Llantwit Major is an unassuming little place in the Vale of Glamorgan. However, after a while wandering around its old town, you’ll realise that there is more to it than meets the eye.
We left our car in the free car park behind the town hall. A small Heritage Centre at the side of the hall contains a pictorial exhibition displaying the many layers of history in the area going back to the bronze age. The town hall itself has a historic plaque, revealing that it was originally a Norman Courthouse. It became a Guildhall in the time of Henry VIII and then a Bailiff’s House, before finally becoming the town hall in the 19th century.
We walked on to a quaint town square, at the centre of which was the war memorial flanked by old inns and historic buildings. Moving further, we arrived at the church. At first glance, you would never realise how significant this place is. While the current building was erected in Norman times, the site is a lot older and is one of the earliest centres of Christianity in Wales. In 500 AD, St Illtud founded a church, a monastery, a school and a mission centre here. This was over a century before the founding of the monastery at Lindisfarne in Northern England. All that remains from the 6th century are a few stones and Celtic crosses, which are displayed in a small hall at the end of the church.
In this part of Llantwit there are many lanes and alleys leading to oldy worldy cottages from a bygone era. It is easy to lose yourself exploring here, unless you are reminded that you are with a 9 year old girl, eager to get to the beach!
Llantwit beach is a 2 mile drive down a country lane from the town. A country footpath makes this a pleasant walk, although some sections can get flooded if there has been wet weather. As we had the car, we used it and saved the walking till later. The beach lies on the eastern part of the Glamorgan Heritage Coast. It is largely made up of pebbles and rocks, some of which have fallen from the neighbouring cliffs. Strangely the cliffs can appear to be built of bricks, but this is an entirely natural phenomenon. The area is known for fossil hunting and nearby, a brand new species of dinosaur was discovered in 2014. The 200 million year old Dracoraptor hanigani is now on display at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff.
My daughter F and I combed the beach for fossils but to no avail. We retired to the beach cafe for refreshments and then we decided to go for a walk along the cliffs towards St Donats. En route, we came across an old defence installation from the war.
From the Wales Coast Path, There are routes heading inland enabling a circular walk back to Llantwit Major. As we’d brought the car to the beach, we headed back the way we came. We arrived at the car just in time to hear the football results, much to the delight of F and my wife S!
Llantwit Major is in the Vale of Glamorgan, Wales, UK, 16 miles west of Cardiff
The town is on the B4265 road between Barry and Bridgend. The nearest airport is Cardiff (7 miles). Llantwit has a railway station on the Vale of Glamorgan line, one stop away from Rhoose Cardiff Airport station. Mainline connections are available at Cardiff and Bridgend.
Accommodation and Food
Pubs, cafes and restaurants are available in Llantwit Major. There is also a cafe at Llantwit Beach. Click here for information on accommodation