A 19TH Century gothic revival Tudor style mansion built in 1830-40 it is now a Grade 1 Listed building. Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot (1803–1890) had Margam castle built after he came back from his grand tour. He hired Architects Thomas Hopper (1776–1856), while Edward Haycock Snr (1790–1870. The house was passed down in the Talbot Family until 1941, when David Evans-Bevan, the industrialist and owner of the Vale of Neath Brewery bought it, He found it too large and tried unsuccessfully to get a public body to manage it. After this, it started to become dilapidated. And was closed although the local government had taken it on. A large fire gutted it in 1977 and since then it has been slowly being restored. It is now mainly used for Ghost Hunts, Wedding Photos and as a film set. Within the courtyard, there is a small snack bar open in the warmer months.
The Orangery is now used for Weddings, funerals, conferences, Events, corporate and private venue hire
“The Orangery in Margam Park was built to house a great collection of orange, lemon and other citrus trees which the Talbots inherited from their Mansel forebears. Nothing is known for certain of the origin of these trees, but legends suggest that they were originally a gift for the crown. As they were being transported, the ship was wrecked on the coast near Margam and the trees claimed by the Mansels.”
Prior to this, the trees had been housed in several different greenhouses around Margam Park.
Miniature houses and a fairytale castle to run around in designed for children under 10. In Spring/Summer it is open from 10 am to 5 pm, in Autumn/Winter it is open from 10 am to 3 pm.
A toddler play area
A 6-10 play area
Giant chess and draughts
Willow cathedral and adventure trail
Wood Vibrations Trail
Discover giant instruments made from carved trees. There are also giant wooden toadstools to find.
For those aged 10 and over and for a fee, you can experience the Go ape treetop high wire adventure course. Book in advance online.
Margam has a great adventure playground for older children built in the shape of a wooden palisade castle.
Rare breed Farm Trail
A lovely petting zoo style farm trail to bring toddlers to see different rare bread animals. They have been chosen because their particular breeds were favoured by local farmers for their hardiness and produce.
There are 800 acres of parkland to explore and there is a 600 strong deer herd which provides for excellent venison. Margam park has several cycle trails if you prefer to go by bike, there is a large BBQ area available to hire and also dogs are very welcome on a lead. For longer distance walkers, the park links to Afan Forest Park Country Park via the Coed Morgannwg Way.
This site has been home to an abbey from the 11th century until the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry the 8th in 1536. the site may have been a major centre of the early Celtic Christian church prior to it being a Cistercian abbey. The site had previously been occupied for at least 4000 years.
Margam Park Train
A diesel locomotive, that runs on a 24” Gauge Track., The Margam Park Train runs during the warmer months. It has three carriages that can seat up to 24 people undercover and the train is wheelchair accessible.
Train Prices:All tickets are valid for a one-way journey only.
The Fforest Fawr UNESCO Global Geopark stretches from Llandovery in it’s North West, to Merthyr Tydfil at it’s south-east. It covers much of the western Brecon Beacons and covers 300 square miles. This area has been awarded Global Geopark status due to its unique and fascinating geology.
It was Wales’s first Global Geopark and has now been joined by Angelsey in the north. Geoparks celebrate the areas’ unique culture, history, myths, archaeology, as well as focusing on its outstanding geology, and its inhabitants’ connections with the landscape.
Credit with thanks: Fforest Fawr Geopark
David, one of your hosts at River Tawe Holiday Apartment, is both a Brecon Beacons National Park Ambassador and an Ambassador for Fforest Fawr UNESCO Global Geopark. Don’t hesitate to ask him for hints on how to get the most out of the Geopark and please download the factsheets below to help you enjoy your stay at River Tawe Holiday Apartment.
The Geopark Website states:
“You will find that each Ambassador has a special knowledge of this unique place and an ongoing commitment to celebrating it and helping visitors too to get the most from their stay. These Ambassadors have taken time out of their business to make sure they offer outstanding information and service.”
Every year the Geopark hold a series of walks talks and family events celebrating the Geopark.
The oldest Ordovician and Silurian rock layers are named after ancient Welsh tribes that lived in the area.
Magnificent old red sandstone, from the Devonian period 419-359 million years ago, has created the striking landscape of flat-topped mountains, we see an example of surrounding Llyn y Fan Fach.
