- Travel and Places
Gower, Wales - A Must Visit Location!
Gower - An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
Gower is a peninsula located on the south coast of Wales in the UK. Gower was the UK's first area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and as such it is a fantastic place to visit for a day, a weekend or for a full vacation.
I am lucky enough to live on the edge of Gower and visit regularly. Within this article I hope to tell you more about Gower and the fantastic things it has to offer.
Such a variety of subject matter.
Gower is a great place to go if you enjoy photography. The range of photographic subjects is huge, from the varied landscapes to the wildlife and architecture there will be something for everyone and certainly no shortage of subject matter.
All the photographs in this article were taken on Gower with a Sony Cybershot. I make no claim to being a great photographer, so just think about what you could achieve.
Outstanding Natural Beauty
In 1956, Gower was awarded the status of being the UK's first area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The reasons for this are due to the vast area of geographical feature in such a small area. There are sweeping beachs of golden sand, huge cliffs towering over the sea, rolling countryside, hills, moorland and marsh. The diversity of the area amazes everybody who visits.
Where is Gower? - How do you get there?
Gower is on the south coast of Wales. It is best reached by car, although this is not essential.
If travelling by car you should head down the M4 and exit somewhere between junction 42 and 47 depending on where you are going and where you are staying. Leaving at junction 42 will take you through Swansea to South Gower, junction 44 and 45 will also take you to South Gower without going through Swansea and junction 46 and 47 are best for North Gower. Once you are on the Gower penisular it is quite easy to travel between the various locations whether they are north or south. Most places in Gower are referred to as being either north or south.
Gower can be reached using public transport. Swansea is the place to head to either by rail (2.5 hrs from London) or by coach (3.5 - 4 hrs from London). Once at Swansea the local bus service can be used to reach a large portion of Gower.
Gower can also be reached by Air. You can fly into Swansea airport which is located in central Gower on Fairwood Common. There are very few flights into Gower so you will probably have to charter your own personal plane to do this. Catherine Zeta Jones and Micheal Douglas regularly fly in and out of Swansea airport when visiting their house in Mumbles.
Gower Visitors - How many people have been to Gower?
Just to get an idea of how many people reading this have actually been to Gower, perhaps you would like to answer the following question.
Have you been to Gower?
Many to choose from!
Gower has about 50 bays, coves and beaches of varying size and accessibility. From the huge expanse of Rhossili in the west to the tiny almost inaccessible coves that litter the south coast, there will be a beach to match everyones taste.
Gower Beaches - Caswell - Popular with both locals and tourists
Caswell beach is located on South Gower and is easy to get to either in the car or by bus. It is a great sandy beach sheltered by high outcrops of rock. There is a large carpark across the road from the beach which operates most of the year as a pay and display carpark.
Caswell is popular with locals who spend many hours there surfing and sunbathing. A local surf-school operates from a cabin at the head of the beach. The easy access is a factor in making this beach so popular.
Gower Beaches - Three Cliffs Bay - Quiet, Secluded, Stunning Scenery
Three Cliffs Bay is located further to the West on the South Gower coast. It is more difficult to get to and requires walking some distance down a steep path through some woodlands. It is a popular bay with locals, but less popular with visitors due to the poorer accessability.
Three Cliffs Bay gets its name from the three cliffs that edge the bay and separate it from Oxwich Bay further to the west. The largest of these cliffs pictured below is known as Great Tor.
In 2009, Three Cliffs Bay has been achieved the Blue Flag award. This is the benchmark award for quality beaches and is gauged by more than 30 different measures including water quality, beach cleanliness, facilities and many more.
Beach Shelter - Great for those trips to the beach.
If you visit a beach on Gower, you will notice loads of people have small beach shelters. These are very lightweight, quick and easy to put up, and provide a great shelter. If you find the midday sun a little hot you can use it as a sunshelter. Sometimes the wind can pick up a little, this shelter can then be used as a great windbreak. Finally many people use these little shelters to change in to swimwear, or wetsuits, no more fumbling under a towel!
We use one of these nearly every time we go to the beach. We find it especially good for keeping food and drink out of the direct sun and wind-blown sand.
Gower Beaches - Oxwich Bay - Long, Open, Sandy Bay
With car parking available right to the edge of the beach (west end, just beyond the end of the beach in the photograph above), Oxwich Bay can get very busy and is an extremely popular beach.
