The Gower peninsula
The Gower peninsula is a magical place. The first designated AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) way back in 1956, the Gower has lost none of its unique charm. A short drive from Swansea in South Wales, it is a landscape of sweeping beaches, emerald woods and winding rivers. Myths and legends connected to King Arthur flourish along with mysterious salt marshes, castles and dragons.
I visited there for the first time this spring and was impressed to see the beautiful necklace of beaches and bays which fringe the coast here.
My first beach view was from the cliffs at Rhossili Bay. We walked to worms’ head, a rocky promontory stretching out to the sea resembling a sleeping Welsh dragon. You can tackle the rocks and walk across to the tip of it when the tide is out, if you’re feeling brave. Rhossili Bay has been voted one of the top ten beaches in Britain for the last eight years and is currently the 11th best beach in Europe (TripAdvisor, Travellers’ Choice Awards). It certainly seems to go on forever.
Wild ponies on the Gower
Ambling back along the cliff with Isla the Romanian rescue dog, we came across a little herd of wild ponies and their foals, trotting up to be fed by their owner. He appeared in a van with some hay and feed for them.
There are wild ponies all over the Gower which is something else I didn’t know about this part of Wales. The ponies are all hardy Gypsy Cobs (or Gypsy Vanners as they call them in the US) and they can live outside year round.
If you go to the famous annual horse fair at Appleby in Cumberland, it is Gypsy Vanners you will see there with their multicoloured coats, heavily feathered fetlocks and glorious manes. The ponies are washed in the river Eden and trotted up and down the main street to show them off. These ponies are valuable for showing here and in the US, and they are also popular as safe, solid riding ponies. I just think they are so pretty!
Swansea Bay – Arthur’s Stone.
One of Wales’ most famous prehistoric monuments, the 25-ton capstone sits majestically on top of Cefyn Bryn Common. How did it get there? Legend has it that while travelling in Carmarthenshire, King Arthur removed a stone from his shoe and threw it across the Loughor Estuary. By the time it reached its final resting point at Cefn Bryn the stone had become an enormous boulder. Another ancient story that has stood the test of time.
The next bay we visited was Oxwich Bay. It has sand dunes, salt marshes and woodland. It also includes a 2 ¹⁄₂-mile long sandy beach, which stretches way out to the glittering Atlantic ocean
3 Cliffs Bay
Three Cliffs Bay beach was my favourite of all. The woodland walk through to the bay follows the river Pennard Pill. It meanders spectacularly through the marshes down to the storm beach. This beach offers a wilder experience and the trend of stone piling had just begun here.
The shoreline of sand dunes, is edged by three signature limestone cliffs. This is one of the most beautiful beaches, but it has strong tides and currents at all times and swimming here is not advised. The next bay is Pobbles, maybe next time I will bobble across to Pobbles.
Lots of places around here begin with the word Penn, meaning head or chief. Penrice is one grand castle and grounds in this area. Pennard Castle is the name of the 12th century ruins which have an incredible view out over to three cliffs bay.
I was very impressed with my first visit to the Gower and look forward to further visits for more exploring. The Atlantic coast is quite different to the East coast where I live. The tide goes much further out here and the beaches are truly expansive. The surrounding countryside is also very beautiful and I was especially taken with the wild ponies. If we have to stay in the UK for holidays, I can recommend a trip to beautiful South Wales.
Check out my blog about Appleby Fair here