Water eroding the rock over millennia has carved the immensely beautiful carboniferous limestone layers into pavements, and cave systems. This layer was once a tropical sea and fossilised brachiopods and branching corals can be found. Originally limestone was formed from shell debris.
The millstone grit separates the limestone from the coal layer which fueled the industrial revolution. Both lime, coal and ironstone were mined in this area during the time.
Silica Rock was mined at the Cribarth and used to form heatproof silica bricks used to line the furnaces for copper and iron smelting.
Newer rock layers were laid down in the Carboniferous period 359-299 million years ago.
The Geology of the Geopark and the landscape it has created truly is a natural wonder.
In ancient times people settled here leaving their standing stones and traces of their settlements, there are iron age hill forts and medieval manors and Roman roads, such as Sarn Helen, to discover and much more.
The more recent history of Geopark is heavily linked to the birth of industry, the South Wales Valleys fueled the Industrial Revolution.
You can see how the landscape was changed by the people who lived here and how the landscape influenced the activities of its inhabitants.
The Lady of the Lake, Llyn y Fan Fach and the physicians of Mydffai
Llyn y Fan is a lake in the Brecon Beacons or in fact two lakes. Llyn y Fan Fawr and Llyn y Fan Fach lie on a mountain just north of Ystradgynlais, where River Tawe Holiday Apartment is situated. It is a short drive and a beautiful walk to visit these ancient and mysterious lakes which have been the subject of legends throughout the ages.
The Red Book of Hergest, an ancient manuscript which was one of the sources of the Mabinogion, written just after the year 1382, holds a tale that starts by the shores of Llyn y Fan Fach.
The lady of the lake
One day a farm boy was tending to his animals by the shores of the lake when to his surprise a beautiful and wise woman rose from the lake. She prophesied that if he were to marry her, he would become wealthy and well respected.
The condition of this marriage was that he was not allowed to strike her more than three times or she would return to the lake and the marriage would be over. The boy married the strange lady and they gained many animals and became rich and successful, unfortunately at some point he struck her more than three times and she left him returning to the lake and all her animals followed her into the water.
The Physicians of Myddfai
All he had left were his children, legend has it that these children went off to become the Physicians of Myddfai having learnt their mother’s magical plant lore. Historical records show that in the 13th Century there was a renowned physician called Rhiwallon Feddyg from Myddfai and he had three sons, Cadwgan, Gruffudd and Einion. Their herbal remedies have survived, recorded in the Red Book Of Hergest, along with their possible ancestors’ legend. The physicians of Myddfai continued to pass their knowledge down to their descendants and the last known member of the line died in 1739 named John Jones.
The Legend of the Twrch Trwyth (The Boar Trwyth )
Cwmtwrch is named after the legendary boar Twrch Trwyth, the cursed son of a Tared Wledig a prince of Wales. At the behest of a giant eager to secure a magic comb from the boar, king Arthur and his cousin and Arthur’s dog Cabal chase the huge boar into the sea to die.
Ride a steam train
Places to Visit
Craig y Nos Country Park
Craig y Nos Country park is open every day except Christmas day and has 40 acres of grounds to explore, with easy and accessible paths. There is also a good cafe and some artists’ studios.
This was once the grounds of Craig y Nos Castle, which is now a hotel and wedding venue. In 1878 until 1919, it was the home of Dame Adelina Patti, a world-renowned Opera Singer.She extended the castle massively and even had a miniature copy of La Scala in Milan built, it is now a grade one listed opera house and is well worth a look. From 1922 until 1959, it was used as a TB hospital. A small exhibition is usually housed up near the castle, in winter it tends to be about the castle’s use as a TB hospital and in summer about the extraordinary life of Dame Adelina Patti.
The pay and display car park entrance is on the A4067 from Swansea, past Abercrave and Pen-y-cae. Turn right just after Craig-y-Nos Castle. Postcode for sat nav: SA9 1GL. Hourly T6 Bus service from Brecon and Swansea except for on Sundays. For a free parking option, there is a layby on the right before the castle.