There are toilet and shower facilities along with a couple of shops and a cafe. There is also a boat slip to allow boat owners to launch boats and jet skis into the water, however the slip takes you on to the beach so consider whether your vehicle is suitable for sand driving. If you are looking for a quiet time, then this is not the beach for you! However if you want to go jet skiing, water skiing, sailing or surfing, then this beach could be ideal. Oxwich is also one of the few Gower beaches that allows dogs to be taken on to the beach during the summer months.
Parking at Oxwich Bay
If you arrive early enough you can park right at the edge of beach when you visit Oxwich Bay. the car park area does have hardcore mixed into the sand so that vehicles do not get stuck in soft sand.
It is also a popular location for clubs and friends to meet for social gatherings. This beautiful VW Camper Van was just one of many that were seen on the beach on one particular visit.
The great thing is that the beach is so big that there is plenty of room to accommodate everybody.
Gower Beaches - Port Eynon - Easy access and good car parking
Port Eynon is located on the South Gower coast at the end of the South Gower Road. It is the last main beach on the South Gower Coast that is easily accessible. A car park is available right next to the beach and the local bus service runs to the village.
Port Eynon is reasonably popular with local residents and families as it has good sand for a long stretch of beach, but also has rock pools that are ideal for children to explore.
There is a slip to allow watercraft to be launched, but this only takes you on to the beach so a suitable vehicle that is capable of being driven on the sand must be used.
There is a campsite above the beach with easy access to the beach and the cliff paths. Port Eynon village is located just off the beach and has a fish and chip shop, pub and small grocery store.
Checking the rock pools at Port Eynon is great fun for children, The huge variety of marine life that can found will keep children interested for hours. There are loads of easily accessed pools that younger children can explore safely with supervision of adults. There are also loads of larger rock pools that take a bit more agility to get to that can be explored by older children and adults. Exploring rock pools can be done at any time of year, the picture above was taken early in mid spring when it was warm enough to wear just a t-shirt, but too cold to sunbathe or swim in the sea.
Remember to respect the lifeforms that you encounter, do not harm them and try to leave the rock pools as you find them.
Gower Beaches - Rhossili & Llangennith - Huge, Quiet, Good Surf
Rhossili and Llangennith beaches are really the same long beach, with different parts named after the local villages, Rhossili to the south and Llangennith to the north. The beach is located at the western end of Gower and is accessed via the North Gower road although it is reasonably easy to access from the South Gower road as well. The beach is huge and there is always more than enough space to do whatever you want to do.
There is car parking available at Llangennith which is the most popular place to access the beach. There is a walk through the sand dunes to get to the beach. There is a boardwalk for the initial part of the walk but this only extends about halfway to the beach. Making this walk is very worthwhile as the open expanse of beach that meets you as you exit the dunes is breath taking.
You can also park at Rhossili and walk to the beach from there, however this is a longer walk down the cliffs so is only recommended for those fit enough to climb back up.
The immediate area around the exit from the dunes can become quite busy on hotter summer days and it is worth walking for a few minutes in either direction to find a better spot.
If you head to the north you will be heading towards Whitford Burrows which lies beyond the headland and is accessible at low tides. The north end of Llangennith is popular for sand surfing, power kiting and other extreme sports. The National Trust controls the area and dictates that these sports are only allowed to the North of the small river that crosses the beach. Having said this you are ok to fly childrens kites and smaller power kites anywhere on the beach providing you don't endanger anybody else.
Being as open to the Atlantic as anywhere on Gower, Rhossili and Llangenith are popular for surfing. The campsite at Llangennith is a popular place for surfers to gather at weekends and there are always going to be surfers in the water even if the surf is small.
You can learn to surf at Llangennith as a local surf school runs its lessons here.
Gower Power Kiting - Thrill a minute extreme sport
Power Kiting is growing in poularity everywhere. The north end of Llangennith beach has been declared an extreme sports area. This means that you can go there and enjoy yourself without regular beach goes complaining that your activities are affecting them in any way.
Check out this great video of Power Kiting on Gower.
Another view of Rhossili Bay.
Gower Beaches - Langland - Busy, Local, Good Surf
Langland is one of the most popular beaches on Gower. Good access, easy car parking, sand and surf all go to make this beach a hit with locals and visitors alike.
Located just a few miles from Mumbles, it is the best beach close to the local population. There is a row of beach huts, seen in the photograph above, which run along the bay and a small selection of beach front shops and cafes.
The geography of the bay means that the surf is usually good, and along with the easy access this makes it very popular with surfers.
The coastal path runs along the front of the bay and this is a popular place for people to start a walk along the cliffs.
For golfers, Langland Golf club overlooks the bay.
