Walking in Glamorgan, South Wales. Guided walks, routes &
Last updated 18.12.07
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Barry Castle: What remains of the castle can be described as a fortified manor house. The present remains consist of a gateway and wall of a storage basement with banqueting hall above dating from the early 14th Century. Barry was a sub-manor of Penmark and was probably held by the de Barri family from the twelfth to the mid fourteenth. The castle was partly ruined by 1530 but manorial courts were held in the gatehouse up to 1720.
For more on Barry Castle, click here
The Bulwarks: A large iron Age hillfort between Porthkerry and Rhoose 700 BC - 100 AD. The defences consist of an outer ditch and two massive closely set banks. Excavation has revealed some rectangular buildings, the latest being 3rd - 4th Century AD indicating it was in use well into Roman times.
Button: Thomas Button was born around 1570. His family seat was called Worleton but this was later moved to a building on the site of what is now Dyffryn House. In 1589 he went to sea, moving steadily through the ranks and in 1612 led an expedition to discover the North-West passage. He was the first to cross the Hudson Bay from East to West and discovered the Western Shore which he named New Wales. He contributed much to science through careful cartography and astronomical calculations on this trip, became an Admiral and was knighted in 1616, dying in 1634. There is a Button Chapel at St Lythans church. (Source: Glamorgan Historian, vol.4)
Admiral Sir Thomas Button
Cliffwood Cottage: The original cottage was built in 1583 but the most notable occupant was Anne Jenkin. She was a reputed witch and was examined for Devil’s Marks by magistrates from Cowbridge. A young man and his servant bought a love potion from Anne but refused to pay her. She cursed them and they never emerged from the wood but still stand close by as a tall straight tree and a shorter crooked one.
Cliffwood: First mentioned in 1578 and in the 18th Century the oak was cut for ship-building and oak bark used for tanning. Part of the wood is known as Coed yr Odyn (The Kiln Wood) which was used for limestone burning. The kilns and quarries can still be found in the wood. In 1970 Cliffwood was designated a Local Nature Reserve, the first in Wales.
Cold Knap Farm: Cold Knap Farm was first built in the 1570s and the house was then enlarged at the beginning of the 17th Century and has remained virtually unaltered since. One of the inhabitants was Richard Garby, a farmer and collector of payments for shipments, but also a smuggler.
A World War I veteran recreates a battlefield scene on Barry Island sands. Reproduced from 'Old Barry in Photographs, Vol.3' by Brian C Luxton, published by Stewart Williams, Barry.
Cwrtyrala. The house is associated with Sir Walter Raleigh. The word Cwrtyrala is a Welsh version of Court of Raleigh. This is the fourth building to have been sited here. It was once owned by the de Reigney family and then passed by marriage to the Raleigh family of Devon. From this family, but much later, came Sir Walter.
Cwrt-yr-Ala house in the 1920s. This Italianate villa was replaced in 1940.
Glan-y-Mor Roman Villa: The structure was probably built in the early 290s AD at a time when the west coast of Wales and the Bristol Channel were threatened by raids from Irish pirates. After a very short life systematic stripping and demolition of the building was undertaken by the Romans but there is evidence for subsequent reoccupation after 350AD and then again in the early 7th Century and 10th Century.
Watchtower: The Watch Tower and Rocket Shed are reminders of a time when this spot marked the entrance to Barry’s busy port. They were originally built in the 1860s by the Coastguard for storing and firing distress or warning rockets.
Woodland Trust: Pen y Turnpike wood was recently acquired. You enter this first before moving into Casehill wood. Cwm George wood may have existed since the end of the last ice age. It is a deep limestone gorge with cliffs on the western side. On the east of the gorge is a wooded hill crowned by an Iron Age hillfort and another earthwork feature - an important settlement in the Dark Ages. The three woods cover over 200 acres. For more on the Woodland Trust click here.
Farming: For much of the coast path you are walking on or near farmland. A free leaflet in the Glamorgan Heritage Coast series, entitled Food for You, gives background information on local farming. Main breeds of cattle are Friesian, Welsh Black, Charolais and Hereford. The sheep are mainly Suffolk and Welsh Mountain. Lambs and beef calves born further north are brought to the coast to overwinter and fatten. Crops include winter wheat, barley and oats along with root crops for winter cattle and sheep feed such as potatoes, swedes, turnips, cabbage, kale and rape.