Set within this valley is also Dan Yr Ogof Showcave Centre where you can venture underground to see caves for yourself, the HQ of the South Wales Caving Club at Penwyllt, and the Cribarth Hill, known as the Sleeping Giant, which looks remarkably like one from Ystradgynlais.
Cribarth and Penwyllt
Guarding the entrance to a picturesque and mysterious valley, called Penwyllt, full of caves, quarries, ancient monuments, cosy pubs and stunning scenery lies the Sleeping Giant. This hill, overlooking the village of Abercraf, called Cribarth looks like a huge sleeping giant. Legends have it that the giant will awaken to help his people in a time of need.
According to Nigel Phillips on the Brecon Beacons park society website:
“Cribarth must be one of the most intensively quarried mountains in Wales, but this actually adds to its appeal. The hey-day for this activity was between the opening of the Swansea Canal in 1794 and the 1890s. Limestone, silica rock and rottenstone were extracted in huge quantities for the iron, copper and tin industries further south around the Swansea Valley.
There were thirty-three large quarries and innumerable smaller ones, served by 10.5 miles of tramroads and railways and by eighteen inclined planes, four of which ran steeply down to the canal at Abercrave.”
This has created a beautiful and rugged landscape full of mystery due to the presence of two cairns and Craig y Nos Castle, a hotel and Craig y Nos Country Park, which contains 40 acres of Scenic Park Land.
Easy Mountain Walk
Drive from Craig Y Nos drive back towards Ystradgynlais and take the first turn left, left again and follow the road all the way up the hill past a quarry and into a large car park. You will see a disused railway station, partly funded by Dame Adelina Patty in 1861, from there she would take her own railway carriage attached to any train, so she could travel in style to and from her castle at Craig Y Nos.
Part of the UNESCO Fforest Fawr Geopark, Penwyllt is home to The South Wales Caving Club, based in a row of terraced miner’s cottages and of course, hidden beneath your feet is the massive Ogof Ffynnon Ddu Cave System, one of the longest in Britain with over 40km of Passages.
This landscape was folded into an arch or anticline and many different layers have been exposed this folding happened three hundred million years ago due to lateral pressure and is part of a longer fault line called the Swansea Valley Disturbance.
Glaciers carved through the valley, more recently a mere 18,000 years ago, removing some of the top layers. Man has then added to the scarring, this area being intensively and repeatedly mined over the years. it makes for a very interesting landscape.
You can walk some of the way along the Old Brecon to Swansea Railway Line, back towards Ystradgynlais before the line becomes overgrown, and the views down the Swansea Valley will be stunning.
Always let us know if planning to adventure as the weather can turn extremely quickly. There are several pubs in the area providing excellent food and drink.
Waterfall Country, Waterfall walks and Waterfall Centre
Within a 15-minute drive from the apartment are several places you can park to explore waterfall country. Ystradfellte (Park: CF44 9J) or Pontneddfechan, where there are some delightful pubs and easy parking. It is the geology of the area with its mix of limestone, sandstone and millstone grits and earlier glacial erosion, which cause such spectacular waterfalls. Dinas Rock (Park: SA11 5NU) is also a good starting place for several walking routes of differing length and difficulty, including one short one.
There are also harder routes where you can spend all day taking in many of the Falls. see leaflet Penderyn and Hirwaun walking trail. There is a large car park with picnic benches. The village has several pubs and a tearoom that is open at weekends. There is a children’s play area that is always open behind it.
While in the area, why not visit the Penderyn Distillery CF44 0SX which is 22 Minutes from the apartment and close to the Waterfalls.
Sgwd Henrhyd or Henrhyd Falls
Henrhyd Waterfall is South Wales’s tallest waterfall with a 90ft drop. It is situated near Coelbren on the river Nant Llech. A spectacular and mysterious sight. For the sure-footed, it is possible to walk behind the falls although not recommended.
Fossil trees were found here by Sir William Edmond Logan, one of which still stands outside Swansea Museum. He later became the head of the Geological Survey of Canada. The waterfall was also the entrance to the bat cave in the film Batman – The Dark Knight Rises.
It is a steep walk that can sometimes be slippery, wear waterproofs if planning to get close on wet days, but wet days are the best to appreciate this spectacle.
