A driving tour of Costa Brava – old town Girona, seaside Cadaques and all the Dalí in between

Ah, Costa Brava – fresh green wheat fields, yellow rapeseed edged with poppies and views over the olive trees to the snow capped Pyrenees in the distance. These are the memories that we brought home from our recent short break, staying in a rustic luxury villa with our hire car to explore a new place each day.

Tour of Costa Brava

Visiting pretty, painted Girona

Our first day was spent in Girona, the regional capital of Costa Brava. I’d visited a couple of times before and was looking forward to showing it to the family. (Read about my last visit to Lloret de Mar) Girona has a similar feel to its big sister Barcelona, but without the crowds of tourists and dare I say a more authentic Catalan flavour (we don’t talk about Spain here). There’s modern shopping if you want it, but I prefer to just wander around the old streets that surround the cathedral, stopping here and there for some people-watching on a café terrace. If you want the postcard shot of Girona, cross the bridge and walk along for a view of the coloured houses that overlook the river.

Visiting Girona in Costa Brava Heatheronhertravels.com

Visiting Girona in Costa Brava

Lunch on the terrace at Konig

Our lunchtime spot was Konig (Carrer dels Calderers, 16), a well placed café below the Basilica de Sant Feliu with a large terrace overlooking the river where we could bask in the sunshine. They serve good quality local dishes, salads and pasta – nothing too gourmet, but tasty and not too expensive if you are feeding a large group of hungry offspring.

Konig for lunch in Girona

Konig for lunch in Girona

Is this the best gelato in the world?

For desert we fancied an ice cream so I led the troops across the river (admiring pretty painted houses), through the Plaça de la Independència and down the small street to find Rocambolesc (Carrer de Santa Clara, 50). Of course, I knew the gelato would be great, since it is run by the Roca brothers of El Celler de Can Roca fame, a.k.a The best restaurant in the world if you believe these highly prized lists.

Rocambolesc ice cream in Girona

Rocambolesc ice cream in Girona

The six flavours of ice cream change with the season and come out of the machine in a piped swirl, Mr Whippy style. If you think that six choices may not be enough, even if they include coconut and violet, just look at the endless selection of toppings! The lady who served us reeled off her topping recommendations in just the same way as they recite the dishes when they serve you in Michelin star restaurants. I knew then that we were on to a good thing.

Casa Moner in Girona Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Casa Moner in Girona

Pastries that ooze with cream at Casa Moner

Right across the street we were tempted into Casa Moner (Carrer de Santa Clara, 45), a local bakery chain that serves artizan breads and pastries. I bought one of their Xuixo signature pastries, a rolly-polly doughnut filled with custard cream, the kind that oozes out the sides and drips down your chin when you take a bite. Beyond the narrow shopfront there was a sizeable cafe area at the back where you could sit to enjoy all the cakes, but sadly that would have to wait for another day.

Fabrica cafe in Girona Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Fabrica cafe in Girona

A trendy cycle cafe at Fabrica

Crossing over the red metal lattice of the Eiffel bridge (made by Gustave Eiffel a few years before he even thought of that tower in Paris) we headed back into the old town, having spotted on the map the old walls that encircle half of Girona. We hoped to find some steps to get up onto the path that leads along the top, but it took a coffee stop at the trendy cycle café, La Fábrica (Carrer de la Llebre, 3) to get directions to the start of the wall.

Walking the walls in Girona Heatheronhertravels.com

Walking the walls in Girona

Walking the walls of Girona

Once up at the top, the path was an easy walk giving us views over the rooftops. We could effortlessly peep into windows below us and snoop on gardens and terraces. The path ran from one end of the old town to the other, with towers along the way where you could climb up for even more expansive views. We walked around 30 minutes to get from one end of the wall to the other and ended up behind the cathedral so I popped in to have a look around.

Majestic Girona Catheral

The cathedral was majestic and tranquil, with towering stone pillars and stained glass lit up by the sun. Photographs were not allowed inside and although many people had their mobile phones out I decided to respect that. Instead I’ll give you a shot of the cathedral cloister which I visited on my way out.

Cathedral cloister in Girona Heatheronhertravels.com

Cathedral cloister in Girona

Staying at Mas Gorral with Charming Villas

I think it’s time to tell you something about our villa which was kindly provided by Charming Villas Catalonia. Set in the countryside a short drive from Figures, we were blown away by Mas Gorral. It’s an old farmhouse that has obviously been added to over the years although all in such authentic style that it’s difficult to tell what is centuries old and what is new.

