There was a Roman fort on the Western banks of the river at Neath. There are very few remnants of the fort remaining. The fort was large enough to have housed a thousand men and their horses.
For a visitor to the area, of more interest will be the experience of walking the track that the Romans created and marched over. Stretching from Neath to Caernarfon in the north west of Wales, the route named Sarn Helen was created. The route is 150 miles in length. Sections of this route have become our modern roads. The route between the fort of Nidum at Neath and the Riscus fort at Banwen follows the high ridge above the Neath and Dulais valleys.
The best route to walk is the one from Banwen back in a southerly direction towards Neath. This route begins with a steep ascent followed by a long slow descent to Neath. To start the walk, travel by car along the A4109 from Glynneath, take the left turning along Roman Way. This is one long straight cul de sac of terraced houses that served the mining community. To the left along the Roman road is a turning into the DOVE Workshop. This is an educational centre with a cafe and car park, it is a good starting point.
Quickly walk back along Roman Way, to a plaque and stone that explains the possible connection with Saint Patrick. It is documented that St Patrick was the son of a priest. Living in the settlement of Bannavem Taburniae in 386 AD. St Patrick at the age of 16 was taken to Ireland.
Now, the journey and tale returns to the time of the Roman soldiers? There are several tracks heading up to the ridge where you can see wonderful panoramic views. Stop to look back at Banwen, view the landscape that the Romans will have viewed, that of unchanged Brecon Beacons Imagine the clatter of hooves and chariots on the cobbled pathway and savour the solitude. The town of Neath is in the foreground. Beyond Neath is Swansea Bay.
There are many variations in the pathways to climb up onto the ridge. Our advice is to select the steepest route. There are panoramic views to enjoy from high on the ridge. The distance from Banwen to Neath is approximately 10 miles. The footpath is over rough ground in sections.
The pathway reaches the valley floor down a gentle slope. As you descend on the footpath through the woodland the silence disappears. To be replaced by the sound of vehicles travelling the A465 (the current day equivalent of The Roman Road). You can walk in Roman footsteps by staying at Tan yr Eglwys Cottages.