As we zigged and zagged fifteen minutes through the countryside past nothing but rolling green fields and herds of lazy sheep (there are over 11 million in tiny Wales), it was hard to believe a beach could be at the end of this ride out from Swansea. Sure enough, however, the bus through the Gower Peninsula hit the Wales coastline at Rhossili Bay and we were absolutely awestruck at its natural beauty. Green hills unfold down to the sea to the southeast, while their sheer cliffs jut down to wide, sandy beaches below.
After a wind-whipped ramble along the Rhossili Bay shore, we hopped on the Gower bus and followed the coast further east for hours, passing more of those lonely sheep, sleepy fishing villages and long stretches of deserted beaches with their limestone caves and colorful shells. There was a quick stop in Port Eynon Bay, one of the Gower’s most popular beaches, before moving on to the long Oxwich Bay and finally Three Cliffs Bay, its namesake obvious even from far in the distance.
Despite its 7,800 miles of coast line (750 of which are in Wales), Britain is not considered a beach destination in the traditional sense even though you are never further than two hours from a beach anywhere in Britain. The most popular beach destinations in Britain tend to be Brighton or Cornwall but the Gower Peninsula in Southern Wales is the first of Britain’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), and Rhossili Bay was voted Best Beach in Britain in 2010.
During the summer months brave visitors can go for a swim, but the chilly Atlantic never warms up as much as the Mediterranean and we only dipped a toe in the water here. However, for surfers, especially windsurfers, the waves are just right, and for those who are not into water sports, there are endless walking and cycling paths along the coast line which can be enjoyed at any time of the year. One day we’d like to do the whole of the Cambrian Way, 275 miles of coastal pathway from Cardiff to the north of Wales.
Speaking of Cardiff, while Swansea is a great base for exploring the Gower, with cozy bed and breakfasts for £40, no trip to Wales is complete with a stop to the ritzy Welsh capital. Cosmopolitan Cardiff prides itself on its mix of modern and historic cultural attractions like the world-class Millennium Centre – home of the Welsh National Opera, the New Theatre – the city’s oldest, built in 1906, and the truly breathtaking Cardiff Castle – one of Britain’s most significant historic structures.
The city’s luxurious spa hotels such as the grand St Davids Hotel Cardiff offer guests a weekend of relaxation and pampering. We have found, however, there are plenty of hotels in Cardiff for mid-range to budget travelers as well, and plenty of affordable attractions and things to do in the city.