The villa was set on the hillside so we had views over the countryside towards the snow capped Pyrenees and over the nearby village of Pontos, all terracotta roofs and narrow streets that you could just about get a car through.

At our villa Mas Gorral through Charming Villas Catalonia heatheronhertravels.com

At our villa Mas Gorral through Charming Villas Catalonia

Inside we had 5 spacious bedrooms with 3 bathrooms between us and a huge dining room and living room that featured natural stonework, colourful walls and antique furnishings. Local painted pottery mixed with Asian pieces, perhaps inspired by the owner’s travels. With quirky artworks, well kept gardens and a (bracingly fresh) pool this was the perfect place for our two families to share.

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At our villa Mas Gorral through Charming Villas Catalonia Heatheronhertravels.com

At our villa Mas Gorral through Charming Villas Catalonia

The Dali Theatre-Museum at Figueres

When in Costa Brava there’s no escaping that giant of 20th Century art, Salvador Dalí who was born just down the road from our villa at Figures. As we drove the hire car into town and circled to find parking I have to admit that Figueres looked unremarkable. We walked towards the red towers topped with white eggs of the museum and luckily got inside just before waves of French school children began to arrive.

Dali Museum in Figueres heatheronhertravels.com

Dali Museum in Figueres

The museum was created over 10 years in the old municipal theatre and was Dali’s personal project.  He called in his artworks from all over the world and added art installations specially for the museum.

Dali Museum in Figueres heatheronhertravels.com

Dali Museum in Figueres

Entering the first couryard that would have been the theatre auditorium we found the Rainy Cadillac topped with a huge breasted and bellied goddess figure. Gold statues like Oscar awards looked down from the walls and a fishing boat was stranded at the top of a column of Michelin tyres – I saw those again at Dali’s house in Port Lligat. On the stage was another artwork the size of a cinema screen and in the niche to one side a nude figure of Dali’s wife Gala with her back turned – except when you cross your eyes or look at it through your camera you realise that it’s a portrait of Abraham Lincoln.

Dali Museum in Figueres heatheronhertravels.com

Dali Museum in Figueres

The whole museum was packed full of artworks with that feeling of ‘it’s not quite what it seems’. I did buy the guidebook but didn’t read it until afterwards so it was an enjoyable game to just wander through the rooms, absorbing the impression without overthinking the meaning. At the end of the day it seems to be a projection of Dali’s rich subconsciousness and dreamworld.

Dali Museum in Figueres heatheronhertravels.com

The Wind Palace Room at the Dali Museum in Figueres

Once you have left the main museum, there is the jewellery collection which is included in the same entrance ticket, full of most gorgeous bling. I coveted the ruby lips with pearl teeth and the red ruby heart brooch that has a mechanism inside so it literally beats.

Gala’s Castle at Pubol

After the Dali museum we decided there wasn’t an awful lot more to see in Figueres so we drove back to the villa where the rest of the crew decided to have a relaxing afternoon. Guy and I (OK it was mainly me) wanted a bit more of the Dali fix and so we drove south towards Girona to visit the Castle at Púbol that Dali gave to his wife Gala. It really was a beautiful drive on country roads with little traffic and only the occasional mishap when we inadvertantly drove through one of those old villages where the houses close in and the lanes became so narrow that you worry for your wing mirrors.

Gala Dalí Castle House-Museum in Púbol Heatheronhertravels.com

Gala Dalí Castle House-Museum in Púbol

This fortified country house or castel was a gift that Dali had promised Gala years before, a place that she could come on her own and relax, where even her husband would have to request written permission to visit her (or so the story goes). Once the museum at Figures was nearly complete the couple were able to start work on the renovations for their new project which was designed to suit Gala’s taste with some of Dali’s surreal art such as the cupboard painted with radiators to disguise the real radiators.

Gala Dalí Castle House-Museum in Púbol Heatheronhertravels.com

Gala Dalí Castle House-Museum in Púbol

The decoration here was luxurious but the overall effect simpler than the house we would see the next day at Port Lligat where the same amount of furniture was squashed into half the space. This was much more Gala’s retreat where she would come for a few weeks at a time to relax away from all the showmanshop that surrounded her husband.

Gala Dalí Castle House-Museum in Púbol Heatheronhertravels.com

Gala Dalí Castle House-Museum in Púbol

Gala was an clearly an elegant woman, her hair swept back into a girlish style, which was pinned with a large black velvet bow. Since I used to work in fashion, I loved looking at Gala’s dresses on display upstairs from the 50s and 60s, purchased from designers such as Pierre Cardin and Elsa Schiaparelli. Her dresses show her loved colour, luxurious fabrics and the subtle sparkle of lurex.

