“Gower is a very beautiful peninsula… as a matter of fact, it is one of the loveliest sea-coast stretches in the whole of Britain.” Dylan Thomas knew a special place when he saw one, and the more I visit Swansea Bay and Gower, the more I agree with Wales’ best-loved poet. This untouched corner of the South Wales coast may be small, but it still manages to fit in epic cliffs and sweeping beaches, fairytale woods and sleepy moorland villages – no wonder Gower was named Britain’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1956.
Swansea Bay is also the perfect size to explore of a weekend. Look at a map and you’ll want to zigzag across the peninsula, wandering down little lost lanes and sweeping coastal roads, and in just a few days you can get a real taste for this contrasting land, whether you hike the Wales Coast Path, climb the cliffs, surf in the cold sea or just stop for coffee and Welsh cakes in one of the many tempting local village cafes. Come along with me to Swansea Bay for the perfect weekend of adventure – after a few days exploring here you’re guaranteed to leave with a happy heart and colour in your cheeks.
A weekend of adventures in Swansea Bay
FORAGING IN THE WOODS
Ever wanted to learn how to live off the land or survive by your wits? Take a walk in the woods with Dryad Bushcraft. The list of skills you’ll learn with their foraging and bushcraft guides, including using a knife and axe, lighting a fire, making a shelter and identifying edible plants, is the perfect way to find your inner wilderness dweller and gain confidence when picking wild food. I spent an afternoon in the woods at Parc le Breos with Dryad Bushcraft founder Andrew Price – we started off by searching for the first wild garlic shoots of spring, and Andrew taught me to identify scarlet elf cups and other woodland goodies. Then we sought shelter from the approaching rain in a nearby cave and practised traditional fire starting methods – turns out that the bow drill technique is surprisingly tricky! Dryad Bushcraft offer primitive skills courses, family bushcraft days and wilderness gourmet experiences that are perfect for foodies.
A HIKE ALONG THE WALES COAST PATH
There’s nowhere better to sample a bite size piece of the 870 mile-long Wales Coast Path than Gower. 38 miles of uninterrupted walking routes encompass the peninsula, beginning in the bustling city of Swansea and ending in the wild marshes of Crofty in North Gower. I walked a relaxed four miles from Oxwich Bay around Oxwich Point and back, and despite the bright winter sunshine I didn’t see another soul as I rambled through woodlands and then trekked out along the coast, the path lined with bright yellow gorse flowers. Find ideas for planning your own coastal route on the Wales Coast Path website.
SURFING AT RHOSSILI BAY
Every British surfer worth their salt has Rhossili Bay on their beach bucket list – this is definitely a contender for the crown of most beautiful beach in the UK. Rhossili Bay sweeps round miles of golden sand before meeting the cliffs that lead to Worm’s Head, a green outcrop which becomes an island at low tide. Grab your surfboard and hike down the cliff path to reach the sea – the surf here is best at high tide, and is often small enough to be beginner-friendly. Gower Activity Centres offer surf instruction, learn to surf weekends and board hire at Rhossili, and I headed out to catch some waves with instructor Pete. The surf was pretty small but the bright sunshine and incredible views out to Worm’s Head made up for it, and it was so useful to get some one-on-one tuition – my pop-up came on leaps and bounds during our two-hour surf session. Warm up after a dip at Rhossili with coffee and cake at pastel-hued Bay Bistro up on the cliff.
CLIMBING ON THE COAST
I can’t think of a more exhilarating way to explore Swansea Bay’s rugged cliffs than by climbing up them. On my last day staying on Gower the sun shone bright as climbing guide James of Adventure Britain and I packed up ropes and harnesses and hiked to Boiler Slab, so called because the boiler from a wrecked ship once washed up here. James rigged up an abseil and I made it down the cliff in time to clamber right back up – definitely one of the most epic backdrops to any climb I’ve completed in the UK. Adventure Britain offer day-long climbing sessions suitable for total beginners in Gower all year round – a wonderful way to get to grips, quite literally, with this rugged coast.
Where to stay:
Oxwich Bay Hotel’s Secret Garden
Step inside another world at Oxwich Bay – in the grounds of this beachfront hotel you’ll find a walled garden home to six cosy pod-style rooms, all complete with comfy double beds and ensuite showers. Not quite glamping, not quite a hotel stay, these two-person pods are the perfect base for exploring Swansea Bay – and beautiful Oxwich Bay is just a few metres from the garden. Grab breakfast and dinner in the hotel, which does a fine line in locally-sourced ingredients and Welsh favourites, or head out to the 17th century King’s Head Inn by Llangennith Beach.