Having decided that the Carmarthen Ferry can take our route across from Ferryside to Llansteffan, the St Illtyd Walk really is the way to get from above Pontardawe past Pontarddulais. I still think the way Rachel and I went up along the ridge is better (see https://cistercianway.wordpress.com/2018/11/03/up-from-pontardawe/). Then you can carry along the ridge to pick up the St Illtyd Way – see towards the end of https://cistercianway.wordpress.com/2016/03/02/cistercian-way-going-west-from-neath/.
Whichever way you go, you get to Penlle’rcastell, high above the Ammanford road.
This is variously described as a fortified settlement site and a castle – Coflein at https://coflein.gov.uk/en/site/300308/details/penller-castell suggests a castle built by William de Breos on the northern border of his territory in c 1252. This really was the north-west frontier province of Norman territory, with people like my ancestors the Welsh lords of Afan as the Taliban. Here’s the interior
and the ditch
Older maps show the St Illtyd Walk going along the road around the castle site, but it has now been re-routed and waymarked to pass closer to it. Walk from SN 67019 09521 to the castle then head for the road at SN 66417 09402. Cross to the waymark
and take the track ahead of you. Keep just to the right of a wind farm (new since the OS last surveyed the area). Pass between the turbines and a patch of forest and keep on the same line to pass slightly to the left of Pentwyn Mawr. Join the stony track from the wind farm at SN 63752 07845 and walk along it past a waymark post
to the minor road.
Here again the route has been changed. Older maps direct you straight on, but the waymarked route now goes to the right along the road to SN 63495 08029.
Here another waymark
directs you along a track to the left. The tracks interweave but all go roughly in the same direction along the ridge.
There are waymarks though some have suffered decay or possibly deliberate damage
and this one at about SN 62940 07691 had been twisted so that it was quite misleading.
It’s a pity we can’t put a waymark on the trig point.
At SN 61393 06534
the path is waymarked to the right down a steep slope, then at SN 61319 06543
it is waymarked to the left again. At about SN 60843 06203 look to your left. Under the bracken, Amy spotted a Neolithic chambered cairn (details at https://coflein.gov.uk/en/site/91900/details/graig-fawr-chambered-tomb).
The waymarks don’t always include the St Illtyd Walk logo
but you continue along the ridge and downhill on a rough stony track. Through a waymarked gate
you get to a surfaced road. A rifle range offered a bench
so we rested then continued along to the minor road at SN 60494 04518 and down into Pontarddulais. Follow the waymaks through the centre of town and out to the bridge over the Loughor.
After Pontarddulais we really ought to walk the linking section of the St Illtyd Walk to where I picked it up last month (https://cistercianway.wordpress.com/2019/05/23/joining-the-dots-south-carmarthenshire/) and check out the final bit from Pontyates to Ferryside. Then it’s coast path to St Clears.
After that, the trouble would begin. (‘ “A long time before that, if I know anything about the roads” interrupted Gandalf’. I seem to have quoted that before …) But we do seem to be getting there.
Meanwhile, there is some enthusiasm for a continuation from St Clears and Whitland towards St Davids – a south Wales Pilgrims’ Way to complement the North Wales one, and a Welsh Camino in time for the big celebrations in St Davids in 2023. And we have volunteers working on paths in north Carmarthenshire. It’s all happening at once!