Driving tips for Costa Brava with Auto Europe

If you are staying in a villa as we were and want to see something of Costa Brava, you really need a hire car and ours was kindly provided by Auto Europe. The pickup and drop off at Girona airport was painless and we found that the roads easy to navigate, with much less traffic than we are used to in the overcrowded UK. It really made the driving a pleasure to pass fields full of wildflowers and yellow rapeseed edged with poppies. Of course in the high summer by the coast it might get a bit crazy, but away from the coast I suspect that even in high season these country roads are an easy drive.

Our hire car through Auto Europe Heatheronhertravels.com

Our hire car through Auto Europe

The only thing I would advise with a hire car is to avoid the centre of older towns and village centres that were not really made for cars. In Girona or Cadaques, we found that when you get close to the centre it’s best to park in the first public car park you see and walk into the old centre. Beware also of the small country villages which normally have a route that goes around them as well as a road that goes through them. The streets can be incredibly narrow, as we found out accidentally on a couple of occasions, so drive around if you can. You can check out my driving tips for Costa Brava in the video below.

The wild Costa Brava at Cadaques

Our final day was blessed with glorious sunshine at Cadaques, an old fishing town that’s now quite a tourist hotspot on the wild and rocky Cap de Creus. You drive on a winding road that snakes up through the unspoiled natural park, and brings you down the other side to Cadaques.

Cadaques in Costa Brava Heatheronhertravels.com

Cadaques in Costa Brava

Parking the hire car in the first main car park we saw as we came into town was the right decision as there was little space to pass in the smaller roads close to the beach. We walked around the seafront away from the busiest terrace restaurants and cafes and found a smaller place that had been recommended to me called Enoteca MF. It’s the wine bar and tapas restaurant that’s run by the same family that has a vineyard and winery set above Cadaques called Sa Perafita which you pass on the way into town.

Lunch at Sa Enoteca in Cadaques in Costa Brava Heatheronhertravels.com

Lunch at Sa Enoteca in Cadaques in Costa Brava

They serve fabulous tapas with the seafood being especially fresh and delicious. We tried a bit of everything including a bottle or two of their Cava and a glass of the local Vermouth which is the fashionable drink of the moment in Catalunya. There was the pan tomat rubbed with tomato and garlic, a plate of local cheeses, red tuna sashimi and a salmon tartare topped with guacamole. We were impressed to see the staff peeling a huge bowl of pink shrimps which were then pulverised to make a shrimp carpaccio. It was enough to melt the heart of the most avid opponent of raw fish.

Port Lligat in Costa Brava Heatheronhertravels.com

Port Lligat in Costa Brava

After lunch we walked up the lane beside the wine bar and in 10 minutes were overlooking the next bay at Port Lligat, a small fishing bay where Dali spent most of the time with his wife Gala. The house was created by knocking together a number of fishing huts and then extending them over the years. Because the individual rooms are so small you need to book timed tickets in advance (in April we were able to get them the day before).

Dali House at Port Lligat Heatheronhertravels.com

Dali House at Port Lligat

Although there were not many large scale artworks here, Dali’s vision was felt everywhere although the dried yellow ‘everlasting’ flowers were in almost every room, a favourite of Gala’s. Dali’s art studio was one of the largest spaces with light flooding in and an easel that could be moved up and down so that Dali could always paint sitting down on his chair.

Dali House at Port Lligat Heatheronhertravels.com

Dali House at Port Lligat

We moved from room to room, up a few steps each time since the different cottages were on different levels and emerged on a lovely terrace, with whitewashed stonework, pots of flowering plants and olive trees providing shade. The surprise was that they’d cleverly fitted in a swimming pool on the terrace with a round section and narrow channel for swimming up and down.

Dali House at Port Lligat Heatheronhertravels.com

Dali House at Port Lligat

Since not all of our group had visited the Dali house, we joined the rest enjoying a drink at the Es Raco d’en Dani Xiringuito at the other end of the beach – another offshoot of the Sa Perafita winery. There was plenty of seafood on the menu and although we stuck to the beers and coffee the waft of grilled octopus was mouthwatering.

Cadaques in Costa Brava Heatheronhertravels.com

Cadaques in Costa Brava

Rather reluctantly we walked back over the headland to Cadaques and wandered around the artisan market where we bought olive bread and pastries from the Cas Mona stand that we had seen in Girona.