Fish and Fishing: The title of a free leaflet in the Glamorgan Heritage Coast series which gives a brief introduction to the sorts of fish to be found along the coast including Bass, Cod, Conger, Dab, Dogfish, Monkfish, Pouting, Tope, Turbot and Rays.
Marconi: On May 13th 1897 Guglielmo Marconi transmitted the first ever wireless signals over water from Lavernock to Flatholm Island. The project had been supported by William Preece, Engineer-in-Chief to the Post Office and George Kemp was a Post Office engineer working with Marconi who kept a diary of the trials. Tests over this 3.3 mile distance were sufficiently encouraging for the receiving equipment to be moved to Brean Down near Weston-super-Mare, the transmission distance now 10 miles.
Seawatch Centre: This centre is housed in a converted H.M. Coastguard Station and offers visitors a chance to learn about the sea and how it affects us. It is equipped with a range of Marine V.H.F. radio receivers and navigational and meteorological instruments. Ideal for school groups. NOTE that the Seawatch Centre is not open very often so for opening times and days and for more information call the Glamorgan Heritage Coast Centre on 01656 880157 or the Seawatch Centre on 01446 795203.
Shipping: Walking the Coast Path gives ample opportunity to watch the different sorts of ships that move up and down the Bristol Channel. The largest are bulk carriers along with oil tankers and liquid gas carriers. There are cargo liners, the fruit ships of the Geest line, coasters, container ships, dredgers, research ships, plus car carriers, cable layers and passenger ferries. For more information with ship outlines and company funnel markings there is a free leaflet in the Glamorgan Heritage Coast series, Ships that Pass, available from the Heritage Coast Centre.
St Baruch's Chapel: St Baruch, to whom the chapel is dedicated was a disciple of St Cadoc the founder of the monastery at Llancarfan in the 6th Century. The legend records that in 700 AD the monks and friars left their monastery and walked to Barry Island as was their custom - a periodic retreat from the world for up to 6 weeks to pray and meditate. They took a boat from Barry Island to Holm Island to seek solitude. On returning to Barry Island they discovered they had lost their Saints Enchiridon handbook behind. St Cadoc sent St Baruch and St Gweldes back to retrieve the book but while recrossing they were drowned. The body of Baruch was recovered and buried on the island. He was revered as a saint for many miles around and people came flocking to the island to see his burial place which they regarded as sacred. The chapel was later built on this spot by monks becoming known as St Baruch's shrine. As time went on the island became known as Baruch's Island and with years of usage developed to Barry Island. (From information board on site).
St Lawrence's church. This small church is at Lavernock not far from the cliff-top. It is constructed of local Lias limestone and the lack of windows in the north wall suggests it is of mediaeval origin, possibly late 12th century. The stonework and roof date from 1852.
Summerhouse Point. The Summerhouse was built in around 1730 by the Seys family. The Summerhouse is octagonal and set within an octagonal enclosure. The wall with its two turrets would have provided shelter for the enclosure and there would have been fine views out across the channel. The adjoining cottage was occupied by the caretaker and the building was still inhabited in the 1920s. Surrounding the Summerhouse is an Iron Age fort dated 700BC to 100AD. The fort has several ramparts and is semi-circular with the sheer sea cliff on the South side. For more details see The Story of Summerhouse Point - a leaflet in the Glamorgan Heritage Coast series.
Wild Flowers of the Coast: The title of a free leaflet in the Glamorgan Heritage Coast Series. For detailed descriptions of most wildlife found along the coast see also the Mary Gilham books such as 'Sea Cliffs'. Wildflower walks are offered during the Spring and Summer by the Kenfig National Nature Reserve and the Heritage Coast Centre does walks often with a Natural History theme. Check the Guided Walks section.
Cosmeston Mediaeval Village: This is a re-creation of a nearby community, dating back some 600 years with a manor house, bakehouse and mill. You can still see the base of a large stone dovecote in the field adjacent to the present village. The Costentin family were Lords of the Manor but by the middle of the 15th century the population had declined and the manor was in ruins. At certain times of the year special events are held here such as Mediaeval Fairs and Banquets. The site has been a winner of a 'Heritage in Britain' award.
