A pleasant foray through rolling sand dunes, returning along the impressive and little-known South Wales coast.
Distance 6 miles (9.7km)
Minimum time 2hrs 30min
Ascent/gradient 460ft (140m)
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Easy-to-follow across farmland and coastline, 5 stiles
Landscape Deciduous woodland, farmland, bracken-covered sand dunes and rocky coastline
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 151 Cardiff & Bridgend
Start/finish SS 885731
Dog friendliness Some difficult stiles; total ban on beach at Dunraven in summer
Parking Large car park at Heritage Centre above Dunraven Beach
Public toilets Heritage Centre, also at Ogmore
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1 Head up the lane at the back of the car park and pass the Heritage Centre on your right. Keep straight ahead on a narrow path that ducks into woodland and continue on this path to a stile. Cross the stile and walk along the edge of the field to reach a gate on your left. Go through the gate, then cross a stile on your right to continue with the hedge to your right.
2 Cross into another field and keep to the left-hand side, following the hedgerow, which is now on your left. When you reach the next stile, continue ahead, go past a gate on the left, to reach another stile on the left. Cross this stile and head diagonally right to a stile between the house and the farmyard.
3 Turn left on to the road and walk into the village. Keep left into Southerndown Road and then fork right into Heol-y-slough. Follow this road for ¾ mile (1.2km) then, as the road bends to the left, keep straight across the common. Continue ahead where a bridleway crosses the track. As you join another track, maintain your direction along the valley floor.
4 The path winds its way down through sand dunes, passing a tributary valley on the left, and eventually emerges on the B4524. Cross the road and continue until you locate one of the many paths that lead left towards Portobello House. At the drive, keep right, then fork left by the house to continue through the bracken, parallel to the estuary of the Ogmore River.
5 Make sure you stay above the small cliffs near the mouth of estuary and you'll eventually arrive at a car parking area above the beach. From here, follow the obvious route along the coast around to the left.
6 You'll come to a dry-stone wall, which will funnel you through a gate marked 'Coast Path - Emergency Vehicles Only'. Continue walking along the coast path until, about 1¼ miles (2km) from the gate, you meet with a steep valley. Turn left into this valley and then turn immediately right, on to a footpath that climbs steeply up the grassy hillside.
7 Stay with the footpath as it follows the line of a dry-stone wall around to West Farm. Keep to the right-hand side of the agricultural buildings and continue to reach the upper car park. A gap in the wall, at the back of this, leads you to a grassy track that follows the road down into Dunraven.
Most visitors to South Wales overlook the chunk of land that lies south of the M4 motorway between Cardiff and Swansea. Yet surprisingly, smack bang between the two cities and overshadowed by the huge industrial complexes of Port Talbot, there lies a sumptuous strip of coast that remains refreshingly unspoilt.
Granted Heritage Coast status in 1972, the 14-mile (22.5km) stretch of coastline that runs between Ogmore and Gileston stands as defiant against progress as its cliffs do against the huge ebbs and flows of the Bristol Channel tides. Sandy beaches, often punctuated by weathered strips of rock that dip their toes in the ocean, break up an otherwise formidable barrier of limestone and shale cliffs that rise and dip gracefully above the turbulent grey waters. It's fair to say that the scenery doesn't quite match the breathtaking beauty of the Gower Peninsula or Pembrokeshire, but somehow the unkempt wildness has an appeal all of it's own.
Dunraven Bay houses the Heritage Centre, which offers displays and information about the area. It also makes an appropriate starting point for a walk that gives at least a taster of this unique landscape. The early stages track inland, through woodland and farmland before heading coastwards, at the small village of St Brides Major. From here, the path sneaks between dunes and drops to the Ogmore River. Following the estuary downstream through bracken that simply teems with wildlife, you'll meet the coast at Ogmore-by-Sea and pick up the coast path above one of many beaches here. With ocean views to your right and the dunes to your left, you'll now climb easily back up above Dunraven where, if you time it right, you'll witness the cliffs reflecting the pastel shades of sunset as you enjoy the final drop to the beach. It's a wonderful way to finish off an evening stroll.
The Glamorgan Heritage Coast was one of three pilot schemes set up in 1972 to protect the country's unique coastal landscapes and environments from destructive development. There are now 43 such areas in England and Wales, and in Wales they account for over 40 per cent of the total coastline. The aims of the scheme are fourfold; to maintain the ecological diversity, to provide public access and encourage recreational use, to protect the needs of the local population, including farmers and landowners, and to preserve the quality of the coastline. The Glamorgan Heritage Coast is managed by the Countryside Council for Wales which employs a professional ranger service to take care of the day-to-day running of the area.
Along the route you'll pass the Farmers Arms in St Bride's Major. This is a family oritenated pub that does good bar food and also has a separate restaurant (no dogs unfortunately). Another option is a short detour into Ogmore-by-Sea where there's plenty of choice from typical beach-side snacks such as chip shops and cafés.
Only a mile (1.6km) from Ogmore-by-Sea is Ogmore Castle, a 12th-century Norman fortification that lies in a pretty green valley and is reputed to be the place where King Arthur was fatally wounded. His body is said to buried in a cave near by. True or not, the ruins, which are very basic but incredibly atmospheric, are well worth a visit.
If the sea seems a long way out, it's worth remembering that the tidal flows in the Bristol Channel are the second largest in the world, with the differences between high and low water being well over 39ft (12m) on a high spring tide. The only larger tides are witnessed in Canada's Bay of Fundy.