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