Sully: A long, narrow parish which, whilst appearing modern, dates back to Norman times and earlier. Little remains of Sully castle which was linked to the de Sully family who were lords of the manor, also founding the church of St John the Baptist. Excavations in the 1960s showed occupation of the castle site went back to Romano-British times, followed by a 12th century earthwork, stone keep and fortified manor house. At the western end of the village towards Barry was situated Sully Hospital, currently being redeveloped. The building has been described as a particularly good example of inter-war Functional architecture and was designed by W. A. Pite, Son and Fairweather. Pioneering work was carried out here on Tuberculosis and it was one of the best-equipped chest hospitals in Britain. On Sully's foreshore and to the west towards Bendricks Rock can be found several sets of dinosaur footprints.
Sully Island: On Sully Island is an Iron Age hillfort dating to between 700BC and 100AD. More of a defended homestead than a large settlement, the most obvious part is the bank which is up to 2 metres high. It is possible to walk over to the island at low tide but is only safe up to 2 hours either side of low tide - the incoming tide can be very dangerous.
The Captains Wife: This pub and restaurant is at Swanbridge, close to Sully. Sully House was once situated here and it was lived in by a sea captain. On one of his voyages he was accompanied by his wife who died at sea. Sailors are particularly superstitious about having corpses on board so the captain hid the body, doubled up, in a lead-lined box. On his return the captain buried the box in the woods near Sully House whilst arrangements were made to get a proper coffin and organise burial. When he returned the box and body had disappeared - it was assumed taken by one of the crew members who thought the box contained treasure. The wife's ghost was said to roam the area seeking her resting place. However, during a recent renovation, the doubled-up body of a woman was found under flagstones in the stables - the skeleton was re-buried and the ghost of the Captain's Wife was never seen again.
Coed-y-Bwl Nature Reserve: Situated at Castle-upon-Alun. The only daffodil wood in Glamorgan with around a quarter of a million ‘wild’ daffodils. The reserve was established in 1971 and in 1975 received a Prince of Wales trust award. The daffodils were planted in the early nineteenth century by Mrs Nicholl of Merthyr Mawr. The flowers were known locally as TWM DILIES. Depending on the climate, best visited March. By the road is an old stone pack-horse or clapper bridge. Other plants include moschatel, wood anemone, pignut, sedges, spindle, yellow archangel, wild privet, wood melick grass, hart's-tongue fern and lesser celandine. The pond between the wall and the road has numerous frogs along with the unusual Pick-a-back plant surrounding it.
Dunraven House: The Welsh name for it was Dundryfan which indicates a triangular fortress and on the headland is an Iron Age hillfort with hut sites and pillow mounds. Claimed to be the principal residence of the ancient Princes of Siluria and of Bran ap Llyr and his son Caradoc ap Bran – also known as Caractacus. It is mentioned in an old manuscript – the Bonedd y Saint. A nearby farm is called Cae Caradoc which means Caradoc’s field. In the 12th Century, the Norman, Arnold le Boteler (later Butler) received the land from Maurice de Londres and built the first stone building here. The rent was three golden chalices of wine, hence the Three Golden Cups pub nearby. The manor of Dunraven was first recorded in 1542 by Leland, official antiquities recorder to Henry VIII. In 1776 it was illustrated by one S. Hooper as a substantial residence with outbuildings. Ownership passed from the Butlers to the Vaughans and then Wyndhams who built Dunraven Castle in 1803 standing in this magnificent setting on the promontory of Witch's Point.
Left, the Ice House and right interior of the walled garden at Dunraven House
Later extensive alterations were made by Thomas and Anne Wyndham and North and South wings were added. The manor house and garden walls were castellated, giving rise to the misnomer Dunraven Castle. Following the great Victorian interest in horticulture Caroline, first Countess of Dunraven, introduced a luxuriant collection of exotic plants. The Ice House tower was constructed over a basin-shaped cellar. Ice was collected in Winter and stored here between layers of straw, brushwood and logs for Summer use. It was used as a convalescent home during the Second World War and then in 1962 after no buyer could be found, was dynamited. If when strolling around the grounds you pick up the scent of mimosa, do not look over your shoulder for the Blue Lady of Dunraven who haunts the site could be nearby. On the rocks there are anemones and crabs accompanied by winkles, limpets, top shells and common dog whelks. Wildflowers include spurge laurel and stinking hellebore along with snowdrops and primroses. The turf, which is kept short by rabbits, is good for wrinkled and banded snails.