Market near Pontas in Costa Brava Heatheronhertravels.com

Market near Pontas in Costa Brava

What a fabulous break we’d had but the next day it was time to return to Girona airport for our flight home. Still we managed a quick trip to the Sunday market at nearby Bascara to buy some salad and rotisserie chicken for lunch on the terrace.

As we basked in the warm sun I think we were all trying to soak it up and take a little piece of Costa Brava sunshine home with us.

Costa Brava countryside Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The countryside near our villa in Costa Brava

Have you been to Costa Brava or Catalunya and if so, what did you enjoy?

Read more about Costa Brava

Lloret de Mar – sun, sea and so much more…
Val de Nuria – a Sunday stroll in the Pyrenees
Staying in the heart of old town Girona

Visitor Information for Costa Brava

Thanks to Charming Villas Catalonia for providing our villa Mas Gorral near Figueres. Charming Villas specialise in luxury and character villas in Catalonia from rustic villas in the countryside to modern coastal villas. They have over 80 villas to choose from and as Richard and his wife who run the company are based locally they are able to help with planning your holiday and on hand to sort out any issues.

Thanks to Auto Europe for providing our hire car for exploring Costa Brava. Auto Europe work with 20,000 car rental locations in 180 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, as well as North and South America.

For more information to plan your holiday in Costa Brava, visit the Costa Brava Tourism Website and the Catalunya Tourism Website.

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Read about our driving tour of Costa Brava

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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A First Timer’s Guide to Oman

Bordering the United Arab Emirates and sporting luxury hotels to rival Dubai, Oman remains an enigma content to bask quietly in the shadow of its more showy neighbours. Muscat, the capital, is the springboard to Oman’s natural wonders – its desert landscapes, and the mountain ranges that rise above them – and the Bedu people, desert dwellers who have adapted to the arid conditions.

Highlights of Oman featured

Most visitors to the Sultanate of Oman touch down in Muscat. Oman’s capital city doesn’t attempt to mimic the high-rise sheen of neighbouring Dubai or the other Gulf cities. It’s more a collection of old fishing villages and ports edging the Gulf of Oman coastline. Among the more modern edifices, traces of Portuguese and Asian influences still remain in the older buildings – architecture that harks back to a time when the city was fought over for foreign rule.

The Coastline at Muscat in Oman Photo: AudleyTravel.com

The Coastline at Muscat in Oman

The green orchards of the Jebel Akhdar mountains

Jebel Akhdar translates to Green Mountains, and this imposing inland range is a cooling respite from the desert heat at its feet. The climate up in this elevated position – which rises to 3,075 metres at its tallest peak, Jebel Shams – is akin to the Mediterranean. Terraces are farmed to grow fruits, such as peaches, which wouldn’t withstand the conditions below.

Jebel Akhdar Mountains in Oman Photo: AudleyTravel.com

Jebel Akhdar Mountains in Oman

Jebel Akhdar breaks the farmland that runs down to the coast and Muscat from Oman’s Empty Quarter, and thousand-year-old forts and other UNESCO World Heritage sites were built on this strategic vantage point. You can now visit many of these sites after an initiative to restore and reopen them by Oman’s current ruler Sultan Qaboos. We particularly recommend the well-known fort at Bahla, and Jabrin Fort with its brightly painted and decoratively carved cedar wood ceiling.

Khasab Castle at Musandam in Oman Photo: AudleyTravel.com

Khasab Castle at Musandam in Oman – one of the many thousand old forts

Walking trails dissect the mountains, and one of the most rewarding is the trek to the abandoned village of Wadi Ghul, which sits below the rim of Oman’s Grand Canyon.

The rose gardens of the Saiq Plateau

The Saiq Plateau is the central formation of the mountains. You can explore the terraces that step the hillsides, where orchards grow fruit and almonds and rose gardens bloom in summer. The petals are pressed and filtered into rose water by the local farmers, and there is the opportunity to visit a local distillery to watch (and smell) this production.

The Alila Jabal Akhdar Resort has a dramatic location overlooking a gorge and makes for an elegant mountaintop retreat as well as a good base for exploring local trails. All rooms have panoramic views, but the outdoor infinity pool is possibly the best place of all for admiring the vistas.

