Behind the scenes on #TheCruiseShip – we meet Cruise Director Sam Hawker-Thomas

July 25, 2014 by  
Filed under Cruise, featured

If you’ve been enjoying the recent ITV documentary “The Cruise Ship” filmed on board Royal Princess, you’ll have already met Cruise Director Sam Hawker-Thomas who was featured in Episode 2. In this interview with Sam we find out what being a Cruise Director for Princess Cruises involves, what it was like being filmed for the TV series and her favourite destinations to visit around the world. as well as her tips for getting the most from your cruise.

Cruise Director Sam Hawker-Thomas is featured in the ITV documentary "The Cruise Ship"

Cruise Director Sam Hawker-Thomas is featured in the ITV documentary “The Cruise Ship”

So Sam, how did you come to be working in the cruise industry?

I was 22 and working on the makeup counter at Debenhams and one of my friends there had worked for Princess Cruises before. I’d always wanted to travel and she kept telling me “You should work on a cruise ship”, so I decided to apply. I thought I would have 6 months away and then come back to work, but 13 years later, I’m still here.

I did two contracts working in the boutiques, then I switched over to the entertainment department and worked my way up through the ranks, getting my first role as Cruise Director in 2010. The company usually decides where to send you or you can make a request for which ship you’d like to work, but I’ve usually left it to fate. However I do remember, when the company announced that they were launching a new ship, Royal Princess, I did ring my boss in Los Angeles and told him “I want to be on that ship.” As my grandpa always told me, “if you don’t ask, you don’t get!”

Royal Princess leaving Southampton after her naming ceremony

Royal Princess leaving Southampton after her naming ceremony

And what does the job of Cruise Director on Royal Princess involve?

On board I oversea the whole entertainment department and have 5 managers who work for me; the Youth Activities Manager, Music Manager, Production Manager, Performance Manager and Deputy Cruise director. We look after everything relating to the entertainment on board, from the music to the lighting, to the ambiance of all of the shows.

As well as the planning and scheduling of activities and events, I also take part in a lot of the shows. One unique feature on board Royal Princess and her sister ship Regal Princess is that we have a TV studio, Princess Live, where we film a daily show telling the passengers what’s going on around the ship. Our production shows are specially created for Princess Cruises and the dancers and performers spend 4 weeks rehearsing in our studio in Los Angeles before coming on board.

We also like to be creative in coming up with different events, shows and activities, like the “Hollywould you?” show that you saw Deputy Cruise Director Dan come up with in Episode 2. On longer cruises like the transatlantic crossing, there are many more days at sea and that gives us plenty of opportunity to come up with new events.

A big part of my day is also walking around the ship and meeting the guests, to ensure they are having a nice time. I’ll be there to meet and greet at the shows and am available at the end of the show if guests have any questions. I try to walk around the lounges while activities are taking place, to see how well received they are and what the passengers are enjoying. A big part of my job is being the face of the ship, being seen by the passengers here, there and everywhere. There’s nothing I like better than when people say “Are there three of you on board?” because they’ve seen me all around the ship.

Cruise Director Sam appears in one of the on board shows

Cruise Director Sam appears in one of the on board shows

For passengers a cruise can be a glamorous experience but what’s life like behind the scenes for the crew?

For the crew it’s like any job in that you have your hours and you work hard. The crew take pride in what they do and they want to give a great service. Princess are very good to work for because they understand that not only are we working on board but it’s also our home, so there are plenty of facilites available for the crew. We have a crew library, gym, internet, recreation facilities and there’s the position of a crew welfare coordinator to organize activities and events for the 1350 crew. All the staff facilities are on Deck 5 where we have Plaza Court, the crew’s buffet style restaurant.

Some crew will be very active in their downtime, others will just want a rest and recharge their batteries. If we are in a port of call I definitely like to get off the ship and have an adventure and a wander, but now I’m on board with my husband we try to spend time off together when our schedules allow. On sea days things are very busy for the crew but on shore days the managers will ensure that each crew member has some time off to go on shore if they wish and there are organised shore excursions as well.

