“ Ever needed to just get away, but you can't go for too long? Please tell us about your short breaks away (e.g. day trips, road trips or weekend breaks), whether it be for ultimate relaxation, or to be active and practice hobbies you may have (fishing, „
I lived in Swansea for three years between 1999-2002 while I was an undergraduate student. Clearly it wasn't all work and alot of my 'play' time was spent exploring the Gower Peninsula. A stunning and relatively unknown little gem tucked away in South Wales, The Gower was the first place in Britain to be designated as an 'Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty' in 1949 and it truly lives up to this honour.
Getting there and Away.
You can get to the Gower in between 20 minutes and a hour from Swansea, if you're driving, depending on which bit you want to go to. Buses also run but these are sporadic and unreliable. You'd really be much better off in a car. The roads are good, although they are generally single track and wind back and forth which can make for slow progress should you get stuck behind a bus or a tractor. There are parking facilities available at all of the main beaches and the rates are generally very reasonable.
You can easily spend a few days driving around, walking along the beaches, paddling in the sea, surfing if thats your thing or exploring rock pools. Or if you get bored of the beach (yeah right) potter amongst some of the quaint villages, castles, medieval churches and standing stones. Or take a walk away from the coast amongst the hills, commons and woodland, stopping for lunch in one of the many pubs that are dotted here and there! I'd recommend the Gower Inn myself for great homemade lunches for a good price.
The Coastline from Mumbles.
There are numerous sandy beaches and rocky coves around the headland from Swansea Bay, past Mumbles. The first of these is Bracelet Bay, a pretty cove from which the mumbles lighthouse can be seen. There is a great Italian restaurant here overlooking the bay and the sea and it is very good value although the name escapes me. Limeslade, Langland and Caswell Bay can all be found further along the coastline and all are worth a look. These are also the nearest bays to Swansea and it will only take 15 minutes or so to drive to from the City. If you fancy a stroll take the cliff path that joins these bays, or walk around the headland from Mumbles it won't take long, it isn't too steep and it really is lovely. Mumbles is also a lovely place to stop to browse the shops, to admire the boats in the harbour or for a bite of lunch.
The best beaches are further afield on the far side of the Gower peninsula. Three Cliffs, also known as Oxwich Bay, and Rossily are the best beaches and I can't choose a favourite between the two as they are both stunning.
THREE CLIFFS AND OXWICH
Three Cliffs Bay is aptly named after the three prominent granite cliff peaks which jut out into the sea from the bay. The beach itself is called Oxwich and is long and sweeping, with expansive sand dunes and a number of rocky caves at the far end. Oxwich Bay is favoured by families for its parking facilities and shops.
WORMS HEAD AND ROSILLI BAY.
Rosilli bay is an enormous stretch of perfect white sands, three miles wide when the tide is out and backed by cliffs which rise 200 feet high. Beware it is a long walk down and it isn't fun on the way back up! The Southern end of the bay is marked by an elongated island known as 'Worm's Head' which points for a mile out to sea. The frame of an 1887 coaster wreck, "Helvetia", is visible in the sands from this end. The Northern end of the bay is rockier and flatter and is known as Llangennith, which is popular with surfers year-round. Rosilli is stunning any time of year, even in the winter and you'll be amazed at how far out the tide can go!
There are too many other beaches to discuss them all and anyway these are the best ones! But there are a couple of other interesting features which I'd like to point out!
The most famous of the Gower caves, only accessible at low tide. The narrow entrance leads to a roomy chamber. During excavations in 1924 and 1931, the skeletal remains of over 40 humans were found here. This place is definitely worth a trip!
The castle itself, abandoned in 1400, is in ruins but the remains stand to the East of Three Cliffs. The real reason to go here is for the view! imagine the scene. A river meanders its way back and forth along the valley floor amongst the woodlands to the sea, the sky is clear and blue against a backdrop of sea. The castle ruins stands proud surveying this scene. definitely one of the most beautiful views in the country.
Also worthy of a mention are the views whcih can be obtained from the high ground in the centre of the Gower, where, in places you get a 360degree view. Inland from the coast there are also many paths and trails through woodlands and valleys, alongside streams and through fields of wild flowers and heather. Although the beaches are the most stunning and well known aspects of the Gower a trip inland may also be worthwhile.
