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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
More things to do in Wales
Find all my Photos from the weekend in my Flickr Album: Mumbles and Gower
Thanks to Kim at Promenade View Holiday House for hosting our weekend stay.