Exploring Neath Port Talbot the Dramatic Heart of Wales


Margam Country Park

* This post is written in collaboration with Dramatic Heart of Wales who kindly invited us to spend time exploring the area / AD

Neath Port Talbot otherwise known as the Dramatic Heart of Wales, is an area I recently spent a weekend exploring and delving into deeper and finding what makes this part of South Wales so special, from its fascinating history and heritage to its beautiful coastline, woodland walks and thrill-seeking adventures. 

Located in the centre of South Wales with easy access to the coast, mountains, countryside and the Welsh capital, makes it the perfect base for exploring the region. With a strong industrial and coal mining history there are lots of ruins and reminders of times gone by including a network of canals, ironworks and an impressive Abbey. Neath Port Talbot also lies within what is known as "Waterfall Country" which has the highest concentration of waterfalls, caves and gorges and spans Neath Port Talbot, Powys and Rhondda Cynon Taff. 

We managed to pack loads into our recent trip and I've put together this guide of what we got up to in Neath Port Talbot in the hope it inspires others to visit the area. 

7 Things to do in Neath Port Talbot 

1. Neath Abbey and Ironworks

Once one of Wale's wealthiest abbeys which housed around 50 monks, Neath Abbey is one of my top recommendations when visiting the area. The ruins are both important and impressive and completely free to explore. It's a fascinating place for all ages and my children really enjoyed walking around the ruins and taking it all in. Once a site of power, both religious and industrial, with the ironwork furnaces a short walking distance away.  The Tennant canal and towpath also run alongside the Abbey and is a lovely place to walk. 

Neath Abbey
Exploring Neath Abbey

2. Melincourt Waterfall

Melincourt is one of those hidden gems, a lesser-known fall but no less impressive at 80ft high and set in a gorgeous woodland. It is also easily accessible from the nearby free carpark, taking around 10 mins walk through the woods, making it suitable for all ages as long as they generally fit and well as there are some steep drops to be aware of.  What is great about Melincourt is that unlike some of the more popular waterfalls, it's lovely and quiet, with no queues of people, just the tranquillity of the woods and water.

3. Margam Country Park

Set in 1000 acres of parkland you can easily spend the best part of a day wandering around Margam Country Park. The park has so many fantastic features from the historical monastic ruins dating back to 1147 and 19th century Gothic Tudor Castle, along with stunning gardens one of which has Wales Tree of the year 2020. For children, they will enjoy spotting the resident deer herd, farm trail and fantastic adventure playground. If you want a more challenging walk then heading up to the pulpit viewpoint will reward you with fantastic views over the Welsh coastline towards Somerset. The country park is free to explore although there is a parking fee of £7.20 for the day.

Margam country park
Hanging around at Go Ape Margam

4. Go Ape Margam 

Also located on the ground of Margam Country Park, you will find the thrill-seeking Go Ape Margam which is home to Wale's only Treetop Challenge and the UK's biggest Tarzan Swing. Set high among the trees offering stunning views across the park, this is not for the faint-hearted but for children over 10yrs and adventure-seeking adults this is an awesome experience. My 13-year-old had an absolute blast here as did I, highly recommend giving this a go.  

5. Aberavon beach

One of Wale's longest beaches offering 3 miles of sandy beach and a perfect spot for watersports including surfing and SUP'ing. There is also a skatepark and splash playground (seasonal) and plenty of seats to sit and take in the views. The promenade also makes up part of the National Cycle route so it is perfect for cycling. There is also an array of cafes and restaurants along the promenade, we enjoyed some classic chips and ice cream for an afternoon at the beach collecting seashells and having a dip in the water. 

Aberavon beach
Stunning evening spent at Aberavon beach

6. South Wales Miner Museum

While we didn't visit the museum on this trip we visited it a while back and really enjoyed it. Located in the stunning Afan Valley, the museum is run by volunteers who are passionate about promoting the Afan Valley industrial heritage. The museum is both a fun and educational experience with an indoor "underground" tour which gives you real insight to what a miner's job entailed as well as outdoor exhibits such as the blacksmith's ship and lamp room. My kids really enjoyed learning more about South Wales and the role of miners. 

7. Cilybebyll Walk

A lovely circular walk through a mixture of woodlands and meadows, over little streams and taking in the wonderful nature of the Welsh countryside. Passing through the quaint hamlet of Cilybebyll, where we also happened to stay during our time here and offers pretty views across the Swansea valley. This walk is great for all ages and perfect for those who like to do a bit of wildlife watching as there are lots of birds and local fauna and fauna to watch out for. 

