Giants of several kinds feature on the fascinating Neath and Port Talbot leg of the Legends Cycle Trail, from one of the best actors ever and a mysterious king, to a real living, breathing giant - perhaps! The cycle route starts at Afan Forest Park, taking you through the lovely village of Cwmavon, on to Port Talbot Town Centre, then a scenic route along the Aberavon Seafront, Neath Canal and the Aberdulais Falls. Your journey ends in the village of Aberdulais in the Vale of Neath.
Richard Burton’s birthplace, Dic Penderyn’s grave, the Baglan Giant’s home, King Arthur’s burial grounds and the South Wales Miners’ Museum.
- Begin your journey at Afan Lodge which offers good quality food and accommodation and is also the former Workingmen’s Club where the legendary Richard Burton once performed. In tribute to this world famous 'local boy' you can even stay in the Richard Burton room at Afan Lodge. Follow Route 887 for approximately 2km and head to (a) Afan Forest Park Visitor Centre, a place full of tales of legendary experiences and also a great base to explore the famous mountain bike trails.
- Afan Forest Park Visitor Centre is a good stop off point offering Cedar’s Tea Room and public toilet facilities, but it is also where you will find the first legendary spot on the tour (b) The South Wales Miners’ Museum. Re-join Route 887 and follow the route south for approximately 3km where you will arrive at (c) Pontrhydyfen, the birthplace of Richard Burton and your next legendary spot on the tour.
- Continue your journey on Route 887, cycling through the village of Cwmavon lasting approximately 2.4km where you will come across another legendary spot: (d) Richard Burton’s Portrait Bench. This is a great place to see the views of the surrounding valley whilst listening to a recording of the legendary voice of Richard Burton reading the works of another local legend, Dylan Thomas.
- Once you’ve posed with the three famous figures, follow Route 887 through the village of Cwmavon and on to Port Talbot Town Centre for approximately 5km.
- At Port Talbot follow the Route 887 signs carefully, at this point you will need to cross a busy road (using the crossing) as part of Route 887.
- At Port Talbot follow Route 887 around the perimeter of the multi-storey car park, with the railway on your right and be careful whilst you take a sharp right under the tunnel leading you to your next legends spot: (e) Dic Penderyn Burial Place at St Mary’s Church, which is just off Route 887 on the right hand side of the car park.
- When you’ve finished paying your respects at St Mary’s Church, re-join Route 887 by heading back under the small railway tunnel and turning right, follow the route through the next tunnel and past Blancos Hotel and Restaurant, a great place to stop for some lunch.
- At this point, follow local cycle route signs for approximately 2.4km to Aberavon Seafront, part of the All Wales Coastal Path. This is a great stop off point with superb views over Swansea Bay. There are various cafés and restaurants along with public toilet facilities.
- Follow local cycle way signage through Sandfields for approximately 4.8km and rejoin Route 4 at Baglan, as you proceed you will see a mountain directly in front of you, and the next site of your legends trail: (f) the view of Baglan Mountain, former home to the mythological 'Baglan Giant'.
- Continue your journey by taking a left into Baglan Energy Park, cycle through for approximately 1.6km and you will pass the historic Brunel Dock and Tower. The area of 'Giants Grave' lies adjacent to the dock so called because of the giant ships which were brought to Briton Ferry for scrapping when the ship breaking industry was thriving in the area.
- From here join the Neath Canal (Route 47) heading to the town of Neath (approx 8km) and on to your next legends site: (g) Aberdulais Falls (This is approximately 4.5km through the Vale of Neath). There are many legendary tales in the Vale of Neath, it’s even claimed that King Arthur himself is buried at Craig Y Ddinas, located at the end of the Vale of Neath, near Pontneddfechan Waterfalls.
- Behind Aberdulais Falls and the villages of Cadoxton and Cilfrew, is the March Hywel Mountain, local legend tells the story of the name (h) March Hywel.
- This is the end of the Neath Port Talbot section of the Legendary Cycle Route. To head onto the Swansea section of the route, retrace your steps back down the Neath Canal staying on Route 47 until you reach the A48 at Briton Ferry. At this point join Route 4 at Old Briton Ferry Bridge, after riding over the bridge turn left and head on into Swansea City Centre (approximately 8.2km).
