See Swansea Bay & The Gower PeninsulaPosted on: 25 March 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves
Swansea Bay, the Mumbles and the Gower Peninsula are ideal locations for spectacular scenery and fresh air.
From dramatic cliff tops over looking beautiful bays to moors and commons scattered with ancient standing stones and hill forts.
Swansea Bay's a place of impressive contrasts: city and country; historic and contemporary; grand parklands, and pounding surf.
Swansea, Wales' city by the sea, has Viking roots and a long, eventful history. Home to innovative attractions and renowned for its awesome nightlife, it's a vibrant cultural centre, and a regional shopping hub.
Just a stone's throw away, the charismatic seaside village of Mumbles offers galleries and boutiques, snug cafes and fine dining.
The Gower Peninsula extends west of Mumbles, in mile after mile of unspoilt coastal panoramas, award-winning golden beaches, and lush, rolling countryside.
And on the eastern edge of Swansea Bay, there's the Waterfall Country of Afan and the Vale of Neath: a must-see for walkers and cyclists alike. These steep-sided, wooded valleys are home to world-class mountain-biking, stately country parks, and the UK's second-largest forest south of the Scottish border.
Birthplace of Dylan Thomas, Swansea is Wales' second largest city and situated within walking distance from the 5 mile sweep of Swansea Bay in South West Wales.
The City of Swansea is well known for its vibrant nightlife, consisting of a wide range of clubs, bars and restaurants to suit every age and taste. The Wind Street area has become the modern café quarter by day, and by night, is the liveliest street in the city.
The city boasts an award winning Marina and Maritime Quarter, which is home to the National Waterfront Museum and the LC leisure complex & waterpark, both must-see attractions located within a few yards from each other.
An iconic Sail Bridge links the Maritime Quarter with the new SA1 Swansea Waterfront, an exciting new development of modern office blocks, apartments, hotels, brasseries and an extension of the city's marina.
Back in the city centre, you'll find the largest indoor market in Wales, where you can sample and buy many local delicacies such as cockles and laverbread, and of course traditional welshcakes. Locally caught fresh fish can also be bought along with local souvenirs including Welsh dolls, rugby shirts and lovespoons.
Swansea also boasts top-of-the-range sporting facilities such as the Wales National Pool, the only 50m swimming-pool in Wales, and the fantastic Liberty Stadium, a 20,000 seat venue home of Swansea City Football Club and the Neath - Swansea Ospreys rugby team.
So, if you have ever wondered why Dylan Thomas wrote so passionately about his hometown, why King Arthur left his mark on Gower or why Catherine Zeta Jones heads for home in Mumbles, then visit Swansea Bay and find out for yourself!
Mumbles is a haven for style-conscious shoppers, art-lovers and foodies, hosting a wide range of independent shops, cozy cafés, great restaurants, and galleries showcasing local arts and crafts.
Shopping & Relaxing In Mumbles
Mumbles is famous for its small, independent shops and boutiques, selling everything from high-end fashion to casual surfing gear; traditionally-carved Welsh lovespoons to American folk art; local seafood to continental charcuterie and handmade chocolates.
Or treat yourself to a relaxing spell in one of the several beauty salons dotted around the village, providing services from award-winning hairstyling, to holistic massage therapy and luxury spa treatments.
Most shops and salons are concentrated in the Newton Road, Dunns Lane and Mumbles Road areas.
Eating Out In Mumbles
Mumbles is home to some of the best restaurants in the area, where you can enjoy local produce like freshly caught fish and seafood, some of it landed just yards away. And in a region renowned for its ice cream parlours, Mumbles hosts some of the most famous, with award-winning recipes.
Nearby beaches include Bracelet Bay and Limeslade Bay, both just minutes from Mumbles' shops and restaurants.
Mumbles history is still very much on display throughout the village. Mumbles Lighthouse, built in 1794, still warns passing boats of undersea sand banks – you can view it best from Mumbles' Victorian pier, which is also home to a café and skating rink.
Mediaeval Oystermouth Castle was once home and fortress for the Norman Lords of Gower, and hosts outdoor theatre performances during the summer months.
Getting To Mumbles
Please note that traffic to and through Mumbles can be very heavy at peak times. As an alternative to the car, there's an excellent and frequent bus service from central Swansea, or you can cycle the same route along a dedicated cycle path, which runs along Swansea Bay's seafront promenade.
During the summer season, you can hop on board the Mumbles land train (Swansea Bay Rider), which runs along the seafront from Blackpill to Knab Rock. This route once carried the famous 'Mumbles Railway', inaugurated in 1807 as the world's first passenger railway.
The Gower Peninsula
Less than 15 minutes from the City, the Gower Peninsula is home to around 50 unspoilt beaches, coves and bays, from the jaw-dropping vastness of Rhossili, to the tiny, secluded Pwll Du. Inland you'll find sheltered woodland and rolling grasslands; country pubs and fine food.
The diversity of Gower makes it an ideal location, whether you're looking for an action packed weekend, a quiet romantic day out, or a week-long family holiday.
With nearly 400 miles' worth of rights of way, Gower offers many memorable walking routes, from short family trips, taking in many of the small churches and landmarks in the area, to routes for the more experienced, with breathtaking views of the Peninsula. In fact, "glorious" Rhossili is one of The Times '20 Greatest Rural British Walks' (2007).
For history lovers, the area boasts many ancient sites, monuments, caves, castles, shipwrecks and landmarks including Arthur's Stone, Giants Grave burial chamber and Pennard Castle. Stone Age artefacts have been discovered in Gower caves, including the oldest dated modern human remains ever discovered in Britain.
Afan & Vale Of Neath
From spectacular waterfalls to some of the world's best mountain biking, nowhere else in Wales is there more richness and diversity within such a small area.
The 'Waterfalls Country' stretches across the wooded valleys from Neath to the southern edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Marvel at the beauty of Melincourt and Aberdulais falls and the cascades at the Gnoll Country Park in Neath, all easily accessible. For the more adventurous, hike up to the deep gorges of the rivers Mellte, Hepste and Nedd Fechan.
Afan Forest Park was once voted one of the world's top 10 places to ride by 'What Mountain Bike' magazine. The Park boasts a huge selection of fantastic mountain-biking trails varying in length and difficulty but all offering adrenaline-boosting single-track descents and spectacular views of what is known as 'Little Switzerland', one of the most beautiful valleys in South Wales.
But it's not all for bikers there, and the Park is also a great place for the whole family to unwind, whether for picnics, sightseeing, camping, or simply a leisurely stroll. In 2008, Afan Forest Park featured in Sunday Telegraph's top ten UK public forests. Covering an area of 30,000 hectares, it is one of the largest urban forests in Europe and is best explored on foot, by bike or on horseback. Visitors can also camp or picnic in the park. Orienteering courses and educational visits are also popular and Beamer trampers are available for disabled visitors.
Nearby Margam Country Park offers beauty, history and wildlife set in 850 acres of glorious parklands. From the magnificent 18th Century Orangery, an impressive Victorian Gothic Mansion House, a 12th Century Chapter House, to the unique Fuchsia Collection and the restored historic gardens around the Castle, monastic ruins and Orangery Terrace, Margam Park is a fantastic day out for visitors of all ages.
With such a wide range of activities and places to see, Afan and the Vale of Neath is an ideal location for a relaxing family holiday or an action packed excursion.
For more information on tourism in Swansea and the surrounding area, or for details on accommodation, visit the official Swansea tourist board at http://visitswanseabay.com/.
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