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Owing to its close proximity to Cardiff most of the major roads in the county borough originate in the capital.
Running east-west the A48 runs through the centre portion of the Vale of Glamorgan between Cardiff and Bridgend passing along the northern edge of Cowbridge. The M4 motorway also runs east–west along the northern edge of the Vale linking the area to major cities such as London Bristol Newport and Swansea. Junctions 33 (Cardiff West) and 34 (Llantrisant) provide direct access to the Vale of Glamorgan.
The M4 is economically important to the county borough as it "facilitates the movements of goods and people" from the region to other areas of the UK enabling local firms "access to domestic and international markets." The county borough benefits from its location in the M4 technology corridor according to the Welsh Government.
Other major routes include:
A4050 - Cardiff Culverhouse Cross to Barry
A4055 - Cardiff Bay to Barry
A4160 - Cardiff City Centre to Penarth
A4226 - the A48 to Barry and Cardiff Airport
B4265 - Cardiff Airport to Bridgend (coast road)
The Vale of Glamorgan Line is the county borough's principal rail connection. The line runs between Cardiff Central and Bridgend with spurs to Barry Island and Penarth. All services on the line are operated by Transport for Wales linking the Vale directly to other areas of the capital region including Cardiff Queen Street Pontypridd and Merthyr Tydfil. Railway stations in the Vale of Glamorgan are:
The South Wales Main Line passes through the Vale but trains do not stop. The nearest stations on the South Wales Main Line are (from east to west): Cardiff Central; Pontyclun; Llanharan; Pencoed; Bridgend. Most services are operated by Transport for Wales but Bridgend and Cardiff are additionally served by Great Western Railway services between Swansea and London Paddington. Cardiff Central is further served by Great Western Railway services to destinations in South West England and CrossCountry services to the Midlands.
The Barry Tourist Railway is a short heritage railway and museum on Barry Island.
Bus services in the Vale of Glamorgan are principally operated by New Adventure Travel (NAT) and Cardiff Bus. Routes which run across the Vale include:
95 - Barry to Cardiff (Cardiff Bus)
303/304 - Bridgend to Cardiff via Llantwit Major St Athan and Barry (NAT)
T9 - Cardiff to Cardiff Airport (TrawsCymru)
X2 - Porthcawl to Cardiff via Bridgend and Cowbridge (First Cymru)
The Vale of Glamorgan Council operates a community 'on-demand' transport service in rural communities called Greenlinks.
Cardiff Airport is in the Vale of Glamorgan near Rhoose.
In 2019 Cardiff Airport claimed to have a £135 million direct economic benefit to the region. Destinations from Cardiff Airport include Alicante Amsterdam Anglesey Dublin and Doha. A "Masterplan" for the airport sets out the Welsh Government's ambition to grow the airport's passenger numbers and freight operations by 2040.
MOD St Athan is also situated in the Vale of Glamorgan.
Prior to 1974 the area was part of the county of Glamorgan or Glamorganshire. Between the 11th-century and 1536 the area was part of the Lordship of Glamorgan.
In medieval times the village of Cosmeston near what is today Penarth in the south east of the county grew up around a fortified manor house constructed sometime around the 12th century by the De Costentin family. The De Costentins who originated on the Cotentin peninsula in northern France were among the first Norman invaders of Wales in the early 12th century following William the Conqueror's invasion of neighbouring England in 1066. The village would have consisted of a number of small stone round houses or crofts with thatched roofs.
Clemenstone to the west was the seat of several high sheriffs of Glamorganshire including John Curre who was known have occupied the estate in 1712. William Curre known to have lived in Clemenstone in 1766 was also an occupant of Itton Court in Monmouthshire. In the early 19th century Lady Sale née Wynch wife of Sir Robert Sale spent much of her early life on the Clemenstone Estate.
In 1974 the area became part of South Glamorgan under the Local Government Act 1972. It created several problems in local governance between the South Glamorgan County Council Cardiff City Council and the Vale of Glamorgan Borough Council owing to their conflicting interests. It was a turbulent time for governance in the city of Cardiff as for the first time in its history it had to share authority with the county council which was larger and better resourced. In April 1996 the Vale of Glamorgan became a county borough (unitary authority) of Wales after forming part of South Glamorgan county.
Located immediately to the west of Cardiff between the M4 motorway and the Severn Estuary the Vale of Glamorgan covers 33 097 hectares (130 square miles) and has 53 km (33 mi) of coastline.
The largest centre of population is Barry (51 502 inhabitants). Other towns include Cowbridge (6 180) Dinas Powys (7 799) Llantwit Major (10 621) and Penarth (22 083). Much of the population inhabits villages hamlets and individual farms. The area is low-lying with a maximum height of 137.3 metres (450 ft) above sea level at Tair Onen to the east of Cowbridge.