Gower Cliff Walks - Great in any weather!
Cliff walks around Gower are extremely popular. There are footpaths along much of the Gower coast especially the South coast.
The footpaths vary in quality and may be surfaced along popular stretches or nothing but a mud track in other areas. Access for wheelchairs and pushchairs (stollers) is limited but the paths either side of Langland Bay probably have the best access.
Care should be taken when walking the coastal paths as they can be uneven and slippery. There are also numerous locations where the path is right on the edge of the steep cliff. Young children should be supervised at all times and encouraged to stay on the path and not to climb on the rocks.
There is some spectacular scenery to be seen when walking the coastal paths, views of the bays can be particularly attractive as can be seen by some of the photographs presented here. Most people will walk the paths on fine weather days but even in bad weather you will see many people walking the paths watching huge waves pound the rocks. I spent many a winters day walking my dog along cliff tops in gale force winds. It can be surprisingly refreshing!
The picture above shows a section of the path near Caswell Bay. You can see that the surface is not bad, but is only earth which can get muddy and slippery when wet. Notice also a rare bit of safety fencing where the cliff edge is, be careful where there are no fences present!
Worms Head - Gower is not just about beaches
Worms Head is an outcrop of rock at the south west tip of Gower and can be reached from Rhossili. Car parking is available in a reasonably large car park on the headland. From the car park you can walk across the headland to the lifeguard lookout and then down the cliff to the causeway. Alternatively you can walk down the cliffs to the south end of Rhossili beach.
Worms Head is cut off from the mainland when the tide is high and many times a year people end up stranded on the outcrop waiting for the tide to go out again. There are plenty of warning notices and signs giving details of tide times and whether it is safe to venture out on to the causeway. If you should decide to have an adventure and cross to Worms Head be sure to return before the tide starts to come in. The tide is very fast and the side rush will sweep people off the causeway very quickly. My advice is, if you have left it too late, DO NOT try to beat the tide. Many people have lost their lives over the years by ignoring this basic advice.
If you do decide to take the trip it is definitely worth the effort. You get tremendous views of Rhossili beach and the head is home to many seabirds.
Fishing off Gower
Fishing is popular throughout Gower. You can either fish from the shore, from the pier at Mumbles or from a boat out on the water.
There are many boat owners who will take visitors on fishing trips. One of the best places to pick up a boat is Swansea Marina or the village of Mumbles.
Depending on where you decide to fish you could catch Bass, Garfish, Mackerel, Mullet, Flounder and Eels.
Beach fishing is popular on many of the Gower beaches especially so in the evening when most of the beach visitors have left. Fishing is good all year round.
Park Wood & Giants Grave
Park Wood is located near Parkmill which can be found on the South Gower road. Once a medievil deer park of the 'de breos' Lords of Gower, Park Wood contains a number of nationally important archaeological sites.
Parc le Breos Long Cairn - Giant's Grave
Giant's Grave is located below Cathole in Parc-le-Breos. It is a neolithic monument that was erected 4-6000 years ago for the communal burial of the dead. It was originally covered by a mound of stones which has now been partially restored. At the head of the cairn the walling extends to form a courtyard, beyond this a passageway leads into the cairn. The passageway is lined with limestone slabs and has two pairs of chambers to either side where human remains would have been deposited.
The remains of up to 40 men, women and children were left in the cairn. Some of the bones showed signs of weathering indicating that the bodies were exposed before the bones were interred. Other bodies would have been cremated. Several bodies were buried in the passageway many hundreds of years after the last bones were deposited in the chambers. Bones of pig, sheep, cattle, deer, dog and cat were also found during excavations between 1869 and 1960.
Llethrid Tooth Cave
This cave is located further up the valley and was used by Bronze Age people as a shelter and as a burial place for at least eight people. This cave should not be entered.
The limekiln was built in the mid 19th century to produce lime for improving the land and for use in mortar. The limestone was quarried from above the kiln and loaded, together with fuel, from the top of the kiln.
It is worth taking a walk up the valley through Park wood past Giant's Grave. This is a quiet area with interesting trees and some old timber works that still produce a small amount of charcoal. Depending of the speed you walk, it can take about an hour to walk up the valley and back again.
In Parkmill close to Park Wood and Giant's Grave you can find Gower Heritage Centre which is a rural life museum based around a working 12th century water-mill. There is a selection of craft shops, craft activities, play areas, and an animal farm with lambs, ducks, peacocks, rabbits, guinea pigs, goats and horses.
Cathole - Caves with bronze age remains.
