Get yourself to the glorious Gower

Posted on: 29 September 2011 by Mark O'haire

In 1956, The Gower was named the very first ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ in the UK by the Countryside Agency and it’s not difficult to see why.

GowerIts stunning rugged coastline boasts some of the cleanest water in Europe, and with the Gulf Stream keeping the water warm, the Gower is a tempting place to take a sea dip. The spectacular, isolated and brooding landscape also makes the Gower perfect for rambling walks, country cycling or even horse riding along the golden sands. Despite all this, the Gower has remained one of Wales’ best-kept secrets and is all the better for it.

Rhisili-Bay-to-Worms-HeadVisitors to the area should make straight for Rhossili, which has been described on numerous occasions as one of the best beaches in the UK, and even the world. Here, the dramatic Rhossili Downs tower over a huge expanse of sandy beach that stretches for three miles and history buffs can investigate the wreck of the Helvetica, which ran aground in 1887. Towards the end of the peninsula, Worm’s Head is to be found – a mile long snake-like promontory jutting out into the sea that gets cut off when the tide comes in. For the best panoramic views, walkers should head for the top of the Downs where they will be able to see for miles in each direction.

For those that want to get away from the daily grind and back to nature, the Gower Peninsula could not be more ideal, especially as there are a number of companies that can get you off on the right track. Dryad Bushcraft offers a range of courses in the art of bushcraft (learning to live in a wilderness environment) all based on the Gower Peninsula. Courses include Wilderness Gourmet, Prehistoric Gower, Introduction to Bushcraft and Family Bushcraft.  Another Gower-based initiative, Internet Outdoors, can arrange personalised activity weekends and accommodation, putting guests up in boutique hotels, cottages or even yurts or tipis!

Gower-peninsulaAmongst the Gower’s many other charms are its tiny fishing villages, from Llangennith to Horton. Perhaps the most well-known is The Mumbles, a delightful Victorian village with lovely views over Swansea Bay, little boutique shops and a plethora of pubs and restaurants. Up on a hill overlooking the town is Oystermouth Castle, a picturesque and atmospheric 12th century castle that used to be the chief residence of the Lords of Gower and seems to merge with the dramatic landscape. In fact, the area is so picturesque that Catherine Zeta Jones chose to build a house there not long ago.

For those who can’t go too long without the bright lights, nearby Swansea, the birthplace of poet Dylan Thomas, offers a vibrant nightlife, with the Wind Street area turning from a modern café quarter during the day to a party zone at night. The city is also home to Wales’s largest indoor market and a must-see – a huge, buzzing expanse selling cockles, lava bread and fresh Welsh cakes.

HelvetiaThe rugged nature of the landscape is offset by The Gower’s many attractive places to stay. One of the newest and best is Blas Gwyr, a stylish, boutique B&B set in the heart of the seaside village of Llangennith. Surrounded by deserted sandy beaches and beautiful countryside, Blas Gwyr is a luxurious slice of Welsh homeliness, with excellent food, gorgeous bedrooms and a very warm welcome.

Alternatively, Fairyhill in Reynoldston is an 18th century country house with eight bedrooms, set in 24 acres of grounds featuring mature woodland, a trout stream and a lake. Fairyhill is known in the Gower for its relaxed restaurant, which prides itself on its locally sourced produce and extensive wine list.

The Gower may only be 70 square miles but it seems vast. With its huge deserted beaches, isolated landscapes and tiny, pretty villages, the peninsula will envelop you – and you won’t want it to let go.

For more information, go to the Visit Wales website.

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