Monks Wood. This embryonic wood was created by the Woodland Trust in 1998. It is a Community Wood at just over 10 acres. New planting includes Ash, Oak, Rowan, Willow, Blackthorn, Purging Buckthorn, Wayfaring Tree, Spindle, Wild Rose, Gorse. Whilst there are few trees in the countryside around here the name Wick or Y Wig suggests there was woodland at some time. There is a pond with Bulrushes.
Pant Marie Flanders: This well, classed as an ancient monument, is reputed still to produce good quality water. It once served as the source of water supply for the hamlet of Heol-y-Mynydd, situated at the head of the valley. The valley is said to be named after a local resident, Marie Flanders, renowned as a weaver and presumably of Flemish origins.
Altmark: This fishing vessel with a crew of one, who got off safely, ran aground in 1959. However, this is only one of the many wrecks that have occurred along this stretch of coastline down the centuries and the looting of wrecks proved to be a profitable occupation for the locals. In 1694 a Portuguese vessel came to grief but its cargo of orange trees is said to have led to the building of the orangery at Margam to house them. More recently in 1947 the Liberty Ship, Samtampa, ran aground on Sker Rocks with the loss of all 39 crew. The lifeboat, the Edward, Prince of Wales, which set out on a rescue mission was also wrecked here with the loss of the 8 crew members.
Bando: Below is a picture of Mrs Janet Davies wielding a ‘bando’ stick. During the eighteenth and nineteenth century the game of bando was played with curved ash sticks and balls of stuffed leather. It took place on Kenfig sands from one goal at the River Kenfig and the other at Sker rocks two miles away. In 1817, some 3,000 people turned out to watch a match between Margam and Newton Nottage.
Mrs Davies with bando stick
Kenfig Pool: The Legend. A peasant once killed and robbed a local lord to impress a daughter of one of the Earls de Clare whom he later married. At the wedding feast a voice was heard saying that vengeance would come with the ninth generation of the murdered lord’s family. When the ninth descendant turned up, the voice was heard again. There was a rush of water from the sea engulfing the town. The bells of the church can still be heard during storms under Kenfig Pool. If you look at the pool you will see some old ruins – the remains of the town. (If you prefer historical accuracy to romance, note that these are the remains of a Victorian boathouse).
Kenfig Castle: Whilst a town lying at the bottom of Kenfig Pool may seem fanciful, the truth is that there was a sizeable town here and it was buried – not by water but by sand. A stone axe and arrowheads suggest occupation from Neolithic times and pieces of Romano-British pottery indicate a Roman presence – a Roman road also runs nearby. The Normans built Kenfig Castle in the 12th Century and in 1147 Kenfig was incorporated as a Borough. The keep was possibly 50 foot high and what you see is all that remains of the top. The Borough was frequently attacked by the Welsh but by 1307 it had a population of 700-800 people with a leper hospital, watermill and windmill. The River Kenfig would have been deep enough for small ships to reach the town. However, from the 14th Century sand to started to encroach, gradually covering the buildings and by 1654 only one family was left living near the castle. St James’s Church was originally built here about 1150 but as the sand encroached it was dismantled and rebuilt stone-by-stone at Pyle. If you visit the church there you will see that, unusually, the smallest stones are at the base of the building. More information on the history of Kenfig can be found in the series of booklets produced by the Kenfig Society and available in the Reserve Centre. See also ‘The Story of Kenfig’ by A. Leslie Evans (Port Talbot 1960). For more on Kenfig Castle, click here
Llanmihangel Farm. This very fine farmhouse dates from about 1600 with most of the two-light windows surviving. In one of the farm buildings passed just down the road is embedded part of the wall of the barn of a grange of Margam Abbey. It has been estimated that the barn was originally nearly 100 foot long.
Nature Reserve: For information about the reserve contact The Warden, Kenfig National Nature Reserve, Ton Kenfig, Pyle, CF 33 4 PT. Telephone 01656 743386 or Fax 01656 745940. The reserve is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, the last remnants of a huge sand dune system that once stretched along the coast of South Wales from the River Ogmore to the Gower. It is now home to thousands of species of animals and plants including the rare Fen Orchid for which the site is internationally famous. You can also find frogs, toads, newts along with dragonflies and damselflies in the summer. There are several bird hides overlooking the 70 acre freshwater pool, a favourite refuge for wildfowl at all times of year. Birdlife includes whooper, Bewick and mute swans, goldeneye, great crested grebe, teal and redshank around the pool with peregrine, merlin, short-eared owl and stonechat in the dunes. Go to the Guided Walks section to see Kenfig Reserve's events programme.