Somewhere to Stay.
As a city Swansea isn't amazing, so you'd be better to stay on the Gower itself if you can or in mumbles if you would rather be nearer to local ammenities. There are loads of B&B's, hotels, guest-houses and campsites. In addition there is a YHA hostel at Port Eynon which is a rocky beach, good for rock-pooling, I have not discussed here.
For more information about holidaying on the Gower check out http://www.the-gower.com/
The Gower Peninsula is a gorgeous, faultless part of Britain, that everyone should go and visit. Ideally during the Summer when you can get your shorts out, go for a paddle and bask in the beauty of the British coastline.
Easily five out of five from me!
Can you keep a secret? Im asking this because I have wanted for a long time to introduce you to one of South Wales best kept secrets, The Gower Peninsula. In my heart I want it to remain, as Ive always known it, an untouched part of Wales without all the trappings of commercialisation. Yet every year more people are drawn to this place with its many beautiful beaches and its air of a place unspoilt by time. Im going to take you on a journey of exploration referring sometimes to its history but always keeping in mind that to set foot here the traveller must conform to the restrictions placed on the area by the National Trust.
Its not a large place but due to its wild and windswept moors it can take the traveller up to an hour to reach its furthermost point where the estuary of the River Burry flows into Broughton Bay and Whiteford sands. There are no main roads on the Gower just little B roads where traffic can come to a standstill in the months of high summer. Coaches have to follow the winding roads to reach the many beaches and hidden coves. The best way to reach the Gower is to go through Swansea passing by the Mumbles and taking a right turn to start following the one major road, which crosses the moors of Cefyn Bryn on the way to the magnificent beaches. Swansea has one small airfield based on the Gower, the majority of planes touch down at Cardiff but travelling along the road you see the planes flying overhead, some going to and from Cardiff but others are chartered flights taking people on an overhead tour of the area.
There is a reason why the Gower is still a quiet place as there are over fourteen nature reserves protecting this coastline. Designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) in the 1950s the coast is protected along with the flora and fauna. Its an old land dating back to the Lower Palaeolithic period (250,000BC) with a soft, temperate climate unusual in an area that is surrounded by the Bristol Channel and the Atlantic Ocean.
Life here has gone on in much the same way throughout history the Romans came and found little to destroy just some hill forts dating back to the 6th century BC. (You can see the remains of some now). They left a few castles that are now in ruins and went on to more profitable areas in Wales. The Vikings invaded but left little of their presence here. The ordinary people went about their own business using the Welsh coracles to gather fish from the sea.
Inland you find many standing stones but their origins are lost in the mists of time as are the ancient caves, which are dotted throughout the area. There are over forty of these, which have yielded up a treasure trove of ancient history. In one cave alone over forty skeletons were found along with the remains of eleven Bronze Age burial urns. In other caves the fossilised remains were found of the hyena, reindeer, mammoths and the woolly Rhinoceros. Clearly this was once a site of tremendous importance. Many of the caves are protected because of their geological importance but others are the habitat of many species of endangered bats.
People interested in conservation will find the nature reserves of particular interest, a safe haven for the many species of mammals (otters and seals), insects, birds, flowers, herbs and the conservation of the coastland with its marshes, swamps, freshwater lakes, salt marshes, dunes, cliffs and woodland. Students, trained volunteers and experts alike strive to keep the sea from encroaching on the land.
For the ordinary tourist this may be of little interest except for the fact that driving (or walking) along the coast every twist and turn in the road reveals superb scenery and often near-deserted beaches. Starting at the Mumbles the coastline reveals the more commercialised resorts, Bracelet Bay, Limeslade Bay, Langland Bay and Caswell Bay. The old beach-huts are still in evidence here at Caswell Bay and there are plenty of activities for the children with donkey-rides, candyfloss and fish& chips. There are pubs and a few clubs and for the bored family there is always Swansea near to hand with all the attractions a child needs. There are funfairs, nightly entertainment and parks to play in.