Birkat al Mauz Saiq Plateau in Oman Photo: AudleyTravel.com

Birkat al Mauz Saiq Plateau in Oman

Visit the Nizwa Livestock Market

Each Friday, farmers and their goats, sheep and cattle travel down from their villages in the Jebel Akhdar mountains to barter and trade at the Nizwa Livestock Market. Wandering among the throngs in Nizwa’s main square, you can watch this platform of daily life for the Bedu, traditionally the nomadic peoples who inhabit Arabia’s deserts. Both sexes get stuck in with the haggling, wearing the contrasting attire of long cooling white robes (the dishdash) for the men and bright clothes and intricate face veils for the women.

The Nizwa Livestock Market in Oman Photo: AudleyTravel.com

The Nizwa Livestock Market in Oman

The historic city of Nizwa

The city of Nizwa, a two-hour drive southwest of Muscat, was Oman’s capital for a brief spell in the 6th and 7th centuries. Its deep-seated Islamic traditions are evident in its many mosques, but perhaps its most obvious feature is the 40-metre-tower of the 17th-century Nizwa Fort.

Nizwa Fort in Oman Photo: AudleyTravel.com

Nizwa Fort in Oman – built in the 17th century

Nizwa is a much wider trading hub than just a place to swap livestock. In the souq, antiques, spices and crafts fill the stalls and you can buy wares from silversmiths, potters, jewellers and other craftspeople.

Woman roasting coffee near Bahla in Oman Photo: AudleyTravel.com

Woman roasting coffee near Bahla in Oman

Close to central Nizwa, The Falaj Daris has two swimming pools set in landscaped gardens and an outdoor barbecue area. This is the only hotel in town, but we also recommend The Golden Tulip. It’s a 15-20 minute drive away from Nizwa, but in the mountains with a fantastic view. A tasteful property built in the traditional Omani architectural style, all rooms overlook the swimming pool, with the Hajar mountain range in the background.

Camp in the desert in the Wahiba Sands

If you crave solitude, the stretching golden sands of the Wahiba desert, not far from Nizwa and a four-hour drive out of Muscat, are untouched by inhabitants save the scatterings of Bedouin tribes who have made permanent homes around its southern perimeter.

Desert Nights Camp at Wahiba Sands in Oman Photo: AudleyTravel.com

Desert Nights Camp at Wahiba Sands in Oman

Sunset is, perhaps, the most magical time to be in the midst of these shifting sands, watching the dunes graduate through an extravagant mixture of honey-coloured hues into a deepening crimson before darkness falls.

Camel rides and quad biking in the desert

It’s possible to camp out under the desert sky and sample Bedouin hospitality. The Desert Nights Camp even offers the chance to sleep under canvas without compromising on comfort. Its air-conditioned tents have private bathrooms, bedrooms and lounges. Activities include camel rides and quad biking. We also like its location, nestled between two high sand dunes but easily accessible from the main road.

Camels at the Desert Nights Camp at Wahiba Sands in Oman Photo: AudleyTravel.com

Camels at the Desert Nights Camp at Wahiba Sands in Oman

Believed to be about 6,000 years old, the Sands’ dunes measure up to 80 metres high. The fine-grained sand is ever moving, teased by the wind, and the tracks made by your 4×4 will soon disappear. They make a surprisingly lively habitat for some 150 species of plants and 200 species of animals, including desert foxes and the white-tailed mongoose.

Watch nesting turtles at Ras Al Jinz

Back on Oman’s coast, the Ras Al Jinz Scientific and Visitors’ Centre offers a neat stopping place between the Wahiba Sands and Muscat. The Arabian Peninsula’s most easterly point, the small cove is a hotbed for nesting green turtles which clamber out of the water year round to lay their eggs in dugouts in the golden sand. The most prolific time for egg-laying is between July and September, although this coincides with Oman’s hottest weather.

See the Nesting turtles in Oman Photo: AudleyTravel.com

See the Nesting turtles in Oman

Green turtles are the largest of all hard-shelled turtles. You’ll be able to watch the females as they each lay somewhere between 100 and 200 eggs, and the resultant hatchlings’ struggle to reach the ocean.

The emphasis of the centre is on conserving the population, and this means any handling is discouraged. When you learn that only 0.01% of all the green turtle babies will survive into adulthood, you start to understand why.

You’ll stay at the only accommodation option, Carapace Lodge, which is part of the centre. As such, it is pretty basic with the choice of rooms or tents. Look at it as a practical option for being close to the turtles, and being able to walk down to the beach to watch them in the early mornings.

With all year round sunshine, Oman offers renowned Arabian hospitality, a traditional culture and unspoiled natural beauty. From the spectacular coastline at Muscat to the imposing rugged interior mountain ranges, Oman is just waiting to be explored.