From the apartment, take Pantyffynon Rd to College Row/B4599. Then turn left onto College Row/B4599. At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto Trawsffordd/B4599. Turn right onto the A4067 and A4221toOnllwyn Rd. Then take a road called Heol Eglwys to Dol Henrhyd, where you will find the car park entrance. Park: Brecon Beacons National Park, Dol Henrhyd, Neath SA10 9PG. There is a free car park for the falls with a picnic bench.
Mumbles is a large village that also includes the settlements of Newton, Westcross, Mayals and Oystermouth.
If you like galleries, performances, boutiques and beauty, fabulous restaurants and cosy real ale pubs then Mumbles is the place for you. Once known best for the mumbles mile, the town is still popular because there are so many pubs and restaurants in a small area, nicknamed the Monaco of Wales, due to the wealth of its inhabitants, celebrity clientele and fashionable boutiques.
History of Mumbles
Oystermouth Railway was set up to transport coal in 1806. The first horse-drawn passenger service was opened in 1807 and Mumbles grew into an extremely popular tourist destination after the turn of the Century. Mumbles Pier was opened in 1898, primarily to relieve pressure on Swansea Docks but soon became used for leisure purposes. The lifeboat slipway was added in 1916 and the new Lifeboat Station was added in 2014 and is worth a visit. The ever-popular amusement arcades were built in 1966.
The Pier Today
Starting Summer 2018, Mumbles pier will be partially demolished and the redeveloped at a cost of 3.2 million pounds, it will see the decked space for the public use made much larger on the landside of the pier.
This Norman castle was already a ruin by 1650. The castle was then preserved and partially restored by George Grant Francis in the 1840’s when the Duke of Beaufort owned it. By 1927 he had given it to Swansea Corporation. Oystermouth Castle underwent a 1 million pound transformation in 2011.
“The scheme includes new visitor facilities, an educational space, improvements to access and a 30-foot high glass viewing platform and bridge that leads to Alina’s Chapel.”
It is now used for open-air events, theatre, and concerts.
A beautiful park with, impressive plants and sea views, leading to a woodland park.
Mumbles Islands from the Pier
This Italian restaurant and ice cream parlour has stunning views of Swansea Bay, and due to its floor to ceiling glass windows, it is popular even on a cold and rainy day. The food comes quick, allowing for more time sightseeing, and the food is tasty and the service is fabulous.
On Mumbles Pier find the steps leading to a little beach that links to the two islands at low tide.
A safe family friendly cycle path runs along the coast from Swansea Marina to Mumbles. Clyne Valley Cycle Path continues towards Gowerton and on towards Kidwelly after a short stretch of Road. This means that you could get from Ystradgynlais to Kidwelly without having to go on may roads at all.
You can park in one of several Car parks where tickets will cost you between £2.00 and £3.00 for an hour.
On Sunny days beware sometimes the whole of South Wales seems to decide to head for the Mumbles and the Gower and also during rush hour it can be slow going entering or leaving the village, allow extra time for your journey
Built on the site of the former Middleton Hall and the heavily landscaped parkland idyll, the botanic gardens are fascinating both historically, architecturally and socially as well as botanically! A day out at the Botanic Gardens can be different every time. There is so much to see and do, such as:
This impressive structure is the “largest single-span great glasshouse in the world”. It holds the “largest collection of Mediterranean plants in the Northern Hemisphere”. Even on a rainy day, you will find a little bit of summer in here. Walk by a waterfall and see the koi carp in the pool, sit at a cafe in the warmth, visit exhibitions and enjoy.
“It houses some of the most endangered plants on the planet which come from six areas of the world: California, Australia, the Canary Islands, Chile, South Africa, the Mediterranean Basin.”
Apothecaries Garden and Hall
An apothecaries hall and garden have been recreated on site. For Harry Potter fans the legendary Mandragora root can be seen in one of the cabinets. The hall and garden help us to understand the power of herbs for healing and experience what an Edwardian apothecary’s shop would have been like. In a little village between the botanical gardens and Ystradgynlais, there has long been a tradition of physician-healers. Known as the Physicians of Myddfai, indeed there was a family of healers passing down their knowledge from the 13th until the 18th centuries. According to legend, they were the descendants of the Lady of the Lake. She was said to be found at another local beauty spot Llyn y Fan Fach.
