Walking in Glamorgan, South Wales. Guided walks, routes &
Webmaster, Angus McDonald
Last updated 24.1.03
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Walks around Aberdulais and Tonna
Two short walks around Aberdulais, near Neath. Walk 1 is 4 miles, 6.4 kms, and Walk 2 is 3.5 miles, 5.5 kms, or combine these to cover 7.5 miles, 11.9 kms. Walk 2, also known as the Tonna Trail, meets a point on the Gnoll walk so you can add this circuit to make a respectable 11.5 miles, 18.3 kms in total. The walks start at Craig Gwladys country park and include a mix of woodland, bridleways, country lanes and some fine views. You pass much evidence of the industrial past which includes the Aberdulais falls – a National Trust Property. Resting places include the picnic area towards the end of Walk 1 and on Walk 2, the Aberdulais basin, the mound by the stile, Mosshouse Wood reservoir and the Echoing Lake. Pubs passed include the Dulais Rock, the Railway Tavern and Whittington Arms, all on Walk 2. There are no facilities at Craig Gwladys Country Park.
For a map to get to the start, click here.
NOTE: the car park at Craig Gwladys closes at 4.30pm in Winter and 5.30pm in Summer – if you are likely to be later than this, park nearby.
Explorer map 165. Start at Grid Ref SN 76914/00035, 71 metres above sea level.
Walk 1 - Craig Gwladys
The car park at the start
Facing the trees with your back to the houses, walk to the right-hand end of the car park and take the path that heads up through the trees. After 50 yards where the park forks, take the left fork continuing uphill. At a junction of paths turn right and after 10 yards left to follow a zig-zag route up the side of the hill. When you reach a wide track, the old dram road, turn right (but note this point as you will need to find and descend the zig-zag path later). Alternatively you can take Detour 1 at this point which just adds a few hundred yards to the route. The track ascends gently, then curves to the left to reach a wooden stile which you cross and then a second wooden stile. You pass through some holly bushes and emerge onto a field. Turn diagonally left uphill and through some clumps of bracken and rushes and when you see a stone wall ahead, aim to the left of it where the path is clearer, to reach a Waymark post. (SN 76628/00814, 17 mins, 0.76 miles, 146 metres above sea level).
Looking back down the valley, the disused Cilfrew colliery stack to the left
Follow the direction of the arrow keeping the stone wall on your right to cross a wooden stile by a metal gate and aim for the left edge of the metal barn ahead. Pass through the metal gate in the corner of the field and then right along the track which can be muddy. Go through a rusty yellow gate and turn left into the farmyard, through more gates, emerging with the pink house on your left. Follow the road as it curves to the right uphill. Where the track levels out you come to a country lane, turn left along this lane. (SN 76025/00911, 28 mins, 1.18 miles, 205 metres above sea level).
View from the lane, Swansea and the Mumbles in the distance
Walk along this quiet lane, passing a golf course on the left and with fine views to the Gower ahead right. Pass a turning to Cefnfaes on the right and the road then starts to descend into the trees. After the road curves sharply to the left take the footpath to the right through the trees, (SS 75782/99727, 44 mins, 2.08 miles). In about 5 minutes you cross a wooden stile, then keep ahead with wire fence on left. The path crosses a shallow stream and just beyond this take the stile with yellow waymark on the left. As the path winds downhill, keep the stream on your left. You reach a stile set in a wire fence and 30 yards beyond this you reach a track where you turn left and follow this track until it reaches a road opposite a small white building. Go through two kissing gates either side of the road. (SS 75718/99181, 55 mins, 2.71 miles, 109 metres above sea level).
Cross the road to follow the footpath opposite up some steps. The track crosses a field and enters the trees. Stick to the main, level track which is the opposite end of the same track, the dram road, we walked along towards the beginning of the walk. A track joins from the right and you pass large rock formations on your left and some metal barriers on your right. After about 10 minutes the track crosses a stream by an area with picnic tables, a car park and small cascades. You pass an old industrial building on the left (see photo below) and then more stonework by a large mound on the right. About 300 yards further on look for our zig-zag track on the right from earlier and take this to return to the car park. (1 hr 20 mins, 3.94 miles).
