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A well-recommended holiday camping experience by a beach in The Gower Peninsula, Wales

Updated on August 20, 2013
View of Hillend caravan and campsite from the hill
View of Hillend caravan and campsite from the hill | Source

In April last year Ashley (my fiancé) and I decided to take a short camping break in the UK. We picked the much-loved area of the Welsh coastline that is known as ‘The Gower’ as our destination, as we had heard a lot about it from other camping enthusiasts. To be specific, we booked ourselves in to a campsite in the dunes at Rhossili bay called Hill’s End. This beautiful spot lies just along the beach from the famous ‘Worm’s Head’ which is a protrusion that sticks out from the Welsh coastline into its wind-whipped seas.

This is a part of Britain that is well known for both its outstanding natural beauty and its bio-diversity. So it was then, that we made our home in the dunes there for three days and two nights.

Rhossili bay

View of Worm's Head from the hill at Rhossili bay
View of Worm's Head from the hill at Rhossili bay | Source
Some of the impressive rock formations at Three Cliffs Bay
Some of the impressive rock formations at Three Cliffs Bay | Source
View up towards the campsite from the beach at Three Cliffs Bay
View up towards the campsite from the beach at Three Cliffs Bay | Source

The Journey

When driving to the campsite in my battered old Suzuki Vitara, we passed through some quite stunning countryside. Sheep were grazing in fields to the left and right of us, the sea could finally be seen between hills glinting in the near distance, and wild horses were roaming in moor-land around us to the surprisingly apt soundtrack by the Rolling Stones (yes we did listen to ‘Wild Horses’ while driving past wild horses – pure coincidence I assure you).

On our way to Rhossili, we stopped off at another campsite to check out a view that I highly recommend. When I say stopped off, I actually mean snuck into… but what’s a sneak peek between tourists, eh? In fact, if you don’t mind a longer (and steeper) walk to the beach, then Three Cliffs Bay is well worth a look in. The campsite is situated amongst some fields at the top of a cliff that overlooks the bay itself and the vista you wake up to is quite simply breath-taking.

After gazing at the cave-bedecked cliffs and turquoise blue waters for some time in a daze, we adjusted our sunglasses, had a drink, and got back on the road. Hillend campsite is maybe a 20/30 min drive further up the coast from Three Cliffs, with more fields, sheep, horses and rolling countryside to keep your greedy eyes stimulated en-route. We were lucky with the weather and had the car top down. The sun was shining and hot despite it being only April, and the smell of the sea and the heather combined in the breeze to create a delicious natural perfume. Instantly the stresses of working life dropped away from us. It is a sign of a good holiday destination when the mere smell of the place helps you escape from your worries.

You have to navigate some intensely narrow country roads as you are approaching the place itself, with steep green verges that are reminiscent of some roads in Cornwall or Brittany. It all adds to the building holiday atmosphere. When we arrived at Hillend we were guided over a cattlegrid next to a wooden single story building by a fellow in a high-vis jacket. We plumped for the corner of a field right up against the dunes next to a verdant grass verge on the other side of which was the stony path that led down to the beach.

My representation of the monstrous tent emerging from its bag. Pretty true to life I reckon...
My representation of the monstrous tent emerging from its bag. Pretty true to life I reckon... | Source

As the titanic beast that was our tent emerged from its bulging bag like a monstrous hydra, we began to realise we might be a little out of our depth. We were finally forced to pressgang nearby campers into helping us complete it under the light of several torches. Finally, with our happy helpers sent on their merry way with some bottles of beer for thanks, we found ourselves ensconced in the comfort of our cavernous new tent. One final flurry of activity saw us sitting with smiles on faces, glasses of wine in hand as a gentle sea breeze hummed lullabies at us through the thrumming guide-ropes. Sleep soon followed.

Day 2

The next morning came quickly and we are early risers when on holiday, so soon availed ourselves of the campsites powerful heated showers before gathering a picnic, towels and books, and heading to the beach. The beach itself is both long and wide, stretching a good couple of miles from Hillend campsite to the base of Worm’s Head. The sand was fine and warm beneath our feet and the distant waves rumbled in a pleasantly hypnotic sonic backdrop.

The plan was to walk to Worm’s Head and take in the sights there before heading back along the path that runs along the foot of the impressive hill behind the beach. The path itself has a steep sandy cliff leading down to the beach along its length on one side, and on the other there are meadows that gently incline for a few hundred yards before rising steeply to the summit of the hill itself.

The walk was as stunning as we could have hoped. The landscape, sights and sounds were all entrancing. The air was redolent of the coming summer. Birds wheeled overhead, children played in the sand and dogs sprinted up and down the surf making a nuisance of themselves.

Source

We had our picnic sat in a meadow halfway along the path back to the campsite surrounded by wildflowers as a herd of horses grazed not far from where we sat. Our view was of the beach, Worms Head, and the Ocean into which it sticks out abruptly, looking for all the world like some giant fossilised sea monster; awesome in the true sense of the word.

We rounded off the day with a barbeque beside our tent drinking mojitos made cold with ice that could be bought by the bag at the pleasingly comprehensive campsite shop.

And here is some silly swim-wear I found earlier. I need those stripes in my life!
And here is some silly swim-wear I found earlier. I need those stripes in my life! | Source

Day 3

The following morning was sunny again and there was less of a chill breeze so we plucked up the courage to get in the sea. It was delightfully refreshing, (read cold) but in seriousness though, I love swimming in the sea and genuinely prefer cold oceanic waters to warm Mediterranean ones – I mean, what could be better on a hot day? Swimming in the sea is a must on a beach holiday whether you are in the Bahamas or Brighton. I don’t care how silly you look in your swimwear – you have to do it!

