About Gower Peninsula beaches
Many childhood holiday memories have a Welsh backdrop, and the Gower Peninsula, just west of Swansea is one of Wales’ special places. It has an island atmosphere, with its coastline of precipitous cliffs and sweeping beaches. Despite being so close to the city, it feels wild and remote, even in summer when the world and his wife want to be here.
The Gower Peninsula has some great beaches. Oxwich Bay is sandy, gentle, accessible and lies next to Oxwich Nature Reserve on the southern coast. Around the headland from Oxwich lies beautiful Three Cliffs Bay – but it’s dangerous to swim here as there are strong currents. To the west is balmy Blue Flag Port Eynon, with big dunes backing the beach. Port Eynon has the most facilities (campsites, watersports) of any of the beaches, and hence the most crowds, especially families.
Rhossili Bay is a dramatic, sweeping, white-sand surfer magnet at the end of the peninsula. It’s better for surfing than sunbathing – the wind can be fierce and the undercurrent strong. At one end of this awesome stretch protrudes the skeletal hull of the Helvetica, a Norwegian ship wrecked in 1887.
Beyond the beach:
Swansea, only a few miles to the east, is a fascinating, lively, if gritty town, and is home to the amazing National Waterfront Museum (www.waterfrontmuseum.co.uk). Inaugurated in 2005, it charts a cutting-edge, interactive voyage through Welsh industrial history.
There’s an adventurous, desert island feel to the Gower Peninsula that lends itself to great family holidays, with lots of lovely walks as well as all the fun of the beach. The most intriguing route is the walk to Worm’s Head, a jutting piece of headland that is only accessible for two hours during low tide (Dylan Thomas wrote about getting stranded here).
You can canoe, sail, windsurf and kitesurf on the Gower, but surfing is the main draw. Over at Rhossili Bay there are several surf schools, including Gower Surfing Development (www.gowersurfing.com) and Surf School (www.wsfsurfschool.co.uk), and you can hire boards from PJ’s Surf Shop (www.pjsurfshop.co.uk).
Explore more of Wales and head to the capital of Cardiff. In recent years the bay has altered beyond recognition, from its past as the world’s largest coal exporting port to a modern sport and leisure complex. It is also Europe’s largest waterfront development, and it has a wealth of leisure activities available both on and off the water. The Bay is home to a number of attractions such as Techniquest Science Discovery Centre, Craft in the Bay, The Welsh Assembly at the Pierhead, Butetown History and Arts Centre, Goleulong 2000 Lightship, the Norwegian Church Arts Centre and the Wales Millennium Centre, a stunning international arts centre.
The finest place to stay on the Gower is Fairyhill (www.fairyhill.net), an ivy-coated 18th-century house set in 9 hectares (24 acres) of parkland. It has just eight luxurious, brightly decorated rooms, big fireplaces, and an award-winning restaurant. Or, if you want to make like the rich and famous, Euphoria Sailing (www.euphoriasailing.com) based in Swansea Marina, rents yachts with crew for the day – the ideal way to get that millionaire feeling minus the hefty price tag.