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A guide to the history and natural beauty of the Afan Valley

The beautiful forest-covered Afan Valley is in South Wales in the county of Neath Port Talbot. The city of Swansea and the beautiful Gower Peninsula are nearby to the west.

The Main town is Port Talbot which lies on the bottom end of the valley and next to the seaside resort of Aberavon.

One feature which makes the Afan Valley unique in the local area is that it is a river valley, which means it is a V-shaped valley as opposed to the rest of the South Wales valleys which are glacial valleys and therefore U-shaped. This is the reason that the Afan Valley is known locally as “little Switzerland”.

Another feature of the valley is that it consists of a hard limestone base which drains away the rain without creating massive pools of mud and makes the area ideal for mountain biking. The mountain biking trails in the Afan valley were recently voted amongst the best ten in the world.

There are some remains from Roman times when the Romans dominated the area and built roads across the tops of the valleys to patrol the area. The Romans built a fort in Nearby Neath. Neath also has an ancient stone Castle, built in the 13th century and a Cistercian Monastery at Neath Abbey (now ruins) founded in 1147 by Sir Richard de Granville.

During the Industrial revolution the Afan Valley and surrounding areas became a major metals and coal mining centre and many canals and viaducts were built. A railway viaduct and an aqueduct in Pontrhydyfen still exist. The aqueduct remains in use today as a bridge for pedestrians and cyclists. A plaque commemorates the birthplace of the great Welsh actor Richard Burton, who grew up in a house adjacent to the viaduct.

In recent years Neath Port Talbot council has been spending millions of pounds developing this area for tourists. They have created more than 30 miles of the best mountain biking trails in the country and some say, Europe. Alongside the trails are included footpaths for ramblers, ideal for nature lovers of any kind to explore the forestry and natural features of the countryside. The valley is rich with wildlife and birds of all sorts, which is why it is considered to be an area of great natural beauty. The work of the council is ongoing and new trails and services are being added every year.

Tourist attractions now include Afan Forest Visitor Centre which has some shops, a mining museum and car park. Many of the trails start from here. At the top of the valley in Glyncorrwg the focal point is the Dropoff Cafe which is a centre dedicated to serving the many mountain bikers who come to cycle on the trails.

Written by Gary Jones - Owner of Property 403493 in the Afan Valley, Wales


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Recent Reviews

Excellent accommodation

5 of 5
Fantastic accommodation, very well stocked with everything we needed for a stay away from home. Very suitable for our toddler too, plenty of space for him to amuse himself. Excellent area with lots to visit reasonably close by, and super places to eat out on the doorstep (Cariad Cafe was my personal favourite)! Thank you for a relaxing couple of nights, would happily return in the future.
  • Review Submitted: 21-Feb-2017
  • Date of Stay: Feb 2017

Home from home close to Cardiff city centre

5 of 5
The house provided a warm, clean and comfortable base for our stay over the weekend. The house is in excellent condition, very warm and well catered for in terms of excellent wifi, plenty of towels, bedding and kitchen crockery and cutlery etc. It had everything we needed. There is a large supermarket just a short distance away for getting all your supplies for the weekend. Cardiff Centre is only 2 or 3 miles away so it is a great location. We thought it was a taxi (approx £10) / bus journey but we did in fact walk in one day and only took about 40 / 50 mins and was very easy (with google maps to hand). It was really nice to be able to park 2 cars in a gated drive and forget about them for two days. Mary was very accommodating in making the stay work for us and very prompt in communication. Everything went extremely well and we had a fantastic weekend in Cardiff.
  • Review Submitted: 15-Feb-2017
  • Date of Stay: Feb 2017

A perfect hideaway for two!

5 of 5
We loved this little hideaway! It is small but perfectly formed with everything we needed for a comfortable weekend exploring the beautiful south Gower coast path. We could walk from the front door and were up on the cliffs or down on the beach in about 20 minutes via the common and Pennard castle - fabulous! Bel and Robert are kind and unobtrusive hosts who were always ready with help and advice when requested. Many thanks - we'll be back!
  • Review Submitted: 15-Feb-2017
  • Date of Stay: Jan 2017