Heritage Walks in the Swansea Valley
Clydach to Pontardawe along the Swansea Canal
This is easy, level, walking on the towpath through most attractive countryside; you will see a well preserved lock at Clydach; visitor centre (open weekends) at Clydach Canal Basin; and a further lock (derelict) and aqueduct over the River Clydach closer to Pontardawe. Most of the final kilometre into Pontardawe is over the filled-in section alongside the school and industrial estate.
Buses: X6 to Clydach Mond; X6 return from Pontardawe Jubilee
Pontardawe to Ystalyfera along the Swansea Canal & former Railway
This northern section of the canal was the first to be restored though is not navigable. Starting at Pontardawe close to the iconic St Catherine’s Church high above, it threads its way through the town then largely in open countryside to just south of Ynysmeudwy where there are remains of two consecutive locks. From Ynysmeudwy to Godr’er Graig it is part of a nature reserve. At the end of the canal, cross the main road and take the track across the valley and river to join the cycle trail, built over the former Midland Railway. This takes you past Ynysygeinon Rock, site of a famous legend before joining the main road and on into Ystalyfera.
Buses: X6 from Swansea to Pontardawe Jubilee; return from Ystalyfera Swan Inn or Asda
56 from Neath to Pontardawe Jubilee
Rhos through Cilybebyll & Gellinudd to Pontardawe
A hidden gem of beautiful countryside overlooks the Swansea Valley above Pontardawe. Cilybebyll has an ancient church dating from Norman times and the area was covered by numerous small coal mines in the 19th century. The walk takes you from Rhos along country lanes to the church where you join the Cilybebyll Trail which in part follows the course of an old tramroad towards the river. Parts of the trail are wet and muddy. You come out in Alltwen and the walk takes you above and parallel to the river to Pontardawe.
Buses: 56 from Neath and Pontardawe to Rhos Post Office
And finally: a local legend...
Ynysygeinon Rock, Ystalyfera: The Farmhand & the Faerie Gold
Story of the hidden kingdom of Tylwyth Teg / Bendith eu Mamau . A Farmhand disappears for 7 years, only to return with gold from the realm of the Tylwyth Teg.
‘Local farmhand Dai out catching rabbits spots a little man going to the rock face known as ‘the castle’: the man utters a word and the rock opens up and he goes inside. Dai remembers the word and the door opens for him and he finds himself in a fairy world full of gold. The door shuts behind him and cannot be opened and Dai spends 7 years hosted by the Faeries and learns their way of life and explores their world with its long underground passages leading to Garn Goch, Dan yr Ogof and elsewhere.
After 7 years, Dai went back to his master with a sack of gold and told him of the magic word to gain access. The master accordingly did so and returned with his gold but was greedy for me so made several such journeys. Then one day, the master never returned and Dai went to investigate finding him strung up in four quarters behind the stone doors. Dai was so frightened, he never used the magic words again and the secret died with him many years later. It’s never wise to take advantage of the generosity of the Fae’.