Cathole is located in Park Wood. It overlooks the neolithic remains, commonly referred to locally as Giants Grave, Cathole is a small cave that can be easily explored without any special equipment. A short scamble up the slope brings you to the opening in the rock which when entered opens out into a cavern.
There is a second entrance that appears to be a window. This lets in natural sunlight to light up the interior. It is easy to imagine cavemen enjoying life in such a beautiful location. Indeed in 1958 a dig at the site unearthed flints, pottery and skeletons, some of which could have dated from the bronze age. These can now be seen at Swansea Museum.
If you take a torch with you, you can proceed through the main chamber into the secondary chamber where these remains were found. It is thought that the chamber could have been a burial chamber in times gone by.
Where to Stay? - 5 Star Hotel to camping, take your pick!
When it comes holiday accommodation you can pick anything from cheap and chearful campsites to 5 Star hotels. Much accommodation is located to the south and center of Gower where it is closer to the popular beaches. However there is accommodation all over Gower to suit all tastes. There are numerous campsites with varying facilities, with many located very near or close to some of the best beaches. The more adventurous campers may wish to set up camp in more remote areas, although the site in the photograph above is a little extreme!
Fairyhill is a five star hotel located in a charming eighteenth-century house of some style and distinction, set in twenty-four acres of grounds which contain mature woodland, a trout stream and a beautiful lake. Fairyhill is a very special hotel where a genuine welcome awaits - and where good food and the finest wines can be enjoyed without formality.
Parc le Breos House is a four star hotel located in Park Wood and about 20 minutes walk from Three Cliffs Bay. It is a beautifully appointed Victorian hunting lodge where you will find fresh flowers, pitch pine floors, crackling log fires and a distinctly laid-back style.
There are many more hotels to choose from spread all over Gower. Stay in Wales has a good selection to choose from.
Mumbles, just a few miles from Swansea city centre is home to numerous guesthouses and hotels. There are also many cottages available to rent on a self catering basis.
Self Cattering accommodation is also available all over Gower. Many farms have holiday cottages available to rent at reasonable rates with the added advantage of seeing a working farm in action.
Caravan and Camping Sites are too numerous to mention. Some are great with superb facilities whilst others provide the bare essentials. Towing a caravan or Mobile home through the narrow Gower lanes can be troublesome so if this is your preferred accommodation you may want to carefully consider the location you are staying at. There are some great caravan sites on the edge of Gower that are easily accessible from the motorway and still provide really good access to the whole of Gower and Swansea.
Gower Surfing - Surf all day long, the year round
Surfing is very popular on the Gower coastline. There is surf to suit everyone from absolute beginners to the more experienced surfers. There are a couple of Surf schools that operate on the Gower.
GSD Surf School operates mainly from Caswell Beach and has a range of courses to suit everyone including group sessions and one on one tuition.
Another school operating from Llangennith beach is Welsh Surfing Federation Surf School. They can offer lessons at all levels and will allow you to use your own equipment or hire equipment for the lesson.
The most popular beaches for surfing are Rhossili/Llangennith, Langland, Caswell and Oxwich. Surf will vary from beach to beach depending on the tide and wind direction. Surf conditions can be checked on local radio, try my favourite The Wave on 96.4FM. Live webcams are available for Llangennith and Langland.
Gower Surfing - You can even go to college to surf!
A local college in Swansea runs a surf course that gives you a surf qualification. Check out their promotional video.
Gower Extreme Surfing - Surfing with a difference!
Surfing, water boarding, call it what you want. This form of water sport is an exciting cross between surfing and water skiing. Watch this great video to find out more, then come to Gower to give it a go!
Surfboards - Ideal for beginners!
These foam surfboards are ideal for beginners. They are a little lighter, and won't hurt so much if you get hit by one in a wipe-out. Great for any beach with any kind of wave. If you just want something for the children to mess about on, then try one of these.
Gower Watersports - Need a wetsuit?
Outside the summer months the water temperature in the sea can get a little cold. Help children enjoy themselves more by getting them a wetsuit. This will keep them warmer and also allow them to enjoy any watersport they do even more.
My children have had wetsuits since they were very small and we have always had great use out of them and enjoyed our local beaches for a great part of the year.
Make sure you choose a wetsuit that is suitable for the activities you want to take part in and also for the time of the year. A shorty or summer wetsuit won't be good enough to keep you warm in the winter, I do know of some people who use two summer wetsuits in the winter and this usually provides them with sufficient protection.
Gower for Golfers
A wide choice of top class courses!