A building linked to the Gelliau colliery
As soon as you get to the dram road, turn right along it but only for 5 yards where you turn left to continue uphill. The path ascends through the trees, occasionally with wooden steps and crossing a stream. As you approach some large exposed rocks the path curves slightly left. You meet a track - turn right along this continuing to ascend. The path starts to descend with fine views to the right through the trees and occasional vantage points on the rocks, (SN 76660/00127). Where the path forks take the lower, broader track to the right (the upper route brings you out at the same point but is a bit more precarious). You rejoin the dram road, i.e. the main route, by a stile - the first stile referred to above, (SN 76837/00560, 16 mins, 0.52 miles). Turn left along the Dram road to continue the walk. Alternatively you can turn right back along the Dram road and retrace your steps to the car park for a modest little walk of just 1 mile.
Walk 2 - Tonna via Aberdulais
Head back through the car park and down the road you have just driven along, past the metal barrier, and onto the main road. Turn right along the road heading downhill. Pass Cilfrew Primary School and then take the signposted footpath to the left to Aberdulais. Cross the railway line with care. When the path emerges onto a main road, turn left along the pavement to pass the Dulais Rock pub. Just beyond is the entrance to the National Trust’s Aberdulais Falls. Cross the road using the traffic lights opposite the pub and follow the path under the bridge with the river on your left. (15 mins).
Pass the blue Royal British Legion building on your left, noting a plaque by the bridge which indicates that the building on the right of the canal was the lockkeeper's cottage in which lived Marie Mortimer and her daughter Rhiannon in Alexander Cordell's novel, Song of the Earth. Turn left when you reach the main road. Pass the Railway Tavern and then take the road junction on your right – Tai Banc – and follow this uphill. Keep to the right where the path narrows and this brings you out opposite the Whittington Arms. (25 mins).
On the right of the Whittington Arms follow the signposted Bridleway uphill which starts as road and then becomes narrow path. When you emerge onto a road at the top, turn left and head along this road. The views to the left take in Craig Gwladys and Walk 1. Keep on this road, eventually passing some houses on the left by a bend and after further bends in the road you come to a footpath to the right opposite a grassy gnoll to your left. Cross the stile with waymark sign. (40 mins).
Left, bricked-up entrance to the Wenallt-Merthyr coal seam. Right, looking back to Craig Gwladys
Note the discoloured water to your right coming from an old adit or mine tunnel. Cross a track, the route of Parson’s Folly, and head towards a metal gate. Just to the left of this is a wooden stile. Cross the stile and head left up the track through the trees. Look out on your left for the bricked-up entrance to the old Wenallt-Merthyr coal mine. When the track emerges onto an open field, head towards the white house and then turn right along the track to reach a stile. The grassy mound by the stile is a good resting spot with fine views. Cross the stile and then head right along the country lane. After a while you will see the Ivy Tower on the hill to your right. Then some metalwork in the wall to your left gives good views over Mosshouse Woods Reservoir and a bit further on you reach the metal gates which give access to the Reservoir - see Detour 2 and Long Walk. (60 mins).
Carry on down the road and after 150 yards turn right to follow the Bridleway sign through a wooden gate. Head diagonally right up the field towards a waymark post and a metal gate beyond. The path skirts the hill and Ivy Tower on the right with fine views across to Craig Gwladys on your left. After passing farm buildings take the track with wire fence on your left which becomes a sunken lane. Go through a metal gate. The path meets a track crossing ahead and a short detour to the right brings you to the Echoing Lake, a disused sandstone quarry, on your right. Retrace your steps to head down the bridleway in the opposite direction until you come to another bridleway sign where you turn sharp right. When you reach some houses keep ahead down a track to cross another lane and you are now on the track you came up earlier which brings you back to the Whittington Arms. (1 hr 25 mins).
Follow the path and then road opposite the pub and when you get to the bottom turn left towards the Railway Tavern. Just before the Tavern take the signposted path right to the Aberdulais Basin but having looked at this feature return to pick up your original route past the Railway Tavern, then right to the Aberdulais Falls, back across the railway line, past Cilfrew Primary School and back to the car park. (1 hr 50 mins).
Map of walks
When you get to the entrance to Mosshouse Woods Reservoir a detour into this area will bring you to some fine views and a good stopping point. With the reservoir on your left, go to the far side to pick up the Gnoll route, the fifth paragraph - Mosshouse Woods Reservoir - noting that the Gnoll route is approaching this spot from your right. The route skirts the reservoir and then climbs up past the cascades to the viewpoint at the top, then loops back down to where you started the detour. This adds about 20 minutes to your route.
Follow the same route as Detour 2 but continue to do the complete Gnoll circuit which will bring you back to the Mosshouse Woods Reservoir entrance. Go back onto the road and continue with Walk 2. The total distance of Walks 1, 2 and Gnoll is 11.5 miles and this adds about 1 hr 50 minutes to your route.