Prince of Wales Inn: This has been the location of the Guild Hall for the Borough of Kenfig since it was built in the 16th Century. However, what you see now dates from its rebuilding in 1808. The Guild Hall room was above the Inn and it was here that the Burgesses met, court was held and rights exercised as laid down in the Kenfig Charters. The Inn is reputed to be haunted.
Sker House: A widower, Old Davy, is fishing by Sker Rocks when he comes across a small boat. "In the stern-sheets, fast asleep, with the baby face towards me, lay a little child in white. Something told me that it was not dead, or even ailing; only adrift upon the world, and not at all aware of it". The unknown waif, Bardie, grows up in her lowly surroundings to become an enchanting young lady, beloved by the local villagers as their ‘Maid of Sker’. This then is the title of a book by R. D. Blackmore, author of Lorna Doone, and he considered The Maid of Sker was his best novel. Whilst living in the West Country R. D. Blackmore used to stay with relatives near Porthcawl and Sker House and this part of the Glamorganshire coast made a sufficient impression on him to lead to the writing of the Maid of Sker published three years after Lorna Doone. Long since out of print, a copy of the book is available in Cardiff Central Library but is not on the shelves – just ask the librarians.
Sker House itself has a long and interesting history and has been restored. A grange belonging to the monks of Neath Abbey existed here in the 13th Century with part of the present building dating from the 16th Century but most from the 17th Century. The Turberville family owned it after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. It is said to have a ghost (another Maid of Sker!), Elizabeth Williams, who is believed to have been forced to marry against her will. However, the booklet ‘Folktales of Pyle and Kenfig’, published by the Kenfig Society, considers this improbable and refers to another story, this time concerning one Martha Howells.
St James Church, Pyle. This was built in the 15th Century and was largely reconstructed from the old church in Kenfig sands, hence the smaller stones being at the bottom and larger ones above. One of the wall-plates in the nave is dated 1471. A monument to Edward Thomas dates to 1693.
Llantwit Major and St. Donats:
Belvedere: The word is derived from the Italian meaning a 'fair view' and it refers to an architectural structure often built in the upper part of a building but also, as here, freestanding so as to command a good view. You will find Belvederes throughout Western civilization from Vienna to New York and there are many Hotel Belvederes. The artist Escher (drawings of buildings, steps etc, which appear to defy logic) had one of his best-known creations called the Belvedere.
Boverton Place: This substantial Tudor house was built by Roger Seys, Attorney General for Wales in the 1590s, who had married Elizabeth Voss. It is believed to hold the largest ivy bush in Wales. It was the Seys family who built the Summerhouse in the 1730s.
Castle ditches: This encampment dates from the latter part of the pre-Roman Iron Age and is a typical promontory fort depending for its defence on a combination of steep-sided valleys and cliffs. It may have been used until the 12th Century when it offered protection to local inhabitants. Until the 19th Century this event was re-enacted by local people on the 3rd May and known as the Annwyl Day Celebrations on Col-Huw meadow.
Columbarium: This dovecote would have been built by the monks in the 13th Century and the birds would have been used as a food supply. High on the outside walls a timber platform was fixed which enabled the dovecote to be turned into a defensive tower when necessary. The fields in which it is situated have been cultivated for centuries and the mounds in the grass show the line of the mediaeval walls.
Left, the Columbarium. Right, the Gatehouse
Gatehouse: This is the 13th Century gatehouse to the Norman monastic grange. You can still see where the gateway entrance was in the side of the building and the pedestrian door is still in use. In the field behind are the remains of the foundations of the 12th Century monastery buildings.
Hillhead Cottages: These were once almshouses for the poor. Alongside the cottages is an ancient flight of steps known as ‘Big Man's’ or ‘Pig Man’s’ steps. They are an awkward length as they take one and a half paces but it is said that the monks who made them would have taken shorter paces because of their long robes.
