*in association with Visit the Vale and Vale Tales GPS Storytelling App
I know I’ve said it before on Cardiff Mummy Says, but sometimes (in fact, quite often) I’m completely blown away by the sheer beauty around us here in Wales. Beaches, hills, farmland, parks, castles – we have it all in abundance.
That jaw-dropping scenery is especially prevalent in the Vale of Glamorgan, with its combination of dramatic rocky coastline, sandy beaches and green farmland.
Growing up in Barry, it is familiar scenery for me, and I’ve loved introducing some of my favourite beauty spots to Cardiff Daddy (originally from Bristol) and our three children, Little Miss E, 7, Little Man O, 5½, and Toddler Boy I, 3. Now they’re getting older and able to walk further, we’re able to extend our adventures away from the easy routes and pathways and onto something a little more rugged and adventurous.
So when Visit the Vale asked us to put Vale Tales, their new GPS-triggered storytelling app to the test, we couldn’t wait to get started.
Celebrating Wales’ Year of Legends, the app and associated paper maps include 10 routes across the county. There’s a coast and lighthouse walk in Llantwit Major and Nash point; a Celtic crosses and coast walk in and around Llantwit major; a coast and pier walk in Barry, Sully and Penarth; and a magical forest walk in Peterston-Super-Ely, among others.
The paper maps are available from the Vale tourist points across the county but you can add a new dimension to your walk by downloading the app. Simply select your route and turn on the GPS to follow the route on your phone and unlock stories, myths and legends about the area.
There are 46 stories scattered across the 10 routes, including the tale of the white lady of St Athan who was buried up to her neck by her husband for being unfaithful, and the legend of the captain’s wife from Sully, whose dead body was kept in a box that was mistaken for treasure and stolen.
Some of the walks aren’t that child-friendly, at 7+ miles long. But a lot of the routes have shorter options which make them great for families. Many of them are also dog-friendly too.
All are narrated by Iolo Morganwg – or an actor pretending to be him, in any case! One of the Vale’s most famous residents, he lived from 1747-1826 and is renowned for his leading role in the eighteenth-century cultural renaissance of Wales. You can read more about him here.
Yesterday, we opted to learn more about one of our favourite places – Ogmore-by-Sea. We’ve explored the beach here, as well as the castle and river and so were looking forward to getting to know more of the area.
We knew there was no way our kids would do the full eight miles detailed in the guide, so we did the shorter 4-mile version. Well, actually, we added an extra mile because we wanted to park at Ogmore-by-sea beach (£5 all day) because we love it there. The Vale Tales GPS storytelling app suggests starting at St Bride’s Major and following a circular route.
We walked alongside the river, taking in the most beautiful views of the hills and dunes, before crossing through the fields of Ogmore Down, which were so peaceful and quiet and full of young lambs, skipping around. We unlocked a couple of the stories along the way, one in particular telling of a Welshman who poached from the Norman lords and was saved from painful torture by the princess daughter of the lord who owned the land.
We took quite a slow pace, with plenty of stops along the way, soon arriving at the quaint village of St Bride’s Major (the suggested starting point for the shorter route). From there, it was back across the Down and on to Ogmore Castle and its famous stepping stones.
My children love castles, so we spent quite a bit of time here. Built in the 12th century, the remains are quite impressive and you can see a lot of what would have been the different rooms of the castle.
The stepping stones across the river are a Scheduled Ancient Monument, which means they are considered a nationally important archaeological site or historic building, and are therefore protected against unauthorised change. It’s difficult to resist crossing over them, but younger children will need adult help to get across. Toddler got wet feet before deciding not to go any further, settling on throwing stones into the river instead.
I won’t lie – it was a long walk for my kids. Toddler spent a lot of time on Cardiff Daddy’s shoulders and Little Man complained a lot that he was tired. I’d brought along plenty of snacks to keep us going (nothing like a bit of chocolate to change the mood) and suggested playing a few games such as I Spy and a storytelling one where one person starts a story and then everyone takes a turn to add to it. This really helped, as did looking at the map on the phone, and listening to the stories.
We found it really easy to use, and the maps easy to follow. All the stories we listened to are now saved on the phone, meaning we can listen to them again at any time.
We’d been walking for two and a half hours at this point and I could tell my children were flagging, so Cardiff Daddy left me and the kids at the castle and ran the mile or so back to the car. He’s in training for the Welsh three peaks later this year, so this was a welcome bonus fitness boost for him – and it meant the rest of us got to explore the ruins a little more.
The full walk also takes you up to Dunraven Bay (read our review of the beach here), through the walled gardens. There’s one story to unlock here. But if you wanted an easier, shorter walk you could just head straight there.
The Vale Tales GPS Storytelling App is available to download for free. You can pick up the accompanying maps at tourist points across the Vale, download them online, or contact Vale tourism directly, who will send the maps out to you. You can call 01446 704867 or email firstname.lastname@example.org – and do please let them know you saw it on Cardiff Mummy Says!
Walk 1 Ogmore-by-Sea Walk
Walk 2 Coast and Lighthouse Walk
Walk 3 Celtic Crosses and Coast
Walk 4 Park and Seaside Walk
Walk 5 Coast and Pier Walk
Walk 6 Salmon Leaps Walk
Walk 7 Haunted Field Walk
Walk 8 Magical Forest Walk
Walk 9 Iolo Morganwg Walk
Walk 10 Ewenny and Spring Flower Walk