Later in the afternoon we hit upon the crazy idea that we wanted to make our own sushi and to that end we went to the nearby seaside town of Mumbles and visited their produce market which had a superb fishmongers section. We gathered the necessary bits and pieces and then later that evening with the sun still high in the sky Ash showed me how to make sushi. Food is one of my great passions in life and it is a passion I share with Ash. We have a joint flare in the kitchen and we do not stop putting the effort in just because there is no hob or oven. We take all the herbs, spices and accoutrements that we might need when we go camping. With regards to our sushi effort that day… I was impressed. Its fair to say when eating raw fish that it is so much better fresh and it is simply that much fresher on the coast.

Day 4 (Leaving)

The following morning we took ourselves down to the beach with not a soul around and had a skinny dip as the sun was just starting to rise. Apart from the embarrassing side effects such temperatures of water have – it was a thoroughly enlivening experience.

With that amazing start to our final day under our belts we headed back to the campsite and cooked up some smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on the barbeque before getting the back of our packing broken. Amidst the flurry of activity Ash’s foot began to swell up and it was soon apparent that she had stepped on the one spine fish that had chosen to poke its head out of its front door that day. Much as I was sorry for Ash, I had to feel sorry for the poor bugger she stood on. Let’s be fair – if I was a fish and someone had the bad grace to stand on my head I think I’d bring my poisonous spine to bare on the situation too. Now, next, I don’t know if it was out of some kind of subconscious sympathy, but I somehow managed that lunchtime to sizzle a fair portion of skin off my own foot from the metal casing of the barbeque not two hours later.

I wouldn’t relay these irritations were it not for the desire to say how helpful and sympathetic the staff at the campsite were with regard to our injuries. They barely had to be asked before they happily doled out the burn spray and antiseptic cream in plentiful supply. They didn’t even mind when (beach addicted numpties that we are) we got our dressings sandy and had to come back for more.

We left Hillend late that afternoon with throbbing feet, but big grins and sunblushed skin. I can tell you now that we will be going there again and I hope you readers can get back to me with any of your own experiences in The Gower in the comment section below.

A couple of snaps from a more recent trip :)

My wife and I are fans of temporary art and sacred geometry. I made this fibonaci spiral with towered stones and seaweed on Rhossili beach :)
My wife and I are fans of temporary art and sacred geometry. I made this fibonaci spiral with towered stones and seaweed on Rhossili beach :) | Source
This is my wife's homage to the art of Chris Drury - also on the beach at Rhossili at about 6 in the morning.
This is my wife's homage to the art of Chris Drury - also on the beach at Rhossili at about 6 in the morning. | Source

Something a bit more Englandy...

As you have probably already picked up, I am a bit of a country lover (though I love the city when the mood is on me too). My home is smack in the Cotswolds, one of the most beautiful and picturesque places in the UK. Not only that, there are layers and layers of history to the place - stories and monuments to ages past adorn the place like so much lint. Due to my love of it, I've started a little series relating the pleasures of walking in the Cotswolds and checking out its past via the monuments and archeological sites along the routes of my chosen walks. The links are below.

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    • Suzie HQ profile image

      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Dan,

      What a great trip you brought us here! I know the Gower area, Mumbles . . . . oh such a wonderful part of the world! I stayed with a Welsh friend I met in Prague and she introduced me to this beautiful part of Wales. Loved reading your trip and your style of writing. Your part of the world in The Cotswolds is another beauty. Congrats, voted++++ shared!

    • Dan Barfield profile image
      Author

      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Many thanks! :)

    • Dan Barfield profile image
      Author

      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Thanks for the comment Highland Terrier!

      Nothing beats a raw open-air experience of a holiday like camping - and the Gower is a hell of a place to do it. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. :)

    • Highland Terrier profile image

      Highland Terrier 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Every nice, sounds like fun.

      Interesting adds about camp sites on your hub which were also very useful.

      Thanks.

      p.s might try the one in wales.

    • Highland Terrier profile image

      Highland Terrier 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Got to say I am no camper but you may it sound wonderful.

      You have a real talent for the writing. It just seems to flow along.

      Excellent.

    • 2patricias profile image

      2patricias 5 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      Fun hub - I've put up a link from my Hub on the National Botanic Garden of Wales.

      I've been to Worm's Head many times - usually in the rain.

    • Sally's Trove profile image

      Sherri 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      What a delightful read! Next time you two lovebirds decide to go swimming in the sea, perhaps invest in some water shoes? They'll look kind of funny if they are the only article of clothing you are wearing, but if they keep a foot safe from a spine fish retaliating, then they're worth the (additional) embarrassment. ;) Up, funny, interesting.

    • Mrs Jil Manning profile image

      Mrs Jil Manning 5 years ago from Sussex, England

      That's great Dan, keep writing!

    • Dan Barfield profile image
      Author

      Dan Barfield 5 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Thankyou so much for the response Jil. I am encouraged to write more :)

    • Mrs Jil Manning profile image

      Mrs Jil Manning 5 years ago from Sussex, England

      What a beautiful picture of Worm's head across the Bristo Channel to lovely North Devon. Thank you for this really in-depth and helpful description Dan. I have ditched my monstrous hydra of a tent and bought a caravan and I am very tempted to make this trip.