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This valley changed from being a wooded valley with scattered farmsteads to the powerhouse of the world. Whilst we know about the harm that coal burning caused to the world, it is still a fascinating story to explore.

A guide will help to bring the stories of the area to life – check out the Wales Official Tour Guides who are all trained and have a wealth of experience to draw on.

Stepping stones outside Ogmore Castle

Merthyr Tydfil – Iron Capital of the World

Merthyr Tydfil is named after Tydfil, the daughter of King Brychan.

Renowned as the “Iron Capital of the World” after the establishment of a group of cutting edge ironworks – Dowlais, Plymnouth, Cyfarthfa and Penydarren, from the 1750’s. Two dynasty’s drove the industrial story – the Guests and the Craw shays.

Around Merthyr Tydfil there are many reminders of the industrial past (here is a great walk that picks up many of the sites) including remains of the canal, the route of the first steam engine to pull a load and many buildings. The Virtual tour of Merthyr Tydfil will give you lots of ideas. And local historians can lead you on tours that explore the history in-depth.

Stepping stones outside Ogmore Castle


Ideas for places to visit:

Following the route of the Glamorgan Canal, that was built to take the iron to the docks, you pass the site of the Aberfan disaster 1966, where 144 people (including 116 children) were killed when a coal tip collapsed on the school.

Pontypridd Old Bridge


At the start of the Rhondda Valleys, Pontypridd developed around the coal industry. Before industry arrived, there were farms scattered around the area, and the imposing Old Bridge was a key crossing point. Built by William Edwards in 1756 it took 4 attempts to construct what was the longest single-span bridge in the world.

Ideas for places to visit:

Chepstow Castle

Into Cardiff

Continue following the general route of the Glamorganshire Canal (now A470). At Nantgarw you can see a section of the canal as you visit Nantgarw China Works and Museum, where the best porcelain ever created in the UK was made for a few short years. A great group visit.

The canal, and later the trains, wound their way through the city, past the castle to the docks in Bute Town, where a cosmopolitan community from around the world grew up, an area known as Tiger Bay.

Places to visit:

There are plenty of lunch and refreshment stops either at the suggested places to visit or en route - contact Southern Wales Tourism for assistance in finding the right location for your group.