With our summer sadly coming to an end, it’s great to get out and about and make the most of the fleeting warm and sunny days. Keen to head out of town to the coast, we headed off to the glorious Gower coast in South Wales – the UK’s very first designated ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’. Blessed with world-famous beaches, stunning countryside and views for days, its the perfect road trip destination, whether for just a couple of days, or weeks.
For those not familiar, Gower is a small peninsular just past the seaside city of Swansea, a 3 is- hour drive straight down the M4 from London – without the often hideous traffic issues the 5 hour (usually 7 hour!) drive from London to the beaches of Cornwall during the school holidays. Many would say the Gower’s beaches are even more spectacular than those in the far West too – with the likes of Rhossili Bay notching up awards most years as one of the World’s best beaches.
From the moment you leave the M4, you can see the famous Mumbles Head and Mumbles Lighthouse in the far corner of the vast arc of Swansea Bay. This was our first stop. With its quaint shops and lanes, gorgeous views and fine Victorian pier it’s been a popular holiday stop for generations. Those in the know will head to Joes Ice Cream and take their tubs and sit next to the sea and gaze across the huge bay, watching yachts bob by, before walking up to the pier for even more incredible views – even of the North Devon hills in the distance on a good day.
Our SEAT Tarraco made the journey easy and enjoyable, bowling along the M4 with minimal engine, road and wind noise, and with acres of space, enabled a host of luggage including hiking equipment and surfboards to be stowed inside. The sat nav was spot on too – finding the quickest route. Economy-wise, the Tarraco’s economy was very good too – especially being a 7 seater. Our return trip cost us just £40.
Given its size we were a tiny bit concerned about how it would cope on some of the Gower’s notorious tight and twisty roads – especially the Mumbles’ Pier area’s much-feared incredibly steep and tight switch-back, most have difficulty even walking up. The Tarraco’s excellent visibility and height proved a huge bonus on the trip enabling all of us to enjoy the views most miss because of the high ancient stone walls fringing many roads, especially through the valleys as you head towards the more northern beaches.
And also worth a mention is the car’s excellent on-board camera which enables you to clearly see around the vehicle as you reverse – something very handy when navigating out of very tight parking spots.
After leaving The Mumbles, we headed to the much loved family-friendly beaches of Langland, Caswell and then on to our childhood favourites of Three Cliffs, Tor Bay and Oxwich Bay, a picture-postcard pretty area of ancient ruins, unspoilt river valleys and woodlands, miles of soft golden sands and towering cliffs.
The first two require a decent hike to reach, which thankfully deters most of the tourist hoards, but Oxwich Bay is family friendly and you can park right next to the shore. Do watch out for getting cut off though and also treacherous currents around Three Cliffs and Tor Bay – every year people are injured and need the Coastguard to rescue them, and there are even fatalities.
Leaving these glorious beaches behind, we headed North in the Tarraco to the most famous beach in Wales – the vast expanse of Rhossili. High headlands and outcrops into the sea fringe a totally unspoilt vast golden sand beach loved by walkers and surfers alike – the latter head to the further end beyond the headland where there is a beach – side car park where you just have to walk through dunes to reach the sea. The scenery here is truly majestic and it offers some the best sunset views in the UK.
Driving back towards Swansea, we stopped by the pretty King Arthur pub and took the central road, which runs along the Gower’s spine – high up on the heathland giving you fantastic views across both South and North Gower shores and to Swansea Bay. Here you can hear skylarks and see herds of semi-wild Welsh ponies.
Heading back into Swansea our final stop was the famous Swansea indoor market, for some cockles, lava bread and welsh cakes to take home, then on to the marina and newly developed SA1 for lunch in one of the many harbour-side trendy restaurants.
A lovely trip and we’re already planning our next in the Tarraco – this time for longer, where we plan to go horse riding, have a go at coast-steering, have surf lessons and stay in a couple of the many excellent holiday cottages you can rent.
Driving back in the Tarraco was a pleasure, the hours passed by in no time, and we arrived home still fresh and ache-free. The car proved the perfect ferry for us, and really cannot fault it at all.
Click Visit Swansea Bay For more information on Swansea and the Gower.
Click SEAT for more information on the Tarraco.