Walking in the South Wales Valleys
By Mike Dunn
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.
SeasonsEvery walk is enjoyable in all seasons; higher and more exposed ridges should be treated with some care on windy winter days
CentresSwansea, Bridgend, Cardiff, Newport, Pontypridd, Pontypool
DifficultyThe 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 Seespectacular 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
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
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, 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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'...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 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.View Articles and Books by Mike Dunn
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