This post was brought to you by Audley Travel. Audley trips don’t come off the shelf – they’re tailor-made down to the finest detail. When planning a trip with us, you will speak to a destination specialist who has either lived or travelled extensively within the country or region that you are visiting. They will create a bespoke trip based on your tastes, interests and budget and with an absolute commitment to providing quality travel experiences.

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The Gower in Wales: find your perfect coastal walk and place to stay

Walking along cliff paths and blowing the cobwebs away on a breezy beach is one of my favourite things to do at the weekend, at any time of year and whatever the weather. I’ve been to the Gower Peninsula in South Wales quite a few times now, since my oldest was at university at Swansea, spending his time ‘studying’ the best surfing beaches of the Gower coast. Last weekend I was back with my husband Guy, my youngest and a couple of his friends, staying for a second time at a very stylish and comfortable holiday house called Promenade View in Mumbles which is a perfect base for exploring the coastal walks and gorgeous beaches of the Gower.

Walking on the Gower Peninsula in Wales Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

We started our walk at Pennard Cliffs

Arriving on the Friday night we made our grand plan of how to spend the weekend. We would take the bus to Pennard where we had finished our walk a couple of years earlier (read about it here), then walk as far as we could to a point where we could catch the bus back to Mumbles. It was a good plan, but with three teenage boys, a much deserved lie in and a late start on the Saturday morning, it was a plan that we soon had to abandon. At 11am, fearing that the best of the day would be gone if we didn’t get a move on, we decided to drive instead of take the bus and set off for the National Trust car park at Pennard.

Pennard Cliffs on the Gower, Wales Heatheronhertravels.com

Pennard Cliffs on the Gower, Wales

Leaving the car park, we followed the broad, grassy path along the edge of the cliff with patches of yellow flowering gorse, dwarf trees blown into windswept shapes and the waves crashing on the rocks below. The limestone cliffs are a natural habitat for many wildflowers, although it was a bit too early to see the pink clumps of thrift that bloom here later in the spring.

Pennard Cliffs on the Gower, Wales Heatheronhertravels.com

Pennard Cliffs on the Gower, Wales

The cliff top of this section of the Welsh coast is common land where the local farmers have the right to graze their livestock, although the only animals that we saw were dogs taking their owners for a walk and swooping seagulls. Soon Three Cliffs Bay came into view, the sun lighting up the mottled brown hillside and the few white cottages with grey slate roofs.

Pennard Cliffs on the Gower, Wales Heatheronhertravels.com

Pennard Cliffs on the Gower, is a favourite with dog walkers

Getting to Pennard Cliffs

The National Trust Car park at Southgate is about a 20 minute drive from Mumbles or 30 minute drive from Swansea centre and parking for the day costs £3. There are public toilets and a cafe by the car park and bus stop. The number 14 and 14A runs from Swansea to Pennard every 1-2 hours – bus map and information here.

Pennard Cliffs on the Gower, Wales Heatheronhertravels.com

Heather and Guy on Pennard Cliffs on the Gower

The scramble down to Pobbles Beach

Just before Three Cliffs Bay the path led down through the dunes of Pennard Burrows to the secluded Pobbles Beach. The short grass gave way to deep swathes of sand and the boys pretended to snowboard down through the dunes, while on the cliff above us, we could hear the knock and thwack of balls on Pennard Golf Course.

Pobbles Beach on the Gower, Wales Heatheronhertravels.com

The boys walk down to Pobbles beach on the Gower, Wales

Down on the beach we picked our way over boulders, stones and piles of driftwood until we reached the sand and the boys clambered over the rocks to a smaller section of beach where there was a sea cave that smugglers would have loved. The tide was coming in and as I stood there taking photos, I got caught out by a wave washing over my boots, jumped and nearly dropped my camera.

I had to call to the boys to come back round onto the main beach, before they got cut off by the sea but of course they were in no hurry. It would be all part of the adventure to scale the cliff face or climb over rocks risking the sheer drop below!

Pobbles Beach on the Gower, Wales Heatheronhertravels.com

View of Pobbles Beach on the Gower, Wales

The Photogenic Three Cliffs Bay

Scrambling up through the sand dunes from Pobbles beach we came down on the other side to Three Cliffs Bay, one most photographed beaches on the Gower. I’m sure it has been on many of those ‘best beaches in the world’ lists. We picked our way along a very narrow cliff path, although subsequently realised there were easier routes around the back of the sand dunes, and came sliding and slithering again down to the beach.

