiatives to bring you some of the best ways for you to live your connection to Neath_port_talbot.
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