So what are the highlights of your job and are there any bits you don’t enjoy?

The highlight of my entire time with Princess has been the Royal Princess naming ceremony. I was on board the ship for 6 weeks before her launch as part of the crew getting the ship ready in the Monfalcone shipyard and it was a great experience to see the ship develop from a shell through to her launch.

I was also involved in the preparation for the Duchess of Cambridge’s visit for the naming ceremony, making sure that everything was ready for her presentation on board, right down to the background music and making sure the microphones were working. I was invited to come shore-side to watch the ceremony, then afterwards we went back on board and the Duchess came into the piazza, and all the crew gave her a big cheer as she came in. She met some of the crew in the piazza, and was given a tour around the ship and then then we had a reception for her in Club 6.

On a day to day level, I love it that no two days are the same, so even if you’re doing the same run, the guests change, the crew changes, so there’s always a lot of variety. I absolutely love seeing passengers when they come back and remember us, when people come up and they want to have their photo taken with you because they want to remember you. It’s so rewarding when the guests are having a great time or they’ve enjoyed all the shows and you feel that you’re adding to the passenger’s holiday experience.

One thing that I don’t enjoy is when there are big storms and the seas are rough. When I first started I used to get quite sea sick but luckily I’ve got my sea legs now. Depending on the shows we have planned, if we have a rocky night we might need to reschedule and change things around, for instance if there’s a juggling act. You always need to have backup plans, as if mother nature’s not on your side and a potential port day turns into a sea day, you have to be ready to keep everyone entertained.

The Duchess of Cambridge at the Royal Princess naming ceremony

The Duchess of Cambridge at the Royal Princess naming ceremony

What was it like being part of the ITV documentary “The Cruise Ship”?

It was really fun experience. Although I’m used to filming a TV show every day on board Royal Princess, it was a bit strange at first to have the camera there all the time. The crew filmed with us every day for 6 weeks, at meetings, backstage, at lunch and when I was getting ready to do a show. Whatever we were doing they captured it, but after a while I just forgot the film crew were there.

We let the passengers know that we had a film crew on board and what we were doing it for. There was huge excitement from the crew and the passengers and a lot of the passengers contacted the desks to ask “how do we get involved?”.

For me it was fun to take the camera behind the scenes. There’s cruise director Sam who’s out on the front line but then I want you to see behind the scenes because I pretty much am that bubbly, crazy person all the time, it’s not just a face for when I go on stage.

When I saw the episode I was fine about seeing myself as I’m used to seeing myself when we play back the shows we film on board. It was quite a unique experience to watch the show with all my family as I’m home on vacation at present, so when I saw it on the telly I thought, “Oh my goodness, it’s a real show!”

Some of the crew featured in The Cruise Ship ITV documentary

Some of the crew featured in The Cruise Ship ITV documentary

What are the favourite destinations that you’ve visited on a cruise and why?

That’s a tough question because there are so many gorgeous destinations. I love all the ports in Italy, because there’s so much on offer, from the culture to the food to the places to visit. Venice is a very special place to visit on a cruise, especially the sail in or the sail away which is so beautiful. Whether you want to be romantic or fashionable or fun, Venice has it all.

I’m also a sunshine girl so I love the Caribbean. Tortola in the British Virgin Islands is a favourite place, with little hideaway beaches and deserted islands. You can find a beach with hardly any people and it really feels like paradise.

Aruba was one of the first places I visited when I first started working on a cruise ship and holds a fond place in my heart. I had such a great time when I visited, I think it was the combination of the crew that I was with and the day that we had, it was one of my first memories that has stuck with me. The beaches on Aruba are beautiful but the downtown area is also lovely with nice shops and restaurants. I’ve been to all of the Caribbean islands but Aruba is one that I’d go back to tomorrow.