Golf is popular in Gower. Gower itself is home to 5 golf courses with many more within a short drive of Gower. Langland Bay Golf Club and Pennard Golf Club both have courses on the cliff tops with great views over the sea and local beaches. Fairwood Golf Club is positioned in the center of Gower. Gower Golf Club is the newest club on Gower and has great views looking to the North overlooking the estuary towars the Brecon Beacons. Clyne Golf Club is located in the south of Gower not too far from Swansea and Mumbles.
For the more casual golfer there is a par 3 course on Swansea seafront that is popular with families.
Gower Weather - Mild climate with good summers
Gower has a mild climate, good summer sun with temperatures being kept from getting too hot by atlantic breezes and mild winters. The picture above is just to show that we even get the occasional snow flurry.
The sun can be hot enough to allow beach sunbathing from April all the way through to September. Sun block should be used throughout the summer period, and you should be warned that sand temperatures can get hot enough to burn the unwary. Summer sunsets can be fantastic and provide even more photographic opportunities.
Water temperatures in the early part of the year suggest that you should wear a wet suit if you are entering the water for any length of time, but later in the year the sea is warm enough for swimming through into September and possibly even early October.
Unfortunately, the mild climate does mean that in some months Gower can get quite a bit of rain. Late Autumn, Winter and early Spring are times when rain can be expected at some time most weeks.
Getting Around Gower - Car, bus, bike, or walk - take your pick
Getting around Gower is easiest if you have a car. By car you can get anywhere in about 30 minutes. If you are based in Swansea you can access the North Gower and the South Gower roads easily. Even if you are on the south Gower coast you can cross to north Gower easily. The only disadvantages of using a car are the narrow lanes and parking. Gower was not designed for motor cars and suffers slightly from the many narrow lanes. Care has to be taken and speeds kept down when driving round bends with high hedgerows on either side. Also when you arrive at your destination parking is often limited and this may mean a slight walk from where you can park.
The local bus service is good and frequent, however stops are frequent and they do tend to take the long routes, so travel times can be quite a bit greater than traveling by car. One advantage of taking the bus is that you can then take time to look around you as you travel throughout Gower. During summer months there is a bus pass available known as The Gower Explorer that allows unlimited travel with as many stops as you want. This is available for as little as £3.70. This is great if you want to travel to one destination, walk the coastal path, or other route, and pick up the bus again at a different place to return to your accommodation.
Cycling is a great way to see loads of Gower. There are some hills, but they are not too long and not too steep. You can take your time and explore all sorts of places that you wouldn't otherwise see. The best thing to do is to buy a decent map, plan a route, take a packed lunch and just go. There are dedicated cycle paths in some areas of Gower but these are not the norm. One popular cycle track runs from Swansea all the way to Mumbles Pier and follows the sweep of the bay. This is an easy ride and at a steady place will take 2 to 3 hours to ride in both directions. Half way along this cycle track is another one which runs up Clyne Valley following the old railway track to Gowerton on the north coast of Gower.
Outside of Gower there is a huge network of cycle paths covering a huge amount of South Wales and beyond. If you are looking for a cycling holiday, this really is a great place. Every June or July for the last 20 or 30 years there has been a charity cycle ride around Gower which is about 30 miles long and attracts hundreds of riders every year.
If you are going to cycle be sure to wear a proper cycle helmet to protect your head in the event of a fall.
As with cycling you can explore a huge amount of Gower by walking. Combine this with The Gower Explorer bus ticket and you really can take in a lot of the area. Taking the bus along the north Gower coast you can then walk over the center of Gower to the south Gower coast. Taking this walk will let you see a huge array of different landscapes from the mud flat marshes to the north, over common land, open fields and picturesque valleys, to the cliffs and sandy beaches on the south coast.
Gower Map - Find your way easily.
The Ordnance Survey Landranger series of maps cover the whole of the UK. The level of detail is superb with many places of interest included on every map. This is the map that covers the whole of Swansea and Gower. I have used this map in its various versions for the last 30years for walking, cycling and driving all over Gower, finding many interesting routes and places that I may have otherwise missed. If you are visiting Gower for a vacation you simply must have a copy of this map.
Gower Driving - Good roads and narrow lanes.
Driving is a great way to get around Gower reasonably quickly. Take a look at this video to see what it is really like.
Gower Information - Need to know more?
If you would like to know more about Gower, there are loads of books published that cover all aspects of Gower. This one title I would recommend if you are going to be taking walks around Gower. Click on the link to see more options.
If you have visited Gower and would like to share your experience please leave a comment here for all to see.