Cilybebyll walk
Walking the Cilybebyll Circular walk

Where to eat

First of all the town of Neath is packed with a variety of restaurants and cafes, with something for every type of budget or taste and they also hold an annual food festival so if you are a bit of a foodie I would highly recommend visiting Neath as you won't be disappointed. Across the borough, however, there is a range of Pubs, cafes and tea rooms to try out. While we made use of our accommodation's self-catering facilities we also tried out a few local spots for bites to eat along the way and here are two I would recommend.

Brew&Co, Neath 

We stopped off at this cool little cafe for a light lunch and I'm so glad we did. The menu is fairly simple, which I prefer (rather do a few things well than offer a range of mediocre choices). My boys each went for the pancakes with maple syrup and devoured the lot while I opted for halloumi and avo on doorstop toast and it was delicious, as was their pink lemonade. They also make artisan coffees and are very dog-friendly.

Brew & Co
A light lunch at Brew&Co

Cafe Remos, Aberavon beach

Cafe Remos which is right on the promenade in Aberavon, has plenty of options, from light lunches to pizza and pasta, but what we really enjoyed is their fantastic Gelato. The make authentic gelato on the premises every single day and have a fantastic selection of delicious flavours. We tried the Pistachio and salted caramel and both got the thumbs up! 

Where we stayed - Tan yr Eglwys Cottages 

Set in the quaint hamlet of Cilybebyll, we stayed in The Barn Cottage, which was a perfect base for exploring Neath Port Talbot and had everything we needed for a comfortable and cosy stay. The Barn cottage sleeps up to 6 people making it great for larger families or groups and has a spacious kitchen and patio space for eating together in the evening after a long day of exploring. The Cilybebyll circular walk runs alongside the cottage, which of course we took advantage of. 

The views across the Swansea Valley and the countryside from the cottage windows are beautiful and the owners are very knowledgeable about the area. 

Tan yr Eglwys Cottages

How to make even more of your time in Neath Port Talbot

2 days to explore the area wasn't enough as there is simply so much to see and do and we are planning a few more day trips in the near future as there are still plenty of places I want to see there. Here are a few more ideas for an itinerary 

Gnoll Country Park - I visited this once when my eldest was a toddler and have been meaning to go back ever since, especially as there are many geocaches to find in this beautiful country park along with water cascades and lovely nature walks. There is also a lovely cafe and it's free to explore although there is a small parking fee

Cwm Du Glen - we had hoped to fit in this walk but ran out of time but will definitely be back soon to explore this gorge along the upper Clydach River near Pontardawe, where you will also find another fantastic waterfall. 

Go biking in Afan Forest Park - Afan Forest park is also where you will find The South Wales Miners Museum among other attractions and you could easily spend the whole day exploring this area as there are so many walks and hikes but you can also hire bikes and take advantage of world-class mountain biking trails. 

If you love National Trust properties then I would recommend a visit to Aberdulais with its waterfalls and waterwheel although at the moment this location is closed due to maintenance. Another activity my children and I have enjoyed more than once is hiring canoes on the Swansea Canal during summer (this only runs from April - Sept). There are plenty more ideas over on the Dramatic Heart of Wales website which I encourage you to visit as it's crammed full with information about the area. 

Neath Port Talbot

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Planning for the future, 3 things all parents should do


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family life insurance

*This post contains affiliate links 

I will be the first to admit that I live most of my life in the present, I don't have a 10yr plan, at the moment my focus is being the best parent I can be while covering all the bills and as life is especially chaotic at the moment with two young kids, my focus is mainly around how to get through each day in a positive way.

Saying that I also know there are a few key things every parent should do, to help future-proof their lives and their children's lives and provide some kind of financial safety even when you are not a big earner or live on a tiny budget and this goes for each parent, not just the main earner. 

When I had my first child I was on maternity leave from a part-time job and my income was minimal, which made me more aware of how I need to have some basics in place, should anything happen to me. Here are the 3 things I made sure to have when becoming a parent. 

1. Life Insurance

This is one of the first things I did after having my first child the sudden realisation that I didn't have anything of substantial worth to leave them, how would their basic needs be met without my income, would their grandparents be able to provide for their needs as they grow should something happen to me. 

Life insurance is designed to pay out a cash lump sum and for parents with no major health issues, sorting out cheap life insurance only takes 10-15 minutes online, costs less than £10 a month and will provide immediate reassurance knowing your children have some kind of financial stability moving forward. 

Regardless of your family dynamic, single parents, two parents, adopting etc all will benefit from all parents or legal guardians, taking out life insurance. 

