Saturday, 8 October 2011

Gateway close to home

Below is my “Big Day Out” column from the Saturday, September 24, 2011, Swansea edition of the South Wales Evening Post.

Gateway close to home
A big day out!
RICHARD THOMAS heads to … Gower.
The Gower Peninsula is an area of immense unspoilt natural beauty unparalleled in South Wales. Home to some of world’s best coastal scenery, the Gower had the honour of being the first part of Britain to be designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which means you will not find high-rise hotels or neon-lit beach bars spoiling what the writer Wynford Vaughan Thomas called: “a secret that people hug to themselves.”
The Gower is home to some of Britain’s best beaches. These include neat Caswell, tiny Bracelet, and the stunning Three Cliffs Bay, with its odd tidal pools. But most families will often choose sturdy Langland. The picture-perfect bay with its beach huts, rock pools and cliff path walks is ideal for beach goers of all ages.
A stroll along the cliff tops almost anywhere in the peninsula will take your breath away. The most spectacular is the walk from the cliff tops of Rhossili out along the promontory known as Worm’s Head.
But Gower isn't all about the world class beaches, there are a wide range of activities to enjoy down Gower too. The Gower’s ancient churches host a series of intimate music events, which feature the Swansea Bach Choir and the Prince of Wales’s personal harpist, Claire Jones.
At Gower you can also enjoy sailing round the coast with Gower Coast Adventures, departing from either Port Eynon or Mumbles. The purpose-built jet boat can manoeuvre safely in shallow waters, so you can get close to secluded bays and local wildlife. On the voyage you can see animals ranging from gannets and shearwaters to seals and porpoises.
Afterwards you can have dinner at Welcome to Town in Llanrhidian. Master chef Ian Bennett specialises in local produce. Items on the menu include hand-dived scallops, tian of dressed crab, and lobsters and crabs fresh from Oxwich bay.
The Gower is also rich in myth and history. Arthur’s Stone is just a short walk away from Cefn Bryn Common. The 25-ton capstone roofs a Neolithic burial chamber, long ago emptied by relic hunters. Legend has it that the stone is a pebble that King Arthur removed from his boot on his way to his last battle at Camlann in 539 CE. From this point you have a 360-degree view of the Gower, from the salt marshes to the north to the Southern bays.
There are lots of other hotels and restaurants to choose from. On the common in Reynoldston is the King Arthur Hotel, which is everything a country pub should be. The King Arthur is renowned for traditional ales and delicious home-cooked food, suited to all tastes. On their specials board you can chose from seasonal game, Welsh black beef, locally caught fish, as well as vegetarian options. All are served in their restaurant, family room, main bar and at outdoor tables on the green. You can also sample local Welsh brew or any of their range of beers, fine wines or spirits
The Gower is only five miles from Swansea city centre and buses from Swansea regularly run passengers to and all over the Gower. First Cymru, the region's largest bus operating company, even run an open top bus service between Swansea city centre and Bracelet Bay.
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