The sail into Venice is a magical cruise experience

The sail into Venice is a magical cruise experience

How do you manage to combine family life with your job on board Royal Princess?

My husband Denis is the Hotel Controller on board Royal Princess and also appears in the ITV show, The Cruise Ship. I’d almost given up on love, but when I met Denis when we were both working on Ruby Princess I knew he was the one! We met in the January and got married in the April, only 4 months after we met.

Since we got married we’ve managed to be on Royal Princess together and in between our contracts we try to get some real life time together with no pagers or alarm clocks. I’ll go back on Royal Princess in October but we don’t have confirmation of Denis’ schedule yet. Sometimes the uncertainty of where we’ll be working next can be unerving, but if we’re apart we make sure we speak to each other every day and we’ll always make it work.

In between contracts I also like to spend time with my friends and family and to see my god-daughter. Working on the cruise you sometimes miss out on those family occasions like birthdays or Christmas. That’s the lifestyle that we choose, but I really make up for it when I come home. I love London, so from my home in South Wales I’ll try and go down, to catch the shows and do a bit of shopping. When I’m not working I also like to travel and when Denis comes home in September we’ll be off on holiday so you’ll probably find me in nice beach resort, cocktail in hand.

Sam and her husband Denis who also works for Princess Cruises

Sam and her husband Denis who also works for Princess Cruises

Do you have any tips for newbie cruisers?

I’d advise guests to get involved, have a lot of fun and not be shy, because at the end of the cruise you’ll probably never see those people again! When you first get on board, adventure around and explore the ship, it’s great fun getting lost. I would definitely read the ship’s daily programme and mark the things that interest you, because there’s so much going on and you don’t want to miss out on anything.

Or of course you could just sit on the deck and do nothing, a cruise is a great opportunity for you to tailor your holiday to do as much or as little as you like. If you love visiting new destinations, do a little research before you come and don’t be afraid to ask the crew for tips. They have a lot of knowledge about the ports of call and are always happy to share their experience with you and to give you advice on where to go and what to do.

More articles about Royal Princess

Being Princess for a day – the naming of the Royal Princess by the Duchess of Cambridge
My video tour of Royal Princess Cruise Ship on YouTube
Royal Princess to star in new TV series, The Cruise Ship

The remaining episode of The Cruise Ship is airing in the UK on ITV Friday 1st August or watch the episodes on catch-up. You can follow Sam Hawker Thomas on her Twitter accounts @Sammyeyelash and @TCSSam and follow the social media conversation hashtag #TheCruiseShip. For more information about sailing on Royal Princess, visit the Princess Cruises Website.

This article by Heather Cowper is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com - Read the original article here

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Win a Hotel Stay in my Summer Giveaway with Hotelscheap.org

Whether you fancy getting away to enjoy the summer sunshine or are planning a weekend break in the autumn once things have cooled down, I’m happy to announce my summer hotel-stay giveaway in partnership with HotelsCheap.org. I’m giving away a HotelsCheap.org voucher to one of my readers, worth $250 (or equivalent value of £145/€185) which you can use to book yourself a stay in a lovely hotel and treat yourself and that special someone to a relaxing summer break. The voucher can be redeemed for a hotel booking on the HotelsCheap.org website up until spring next year, so if you prefer you can wait until the autumn or even next spring to enjoy your hotel stay.

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HotelsCheap.org is a hotel booking website that specialises in finding discount hotel rates for travellers worldwide and you can use the voucher to book a hotel stay in the UK, US and Canada, Europe and many other destinations worldwide. To inspire you in your choice of hotel getaway, I’ve come up with a few ideas, based on destinations and hotels I can personally recommend. If you’d like to enter this giveaway, please follow the details at the bottom of the article to find out how you can gain the maximum chances to win the HotelsCheap.org voucher.

Winchester Hotel and Spa in Winchester Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Winchester Hotel and Spa in Winchester

 

A historic getaway in Winchester

Why go?

