There’s really no place quite like the Welsh seaside. It is a tranquil escape, with rolling cliffs that tumble down to the rocky shore and a pervasive sense of calm and otherworldliness. The drive along the Glamorgan Heritage Coast offers breathtaking views and stops in picturesque villages alike.
Llantwit Major is one such village. One of only four towns in the Vale of Glamorgan, its pretty little streets are perfect for a wander and a stroll on a brisk day. Its roots run as far back as the Iron Age, though many of its Grade-listed buildings date from later centuries. St. Illtyd’s Church was the centre of life in Llantwit Major; there was also a monastery and divinity school whose ruins can still be seen in the churchyard. It’s worth a poke around.
Many of the other buildings along Church Street date from the 16th century. These include the Old Swan Inn and the White Hart, which both served other purposes before eventually becoming pubs. Now they’re invitingly cosy places to duck out of a sudden shower, or warm up with a bowl of lamb cawl.
Colhugh Beach is a wonderful stretch of shore located on the edge of Llantwit Major. A stunning example of sedimentary Jurassic coast, it boasts curiously-layered cliffs of geologic interest, as well as a seafloor whose flat tiles and round stones seem to be the work of giants. You can walk the clifftops, but make sure you have sensible shoes as the terrain can be muddy and rough.
Drive on to Southerndown for another atmospheric beach at Bae Dwnrhefn. Catch it when the tide is out to go tidepooling (one of my favourite activities); the pools and nooks and crannies are filled with a treasure trove of seashells. (Just make sure no one is home when you pocket those shells!) The beach is popular in summer time with surfers, but it is equally lovely, and a little quieter, on a sunny December morning.
Make Ogmore-by-Sea your last stop. Follow the winding road through the gentle hills that lead down into a low valley to find the ruins of 11th century Ogmore Castle. There are just enough bits of it left to imagine what it looked like in its heyday, as it was built upon several times over the centuries. Situated next to the low-lying River Ewenny, the castle employed several architectural features to ensure it did not flood; the deep ditch around the mound upon which it is built attests to this. Ogmore is in ruins, but the picturesque setting makes for a lovely diversion.
The drive along the Glamorgan Heritage Coast is an easy one, and with as many geologically and historically fascinating points of interest along the way as there are, I can’t encourage a leisurely roadtrip here enough.