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


  1. I was in this arrea earlier in the year, we did not get to explore too much sadly but would love to visit again

  2. oh wow, the place is gorgeous and as you said, so dramatic...The best!!! A must see and explore for sure.

  3. That is such a gorgeous area. I love the natural beauty so much!

  4. Neath Port Talbot looks so beautiful, I didn't realise it was in Wales (forgive me!). I can see where it gets its 'dramatic' title from, the view of the beach sent shivers up my spine. The abbey is fascinating and it's great the park is free. I agree about simple menus when you have kids; it's better there is something they will eat!

  5. What a beautiful location. I would love to do the walks and see the miner's museum. Okay, so the Tarzan Swing is out for me, I am scared of heights. But I would like to go to see the historical monastic ruins from 1147 and 19th century and the Gothic Tudor Castle as well as the gardens including the Wales Tree of the year 2020. I liked the cottage where you stayed as well. Sounds like a grand vacation for me--quiet, peaceful and outdoors.

  6. There certainly is plenty to see and do. Such a beautiful part of the country with it's parks and beaches. Go Ape would be fun too

  7. Your insights on places like Neath Abbey and Ironworks, Melincourt Waterfall, Margam Country Park, and Go Ape Margam are incredibly helpful. These recommendations, along with the beautiful descriptions and captivating images, have ignited my excitement to explore the region with my family.

  8. Marie Cris Angeles31 October 2023 at 11:08

    The place is a perfect for a family bonding. So many activities to do for kids and it looks so much fun.

  9. On the travel wish list! Would love to visit Wales one day. Since I have no idea where we would go, it was interesting to learn more about Neath Port Talbot and to learn is was known as the Dramatic Heart of Wales. We would certainly seek out the outdoor sights in Wales and would not miss the Melincourt Waterfalls. And as big kids, we would plan some time at the Margam treetop challenge. While we might not be tempted by the cold water in Wales, we would still want to stroll along long sandy beaches. Definitely a lot to keep us busy on a visit to Neath Port Talbot.

  10. I love that the abandoned monastery is free to visit. I love places like that and imagining what they were like long ago. My daughter would totally love the treetop experience as she enjoys ziplines and all things adventure-centric. Forest biking also sounds interesting. There is such a variet of things to do in Neath Port Talbot!

  11. Exploring the 'Dramatic Heart of Wales' in Neath Port Talbot seems like a captivating journey filled with history, natural beauty, and adventure. Your guide is not only informative but also inspiring for anyone considering a visit to this special part of South Wales. 🏞️🗺️

  12. I traveld in Wales for one month but missed these places. Neaht Abbey looks like a great place to explore. We visited Tintern Abbey and th St Davids Bishop Palace - quite similar places. Thanks for new input for another trip to Wales.

  13. Neath Port Talbot sounds like a great place to explore. I like that there is a combination of historical sites with nature walks and natural places that you can explore on a trip there. It's great that there are things like go Ape, where children can have plenty of fun as well. The Aberavon beach looks like a great place to see as well, both in summer and winter.

  14. A lovely day out with the family. So nice to explore outdoors and the beaches look so nice and peaceful even in the fall/winter. Love the toast too...how yummy!

  15. I went to Wales many years ago but didn't get the opportunity to really get out and explore very much. I love the sound of Melincourt. I'd really love to go and wonder around the woodland there and also go an see the waterfall.

  16. Very interesting to get to know lesser known places as Neath Port Talbot. It obviously is a great place to spend as a family and when it comes to beach, the 3-mile sandy beach of Aberavon looks very attractive. All in all a nice way to spend the weekend, with things to do for everyone.

  17. I used to go to Wales quite a lot as a kid to see family but haven't spent much time there in quite a while. I need to go and explore more spaces like Neath Port Talbot, looks like a lovely spot x

  18. Wow, the place is drastic and Beautiful. I'd love to explore it too!

  19. This looks like a great place to explore to become closer to nature. Thank you for the tips on where to eat too - I always struggle to find good places when somewhere new.

  20. Oh wow such a wonderful instresting place to visit. Looks like so much fun for the family

  21. It is nice to know there are many things to see and do at Neath Port Talbot. I think my 11-year old son would also enjoy the Go Ape Margam. Me, on the other hand, would like to explore the food scene. Will take your advice to visit Cafe Remos and enjoy some gelato.

  22. It is nice to know there are many things to see and do at Neath Port Talbot. I think my 11-year old son would also enjoy the Go Ape Margam. Me, on the other hand, would like to explore the food scene. Will take your advice to visit Cafe Remos and enjoy some gelato. :)


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