Hidden within the unspoiled Welsh hills near Port Talbot, Margam Park encompasses an astounding 1,000 acres of superb forestland, rare wildlife, and a series of historical attractions from several periods. Unusual sculptures abound throughout the masterfully landscaped gardens and miles of walking paths within the parkland, although a scenic train ride through the property is available seasonally.
Among Margam’s other features is the longest orangery in Britain, restored to its 18th-century glory in the 1970s. Conspicuous in its position and scale is the wonderfully detailed Margam Castle, a Tudor-Gothic mansion house built in the 1830s by Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot, a member of parliament for Glamorgan.
The Cistercian Abbey of Margam was founded by Robert, Earl of Gloucester in 1147. The Abbey grew to be the largest and wealthiest in Wales, enjoying two visits from King John in 1210. In spite of its success it became a victim of the Dissolution of 1536 and the last monks were evicted when the site fell into the hands of Sir Rice Mansel of Gower.
Although the monastic buildings fell into decay, the ruins of the chapter house remain between the orangery and the castle. Much of the present church is late Norman, while the rest was altered significantly in a series of restoration attempts throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, among these the magnificent Burne-Jones windows in the west end.
There’s something for everyone in Margam Park, but you’ll need a full day to see everything that it has to offer.
Don’t miss: the Margam Stone Museum, housing early Christian memorials including the elaborate disc-headed Cross of Conbelin.