I prefer the loneliness of the sea and sky and scrambling down the rocks to find peaceful coves where you can sunbathe in privacy or just be alone with only the sounds of the sea and gulls overhead to disturb your solitude. Three Cliffs Bay is ideal for this although Im past the stage when I can attempt the half-mile walk. Instead I carry on until I reach Oxwich Bay the second largest and the flattest beach to reach. There is little to see here although the car parks are very cheap with toilets on site and a few stalls selling ice cream, snacks and cups of tea. Although Oxwich is the site of one of the larger Nature Reserves the beach is a place where you can swim, stroll along the water and even have a small barbeque on the beach as long as you take care to keep the sand dunes free of debris as the erosion here is very evident. The beach is clean with many bins to put your rubbish in, the sand is golden and mostly the sea is clear. Occasionally you may find jellyfish including the Portuguese Manowar, which is poisonous and therefore to be avoided but mostly this is a safe family beach with long stretches of sand where you can play with Frisbees, have a game of volley-ball or do some gentle surfboarding. There are quite a few caravan sites here that cater for families and couples alike. Its a good touring base with most beaches and inland sites just a few miles away. Oxwich castle is small but on certain nights there are several shows to delight adults and children, poetry readings, story telling, ghost stories and local bands all add to the wonder of outdoor entertainment with a barn nearby in case of rain.
Just around from Oxwich Bay are Horton and Port Eynon just a small distance from one to the other. Horton has one of the best camping and caravan sites with hook-ups for electricity and onsite entertainment besides an outdoor swimming pool. The beach is down a short path and a short walk will take you into Port Eynon with many shops and a few pubs. It may not be the most beautiful of beaches but it makes up in convenience what it lacks in beauty. Its also the cheapest site for camping and caravans with plenty of room on site. The shower-blocks are clean and plentiful with sockets for shaving. The club is quite large for such a remote place and will sell drink to take away although Port Eynon is cheaper. I spent four days here and thoroughly enjoyed myself.
A short drive from here leads to my favourite beach Rhosilli as you take the turn to the bay the landscape seems remote and an almost eerie silence descends on you. This is, to me, the most atmospheric part of the Gower. Its a high part of the Gower and the road twists and turns until suddenly the most amazing sight is in front of you. A short bend in the road takes you into the cliff top car park that overlooks three miles of golden sand. Every time I see it (and Ive been there many times), my heart leaps with joy as the sea pours into this wonderful bay with the white foam-tipped waves crashing majestically onto the shore. Ive yet to find a beach anywhere in the world that matches Rhosilli its remote yet near to all that is good and wholesome. Three miles of beach and sand dunes awaits you but the only way to reach it is by a long paved path from the cliffs to the beach but there are many places to stop on the way where you can sit and drink in the sights and the smell of greenery and the wild garlic plants that grow here.
This is a surfing beach with the Atlantic sea pounding the shore but on a calm day you can still swim basking in the sheer delight of the waves as they carry you safely to the shore. Its also a place where Para-gliders take their chances on the breeze a feat of daring but also a thrill to watch when the brightly-coloured parachutes descend from the cliff tops carrying its passenger safely to ground. There is a small camping site near here but its a short way from the beach down a narrow path at the far end of the beach. I havent stayed here but my daughter has and really enjoyed her stay. Because of the towering cliffs early mists linger on the beach but disappear as the sun rises overhead, a warning to topless sunbathers (like myself) to be very careful as often when the tide is in you may find anglers a mere hundred yards away from you and not hear a sound at all!
From the headland you may walk for miles and see one of the Gowers most photographed landmarks, Worms head. This is a line of rock jutting out into the Ocean and does indeed resemble a worm or with a touch of imagination a mythical beast such as the Lock Ness monster. Its worth the walk to stand at the carved stone with pointers inscribed with the miles to distant stores. For the amateur or professional photographer the sunsets here are ever changing and provide a different sense of glory with each season.
Rhosilli is a dead end so you have to go back inland if you want to carry on to the far end of the Gower and the bays to be found here. You need to drive carefully though as the roads are very minor and often peter out leaving you to walk the rest of the way. Although the sights are worth it I prefer to stay around the beaches I know best.
