Things to do in Neath, South Wales
The Romans established the fort of Nido in 75 AD and later the Normans built a castle in 1100 AD.
St Illtyd visited the area in the 6th century and started the settlement of Llantwit which is now on the northern edge of the town. The existing Norman Church includes parts of an earlier building.
Neath Abbey was built in 1129 AD and it became a Cistercian house. In the 13th century it was damaged by the Welsh Uprisings.
After the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539 the abbey was turned into a private estate. The buildings were used for copper smelting for a time before being abandoned in the 1730s.
Neath received a charter in 1280 and became an important trading centre, particularly for cattle. It was also an important river port until recent times.
In the 18th century iron, steel and tin were manufactured and the Mackworth family were prominent in developing local business. Silica and coal mining succeeded and canals and the railway were built to transport the production.
The Vale of Neath Brewery was started in the 1830s by the Evans and Bevan families. In the 20th century British Petroleum built a petroleum refinery in the area.
The Welsh Rugby Union was started at the Castle Hotel in 1872 and Neath RFC remains the oldest rugby club in Wales.
The Castle Hotel also accommodated Admiral Lord Nelson on his way to Milford Haven where the fleet was anchored. The landlord's son, Lt. Lewis Roatley, later served under Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar.
Present Day Neath
The town of Neath currently has around 47,000 inhabitants. It has retained its historic charm and character with sympathetic development on the historic street pattern.
Neath has a commercial centre of multiple chain stores and local shops around the Victorian Market. There are several old pubs and the indoor market sells fresh local produce.
One of the central landmarks is St David's Church with its clock tower. It was where singer Katherine Jenkins sang in the choir as a youngster.
Next to the church are the Victorian Gardens with a 19th century bandstand. A ring of standing stones was erected in the park in 1918 to celebrate the town hosting the National Eisteddfod.
Things to Do Around Neath
The Cistercian Neath Abbey was once the largest abbey in Wales. The substantial ruins are interesting to walk around and see what was evidently a very fine building in a peaceful location.
Gnoll Park, former home of the Mackworth family, is a delightful country park with ponds, water cascades and a Visitor Centre. The ruins of the grand house along with the "ha-ha" and grotto can still be seen.
The Cafn Coed Colliery Museum demonstrates coal mining history with a simulated mine and working steam engine.
The Vale of Neath has several stunning waterfalls and is ideal for walks and mountain biking.