If you are looking for more advice or the ins and outs of life insurance for parents do check out this blog post

writing a will

2. Create a Will

Creating a straightforward will is just another step to ensure clarity, reassurance and financial security should something happen to you. If you do have anything of value or even sentimental items, a will lets you set out whom you want to receive your money, property or belongings. It also allows you to provide for your partner if you are unmarried as well as appoint guardians if your children are under 18. All of these things can give you real peace of mind 

Again this doesn't need to be an expensive process and you can even pick up a DIY Will kit from your local Post Office, although do ensure it's all filled out correctly otherwise it may be void.

For more impartial advice on Will making then this article from money helper is really useful. 

3. Start a Pension plan 

Even if you are not a big earner, putting a small amount (what you can afford) away for the future is always a good idea. Ensuring that we are parents are financially stable in our retirement ensures less pressure on our children in future and provides more security for everyone.  Being self-employed myself this is the one thing I find harder to do than others but I know it's important. 

Firstly having some idea of how much you need for your retirement is a good place to start and the earlier you start saving towards it the better. However, be careful if you decide to invest in something as investments can rise and fall and you can potentially lose money so speak to a financial adviser before making a decision. 

If you are self-employed like me and looking for more advice, The Guardian recently wrote an article all about the options self-employed people have and it's well worth a read. 


The cost of living has created more financial stress than ever but it's also important that we have a few small safety nets in place for our children and the future. Ensuring these 3 things are at least partially done is a start. I have a life insurance plan that is £5 but provides me with a lot of reassurance should something happen to me, that my kids will be looked after. Also having a will makes sure you can voice your wishes for your children's guardians and having some kind of pension of savings for the future gives extra peace of mind. 

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Pumpkin Patches in South Wales 2023


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pumpkin patch

Autumn, the season of cosy knit sweaters, hot chocolate and of course pumpkins. The popularity in pumpkin patches has grown year on year in South Wales and while there only use to be a few places you could pick your pumpkin off the vine, there are now plenty. Many also offer more than just pumpkin picking, such as corn mazes, spooky crafts and everything Halloween-themed. 

While of course there is nothing wrong with picking up a pumpkin from your local supermarket and having fun carving it at home, if you are keen to spend a few hours outdoors in nature and enjoy a bit of Halloween treat then here are the best pumpkin patches in South Wales.

Some of the patches below are offering more of an "experience" with additional things included in the ticket such as corn mazes and entertainment, while others are more traditional patches you can roam around and just pay for what you pick so there is something for every budget. 

Pumpkin Patches with free entry in Southern Wales 


The Picking Patch, Porthcawl - 7th-8th, 14th-15th, 20th-31st Oct

This pumpkin patch has free parking, free entry and no bookings required, making it a great option for those who don't want to do a whole "Halloween experience" and just want to focus on quality family time and good ol' pumpkin fun. 

There are food trucks serving up hot drinks, ice creams and marshmallows for toasting on offer. There are lots of photo opportunities in and around the Pumpkin field and there is also an undercover eating area with face painting and crafts (for a small additional fee). Pumpkins start at £1 and are measured in size. 

Bridgend PYO Pumpkins - open every weekend in October

Thousands of pumpkins in all shapes and sizes will be available to pick and no booking is required or entry fee. There are also plenty of photo opportunities, snacks and drinks available, there will be some farm animals and it's one of the few that is dog-friendly. Pumpkin prices start from £1 

Aberbran Fawr Farm, Brecon - opening Friday 13th (check Facebook page for daily times)

Free entry and free parking, there is also a maize maze to explore and there will be tea, coffee and cakes to purchase and toilets on site. Just bring yourself and your wellies.

Pwmpenni Plas Pumpkins, Carmarthen - Open weekends in October from 10:30am - 4pm

Free entry and no obligation to purchase, although with home-grown pumpkins starting from £1 you are sure to find one that takes your fancy. There is a beautifully decorated indoor barn perfect for photos and it's also suitable for prams & wheelchairs. Well behaved dogs on a lead are also welcome. 

Gower Fresh Christmas Trees  4th-27th PYO and  28th-31st for Halloween at Gower Fresh

From the 4th -27th October Gower Fresh Christmas Tress will have their PYO pumpkin field open to the public from 11am-7pm each day with parking and entry both being free, you just pay for what you pick. 

From the 27th you will need a site pass that costs £5 per car (up to 4 people) this will give you access to Pumpkin picking and Roly Poly's Ghostbusters Party in the barn where you can expect nightmarish music and dancing. You can also add on additional experiences such as a ticket to the pumpkin carving barn or the Mad Scientist Farm Lab interactive show. 

pumpkin picking

Pumpkin Patches with Tickets required

Twilight Pumpkins, Abergavenny - Weekends in October 

Entry is £3 per car and there is no need to book, cash on entry is preferred.

