Castles, Coasts & Cattle

Welcome to my home: Wales. I come from a small corner of the South-Welsh countryside where the land is beautiful and the sheep even more so. I’m only joking, not all Welsh people are infatuated by sheep, some prefer goats or bullocks. But I do come from the sort of town whereby if a person did proclaim their love for a farmyard animal, nobody would bat an eyelid. It has happened. Anyway, I felt it high-time to write a little about home: what it has to offer, and why you should consider spending less time in London taking photographs of Big Ben or Buckingham Palace, and more of the Welsh countryside and our castles – like these beauties…

 

The first castle happens to be about five minutes from my house, and where our tour around Wales began. With Yugyeong over from South Korea, we spent a couple of weeks visiting the sights of Wales, including a few places that even I hadn’t ventured to, despite the fact they are all on my doorstep. It is so often the case that we first look abroad for natural beauty and adventure, neglecting what is right in front of us – well no more! This post will take you on a tour of the Gower, in the south of the country, with stories from the north to follow (I promise that Visit Wales has not sponsored me in any way – good lord I wish they had).

The Gower Peninsula lies to the south of the city of Swansea, poking its nose into the Bristol Channel, and offers some of the most beautiful and accessible views of the Welsh coastline anywhere in the country. There are tens of villages dotted along its coast, each with access to hidden beaches, coves and the occasional precarious arch or sea stack. Port Eynon is one of those villages, and a great place to base yourself – Port Eynon Hostel (the old boathouse) lies right on the water and provides a very unique hostel experience (can be seen in the distance below). Surfing is a popular pastime here, as is eating fish and chips followed by Joe’s ice cream (we went for the second option), before heading further along the coast to Rhossili Bay.

Rhossili has not one, but two exceptional reasons to visit: its three-mile-long pristine beach is in pretty good nick (see below), whilst Worm’s Head (a small tidal island that’s only accessible during low-tide) is also within walking distance of the village. Give at least three hours to make it to the end of the ‘Worm’ and back, it’s further than it initially looks, and only take a dog if it’s one that doesn’t mind getting pushed up craggy mounds and over jagged rocks. It was a little trickier than we imagined too, but the walk makes the pint and pie in the local pub that overlooks the bay afterwards all the more enjoyable.

Campsites on the Gower are also very easy to come by, and you’re almost guaranteed a decent view of the coast wherever you stay. However, when we set up camp in the dark at our ‘random’ location, we did not expect to wake up to a view like the one below. We were also lucky that we hadn’t parked the car any further away from the tent, or we would have driven down a rather steep cliff. We had actually put our tent up above Three Cliffs Bay – not hard to see where they got the name from – a beautiful spot with a secluded beach and a myriad of hidden paths and concealed coves. The bay was recently nominated for “Britain’s Best View”, and has also appeared in a Red Hot Chili Peppers music video, bonus point if you know which one.

The bay is also overlooked by, yes you guessed it, another castle. Pennard Castle was built by the Normans in the twelfth century and, whilst it’s now mostly a ruin, it is bewildering that what remains has stood for almost a thousand years – that’s four times older than the great country of America! The castle is now maintained by the nearby Pennard Golf Club, so be mindful of small white objects flying your way when visiting. You have now had but a glimpse of how green and alluring the coastline of south Wales is, when the weather stays true, but what on earth about the northern lands?

J

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