Getting from the Coast Path to Neath Abbey should be easy – follow the coast path across the bridge, up the cycle track, cross over to the towpath of the Tennant canal, job done.
Unfortunately, it’s not so good on the ground. This is one of the weaker sections of the coast path – you have to cross the big rivers somewhere, towns do tend to grow up around the lowest crossing point of a river, bridging the river further down is only viable if the bridge takes a really busy road. So the coast path across the Neath runs alongside the dual carriageway, then there’s 2 km of cycle track alongside the M4, then the whole thing gets lost in the building work around the Llandarcy roundabout. We did eventually manage to find a footpath and scramble across to the canal. It’s nice when you get there –
but not really worth the walk.
Alternatively you can turn off the coast path towards Briton Ferry, go immediately left down a lane, follow the road round to Llansawel Church and down to the other canal. This is a bit further but a lovely walk. Technically the bit between Giant’s Grave and Briton Ferry is the Jersey Canal.
From there up to Neath and beyond it’s the Neath Canal (more on all this at http://www.neath-tennant-canals.org.uk/history/neath_canal_history.php ). The lower part is a nature reserve with otters, kingfishers and wild flowers. Further up it goes round the back of industrial estates but it’s still a good walk. Eventually you reach Bridge Street in Neath. In front of you is the Jehovah’s Witnesses Kingdom Hall. To its left are the Bridge Apostolic Church and Neath RFC – a good spectrum of local religions! Go left over the footbridge and follow the Tennant Canal down to the Abbey.
It should be possible to cut the corner off and avoid a mile of rather boring and busy road. On the coast path at OS SS 745 935, just before the path goes downhill through the houses into Briton Ferry, take the track to the right. This swings round behind a kennels and becomes a very pleasant lane through the woods. I didn’t have time to follow it beyond Jersey Park but it should be possible to continue to Pencaerau and cut down to join the canal at Penrhiwtyn.