The ticket will give you access to the two pumpkin patches with Scarecrows as well as a large maize trail for kids to explore. Coffee and doughnuts will also be available 

Ty Poeth Farm, Pontypool - open daily from Oct 1st - Oct 31st, 2023

Weekdays Adults £2, Children £1, Weekends Adults £3, Children £2 - booking advised

The ticket includes entry to the pumpkin field (pumpkins are sold separately) maize maze, sunflower field, farm animals and access to the onsite farm shop selling drinks, milkshakes and farm produce. Well-behaved dogs on leads can come along as well. 

Forage Farm Shop, Cowbridge - Oct 14th-31st

Forage's pumpkin picking experience is well known locally and is adding even more to this immersive farm experience. You can expect tractor rides, a maze of maize, hay bale tower, a pumpkin catapult as well as well as plenty of photo opportunities among the 20 different kinds of pumpkins they have grown this year. Younger kids will also delight in visiting the alpacas, piglets and pygmy goats.

They cater for every generation from young children to grandparents and there were also be delicious food and drink options to choose from.

This year they are running daytime sessions for £8.50 per car (pumpkins priced individually) as well as twilight picking sessions which are £5 per person. For more info click here

pumpkin patch

Cardiff Pumpkin FestivalSt. Nicholas - Oct 14th-31st

Cardiff Pumpkin Festival is holding 3 different sessions - daytime, Twilight and Scare fest (14yrs+).

The daytime festival promises to be a lot of spooky fun with tens of thousands of pumpkins in every shape and size to pick from along with a maize trail, spider quest, Witches and Wizards academy, live entertainment and plenty of food options. 

As the sun sets the adventure continues with the Twilight festival experience, which will offer much of what the daytime does except you can roam through the pumpkin field which will be lit up, enjoy roasting marshmallows around fire pits, be amazed by fire shows and live performances as well as a few extra spooky surprises (family-friendly). 

On select nights they are also running Scare Fest which is suitable for 14yrs + and is promised to be a bone-chilling experience for those who dare to venture into the Scare mazes. 

Daytime £7.50 per car and Twilight £10 per car which includes entry, entertainment, maize and spider quest but does not include pumpkins (priced according to size) Witch & Wizard Academy, Pumpkin Carving, funfair & sideshows; food & drink
Scare Fest is £10 per person

Clearwell Farm, Michaelston-y-Fedw Cardiff, weekends in October

Over 20 varieties of pumpkins are grown at Clearwell and the farmyard will turn into a weatherproof Halloween-themed place with thousands of pumpkins in the farmyard and barn, which is great considering how unreliable the Welsh weather can be. You can also scoop and carve your pumpkin on-site. 

Tickets to the pumpkin patch and barn at £6.50 per car (up to 5 people). This is a fairly small family-run farm and tickets do sell out. 

Billy Bob's farm, Llangybi, Usk - weekends in October 

It is £10 (plus £1.55 eventbrite booking fee) per car - booking in advance is required.

This gives you access to the pumpkin picking field, scarecrow trail, games, colouring, maze, meeting the animals and plenty of photo opportunities. Food and drink will be available and you can do pumpkin carving on site for an additional fee. Well-behaved dogs are also allowed. 

Vale Pick You Own, Bonvilston - weekends in October 

Day time picking £6 per car, Twilight picking £9 per car

This year they are offering both Daytime and Twilighy picking sessions and with over 20 different kinds of pumpkin varieties you will be spoilt for choice. They will also be selling pumpkin-spiced lattes in their cafe. There are special guests on the opening weekend including Elsa and Spider-Gwen. 

St Fagans Musuem, Halloween Nights - 29th -31st October  

£14 for children and £11 per adult

While this isn't a pumpkin patch I thought I'd share as it sounds like a great event for ages 6-12yrs old.

A night full of Welsh folklore where each night the Wicker man burns and make a wish while the sparks fly high. There will be spooky stories from the haunted cottage of Nantwallter and around the witch's cauldron in Oakdale. 

As well as creepy craft workshops including lantern making, potion string and mini wicker man creating. There will also be plenty of food and drink on offer as well as a traditional fair and makers market.

The ticket includes drop-in workshop and craft activities, ghost stories, a display of over 50 beautifully carved Swedes, face painting, one rider per child at the fairground, Halloween character walkabout and performances, burning of the wicker man and free parking after 5pm. 


pumpkin patches

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