Llantwit Major: With evidence of cultivation from the 3rd millennium BC Llantwit has a long history. A Roman villa was found nearby which by the 4th Century AD had 52 rooms and 2 courtyards. The town is well hidden from the coast which would have given some protection from marauders from the sea and it was here that St Illtyd, born about 425 AD established a mission centre. By this time communication was mainly by sea and Breton traditions indicate that Llanilltud was where many of the founding Saints came from including Samson of Dol, Gildas the Wise and Paul Aurelian. The beach by the car park is the site of the Port of Col-Huw, originating in the 5th Century with boats crossing the Bristol Channel to Somerset and Devon. It was destroyed by storms in the 16th Century and was never rebuilt. For more on the history of the town see ‘Llantwit Major, A History and Guide’ edited by LV Kelly and published by the Llantwit Major Local History Society. On the beach you can find rocks with tunnels made by rock-boring bi-valves. On the cliffs are rock sea-lavender, samphire, thrift, wild carrot along with stonechats and meadow pipits. In the Col Huw valley are wild madder, stinking iris and bloody-nosed beetles. Further inland are red valerian, wall pennywort and yellow stonecrop.
Marcross Church of the Holy Trinity: Built by the Normans in the 12th Century and displays some interesting architectural features including an unusual font, a tower with a gabled roof and a leper's window through which people with infectious diseases could see the altar. In the churchyard a bronze sundial is mounted on the base of a mediaeval cross.
Monknash Grange: This was one of the largest monastic farms in Glamorgan, the land having been given to Neath Abbey in the 12th Century. It covers around 8 hectares throughout which you can see ruined stone buildings, ditches and levelled areas. The main entrance is thought to have been near the Forge. The dovecot or columbarium is one of the best-preserved buildings and on the inside there are a few remaining nesting boxes. These were used to supply meat in the Middle Ages and you can compare this with the columbarium at Llantwit Major, further up this page. There is also one in Cadoxton in Barry and others can be found at St Fagans and Sutton. The 64 metre long great barn, to the South-East of the site is amongst the biggest monastic barns in Britain.
Nash Point: There are some barely visible remains in the car park of a Long Cairn in an egg-shape and now covered in grass and gorse. It was described in 1811 as an ancient cromlech and was according to tradition the place of worship of the old village, known locally as Hen Eglwys, (Old Church). The Iron Age promontory fort is one of several along the Heritage coast, protecting a potential landing point from coastal raiders. These were built between around 700 BC and the Roman invasion. Most of the fort has been destroyed by cliff erosion. If you stand on the cliff top here you can make out an oval mound close by. This is a late mediaeval pillow mound thought to be an artificial rabbit warren. In the valley, Cwm Marcross, are a variety of plants and animals typical of a lime-rich soil. Local butterflies include the Grayling and Dingy Skipper.
Nash Point Lighthouses: A public outcry in 1832 followed the loss of 40 lives when the passenger steamer Frolic ran aground on Nash Point sandbank. The two lighthouse towers were built 1,000 feet apart and carefully positioned so that they could be aligned by ships sailing up the channel. Navigation buoys were anchored on the sandbank at the same time. The high lighthouse is 37 metres high and was originally painted with black and white stripes. It was the last manned lighthouse in Wales with the keepers finally leaving on August 5th 1998. The grassy area around the lighthouses is covered in cowslips in late Spring. Behind the lighthouse buildings is Nash Lighthouse meadow, an unploughed limestone pasture which contains the Tuberous Thistle, Cirsuim Tuberosum.
Left, St Donats Castle, early 18th Century. Right. Banqueting Hall with ceiling taken from 'Boston Stump' church.
St Donats Castle: What is the connection between 'Rosebud' and St. Donats? The 1937 film, Citizen Kane, the main character played by Orson Welles, depicted the rise and fall of a business magnate, based on the character William Randolph Hearst who founded and lost an American newspaper empire. At the end of the film we are left with the mystery, who was Rosebud? Hearst bought St Donats in 1925, spent a huge sum restoring and extending it for his lover, the actress Marion Davies, and introduced a period when St Donats was visited by many famous people including Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill, John F Kennedy, David Lloyd George, Arthur Conan Doyle. The castle itself may be based on Norman foundations with parts of the visible castle built in the 12th Century. The Great Hall and Priest's room are 15th Century. Today it is Atlantic College, a muilticultural campus with students from all over the world. For more on the history of St Donats try 'The Story of St Donats Castle and Atlantic College' edited by Roy Deming and for the period when Hearst was owner, 'Hearst's Other Castle' by Enfys McMurry. The castle and grounds are not open to the public but if you wish to visit there are visitor days. The annual craft fair is a good opportunity to see some of the rooms and to make the odd purchase. For more on the castle click here and here.