This beautiful mature garden is peaceful and tranquil, it was reconstructed after being moved from
“the Chelsea 2001 Flower Show where it won a gold medal and the prestigious ‘Best of Show’ Award. It consists of three traditional Japanese gardens – the Stream and Lake Garden, the Gravel Garden and the Tea Garden. Filled with symbolism and guided by Zen philosophy, this is a lovely place to sit and contemplate.The Garden was designed by Professor Masao Fukuhara, a lecturer in design at Osaka University.”
The Traditional Japanese Tea House is a very popular element with both children and adults alike. Although if you want a cup of tea you will have to go to one of the many cafes on-site.
Within an unassuming Victorian Glasshouse is possibly the best part of the Botanic Garden.
At first, you just see the plants but then you realize that interspersed with the vines and climbers are hundreds of colorful and majestic butterflies.
Some fly together chasing each other, whilst some bask in the sun, slowly revealing iridescent wings, others you can watch as they feed on fruit and some might even land on you.
As amazing for adults, as for kids, this is one part of the Gardens not to miss.
At the Botanic Garden, there are many excellent events for children and families in the holidays. Other things for the little ones include an excellent children’s adventure play area. A dipping pond where children can use magnifying glasses microscopes to examine their nets and see which plants and creatures they have found. Furthermore, the kids can also try their hand at zorbing which for three pounds was good value for money and incredibly fun and tiring by all accounts.
Double Walled Garden
When the estate was running this Garden was its main food supply garden. It two walls to provide different sheltered microclimates to enable the team of twelve gardeners to provide food for up to 30 people and extend the growing season. Today it explains how flowering plants have evolved and is a lovely place to sit and relax. Make sure you check out the fabulous walled Bee Garden, where you can see the bees toing and froing and flying off above everyone’s heads above the wall of the garden.
Wild Meadow Nature Reserve and a beautiful wooded valley.
Take a walk in a wild meadow nature reserve called Waun Las. Part of Waun Las is a beautiful wooded valley’ called Pont Felin Gât. It is just ten minutes’ walk from the Garden’s Stable Block. A one hour round walk will take you through the wood and across beautiful farmland with stunning views of the Great Glasshouse.
In springtime, you can see woodland flowers like bluebells, lesser celandines, wood anemones and golden saxifrage.
“The tree canopy of oak and ash, and the non-native beech and hornbeam suggests an interesting past.
We know that 200 years ago, Pont Felin Gât looked very different. It then formed a vital part of the Middleton Hall Regency Park. It was less wooded and was dominated by water. There were large lakes, streams, cascades, a bathhouse, plunge pool and bridges. You can see remnants of these today including a thundering waterfall which is still flowing sublimely 200 years after it was first made.”
Food and Drink
There are three cafes on site. The one at the entrance is also a small garden center. In the Great Glasshouse, there is a small snack bar, serving Mediterranean style snacks and there is a self-service restaurant within the Stable Block.
National Botanic Garden of Wales
There are limited public transport options. It is, however, possible to visit for a couple of hours, if you don’t mind long bus journeys.
The Trawscymru T1S runs direct from Swansea Bus Station to the Garden, Monday to Saturday at 12.00, taking about 40 minutes. The bus back leaves at 16.19.
Many thanks to the National Botanic Garden Of Wales for letting us use their fabulous photos all photography is c. Copyright Botanic Garden of Wales All Rights Reserved.
Here at River Tawe Holiday Apartment you will find a rural escape with easy access to city life. Situated in between Swansea and Brecon, This is an ideal base from which to explore.
Whether you fancy a fun-filled family day out at Aberavon or exploring the caves and ancient monuments of the Gower Peninsula, fine dining in the Mumbles or a cocktail at sunset by Swansea Marina, our coastline has a lot to offer.
The village of Ystradgynlais links directly through to central Swansea by both the A4067 and the Sustrans cycle path 43 part of the National Cycle Network. This cycle path consists of mainly off-road cycle paths and some stretches of safe road and dedicated cycle lanes. Both the road and cycle path provide excellent access to Swansea Bay and the Gower. Download this map for more information on the Swansea Valley Trail and download this brochure Traffic Free South Wales
Family Fun Days
For family days out, there are so many options:
You could choose Aberavon Seafront. It has a new swimming pool, outdoor kids splash water play, crazy golf, huge and exciting play area and excellent cafes.