The best of England packed into an ancient market town, Winchester has a very walkable historic centre, plenty of green spaces, river walks, interesting artizan shops and great places to eat. If that’s not enough, you have the beautiful Hampshire countryside on your doorstep, with walking and country houses to explore within a short drive of Winchester.

Where to stay?

The Winchester Hotel and Spa is a short walk from the historic centre and has rooms in August and September Saturday nights for £150 and under. Read my review of The Winchester Hotel and Spa

What to see?

Wander around the medieval market town and visit the famous cathedral where Jane Austen is buried – perhaps you’ll find a farmer’s market in full swing. Shop in the craft markets or artizan shops that line the narrow lanes, walk along the river to the city mill where you can see flour being ground as it has for centuries and perhaps spot some otters in the mill stream. The South Downs Way starts at Winchester so you may like a hike in the lovely Hampshire countryside or walk to the top of the town and visit the medieval Great Hall with King Arthur’s round table.

Read more about Winchester here: 10 ways to spend a wonderful weekend in Winchester

Hotel Valencia in San Antonio Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Hotel Valencia in San Antonio

 

A lively stay in San Antonio, Texas

Why go?

This town is one of the most historic in Texas, set on the San Antonio river, with some buzzing bars and restaurants along the Riverwalk making it a great choice for a relaxing getaway.

Where to Stay?

Hotel Valencia Riverwalk is an elegant boutique hotel on the Riverwalk and has Saturday night stays in August and September for under $200 although you may prefer to wait until the sweltering Texas heat and humidity reduces and take your hotel break in October or November. Read my review of Hotel Valencia Riverwalk

What to see?

Take a boat tour along the Riverwalk or stroll on foot as evening falls and the area buzzes with bars and restaurants. Of course you will want to visit the Alamo, a landmark in the struggle for Texan independence and perhaps drive out to some of the other historic Spanish missions in the area. You can hire bikes and cycle on the path beside the San Antonio river or shop for local crafts and artizan souvenirs in the La Villita Historic district.

Read more about our stay in San Antonio here: Texas Podcast Part 1, Houston, San Antonio and Picosa Ranch

The library in the Ibsens Hotel in Copenhagen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The library in the Ibsens Hotel in Copenhagen

 

A cool weekend in Copenhagen

Why go?

Haven of Scandi-cool, Denmark’s capital has a compact centre that is easy to explore by bike or on foot and in summer you can take in the party atmosphere as locals enjoy the summer in the parks and around the harbour.

Where to Stay?

The Ibsens Hotel is a stylish hotel near the Copenhagen lakes that is furnished with quirky finds from neighbourhood shops and local artizan businesses and has Saturday night stays available in August and September for €130-180.  Read my review and video of Ibsens Hotel here

What to see?

A boat tour of the canals and harbour will help you get your bearings and locate some of the major Copenhagen landmarks, such as the Opera House, Royal Palace and the Little Mermaid statue. Stroll along Stroget where you’ll find luxury Danish design stores and climb the medieval Round Tower, for views over the city. You’ll want to enjoy the food scene too, with some of the best restaurants in the world where Michelin stars abound, but you can also find inexpensive snacks and deli-meals in the Torverhallerne food halls.

Read more about Copenhagen here: In photos: Our weekend stay in Copenhagen

The Intercontinental Hotel in Budapest Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Intercontinental Hotel in Budapest

 

A spa break in Budapest

Why go?

Hungary’s capital has all the sophistication of Paris but with far more affordable prices and warm, friendly locals. There’s so much to see whether you love sightseeing, relaxing in the numerous traditional and trendy cafes or visiting one of the thermal spas.

Where to Stay?

The Intercontinental Hotel is a 5 star hotel that’s centrally located for sightseeing by the Chain Bridge with views of the Danube and there are dates in August and September available from €100 per night. Read my review and video of Intercontinental Hotel Budapest here

What to see?

