Walking in the Vale of Glamorgan - Exploring Vale Trail 3
Prior to leaving for university in West Wales when I was 18, I grew up in the Vale of Glamorgan (Bro Morgannwg), which sits between the Welsh capital, Cardiff and major town Bridgend. This change in my life came at the right time as I was beginning to fall out of love with the area, eager to explore pastures new. After 4 and a half years living in West Wales, I have returned to live and work in the Vale and am determined to rekindle the love that once was.
I have a passion for walking and therefore I felt there was no better way to relight the flame than exploring the diverse county on foot. There are 10 official Vale Trails which would help me on my journey, taking me across parts of the 60km coastline through quiet countryside and haunted fields, following myths and legends that date back thousands of years.
If you are thinking of visiting the Vale of Glamorgan, read the guide below for a small taste of what you can expect along Vale Trail 3, which circles around Llantwit Major and the surrounding area.
Llantwit Major, 3,000 Years Later...
The first path I decided to explore was Vale Trail 3, a circular 5km (3 mile) walk around Llantwit Major (Llanilltud Fawr) and the surrounding area, with an optional detour of another 3.2km (2 miles). This short 2 hour route will take you on a journey through time, exploring the small town of Llantwit Major, venturing through fields of the surrounding area and across the coast to Tresillian Bay with the option of continuing onto St. Donat's Castle.
The route begins in the historic town of Llantwit Major which has been inhabited for over 3,000 years! It's therefore no surprise that you begin your walk surrounded by history. Starting at the Town Hall car park you almost immediately reach St. Illtud's Church. Founded in 500 AD, it is believed to be Britain's first ever centre of learning, where patron saints David Patrick are believed to be Alumni. The track continues up steps which emerge near a 13th century Grade II listed Dovecote built for monks at St. Illtud's monastery.
Pirates, a Prince and a Pillbox...
The trail continues out of the town and past farmhouses, where you leave the roadside and begin walking on a mile long track adjacent to open fields and small woods. Along the trail you will see many different species of insects and birds, but it's this part of the track where you will see an abundance of them. Keep your eyes peeled for the sheer number of butterflies, bees, Linnet's and of course, seagulls, just to name a few.
The track eventually joins the Wales Coast Path where you will see magnificent views across the Bristol Channel. This stretch of coast has it all!
Its fascinating rock formations and dramatic cliffs rich in wildlife, and rich in history. You can discover stories of a 3rd century Prince, to secret passages and tunnels used by smugglers and pirates. As you continue along the clifftop, you will also pass a World War 2 pillbox on your left.
Company of Sheep...
Shortly after the WWII pillbox, you can add 3.2km (2 miles) onto the walk by venturing to the stunning Tresillian Bay and continue on towards St Donat's Castle before continuing back onto the main route.
Remembering to stick to the Countryside Code you will leave the pillbox and the coast behind and continue to a track, often overgrown in Summer, heading into a small woodland before emerging onto a field full of sheep and 'Sheeplays' ruins. The quiet and idyllic countryside path takes you through fields and grassy tracks surrounded by trees and plants for about half a mile before emerging back to the old Dovecote.
Maps and Apps...
If you are considering walking any of the Vale Trails, I would recommend you use the detailed Vale Trails maps located at tourist information points or that can be downloaded online. They offer a detailed step-by-step guide of the journey, but also provide you with photos of checkpoints and important places that broaden your knowledge with historic facts.
Furthermore, a fantastic companion I would recommend is the Vale Tales Storytelling App that brings to life some of the fascinating stories, myths and legends behind the 10 trails!
© 2020 Rhys Russell