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ST. ILLTYD'S WALK

 

Saint Illtyd’s Walk is a 103km / 64 mile long waymarked long distance footpath in South Wales running from Pembrey Country Park (OS grid ref SN 403000) west of Burry Port through rural eastern Carmarthenshire and Neath Port Talbot to end at Margam Country Park (OS grid ref SS 806862) south of Port Talbot.

Saint Illtyd was a well respected 7th century saint, the trail follows a route that St Illtyd is believed to have travelled whilst preaching in South Wales. The trail links with other long distance routes in south Wales including the Coed Morgannwg Way, Wales Coastal Path and the Ogwr Ridgeway Walk.

St Illtyd lived in the latter part of the 5th and early part of the 6th century. He was held in high veneration in Wales being the founder and abbot of Llanilltud Fawr (Llantwit Major) in the Vale of Glamorgan.

In an age when schooling was only available to a very few privileged people, perhaps Illtyd's monastic school was the closest approximation in existence to an institute of higher education. Among Illtyd's pupils were St Patrick of Ireland, St David of Wales, and the future King Maelgwn of Gwynedd    

 

THE ROUTE - Pembrey to Margam

The route skirts the fringes of Burry Port, heading east to the Lliedi reservoirs then to Pontarddulais. It then turns northeast heading up via Graig Fawr onto Mynydd y Gwair then heads southeast via Bryn Mawr and Mynydd Carnllechart to the Swansea Canal north of Pontardawe following the towpath past Ynysmeudwy and Cilmaengwyn. The route then climbs east over the northern end of the Mynydd Marchywel ridge and down to cross the River Dulais at Crynant. From there it climbs steeply up through forestry to Sarn Helen which here runs along Hirfynydd and then steeply down to Resolven in the Vale of Neath. Passing Melincourt Falls it climbs again to Cefnmawr and then turns south bound for Cwm Afan. From there it runs through Afan Argoed Forest Park to the village of Bryn thence through more forestry via Mynydd Bach before dropping down to Mynydd y Castell and Margam Country Park.

ST ILLTYD'S WALK in CIRCULAR ROUTES from MARGAM ABBEY to PEMBREY

 

LEG 1 - MARGAM ABBEY to OGWR RIDGEWAY SPLIT (completed 27 July 2017) - 6.17 miles - 919 ft elevation

The above OS reference is a general one for Margam Park so it made sense to start the walk at Margam Abbey and the Margam Stones Museum. Knowing the area very well, I didn't look for a start sign and didn't ask either so I'm not sure if one exists or not. I'm not doing very well providing information on this walk am I ? Leaving the Abbey I headed out onto the road and behind Margam Castle. Using an OS map to navigate I followed what I thought was the correct route for the walk. Unfortunately the map was either an old one or wrongly marked because the signposted route I realised on my way back follows the same route as the Ogwr Ridgeway. Confused ? Let me showe you what I mean.

The map clearly shows St. Illtyd's and the Coed Morgannwg Way splitting from the Ogwr Ridgeway Walk, however, the St Illtyd's route is signposted to follow the Ogwr Ridgeway Walk. This is how this junction looks on the ground, you get to the top of the hill and there is a path to the left.  

   The waymarked route is the next track along on the left, this has a small sign on it.

Back to the my walk, as I trundled along I thought it slightly odd that the walk was not marked and then a right turn was either overgrown or moved and I realised that I'd have to carry on and make up the route myself and before you know it I was following a motorbike scramble track that got me to exactly where I needed to be. All those hours orienteering finally paid off and that's the first time I'd ever been thankful for a motorbike track. On reaching the far point of the walk at the junction with the Ogwr Ridgeway the heavens opened and I was robbed of superb views of the Gower and West Wales coast. The walk headed back to the park and I suddenly realised that I was following the actual St Illtyd's Walk route and not the one on my map. 

86.jpg (352311 bytes) The track back down into the park was nice and grassy but it was quite a climb over the wall.

Once into the park it was time to get the camera out for some photos of the deer. The long distance photos were taken from the large stone overlooking the park. Seeing the large stags with antlers brought back memories of the time I was orienteering in the park and I rounded a corner to become face to face with a large stag, I turned around and went the other way.  

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    Following the trail back down to the junction I could see the route of the Wales Coast Path in the distance that Hayley and I had followed earlier this year. The two paths, St Illtyd's and the Wales Coast Path almost touch near the Abbey.

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my walk on Garmin

 

 

 

Website editor Dai Richards has a close affinity with St Illtyd having previously lived in St Illtyd's Drive, Baglan and Llantwit (church of St Illtyd) Road in Neath. His great grandfather William H Snow built the cemetery at Llantwit Church, Neath.  

LINKS

St Iltyd on Wikipedia - CLICK HERE
St Illtyd Church, Neath - CLICK HERE
Life of St Illtyd - Celtic texts translated, extensive archive of information - CLICK HERE

 

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