LEGEND POINTS OF INTEREST
a) Afan Forest Park
This local legend tells the tale of a young girl who lived at a farm at the mouth of the River Afan (near Cymmer in Afan Forest Park) who met the King of the Hill, disguised as a goblin. After showing Elen his kingdom’s treasure, the King of the Hill asked Elen never to tell anyone of their meeting and to take home whatever treasures from his land she wished. She took some gold but did not keep her promise and as a result her treasures disappeared and Elen never saw the King of the Hill again. afanforestpark.co.uk
b) South Wales Miners’ Museum
Located within Afan Forest Park Visitor Centre, the Museum tells the story of the working life of ordinary miners and the history of coal mining in the South Wales valleys. You will discover the extreme hardships endured by adults and children alike in working down the mines. The museum is manned by volunteers who are former miners themselves. The volunteers regularly conduct the museum tours, a great opportunity to find out first-hand what it was like to work down the pits of South Wales. south-wales-miners-museum.co.uk
c) Pontrhydyfen Viaduct and Bethel Chapel
As you cycle over viaduct, look to the right and you will see a row of two houses backing on to the river, one of the 2 is where Richard Burton was born... it’s top secret which one! Richard returned to Pontrhydyfen regularly throughout his career and even brought his wife Elizabeth Taylor along with him in 1964, then world famous, the couple stayed with family in a terraced house in Penhydd Street, it is rumoured that Elizabeth Taylor even did the washing up! At the end of the terrace leading on from the viaduct is a chapel which is undergoing renovation. This was the chapel where a memorial service was held for Richard Burton after his death in 1984, the service was attended by hundreds of locals including Richard Burton’s brother Graham Jenkins.
d) Richard Burton Portrait Bench
Three heroes from Port Talbot are celebrated in a special portrait bench - comedian and actor Rob Brydon, retired local Forest Ranger Dick Wagstaff and arguably the most famous local hero, Richard Burton. The local community decided that these three individuals deserved recognition and created the steel life-sized sculpture in their honour. The portrait bench is located along the cycle route 887 in the village of Cwmavon.
e) Dic Penderyn Burial Place
Dic Penderyn, whose real name was Richard Lewis, was arrested after allegedly stabbing a soldier during the Merthyr Rising against poor working conditions and pay in June 1831. Around 11,000 people signed a petition protesting his innocence, but Penderyn, aged just 23, was hanged outside Cardiff gaol on August 13, 1831. After his death supporters marched his body from Cardiff back to his birthplace in Port Talbot. He was laid to rest in St Mary’s Churchyard, and his grave can be found on the left hand side of the main church gates.
f) The Baglan Mountain
Baglan Mountain (Mynydd Y Gaer) overlooks the town of Port Talbot and is plain to see as you cycle along Route 4. Legend has it that Mynydd y Gaer was home to the Baglan Giant. A giant called Hywel challenged Irish giant O’Riley of Connaght to a test of strength and skill. When the day of the challenge arrived, his clever wife Sian suggested he rest, assuring him she would wake him when O’Riley arrived. Instead, she pretended the huge jacket she was knitting was for the couple’s enormous baby. If his child was this big, how enormous must Hywel be, though O’Riley, suggesting they rearrange the competition for next year. Although the top of the mountain is not accessible to walkers the All Wales Coastal Path takes you along the lower reaches of the mountain through the village of Baglan. historicalporttalbot.com
g) National Trust Aberdulais Tin Works and Waterfall
Aberdulais Falls is a beautiful spot for getting to grips with the history of the Vale of Neath. Home to the UK’s largest electricity-generating water wheel, Aberdulais waterfall played a great role in the industrialisation of the area, and indeed, was painted by Turner in 1796. Here you will be able to see how the Aberdulais Falls were harnessed for industry throughout the ages. The waterfall and waterwheel is magnificent and accessible to all via a lift to the upper section of the waterfall. This National Trust attraction also boasts a quaint little café, gift shop and 'Tin Man' exhibition where you will see real life artefacts that were unearthed during excavations of the site. nationaltrust.org.uk
h) March Hywel
March Hywel Mountain is the mountain which stretches away into the distance behind Aberdulais Falls and connects the Neath and Swansea Valleys and offers impressive views of the surrounding landscapes. March Hywel also has a fascinating legend attached to it. Many years ago King Hywel of Glamorgan amassed his troops to defend his kingdom against a neighbouring valley. During the great battle, the king’s son, also called Hywel, his horse and his army died on the slopes of the high mountain, which the king named March Hywel (Hywel’s stallion) in honour of the prince. It is said that there was a plaque buried in the ground of Glyn Bedd (valley of tombs) to mark the spot where the Prince and his horse fell and one day, it may still be uncovered.