I know all about being a local in Cardiff.
I know where there are nice pubs. I know where to head to on those rare, precious sunny days. I know which areas to spend time in and which to avoid. I know where to find cute independent delis and shops. I know where there are nice walks to be had. I know where to get a great curry, and where to find the best baguettes I have ever eaten. I know where to go to get a good view, and the best shortcuts for walking into the city centre.
But I have never done the tourist thing in South Wales, and that is something that I do regret. After living in Cardiff for 5 years, I never even went to visit Cardiff Castle, never mind making the most of all of the other areas within easy reach of Cardiff, such as the Brecon Beacons and the Gower Peninsula.
When Jim & I set out on our camping tour of the UK, we attempted to address this. We were mid-house move at that point so we did unfortunately have to cut our planned time in South Wales short, but we did squeeze in a couple of nights camping on the Gower peninsula before heading home.
This is Jim’s neck of the woods and so he knew exactly where he wanted us to go – the wide sweeping expanse of Rhossili Bay.
This is famous as the beach upon which Mr Bean did his Chariot’s of Fire sketch for the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony, and has been used as a backdrop for many other TV shows and films.
It is not hard to see why – it is an absolutely stunning beach.
There are a couple of things to know for anyone visiting:-
1. In the summer, it is expensive
People flock to the Gower coast in the summer, and this is one of the largest and most well-known beaches. This makes it expensive. This is the first time we had any difficulty in finding somewhere to pitch for the night – the campsite that we had originally intended to stay at was full. We ended up in an alternative which was further away, but it was the most basic yet most expensive campsite of the whole trip, and by far the busiest – we were all crammed in like sardines.
The car park for the beach is also expensive. I can’t remember exactly how much it was, but I remember it was painful.
2. The roads are single track and busy
I refused to do any driving on the Gower. It was less than a month after I had passed my driving test, and all of the roads are narrow single track roads. There are passing places, but just be careful – the traffic is very heavy for such small country roads and the only way to safely navigate them is to go slow and be alert.
3. There are steps down to the beach
The beach is at the bottom of a cliff, and there are numerous steep steps down (which is not too bad) and then up again (which half killed us). It is not suitable for anyone with mobility problems.
Before heading down the steps onto the beach, we first wandered around Worm Head which is the most westerly point on the Gower coast, and is a little island which is joined to the mainland by a rocky causeway.
The causeway is only exposed for 2.5 hours before and after low tide, and it was almost totally covered when we were there. The walk to the edge of the causeway is a really nice one, and provides some lovely view points of Rhossili Bay and the sea.
When we made it down to the beach, we just totally relaxed, having a wander and a sit in the sun. We stayed on the beach until it started to get cold. It was busy, but it is so huge it felt empty.
Without having a car, Rhossili Bay is not the easiest place to reach although I am sure it would not be impossible. It did make me think of all of the weekends I lived in Wales where I didn’t make the effort to come along to the Gower coast, or get out of Cardiff.
Just as I rediscovered Edinburgh, I would love to go back to Cardiff and South Wales as a tourist with a bit more time to make up for all of the things that I didn’t do when I had it on my doorstep.