The Vale of Glamorgan: Millennium Heritage Trail


The Heritage Coast

The Heritage Coast

I’ve just completed, the Millennium Heritage Trail, another long distance hike that began and finished at my front door. The first was a 63 day circumnavigation of the country, this time it was a simple three day circle of the county. A bit of a silly order to do them in I’ll admit, but anyhow, each walk was undertaken for the same reason- to discover where I live.

The MHT is a 65 mile path around the Vale of Glamorgan, a county lying between Cardiff and Swansea on Wales’ south coast. The trail was formed in 2001 by a local charity called Valeways and they have been maintaining it ever since.  And full marks to them. They have created a path that seems to encompass all the very best parts of the Vale and manages to limit the exposure of the bad parts that are inevitable being never more than 15 minutes from Wales’ biggest city.

Falls alongside the track to Monknash beach

Falls alongside the track to Monknash beach

Much of the trail was spent walking through gentle valleys, or in wide open fields. There was also a large amount of coastal walking, following the daunting cliff edge of the Heritage coast and dropping down every now and then to the pebbled beaches.

As the trail’s name suggests, it takes you on a tour of the heritage of the Vale, visiting all of its treasured buildings and monuments: the medieval parish churches like that of St Illtyd’s and St Cadoc’s, the castles such as Beaupre and Fonmon and the Neolithic burial tomb in Duffryn- to name only a few.

Old Beaupre Castle near St Mary's Church

Old Beaupre Castle near St Mary’s Church

However, there is a subtler connection with the heritage of the county in the path itself. It links all the old villages of the Vale together. Going through the fields from one village to another you feel you are following a route that was once walked day to day, wandered by people going to visit family, to trade, or to stop at the pub, as was the case for me-the 21st century wanderer. And these old pubs are in abundance, each one welcoming me with a lit fire.

Having finished walking the Trail, I’ve realised my ignorance to my surroundings that has come from  A to B car journeys. I’ve lived in the Vale of Glamorgan all of my life but in the three days on the trail I came across places I had never been to and gained a perspective of the county that can’t be gained from the road. At times I completely lost bearing of my location….even managing to get lost when within a mile and a half of my house.

Walking the path

Just outside Cardiff and near the M4, it’s really easy to get to. I started at Llancarfan and finished there after going around the Vale anti clockwise. Obviously you can start anywhere but I recommend this point as it splits the coastal walking, meaning you are not walking it all in one, but rather coming across it on different days.

Pubs not to miss: The Sycamore Tree in Colwinston, The Six Bells in Penmark and the Plough and Harrow in Monknash.

Plough and Harrow , Monknash. Regularly voted in the top 10 pubs in the UK.