St Donats Church: There is a belief that a church stood here since Celtic, possibly even Roman, times. Before the Normans the church was known as Llanwerydd, the church of St. Gwerydd, but this was later changed to St Donat who became the patron saint of sailors. The original church of the current building dates from around 1100 with extensions and rebuilding around 1300 and again in the early 15th century. The lectern is in fact an ambo, a stand for reading the lessons in early churches and is a genuine mediaeval Breton piece. Inside in the Lady Chapel are tombs and wall monuments to various members of the Stradling family. In the churchyard are two Calvary crosses, the one on the North side being late 19th century but the one on the South side is 15th Century with its original head. The head is of Sutton stone, the shaft Quarella stone and the base Lias limestone. (Notes from the Guide to st Donats Church).
St. Illtyd's Church: This is a welcoming church and well-worth visiting. Many of the features to be found are described in ‘The Pilgrim’s Guide to St Illtyd’s Church’ which for a small sum can be purchased in the church. This was the site of the original 6th Century church of St Illtyd but the present building dates from the 12th Century. You will find examples of Celtic wheel crosses, the old curfew bell, effigies of a monk and a lady thought to have died in childbirth, wall paintings dating back to the 1400s, a Jesse tree, a Norman font and many old memorial stones. The hatchment of the Carne family shows a bleeding pelican – the pelican was believed to feed its young by plucking at its breast, a link here with the Pelican Inn near Ogmore Castle. Outside you will find a ruined Chantry. Near this was a building used by the Chantry priest which survived until hit by a bomb in 1940 and is now a garden of remembrance. John Wesley preached at the church in 1777.
St Illtyd's Church
Town Hall: A 17th Century building with a clock over 100 years old and the Town Crier’s steps where news and forthcoming events were shouted out. The Information Centre is worth visiting for the local information on display and the publications for sale.
Trebeferad: This was to form the nucleus of a new village created for unemployed miners who were resettled from the Valleys giving them fresh air and an opportunity to work in agriculture. It dates from 1936.
Tresilian: At low tide at the right-hand edge of the bay you will find a substantial cave. The bay and cave of Tresilian are named after the 4th Century Prince (later Saint) Silian. The houses by the bay are believed to be where he held court but they also have associations with smuggling. Inside Tresilian cave you will see a natural arch a few feet below the roof, known as the bow of destiny. Lovers who wished to know how long it would be before they married came here. The man would try to throw a round pebble over the arch so that it landed without hitting the arch or roof. The number of attempts before succeeding indicated how many years they would have to wait before marrying.
Ewenny Priory: The Norman church was built by William de Londres and the Priory was founded as a cell of the Benedictine Abbey of Gloucester by his son Maurice de Londres, Lord of Ogmore in 1141. The 12th Century East end of the church, together with the precinct walls and its gates are in the hands of CADW. Peacocks roam the gardens which are not open to the public. For more click here.
Baptismal Pond: This was once used for the baptism of members of the Congregation of Bethal Chapel. It is thought that the last baptism here was performed around 1900 - more recently it has been used for watering cattle. The pool is fed by ground water and overflows into the Nant which crosses the road via an underground culvert and flows through the Priory grounds into the River Ewenny (Groundwork Ogwr leaflet)
Merthyr Mawr: The name is probably a corruption of Merthyr Myfor, 'the place where St Myfor was martyred'. The present church dates back to the middle of the 19th century but was built on an ancient site - stones dating from the 5th century have been found suggesting there was an important early Christian cemetery here. (Groundwork Ogwr leaflet). A sundial from 1720 can be seen on the church wall and there are several old tombs in the churchyard. The area of dunes is now a designated national nature reserve. Amongst the wide range of fauna and flora you could find the uncommon sandhill snail and tiny wall whorl snail. There is an extensive - and spreading - area of Birthwort (SS 85956/76703).
Wells: Sandford's Well, dedicated to St John the Baptist. Sir John Stradling of St Donats Castle, 'a very learned knight', as William Camden, the King's antiquary calls him, wrote a poem first published in the Latin edition of Brittannia in 1607. The poem is reproduced by the side of the well and refers to the Nymph, the River Severn, suggesting that as the tide comes in the water from the well goes down but re-emerges as the tide goes out. The Ffynnon Fawr well is reputed to have the best-tasting water in the area but sadly offers only a time-capsule of early 21st century rubbish. St Davids Well or Fynnon Dewi - this well gives its name to the ancient dell of Dewiscumbe, mentioned in a 12th century grant of William, Earl of Gloucester, to Richard of Cardiff of Nova Villa in Margan.