Glamorgan

Heads of the Valleys

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Overview

Head from Caerleon to Newport before dropping down to Tredegar House. Wind up country to Cyfarthfa Castle. Head to Merthyr Tydfil before crossing to Blaenavon and the National Coal Pit Museum. Call at Llanover House before arriving in the bustling market town of Abergavenny.

Caerleon

On the banks of the River Usk Caerleon is a site of archaeological importance, being the location of a notable Roman legionary fortress, Isca, and an Iron Age hillfort. The Wales National Roman Legion Museum and Roman Baths Museum are in Caerleon along with ruins of an amphitheatre, castle and barracks.

Newport

At the mouth of the river Usk the tower skyline is dominated by the Transporter Bridge. Nearby castle ruins include Newport Castle itself, Pencoed Castle a ruined Tudor mansion, largely dating from the 16th century and Penhow Castle a fortified manor house. The town’s Belle Vue Gardens have benefitted from a major renovation project.

Tredegar House

A 17th-century Charles II-era red brick country house mansion near Newport, managed by the National Trust. For over five hundred years it was home to the Morgan family, later Lords Tredegar. Described as one of the "outstanding houses of the Restoration period in the whole of Britain", the mansion stands in a landscaped garden of 90 acres.

Cyfartha House

Cyfarthfa Castle, designed in 1824, is a castellated mansion that was the home of the Crawshay family, ironmasters of Cyfarthfa Ironworks in Park, Merthyr Tydfil. The house commanded a view of the valley and the works. The castle stands in 158 acres of parkland, now called Cyfarthfa Park.

Merthyr Tydfil

Red House is an arts and creative centre in the old Town Hall. Nearby Parc Taf Bargoed formerly the site of three collieries, covers an area of 50 hectares situated in the beautiful Taff Bargoed Valley and is a hidden gem of Merthyr Tydfil with its panoramic views and natural beauty. For thrill seekers Bike Park Wales is an exhilarating way to spend your day in the Welsh mountains.

Valleys Road

Where the long valleys of South Wales reach the high ground of the Brecon Beacons, the industrial landscape suddenly gives way to breath-taking scenery and wide open spaces. Running east-west across the top of those valleys is the A465 Heads of the Valleys Road.

Blaenavon Ironworks

The Blaenavon area is a World Heritage site featuring moorland scenery over which red kite soar, Garn Lakes reclaimed from spoil tips and mine workings, the Ironworks, a steam railway and the town has some impressive civic buildings including the Workmen’s Hall paid for by public subscription at one half penny per week

Coal Museum

Close to Blaenavon you can descend 90 metres underground into a real coalmine with a former miner to find out about the dangers, working conditions and global significance of the Welsh mining industry. If you don’t want to go underground, there is plenty to see and do on the surface too.

Llanover House

A 15-acre listed garden and arboretum with lakes, streams and cascades, created by the Rhyd y Meirch stream as it flows through the garden. Unusual trees, shrubs and flowers have been planted since 1790. The deep herbaceous borders in the unusual circular walled garden, with a dovecote topped by a Pike, have been designed to complement the autumnal hues. The garden is only open at certain times.

Abergavenny

Just across the county border in Monmouthshire and originally the site of a Roman fort it became a medieval walled town within the Welsh Marches. The town contains the remains of a medieval stone castle built soon after the Norman conquest and situated at the confluence of the River Usk and a tributary stream, the Gavenny. It is almost entirely surrounded by mountains and hills.

Overview

1

Caerleon

2
4.4 miles

Newport

3
2.6 miles

Tredegar House

4
30.8 miles

Cyfartha House

5
1.2 miles

Merthyr Tydfil

6
9.1 miles

Valleys Road

7
13.1 miles

Blaenavon Ironworks

8
1.2 miles

Coal Museum

9
27.0 miles

Llanover House

10
29.7 miles

Abergavenny

What to see and do…

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About the Heads of the Valleys Trail

Distance: 119 miles
Cites / Towns: 10
Number Of Businesses: 0

Start in Caerleon to explore the Roman remains in this historic town established by the second Augustan legion. On to Newport established by the Normans with the present castle ruins built in the 14th century. Nearby Tredegar House is a 17th century red brick masterpiece set in 90 acres of landscaped gardens. Cyfarthfa Castle is a castellated mansion originally built by the owners of the local ironworks. Merthyr is a base to explore the surrounding area including the Taff Bargoed Valley and parkland created over pit and mine workings. Join the A465, the Heads of the Valleys road, marking the boundary between the start of the Brecon Beacons and the river valleys flowing towards Bristol. The road takes you close to Blaenavon, designated as a World Heritage site in 2000 reflecting the preserved industrial heritage of the area including a chance at the Big Pit National Coal Museum to go underground with a former miner as a guide. Call at Llanover House and then on to Abergavenny on the Usk to explore the town.

Transforming the Landscape

Long synonymous with mining and associated slag heaps the Welsh valleys were once just a tourist route between the Brecon Beacons and the South Wales beaches. Now the river valleys are being returned as nature intended, none more so than the Taff Bargoed valley, buildings cleaned, renovated and heritage preserved.

In Footsteps of Legions

The mineral wealth of Wales, including gold, copper, and lead, was well-known prior to the Roman invasion and was one of the expected benefits of conquest. In the first century AD, while governor of Britain, Sextus Julius Frontinus subjugated the Silures of South Wales and created the substantial fort complex at Caerleon

Blaenavon Industrial Landscape

One of 3 world heritage sites in Wales, out of 29 in the UK as a whole, Blaenavon is a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town was filled with ironworks and coal mines and the site consists of many industrial buildings, housing, transport, and other monuments linked to its industrial past.