Why not head to Mumbles pier to play in the arcade or visit the lifeboat house and then find the secret beach at the end of the pier for rock pools and lovely sand. Take a trip to Verdi’s cafe for pasta or pizza and an ice cream. With quick service, a floor length glass frontage with views over the bay, and plenty of outdoor seating, it’s a favourite with families. –Verdi’s – Italian Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlour – great views quick service
Let the kids try rock climbing and swimming at LC2: Swansea’s Leisure pool and sports centre. Afterwards they can enjoy the five level indoor play centre, then go for some delicious lunch by the marina at a waterside cafe or bar like The Swigg. You could follow this with a trip to one of Swansea’s many museums or art galleries. –The Swigg – Marina Side Bar and Cafe with excellent food and drinks.- National Waterfront Museum –Dylan Thomas Centre
An Elegant Adventure
Start with an early lunch at Norton House served from 12-2.30, £13.95 set menu for two courses. Then why not head to the shops and boutiques and beauty parlours of The Mumbles for some retail therapy and pampering.
The Brecon Beacons contains two stunning areas, which can often be confused due to the similarity of their names. The westerly one is Black Mountain or Y Mynydd Du, and it is on the Border between Carmarthenshire and Powys, above Upper Brynamman. The Black Mountains are over towards Crickhowell and Talgarth, to the east of the Brecon Beacons, and they form a border separating Wales from Herefordshire.
While either area is well worth a visit, the Black Mountain is much closer to Ystradgynlais and with limestone outcrops and tremendous views, it is a place to explore the rugged hills and try to spot the rare alkali loving plants found in the area.
There are a couple of car parks along the A4069 one with spectacular views and picnic benches and sometimes a burger or ice cream van! The other allows for exploration of old Limestone Quarry Known as Herberts Quarry, good for climbing and boldering. There are several caves in this area so be cautious with younger children.
From Ystradgynlais Follow the road to Cymllynfell at the junction with the A474 at the north of Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen, and travels through Lower Brynamman and Brynamman. The route then crosses over the Black Mountain range of the Brecon Beacons and emerges near Felindre near Llangadog. It then crosses through Llangadog and continues northeast until the junction with the A40 at Llandovery. It reaches a height of 493 m (1,617 ft) above sea level.
Less than 20 minutes away from the River Tawe Holiday Apartment are several places you can park to explore waterfall country. Start at the Waterfall Centre in Pontneddfechan, where they will let you know about all the routes you can take, and the geology of the area, which causes such spectacular waterfalls. Dinas Rock also has a few walking routes of differing length and difficulty, including one really short one. There are also harder routes where you can spend all day taking in many of the Falls. The village has several pubs and a tearoom that is open at weekends with a Children’s play area that is always open behind it.
Welsh Actor Luke Evans mentions “Llyn Y Fan’s Great Beauty” in Visit Wales’s amazing new advert promoting Wales. Llyn y Fan is a lake in the Brecon Beacons or in fact two lakes. Llyn y Fan Fawr and Llyn y Fan Fach lie on a mountain just north of Ystradgynlais, where River Tawe Holiday Apartment is situated.
It is a short drive and a beautiful walk to visit these ancient and mysterious lakes which have been the subject of legends throughout the ages.
The Red book Of Hergest, an ancient manuscript, written just after the year 1382, holds a tale that starts by the shores of Llyn y Fan Fach and the same story is also recorded in the Mabinogion.
Hendryd Waterfall is South Wales’s tallest waterfall with a 90ft drop. It is situated near Coelbren on the River Nant Llech.
A spectacular and mysterious sight especially as for the sure footed it is possible walk behind the falls.
The Fossil Trees which stand outside Swansea Museum were found here by Sir William Edmond Logan who later became the head of the Geological Survey of Canada.
The waterfall was also the entrance to the bat cave in the film Batman – The Dark Knight Rises.
It is a steep walk that can sometimes be slippery, wear waterproofs if planning to get close.
Travelling a little further to Pontneddfechan and the Waterfall Centre, where there is information given on the many stunning walks available some easy ranging up to huge adventures taking in up to nine waterfalls in one day.