The borough borders Cardiff to the north east Rhondda Cynon Taf to the north Bridgend to the north west and the Bristol Channel to the south.
The yellow-grey cliffs on the Glamorgan Heritage Coast (which stretches between Gileston and Ogmore-by-Sea) are unique on the Celtic Sea coastline (i.e. Cornwall Wales Ireland and Brittany) as they are formed of a combination of liassic limestone shale and carboniferous sandstone/limestone. They were formed 200 million years ago when the whole area lay underneath a warm shallow equatorial sea at the start of the Jurassic Era. Thus today the cliffs contain traces of Jurassic sea creatures such as ammonites. The stratification of overlapping shale sandstone and limestone was caused by a geological upheaval known as the Variscan orogeny which pushed the cliffs out of the sea contorting them as they did so. This stratification can also be found on other parts of the Celtic seaboard such as Bude in Cornwall across the Bristol Channel. The calcium carbonate (limestone) in the soil allows crops to be grown which would be difficult elsewhere in Wales or the West Country: most of the West Country has poor quality and mainly acidic Devonian soils). The liassic limestone and carboniferous sandstone are also used in the Vale as building materials; in previous centuries it was taken by sloops across the Bristol Channel to North Cornish ports such as Bude Boscastle and Port Isaac to fertilise Cornwall's poor slate soils; the hard Devonian slate was brought back from Cornwall as a roofing material for houses in the Vale.
As the Glamorgan Heritage Coast faces westwards out to the Atlantic it bears the brunt of onshore (westerly and south-westerly) winds: ideal for surfing but a nuisance for ships sailing up the Bristol Channel to Cardiff. As in North Cornwall and South-West Ireland the fierce Atlantic gales created ideal conditions for deliberate shipwrecking which until 100 years ago was very common along the coast (although shipwrecking was common across all the Celtic Sea). Nash Point Southerndown and Ogmore-by-Sea have some of the highest shipwreck victims on the coast of Wales; as recently as 1962 an oil tanker the BP Driver crashed into Nash Point during a violent westerly storm was torn to shreds by the reefs and eventually sank although the crew were saved by various Bristol Channel lifeboats and helicopters.
The Vale of Glamorgan was determined to be the wealthiest area in Wales in a 2003 survey conducted by Barclays Bank that measured disposable income. Chemical industries are located to the east of the port of Barry while further inland the main activity is agriculture especially beef and dairy cattle with marketing facilities at Cowbridge.
The principal football club in the Vale is Barry Town United F.C. which play their home games at Jenner Park Stadium in Barry. The club was founded in 1912 and enjoyed success in the 1990s when they won the League of Wales and the Welsh Cup. The club experienced declining fortunes in the following decade and were relegated to Welsh Football League Division Two but were promoted to Division One after winning the league in the 2014–15 season. In 2014 it was announced that Jenner Park stadium would undergo a £350 000 plus development with the laying of a synthetic pitch. There are several other smaller football clubs in the county such as Llantwit Major F.C. established in 1962 which competes in the Welsh Football League Division Three and Penarth Town AFC.
Rugby has a strong presence in the county though none of its clubs compete in the higher leagues. As of the 2015–6 season Penarth RFC competes in the WRU Division Three South East Llantwit Major RFC in WRU Division Four South East and Old Penarthians RFC and Cowbridge RFC in the WRU Division Five South East. Several of the clubs are feeders for Cardiff Blues.
There are cricket grounds in Cowbridge and Sully and several golf clubs including the Glamorganshire Southerndown and Wenvoe Castle clubs.
The Vale of Glamorgan is twinned with:
and has friendship agreements with:
See Listed buildings in the Vale of Glamorgan List of Scheduled Monuments in Vale of Glamorgan.
The Vale of Glamorgan UK parliament and Senedd constituencies (which do not include Penarth and Sully which are in the constituency of Cardiff South and Penarth) sway between Labour control and Conservative Party control in both the Senedd and Westminster. There is substantial Labour support in the east of the constituency and in the town of Barry and substantial Conservative support in the agricultural area in the west. Since 2017 there has been no overall political majority on Vale of Glamorgan Council
Villages and hamlets
The Vale of Glamorgan (Welsh: Bro Morgannwg [ˈbroː mɔrˈɡanʊɡ]) often referred to as The Vale is a county borough in Wales bordering Bridgend Cardiff and Rhondda Cynon Taf. With an economy based largely on agriculture and chemicals it is the southernmost unitary authority in Wales. Attractions include Barry Island Pleasure Park the Barry Tourist Railway Medieval wall paintings in St Cadoc's Church Llancarfan Porthkerry Park St Donat's Castle Cosmeston Lakes Country Park and Cosmeston Medieval Village.
The largest town is Barry. Other towns include Penarth Llantwit Major and Cowbridge. There are many villages in the county borough.