Take the funicular up to the top of Castle Hill to visit the colourful Matyas church and take in the views from the Fisherman’s Bastion over the Danube and Hungarian Parliament building. You’ll want to visit one of the Hungarian spa baths such as the Gellert or Szechenyi complexes to enjoy a massage or a soak in the warm baths and perhaps afterwards have coffee and cake in an elegant cafe. The House of Terror is a compelling reminder of Hungary’s communist past, while a visit to the Hungarian State Opera House for a concert or ballet is a must for culture lovers.

Read more about Budapest here: 48 hours in Budapest, top things to see on a weekend break

About HotelsCheap

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Follow HotelsCheap.org on their social media channels for travel inspiration and tips for the places you’ll want to visit; follow along on Twitter @hotelscheap, on Google+ and on Facebook

About the giveaway

I’m giving away a voucher to one of my readers worth $250 US (equivalent value £146 or €185) which can be redeemed on HotelsCheap.org any time before June 2015. The giveaway is open to all readers regardless of your location although the voucher will be redeemed in $US. The giveaway will run for 2 weeks and end on Monday 4 August 2014. To enter the giveaway all you have to do is;

  • Leave a comment below telling me how you’d like to spend your HotelsCheap voucher; which destination would you love to visit, who will you be going with, where would you like to stay?

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Entering this giveaway gives permission for you to be added to the e-mail lists of both Heatheronhertravels.com and our sponsor HotelsCheap.org, but you can unsubscribe at any time.

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This article by Heather Cowper is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com - Read the original article here

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Walking the beaches of the Gower – staying in our luxury Mumbles cottage – video

Friday night and it’s time to cross the Severn Bridge and exchange a working week in Bristol for a weekend exploring the glorious beaches of the Gower peninsula and the seaside nostalgia of Mumbles. This part of South Wales is no stranger to me, in fact I was in Swansea only a couple of weeks earlier on the trail of Dylan Thomas and visiting my son who is at Swansea university. This time I wanted to see more of Mumbles, all lovespoons and Welsh-Italian ice cream, as well as combining my favourite activities of walking and being beside the sea (but not necessarily in it).

Caswell Beach, Gower Peninsula, South WalesPhoto: Heatheronhertravels.com

Heather and Guy at Caswell Bay, Gower Peninsula, South Wales

Mumbles is one of those happy seaside towns that enjoyed its heyday in the early 20th century, when a trip to the seaside was a highlight of the summer for every family. With the establishment of the railway and steam trains running from Swansea from 1877, the population of this little seaside village grew and it became popular for the people of Swansea to visit Mumbles at the weekend and for holidays. Here you could enjoy an ice cream or pot of tea, take a walk along the promenade to the pier and reach the beaches of the Gower Peninsula that lie beyond.

Promenade View, the luxury holiday house that was our base for the weekend lived up to its name, with a perfect setting on the sea front and views through the trees across the curve of Swansea Bay. From our first floor bedroom we could watch a constant stream of walkers and cyclists passing up and down the promenade on the path that runs all the way from Swansea to Mumbles pier. In front of the house is a stretch of seaweed-strewn pebble beach where children were playing, with sailing boats parked in rows further up the promenade. The train line no longer exists, but there is a little tourist train that runs up and down to Mumbles from Blackpill Lido.

On the Promenade at Mumbles Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

On the Promenade at Mumbles

From Promenade View we took a stroll past Verdi’s Italian Cafe, a large glass building on the seafront where the participants from the triathalon earlier that morning were draped over the chairs outside, basking in the sunshine with wrap-around shades and wetsuits rolled down. Fishermen sat in their deck chairs with their rods propped up, where the restaurants and cafes that line the main road give way to houses with the rocky cliff rising steeply behind them.

