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Exploring Rhondda Cynon Taf, a Celtic Cult Circuit

After spending the last year hiking in his home county of the Vale of Glamorgan, Rhys' journey continues to other parts of Cymru.

Beautiful scenes from start to finish.

Beautiful scenes from start to finish.

Though often overlooked, the Rhondda Cynon Taf has some of the best places to walk in southern Wales. On a spring afternoon, I was lucky enough to head there under the warm sun.

Originally ready to have the day off work, I’d made up my mind to wake up early and drive two hours to the mountains for a well needed hike. Shortly after planning my trip, I was reminded that I’d agreed to do an online presentation for most of that morning. Spring was finally showing signs of arriving and the evenings were growing longer. Because of the presentation and now with the morning behind me, I decided instead to travel a short distance and leave the mountains for another adventure.

Leaving Stress Behind

I’d concluded that a shorter, closer to home and fascinatingly historic route I’d had on my list for a while would be a great alternative. There was a pre-Christian Celtic cult site I had to discover!

Leaving the laptop screen behind, along with any stress or worries, I filled up my water bottle, packed my usual hiking snacks (banana, breakfast bar for lunch and sandwiches), checked that my first aid kit had all the relevant equipment, and left for the small village of Castellau.

The hot spring sunshine, resting behind a light layer of cloud.

The hot spring sunshine, resting behind a light layer of cloud.

Following the Bunny Walk signs.

Following the Bunny Walk signs.

Bunny Walk Number 6

Although Wales is one of the best places to walk in the world, I'd recently become too reliant on using maps when traversing obscure routes that weren’t signposted enough. However, thanks to Ramblers Cymru volunteers, this route had my gaze lifted high throughout as it was waymarked all the way. The group labeled various community hiking trails as "Bunny Walks," this being number six. Simply walk and keep following the small signs with a rabbit and number (pictured above) to stay on track.

Meandering through farmland past sheep, and climbing over styles in the midday spring warmth, the beginning of the walk was picturesque and full of birdsong.

To find out more about all of the incredible Bunny Walks developed by Ramblers Cymru, visit their site.

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Following the river through the ancient forest.

Following the river through the ancient forest.

Searching for the Celtic site.

Searching for the Celtic site.

Missing the Celtic Site

A short way into the walk I was greeted by a herd of horses grazing under the increasingly warming sun. Whether they thought I looked like their owner or just a friendly face with food, they all hastily approached from behind, making me jump. They soon realised I was only good for being easily surprised and slowly turned away to continue basking under the sun.

I followed the bunny walk waymarkers through more farmland and public footpaths to arrive at woodland and the stream of “Nant Castellau”. This woodland is where I hope to find the home and evidence of the pre-Christian Celtic cult site.

I followed the path through the woodland and back to open ground, completely missing the historical site. Usually, this would frustrate me, but the forest was silent but for birdsong, and provided a nice shade from the warm sunshine.

Tarren Deusant historical carvings.

Tarren Deusant historical carvings.

Tarren Deusant Historical Site

Retracing my steps, I finally made it to the rock carvings and the holy well.

It is not known which period this site actually dates to, although the style of carvings on the stone may suggest an Iron Age (700 BC - AD 74) or Roman date (AD 74 - AD 410). Historians believe it was left abandoned until around the 9th century. It was first mentioned in print in 1696 by Edward Lhhuyd, the keeper of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

An Unfriendly Donkey

My journey ended on a final section of farmland where I was once again startelled. Two donkeys had a great interest in me but, despite me keeping my distance and following the countryside code by sticking to the path and keeping distance, the one didn’t like my presence.

It’s unusual for animals not to take to me, but this one charged at me on multiple occasions and had me backtracking out of the field, walking backward trying to calm it down. It’s safe to say, the walk ended with my heart beating very quickly!

The circular walk on the outskirts of the small village of Beddau.

The circular walk on the outskirts of the small village of Beddau.

© 2022 Rhys Russell

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