Three Cliffs Bay in the Gower, Wales Heatheronhertravels.com

Three Cliffs Bay in the Gower, Wales

A band of grey shale that marked the high tide mark stretched across the beach, behind it the valley through which the silvery ribbon of Pennard Pill river flowed into the sea. On the cliff above us sat the picturesque ruin of Pennard Castle that was built between the 12th and 14th centuries by Henry de Beaumont, the first Earl of Warwick, but later abandoned because of sand blowing in from the dunes and beach.

We sat on a log to rest a while then crossed the beach to where the shallow river could be crossed on stepping stones. Guy remembered how he had brought our daughter Sophie-Anne here with some friends when they were a lot younger, staying in the campsite up on the cliffs and they’d all come down to make a fire on the beach. What an wild adventure for tiddlers!

Three Cliffs Bay in the Gower, Wales Heatheronhertravels.com

Three Cliffs Bay in the Gower, Wales

Visiting Three Cliffs Bay

The beach here is not easily accessible except by walking unless you are staying at the Three Cliffs Bay Holiday Park where they have both camping and farm cottages. Parking is available at Pennard where we walked from or at the Gower Heritage Centre at Parkmill on the other side of the golf course.

Three Cliffs Bay in the Gower, Wales Heatheronhertravels.com

Stepping stones across the river at Three Cliffs Bay in the Gower, Wales

Had we continued, the path on the other side of Three Cliffs Bay would have brought us to the next beach at Oxwich Bay, another long sandy beach with easy parking and cafes at the far end, which is served by the 117 bus from Swansea. Looking out we could see the headland where the next bus stop would be and decided that it looked a very, very long way to walk to Oxwich. The executive decision was taken to turn back here and retrace our steps to the car. Our walk around the whole Gower would have to wait for another day.

Three Cliffs Bay in the Gower, Wales Heatheronhertravels.com

Three Cliffs Bay in the Gower, Wales

Returning by the same way we’d come, we clambered up through the dunes, wading through sand that resembled soft brown sugar and along the boardwalk that led through the spindly grass. Our walk back to Pennard was much quicker on the return since I had taken all my photos and we soon arrived back to our holiday house at Promenade View on the seafront at Mumbles.

Three Cliffs Bay in the Gower, Wales Heatheronhertravels.com

Three Cliffs Bay in the Gower, Wales

Where to stay on the Gower

Before I tell you what we got up to on the Sunday of our walking weekend, let me introduce you to our luxurious holiday house at Mumbles, called Promenade View. We’d stayed here a couple of years ago and loved everything about it, so I was really pleased when the owner Kim invited us back (read my review and watch the video here)

Promenade View Holiday House in Mumbles Heatheronhertravels.com

Promenade View Holiday House in Mumbles

Mumbles is the traditional seaside town that’s now a suburb of Swansea but was originally a small fishing village until the railway joined it to the city in the 19th century. The promenade that the house is named after runs from Mumbles right around Swansea Bay to the city and it’s a favourite stretch for joggers and cyclists.

Staying in Mumbles gives you the best of all worlds since there are plenty of shops, bars and restaurants, but it has the feel of a seaside village. Only a short drive or even walk to the end of the promenade and you are on the cliff paths heading for some of the most fabulous beaches in Wales.

Promenade View Holiday House in Mumbles Heatheronhertravels.com

Promenade View Holiday House in Mumbles

Guy and I had the first floor master bedroom while the boys took the two second floor bedrooms, each with its own en suite bathroom, making it ideal for a families or groups of friends to share. The ground floor sitting room was beautifully decorated in calm shades of cream and stone with wooden plantation shutters to give some privacy and there’s space to park your car right outside.

Promenade View Holiday House in Mumbles Heatheronhertravels.com

Promenade View Holiday House in Mumbles

At the back of the ground floor is the open plan kitchem with large dining table and a small patio garden where you can sit out and eat in sunny weather. The thing that I really love about this house is that you can open the shutters in the two front bedroom and sit in bed looking out over Swansea Bay while the occasional walker and cyclist passes by – really very hypnotic and relaxing.

For more information on one of the most stylish Gower Cottages around, check out the Promenade View Website and book through local cottage company Home from Home who offer many luxury Gower cottages like this one.