Past the rocks exposed at low tide, where seagulls hopped between the stagnant rock-pools, we reached Mumbles Pier. Newly restored to its former glory, the building at the pier entrance was garlanded with exhuberant hanging baskets, with the Beach Hut Cafe serving fish and chips, a small boating pool for children to navigate pirate ships and the thumping and clanging of slot machines in the background. The man taking money at the pier entrance wasn’t doing a roaring trade but we were impressed by the secret sandy beach that you can reach by the steps down beside the pier.

I hope that you enjoy the video below of our weekend in Mumbles exploring the glorious beaches of the Gower

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Promenade View Holiday House

Our Promenade View holiday home provided a delightful weekend base for exploring Mumbles and the Gower peninsula where we were hoping to do some walking on the coastal path. The house has been recently renovated by owner Kim Davies, who grew up in Swansea and often returns to visit family. The colours are light and soft with a subtle seaside theme, plenty of personal touches and the amenities that you would normally expect from a hotel. Kim eventually hopes to run the house as a boutique B & B, so every room has its own en suite bathroom, with fragrant toiletries, limestone tiling, oak topped vanity stands and walk-in rain showers (or rain-forest showers as our kids know them).

Our master bedroom on the first floor had a practical wooden floor with soft green Welsh wool throws and cushions and a cosy rug on the floor. With the plantation shutters open we could lie in bed and watch the world go by, with a fabulous view of Swansea Bay through the picture window.

Promenade View Holiday Cottage in Mumbles, South Wales Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Master bedroom at Promenade View Holiday Cottage in Mumbles, South Wales

The two other bedrooms on the second floor were beautifully furnished in similar light, muted colours. The double bedroom at the front also had views over Swansea Bay and was decorated in a dove grey theme with woollen throw, linen cushions with a Welsh dragon motif and sparkly bedside lamps. The third bedroom which can be set up either as a double or twin had a velux window giving views over the trees and rooftops at the back of the house, with navy and white striped knitted throws and a large en suite bathroom. All the bedrooms had a flat-screen TV and we spotted kettles, hairdryers, full length mirrors and all the little conveniences that show the care and thought that has gone into making this house a home-from-home.

Promenade View Holiday Cottage in  Mumbles, South Wales Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Promenade View Holiday Cottage in Mumbles, South Wales

Downstairs, we relaxed in the elegant sitting room with the same plantation shutters that are found throughout the house, allowing light in while giving privacy from passers by. The wooden floor was covered with pale striped rug and we sank into the cream linen squashy sofas, with cushions of striped silk and soft, shaggy sheepskin. Under the flat screen TV was a cream leather Barcelona chair with cosy knitted throws and plenty of seaside touches like the jar of polished pebbles, pottery lighthouse lamps and rope covered doorstops.

At the back of the house, the kitchen and dining room had been knocked through to make one large area, with a painted dining table and chairs where we found a vase of flowers, as well as a welcome pack of some local goodies like Welsh cakes and biscuits, milk and breakfast cereal. The kitchen was extremely well equipped with plenty of attractive touches and the sunny patio at the back was the perfect place to sit with a coffee. We really enjoyed the many personal touches around the house, such as the old prints of a town in Italy that Kim had visited and the model sailing boat in the dining room, given to Kim by her sister.

If you’d also like to stay at Promenade View, you can check out the Facebook Page and book through local holiday rentals company HomefromHome.com.

Promenade View Holiday Cottage in Mumbles,  South Wales Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Promenade View Holiday Cottage in Mumbles, South Wales

Vintage motorbikes in Bracelet Bay

For the three years our oldest son has been at university in Swansea, I’d always planned to walk the coastal path that encircles the Gower peninsula, with views of some of the most stunning beaches in Europe. Since he’s now finished, this weekend was going to be a case of better late than never, but I was determined to cover at least some of the distance. On Saturday morning we strode forth from Promenade View, wearing our walking boots and an optimistic covering of sun cream.

