Walking in the South Wales Valleys

By Mike Dunn

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A walking guidebook with 32 day routes and 2 weekend backpacking routes (the Coed Morgannwg Way and Glamorgan Ridgeway) across the valleys, ridges and coast of South Wales. This now-green landscape has superb walking opportunities in an easily accessible area. Packed with Roman, Celtic and other historical interest.



Every walk is enjoyable in all seasons; higher and more exposed ridges should be treated with some care on windy winter days


Swansea, Bridgend, Cardiff, Newport, Pontypridd, Pontypool


The ridge walks and those through forests require basic routefinding skills using map, compass and GPS, but none of the routes should present any technical difficulties, and many follow clear paths across farmland and alongside rivers and canals
Must See

Must See

spectacular Iron Age forts, Roman roads and marching camps, Celtic churches, Norman castles and a wonderful industrial heritage; Coed Morgannwg Way; Caerphilly Castle at the end of the Glamorgan Ridgeway; Heritage Coast path; Blaenavon World Heritage Site
26 Jul 2012
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.3cm
  • Overview

    Refreshingly green after its post-industrial makeover, and with superb walking opportunities at every turn, the South Wales Valleys offer great variety crammed in a compact, easily accessible area.

    This is an intricate, layered landscape in which successive generations have left their imprint without obliterating the traces of their ancestors. Walks visit Iron Age forts, Celtic churches and Norman castles and often follow the ancient tracks, Roman roads and old packhorse trails that cross the region and are still in use to this day.

    There are expansive and uplifting views to be had everywhere, with the broad sweep of the Brecon Beacons to the north and the Severn estuary and Devon hills to the south.

    This guide offers a selection of contrasting routes across the region through valleys, over ridges and along the coastline, to delight any walker.

    • 30 day routes and 2 backpacking routes suitable for a leisurely weekend
    • full of points of historical and geological interest and rich in wildlife
    • illustrated with OS map extracts
  • Contents

    Geology and landscape
    Plants and wildlife
    The impact of man
    Industry and religion
    Greening the valleys
    The Welsh language
    Getting to and around South Wales
    What to take
    Maps and waymarking
    Using this guide
    1 The Valleys
    Walk 1 Cwm Clydach and the Swansea Canal
    Walk 2 Along the Tawe Valley
    Walk 3 The Cwm Cregan Trail
    Walk 4 The Taff Trail
    Walk 5 Along the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal
    Walk 6 The Usk Valley Walk
    2 The Western Ridges
    Walk 7 Mynydd Garn-Fach and the upper Lliw Valley
    Walk 8 The Gnoll, Melincourt Falls and the Neath Canal
    Walk 9 The Coed Morgannwg Way
    Stage 1 Coed Morgannwg Way West
    Stage 2 Coed Morgannwg Way East
    Walk 10 Between the Llynfi and Garw
    Walk 11 The Glamorgan Ridgeway
    Stage 1 Margam Park to Blackmill
    Stage 2 Blackmill to Llantrisant
    Stage 3 Llantrisant to Caerphilly Castle
    3 The Eastern Ridges
    Walk 12 Over the Bwlch
    Walk 13 The Rhymney Valley Ridgeway
    Walk 14 Above the upper Rhymney
    Walk 15 The Sirhowy Valley
    Walk 16 Mynydd Carn-y-Cefn and the Round Towers
    Walk 17 St Illtyd’s and the Guardian of the Valleys
    Walk 18 The Raven Walk
    Walk 19 High Folly and packhorse trails
    4 Coast and Vale
    Walk 20 The buried town of Kenfig
    Walk 21 Ewenny Priory and Merthyr Mawr Warren
    Walk 22 Castles around Cowbridge
    Walk 23 The Glamorgan Heritage Coast
    Walk 24 The Border Vale
    Walk 25 Deserted villages and folk museum
    5 History and Heritage
    Walk 26 St Illtyd’s Walk in upland Gower
    Walk 27 Sarn Helen
    Walk 28 The Trevithick Trail
    Walk 29 The Cistercian Way to the shrine at Penrhys
    Walk 30 Senghenydd Dyke
    Walk 31 Clydach Gorge south
    Walk 32 The Iron Mountain Trail

    Appendix A Route summary table
    Appendix B Useful contacts

  • Maps

    Maps, compass and (especially in woodland) a GPS should always be carried. The whole of the area is covered in six 1:25,000 Ordnance Survey maps:

    • Outdoor Leisure 12 (Brecon Beacons – west and central areas)
    • Outdoor Leisure 13 (Brecon Beacons – eastern area)
    • Explorer 151 (Cardiff & Bridgend)
    • Explorer 152 (Newport & Pontypool)
    • Explorer 165 (Swansea)
    • Explorer 166 (Rhondda & Merthyr Tydfil)

    Waymarking is variable, but improving. There are some examples of best practice, but some routes need additional signposting to remove potential difficulties with route-finding. In these cases, a more detailed description of the way to overcome the difficulties is given in the text.

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    We are always grateful to readers for information about any discrepancies between a guidebook and the facts on the ground. If you would like to send some information to us then please use our contact form. They will be published here following review by the author(s).

  • Reviews

    '...the author has made use of the excellent public transport network in this part of the UK to create some interesting walks.

    ...the guide will give visitors to this part of the UK with a real insight into its beauty'

    Strider, December 2012

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Mike Dunn

Mike Dunn was born and bred in Leicester but has now lived in Penarth in the Vale of Glamorgan for over 30 years. He worked for the Welsh Assembly Government, latterly specialising in environmental and conservation issues, and has also written widely on landscape, walking, pubs and real ale. His books include The Penguin Guide to Real Draught Beer, Walking through the Lake District, Walking Ancient Trackways and Real Heritage Pubs of Wales (with Mick Slaughter). He is married and has two daughters, and his interests include playing and organising tennis (he is a Board Member of Tennis Wales), birdwatching, cricket and real ale. Mike's favourite locations for walking are the Welsh borders, the Hebridean Islands and the Lake District.

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