Rhossili on the Gower in Wales Heatheronhertravels.com

Rhossili on the Gower in Wales

Walking to Worm’s Head

Although we originally planned to continue our walk from Three Cliffs Bay, we decided that on Sunday we should really visit another of the best beaches in the Gower at Rhossili. Unfortunately the forecast sunshine failed to materialise but undaunted we drove for 30 minutes to reach Rhossili, at the furthest end of the Gower peninsula. We’d been there quite a few years ago on a family camping weekend (read about it here) when the kids were a lot smaller and spent a sunny day on the broad sandy beach playing cricket and generally lolling around.

The causeway at Worm's Head on the Gower, Wales Heatheronhertravels.com

The causeway at Worm’s Head on the Gower, Wales

On previous Gower holidays we’d never tried the walk to Worm’s Head, a jut (did I just invent that word?) of rock that is joined to the headland by a causeway. You need to check the times of the tide to be sure that the causeway will be open and you won’t be cut off. There’s a big sign and a coastguard’s hut to make sure you don’t do anything too foolhardy, but I’m sure that quite a few must get cut off, in fact we spotted a board outside the hut that told us how many. By pure chance we managed to time it perfectly and arrived at 11am with the causeway open for another couple of hours, which seemed plenty of time.

The causeway at Worm's Head on the Gower, Wales Heatheronhertravels.com

The causeway at Worm’s Head on the Gower, Wales

The first challenge was to clamber down from the grassy bank to a slope with uneven layers of rocks, pebbles and boulders. On the causeway, the rocks were topped by colonies of miniature mussels, looking as if a sea giant had slapped dollops of tar all over the causeway. I stuck to the area closer to the sea but it was impossible to avoid the mussels, everywhere tiny mussels, on every rock, in every nook and cranny although none of them big enough to make a decent moules marinière.

The causeway at Worm's Head on the Gower, Wales Heatheronhertravels.com

The causeway at Worm’s Head on the Gower, Wales

I kept an eye on the water lapping up on the rocks hoping to see one of the seals that swim near the causeway but none appeared. By the time I had stopped to photograph every mussel, whelk and limpet, the boys and Guy were way ahead of me and I decided to turn back, leaving Guy to make sure they all got back safely before the tide turned.

The causeway at Worm's Head on the Gower, Wales Heatheronhertravels.com

I decided to turn back on the causeway at Worm’s Head on the Gower, Wales

As I picked my way cautiously back across the causeway (definitely ankle twisting territory!) I remembered my friend telling me about the time when she was at Worm’s Head with small children frantically calling her older ones back before they got stuck on the wrong side of the causeway. I saw the binoculars at the coastguard’s hut and wondered whether they count them out and count them back in.

The causeway at Worm's Head on the Gower, Wales Heatheronhertravels.com

All safely back before the tide turns! On the causeway at Worm’s Head on the Gower, Wales

Soon I was relieved to see my crew making their way back and all were back just by 1.00 when the tide was due to turn and flood the causeway. Since it was past lunchtime we found a cosy Gower hotel and had a plate or two of chips at the Worm’s Head Hotel before heading back to Promenade View for a late sandwich lunch.

Back at Mumbles Promenade

Annoyingly, as soon as we drove away from Rhossili, the brooding grey cloud cleared and we started to see patches of blue sky at last. On the Mumbles promenade families were out enjoying the sunshine, strolling up past the boats towards the pier to treat themselves to an ice cream.

The Promenade at Mumbles Heatheronhertravels.com

The Promenade at Mumbles

Sadly we had run out of time to join them on this weekend, but I’m sure there will be another installment of the ‘Walking around the Gower’ project, when we return to walk just a little further and explore more of those glorious Gower beaches.

The Promenade at Mumbles Heatheronhertravels.com

The Promenade at Mumbles

Visitor Information

For more information about staying at Promenade View Holiday Home check out their website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

You can book Gower holidays through Home from Home holiday cottages who specialise in Gower holiday cottages and have a great many lovely ones to choose from. Follow them on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

To find out more about what’s going on in the area of Mumbles and Swansea Bay check out the Visit Swansea Bay website and follow on their social channels Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

For more holidays in Wales check out the Visit Wales tourism website and follow their social media channels Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

More things to do in Wales

A weekend on the Gower Peninsula at Langland and Caswell Bay
Lovely Laugherne – on the Dylan Thomas trail in South Wales
An Ugly Lovely Town – Dylan Thomas in Swansea

Find all my Photos from the weekend in my Flickr Album: Mumbles and Gower

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Read about walking around the Gower Peninsula in Wales

Thanks to Kim at Promenade View Holiday House for hosting our weekend stay.

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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