Once we reached the Mumbles Pier, the path took us up the steps for a view of the lighthouse and round the headland to Bracelet Bay where the annual “Under Milkwood” classic vehicle road run was gathering in the car park. Guy immediately spotted one of his favourite classic motorbikes, an Enfield Bullet and we stopped for an in depth discussion and photo opportunity with two older gentlemen of the road, Terrence and Derek, or “Tel and Del” as they introduced themselves. They would be taking their vintage motorbikes to the Dylan Thomas heartland of Laugharne later that day, while we continued a little further down the road to Limeslade Bay.

Vintage Enfield Bullet at Bracelet Bay, Gower Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Vintage Enfield Bullet at Bracelet Bay, Gower

Gelato at Limeslade Bay

Here we found more distractions in the form of Fortes ice cream parlour, another of the numerous cafes run by Italian families who emigrated to South Wales in the early 19th century. We stopped in conversation as we ordered our cones from the young lady behind the counter, ” Is it still heaving in Mumbles?” she asked, “we were very busy this morning with the triathlon” . We asked whether the ice cream was made on the premises, and she confirmed as we expected, “yes, my Mum makes it out the back”. We took our black-current and caramel ices and walked on licking them, following the path as it climbed away from the road.

The path here was newly paved in concrete, cutting through heathland above the old one lower down the slope, which looked as if it had been about to slide off the cliff. Below us the swell of the sea rose and fell with the white foam licking the rocks and a little robbin hopped in the hedge beside the path then flew away. A couple of cyclists passed us and got off to push as the path steepened, then turned into steps as we neared Langland Bay.

Limeslade Bay, Gower Peninsula, Wales Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Limeslade Bay, Gower Peninsula, Wales

Retro beach huts at Langland Bay

Langland Bay has a wide expanse of beach which is popular with both families and surfers, since there is easy parking and it’s not too far from Swansea. Along the back of the beach are rows of cheerfully retro green and white beach huts that are in hot demand to rent for the season, where you can store all your beach essentials, make a cup of tea and sit in a deckchair sunning yourself with your friends. The good weather had brought the families out in force, making sand castles, playing with dogs and passing round the sandwiches, surrounded by colourful wind breaks and beach tents.

Green Beach huts at Langland Bay, Gower Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Green Beach huts at Langland Bay, Gower

Langland beach has an almost tropical air due to the spiky palms planted in front of the beach huts. The tide was a long way out and we could just spot a few surfers and a kayak lesson going on. Walking along the path above the beach we reached the Langland Brasserie at the end, the smartest of the three beach cafes, where we had enjoyed a coffee in the rain on a previous winter visit to Langland and Caswell.

Langland Beach, Gower Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Langland Beach, Gower

Buckets and Spades at Caswell Bay

After Langland Bay, the path was still good but the flat concrete surface disappeared and the shore became wild again with pock-marked rocks like calcified sponges exposed at low tide. On our right the heathland sloped upwards, with new growth sprouting in places and other patches that were dry and brown, even blackened as if by fire. Offshore a lone paddleboarder was taking a parallel course to us, making surprisingly good progress despite or perhaps because the sea was calm with hardly any waves. The day was warm but now becoming overcast, with a patch of blue sky topped by a lid of grey clouds and we hoped there wouldn’t be rain ahead as Caswell Bay came into view.

Where Langland has a touch of old world elegance about it, Caswell feels much more buckets and spades, candy floss and burgers. I had been rather looking forward to stopping for a light lunch in the Surfside Cafe, but Guy was put off by the crowds on the beach and so we only stopped long enough to eat our Welsh cakes and have a swig of water. We continued across the sand in front of the lifeguard hut to where the path passed through woodland and around the cliff.

Caswell Beach, Gower Peninsula,  South Wales Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Caswell Beach, Gower Peninsula, South Wales

Wildflowers and woodland by Pwll du Bay

The path was so narrow in places that there was not much to stop you falling down if you missed a step, although we could look back down on Caswell with a sheen of water like a mirror over most of the surface. The coastal path took us through a very pretty stretch of lush undergrowth with wildflowers like ox eye daisies and pink foxgloves blooming, contrasting with the lunar landscape of rocks below us, exposed at high tide.

