Spend a day combining history and the great outdoors at Margam Country Park.
Gnoll Country Estate
Start at the castle, an elegant 19th century Gothic Tudor mansion designed by the architect Thomas Hopper; much of the building is closed to visitors due to a fire that tragically gutted out the interior in 1977, so gaze at the Great Hallway then head out to the 12th Century Chapter House. At one point, this was the largest, wealthiest Cistercian monastery in Wales - until Henry VIII brought an end to the monks’ power in 1536. Nature has taken over the formerly 12-sided property and it’s a wonderful place to wander; surrounding trees house nesting birds and, in the summer, the Orangery building is home to pipistrelle bat babies! Climb up to Mynydd Y Castell, an Iron Age hill-fort and enjoy stunning views of the Gower Peninsula, and even Devon and Somerset, from 'Pulpit Viewpoint'. Children mustn’t miss Fairytale Village, where they can pretend to be a knight at their own castle, and the whole family will enjoy up-close encounters with the Country Park’s impressive deer - Margam’s herd dates back to Norman times.
Find another fortress in the centre of Neath, whose Welsh name, Castell-nedd, refers to its castle; a short distance away is Neath Abbey, another Cistercian Monastery complete enough to be able to imagine its 12th century heyday. And for a feeling of true freedom, explore the historic Gnoll Country Estate Park, which offers miles of walking opportunities among lush, colourful woodland, wildlife and impressive water features.