Like may of the sites we've visited that I've been fascinated by, Margam Park has a vast and fascinating history. There is evidence on the site of over 4,000 years of continuous habitation, including Bronze and Iron Age relics and evidence of extensive Roman occupation. Early stone crosses found on the site suggest early existence of a Celtic monastery. Still standing you can see the remains of a 12th-century Norman Abbey (above). There are also gardens still maintained from the various periods of inhabitants over the years. One thing that fascinated me the most, though, was that high on the hill overlooking the parkland, you can see what appear to be ruins from a similar period to the Abbey. After some research when we got home I found out this is "Capel Mair ar y Bryn" ("the chapel of St. Mary on the Hill"), which is believed to have been a building where members of the monastery who were tending the flocks in the hills could fulfill their devotional duties. It's now located on common land and we plan to hike up there some day!
We walked up through the monastic ruins and the gardens and found our way to the Orangery. In the late 18th century, the Orangery was built to house a large number of citrus trees belonging to the owner at that time, Thomas Mansel Talbot. It is now used as a wedding venue.
It's a beautiful walk from the Orangery up to Margam Castle, past a pond and through a woodland area and some more gardens. The "castle" (more of a giant mansion house) was built in the 1840s following the demolition of the original mansion when the Orangery was built. I'm not a big fan of 19th-century Romantic architecture, but I have to admit the building is pretty impressive just in its massiveness. And as you can see, we had beautiful weather for our walk--clear skies and a sunny day! Adventures like this remind me why I love living in Wales.
A few days later we took a trip to Bath, to meet up with Kate, who had come from Spain to spend New Year's in the UK! I'll do another post on that later because I think this one has enough photos in it!