Through a stretch of woodland we came down to the National Trust beach at Pwll du Bay which was more remote than the others we had passed with no car park and access that seemed to be only via the footpaths, although there were a couple of cottages with cars outside. A large bank of shale backed the beach and behind it a stream was running, creating a marshy area with a small pool and a bridge to cross. The area was once a limestone quarry and the buildings that remain were inns for the thirsty quarry men (and maybe smugglers) according to the National Trust website.

Up the steep path we now skirted the open headland through a field of cows, heading for Pennard where we were able to catch the bus back to Mumbles using the excellent regular bus service that makes it easy to walk parts of the coastal path as we had done. The information leaflets in the welcome pack that came with the cottage gave us plenty of information about the walks and bus service but you can also pick them up in the local tourist information office or check the BayTrans website here.

Llangennith Beach on the Gower Peninsula, Wales Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Llangennith Beach on the Gower Peninsula, Wales

Surf’s up at Llangennith

On Sunday morning we decided to check out one of the Gower beaches that I’d heard a lot about from my son, but never visited, the surfer’s favourite beach at Llangennith. Half an hour’s drive from Mumbles, we parked by the cafe above the Hillend campsite and walked down to the beach, although we afterwards realised that we could have parked right by the sand dunes.

This beach is huge and extends in both directions, bounded by Rhossilli at one end and Broughton Bay at the other. As we arrived it was low tide and there was a constant stream of surfers walking through the dunes with their boards under their arms, across the flat sand, sheeted with water and down to the surf. As every good surfer knows, winter is by far the best time for surfing, when the wind and storms in the Atlantic create the swell, but in June the water was quite flat. Every so often a surfer would pop up and make a few curves, otherwise there seemed to be a lot of bobbing heads in the water.

Llangennith Beach on the  Gower Peninsula, Wales Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Llangennith Beach on the Gower Peninsula, Wales

There were plenty of people sitting close to the beach entrance through the dunes, but as we walked further along we had the beach to ourselves with wide open skies and a gentle breeze. I love the sense of freedom and space you get beside the ocean on a wild, unspoilt beach like this. Those in the know were pulling their belongings along the sand in a beach cart so that they could walk further along to the quieter end of the beach. Even in the most crowded weekend in August I imagine you could have plenty of space here if you can be bothered to walk.

By lunchtime it was time to head back to Mumbles, leaving Promenade View and on back to Bristol, our heads a little clearer for the coastal walking and sea breeze. Next time I’d love to continue my walk around the rest of the Gower, passing some of the other fantastic beaches of Three Cliffs Bay, Oxwich and on to reach Rhossili and Llangennith again. Until then I’m holding on the memory of that wind in my hair and the lovely, luxurious Promenade View in Mumbles.

Visitor Information for Visiting Mumbles and the Gower Peninsula

Our holiday house at Promenade View can be booked through local holiday rentals company HomefromHome.com and you can also follow the Promenade View Facebook Page . Promenade View has 3 en suite bedrooms and sleeps up to 6 people in comfort with off street parking for one car and a small courtyard garden. The house is very well equiped with washing machine, dishwasher, dryer, internet as well as games and useful information for the area supplied in your welcome pack. Promenade View can be rented by the week from £535 (low season) – £1085 (high season) per week

You can find out more about visiting the area on the Visit Swansea Bay, Mumbles and Gower Website and for holidays in Wales on the Visit Wales Website

Thanks to Kim Davies who extended me a complimentary weekend stay at Promenade View

View my photos on flickr here.

More stories from Swansea and South Wales

A winter weekend on the Gower in Wales – Langland and Caswell
An ugly, lovely town Part 1 – a return journey to Swansea with Dylan Thomas
A long day’s walk on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path

Sunset from Mumbles, South Wales Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Sunset from Mumbles, South Wales

This article by Heather Cowper is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com - Read the original article here

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