Drive inland and visit Arthurs Stone or visit Weobley castle on the far side of the Gower. Drive (or walk) through the many picturesque villages and watch craftsmen at work or stroll through the villages and buy local pottery, old postcards and learn a little of history. The people are very friendly (as are many of the Welsh people) and are pleased that you chose to visit their village. You wont find any large tourist attractions but you will find sleepy little places where the pace of life is still slow. Dogs should be kept on lead at all times and some of the beaches ban dogs altogether because of the wild-life so check this out before your visit.
If your ideal meal is a big Mac and fries you need to stay in Swansea as most of the Gowers small restaurants and pubs concentrate more on good home-cooked meals. Most of the larger pubs cater for children with outdoor seating and play-areas. One of my favourite places is The Gower Inn but Im just as happy sitting by the sea eating fish and chips from a paper bag with last weeks newspaper to keep them warm! Most campsites have a small shop on site but the trip into Swansea is the best way to stock up on essentials if you are camping. There is nothing quite like the smell of eggs, bacon and sausages cooked on a camping stove to make your mouth water.
Accommodation should be booked well in advance although I have found the camping sites will often have a few vacancies even in the high season. Some of the more expensive but idyllic places to stay are in the many converted houses, cottages and even barns. A group booking for say six to eight people will spread the cost and give you some privacy. The standards are very high with many properties catering for the non-smokers I went to look over one such place a short while ago in anticipation of having a holiday with my new in-laws which has been set back by the birth of grandson.
I once stayed in a caravan site a long while back with my parents when my daughter was young. It was one of the happiest memories I have of my parents together on holiday and doubly precious to me now they have both been dead for a while. There were a lovely couple staying there with their two-year son, they had come all the way from Switzerland to visit Wales considering this was over thirty years ago it was a miracle they had even heard of the Gower when many Welsh people rarely visit it preferring the brash resorts of Barry Island and Porthcawl.
As you may guess my heart belongs to this particular area with its unspoilt landscape and so many beautiful beaches. Ive given you a mere taster, as there are so many tiny beaches and quiet coves to discover for yourself. Call it an Aperitif rather than the main course. I would love you to visit and to discover for yourself the many places and experiences I have left out of my review. Swansea is about 60 miles from where I live and on a weekday I can reach the Gower within about two hours by car. Ive had so many day-trips there, spent holidays camping or in a caravan. I love taking guests there and watching their faces as they see each new vista unfold. My daughter practically grew up here in the summer months as I took her and my niece on day-trips every weekend I could spare. As they both grew older they learnt about the values of history and the preservation of both our National heritage and the many species of animal life that are protected from extinction.
My one regret is the lack of up-to-date photos I have of the Gower, after a while I didnt need a camera to record every moment I spent here. It lives on in my heart and soul as the one place I am at peace with myself. Wonderful summer days leading into glorious sunsets with my young charges flushed from the sun and sea air. Singing songs in the car on the journey home littered with pebbles and driftwood which usually soon became abandoned although I did once for a while paint pictures on the larger pebbles to present as gifts to my family and friends. Later on in life I travelled here with my friend Ann when my heart was heavy with depression and walking along the deserted beach with solitude surrounding us our troubles were set aside for a long while. It was here that I spent a short time with my daughter before she left for University walking barefoot on the beach as the sun was setting I felt that permanence of our love which would carry us both through our long separations. Its still beautiful even in autumn and winter when the waves crash on the shores and the breezes blow the cobwebs away. Its also a good time to book ahead as the properties soon get booked up.
There are many web-sites to visit which will give an overview of the Gower experience but there was one in particular that I found invaluable from accommodation to beaches, local events and full descriptions of villages and attractions. This is www.the-gower.com, an award winning site belonging to a lovely lady who originally visited the area from Yorkshire when she was a young girl guide. Years later she returned to live here and she is actively involved with the conservation of the area.
I hope I have persuaded you to visit this unique part of Wales, a little gem that deserves to be revered by many generations to come. Treat it with respect and you will return home with many happy memories. From families to couples, walkers, sportsmen, bird-watchers, conservationists I guarantee your holiday will leave you refreshed and ready to face anything.
Thanks for reading,
Lisa © October 2005.