St Donats sits in the Vale of Glamorgan on the south coast of Wales. Bridgend is 9 miles to the north west, whilst the capital city of Cardiff can be found 21 miles to the north east.
The village is located on the Glamorgan Heritage Coast, and the Valeways Heritage Trail traces its route through the village en-route from Marcross in the west, to Llantwit Major in the east.
The village and parish church are named after the 6th century saint, Dunwyd, The church lies in the shadow of the medieval castle which shares its name, itself a very historic building. St Donats church is believed to date back to circa 1100, and it was extended and rebuilt circa 1300 with some further extensions in the 15th Century. The 16th Century Lady Chapel, converted to the Stradling Chapel in late 16th Century, contains tombs and sculptured memorials of the Stradling family. The Stradlings were an important and powerful family in the area, having owned the castle.
Two Calvary crosses stand in the churchyard, one being late 19th Century and the other dating back to the 15th century. The church contains a number of Norman features, including a Norman font, and is distinguished by its Victorian stained glass. It is a Grade I listed building.
St Donats Castle has a somewhat complicated history. The village was held by the de Haweys family in the 13th century. The young heiress, Joan de Hawey, married Sir Peter de Stradling and it is believed he died some time after 1296. Therefore it was either his sons or Joan's second husband John de Pembridge who built St Donat's castle.
Later in 1611, John Stradling became a baronet. During the Civil War the Stradlings fought for King Charles and one member was leader of the Royalist force, who were defeated at St Fagans by 1648. In 1738, the last male heir, Sir Thomas Stradling, was killed in a battle in Montpellier, France.
The castle was passed into the hands of Sir Thomas's cousin Bussey, the fourth Baron Mansell of Margam. When he died his estates were divided and in 1775, St Donat's castle passed to Sir John Tyrrhwitt. It remained neglected for several years until 1862 when Dr Nicholas-Carne, who was a descendant of the Stradlings, purchased the castle and restored it.
St Donats Castle was sold to Morgan Stuart Williams in 1901, and in 1922 was bought by Richard Pennoyer. However, he sold it in 1925 to American newspaper magnate and millionaire Randolph Hearst. Finally, in 1960 it was turned into a school known as Atlantic College, which still continues to occupy the castle today.