The Gower Peninsula is a rural, rugged landscape, shaped around the south coast of Wales. Unsurprisingly
it became the first designated area in Britain to achieve AONB status (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty). This stretch of coastline is a rich haven for ramblers, heavily populated by a variety of native wildlife and has historic ruins scattered across its landscape.
The Gower Peninsula or ‘the Gower’ is a popular spot for walking enthusiasts and tourists alike, with many routes available to take on both easy and moderate ground. This popular destination could be described as the coastal equivalent to the Lake District. Depending on your level of experience, some mountainous areas can prove quite challenging, so do research your chosen path before leaving. However, equally, there are a number of gentle strolls you can take through small country villages if that is more your scene.
Cefn Bryn & Oxwich Bay
Cefn Bryn is as good a place as any to start your exploration of this part of the country, but then I may be a little biased, as it is where my own Gower-discovery began. Guiding you along the Redstone ridge, often referred to as ‘the backbone of Gower’, this path will lead you over exposed moorland, before descending back down to the country roads of level gravel terrain. At 186 metres high, Cefn Bryn is the second highest point in the Gower and often grazed upon by sheep, wild ponies and cattle. Look out for the neighbouring village of Reynoldston, which offers an unmarked route to a Neolithic monument and burial site that coincides with King Arthur’s legend.
Llanmadoc Hill offers views across the peninsula and looks directly down over the village of Llanmadoc below. An Iron Age hillfort once stood upon the summit but now all that remains is a peculiar earthwork named ‘The Bulwark’, but it is easily identified. The site would originally have been used to hold livestock, but was later adapted to protect whole communities during times of war. The summit can be reached from several directions and offers a relatively flat plateau, which makes it an ideal spot for a picnic break along your walk.
The remote village of Llangennith was once the liveliest village on the peninsula, with local interests in cock-fighting, music and weaving, however nowadays it is usually populated by surfers. Smuggling was also rife here on Rhossili Bay and caused feuding amongst the independent townsfolk. Close to the church you can also view the site of the medieval village of Coety Green. There are six remaining houses left, now overgrown and sitting in ruin around the green.
Port Eynon is another of the more populated beaches on the Gower and a personal favourite for long weekend strolls. Located on the edge of a quiet coastal community, it is easily accessible and has an interesting history. Today there is a relaxed atmosphere off-peak, though it was once a busy fishing village, known for its successful oyster dredging. Like Llangennith, it was also popular with smugglers, with legend telling that the Old Salt House (on the rocks) was used for such dubious exercises. This theory is contested, but what is known of the Old Salt House, is that it was used for panning the sea water in the early Elizabethan era. There are signs posted around the main attraction, so it is worth having a read whilst you’re visiting in order to gain a greater perspective of the bay and how it used to be in days gone by.
Rhossili, Mewslade Bay & Burry Holms
Rhossili offers a circular route that overlooks Mewslade Bay and is considered one of the top 10 coastal paths in the UK, taking you through an array of fields and farmland and crossing through several villages that settle amongst the surrounding hills. The ‘Worm’s Head’ is one of the highlights of this route, consisting of three outstretched headlands, which are completely cut-off at high tide — as such, it is advised to notify the coastguard before setting off along this stretch.
Burry Holms can be found to the western side of Rhossili Bay and becomes an island at high tide like the ‘Worm’s Head’. There are medieval monastic sites here, where special religious ceremonies are held every year.
Swansea Bay & Mumbles
If you’re not as eager to don your boots and head off to the hills, then wander along the promenade at nearby Swansea Bay as a relaxing alternative. As far as interesting facts go, the bay was home to the world’s first passenger railway, which sadly declined and has all but diminished today. A walk along any stretch of the promenade offers views across the bay and towards the lighthouse at Mumbles Head.
Mumbles is a popular seaside town and, although, it is a far cry from the cheap frills of bucket and spades, the town offers fine dining and local cuisine in abundance. You can still get the taste for the seaside however, at Verdi’s Ice-Cream Parlour. Don’t fret about amusement either, as you can still play away in the penny arcade found on the pier (to the left of Verdi’s) or enjoy a round of mini-golf further along the promenade.
Three Cliffs Bay
Three Cliffs Bay is undoubtedly one of the most photographed areas of the Gower Peninsula, although the climb for the views is steep and the bay itself is difficult to access. The beach can be accessed by one of two routes, one leading from the designated car park and another which leads via signposts through woodland. The three cliffs which jut out into the beach prove an attraction to climbers and give the bay its name. The sandy stretch is also popular with horse-riders, however, whilst the bay is certainly a beauty spot, it is strongly advised that under no circumstance should you bathe by the three cliffs, as there are extremely dangerous rip tides and currents which enter the Bristol Channel from here.
Don’t worry about your fitness levels, as the Gower Peninsula holds plenty of paths for both the perennial and experimental walker. Come rain or shine, the enduring beauty of the South Wales coastline will lure you in. Characterised by beaches and rural pastures, it is an ideal place to get lost and explore, and the pleasant heartland of Gower will keep you coming back for more.
Featured image © Mike Mantin