As the U.S. celebrates Labor Day this weekend, I think about the summer getaways to cool, crisp New England beaches that I miss very much. But then I think about how much our trip to Wales’s Gower Peninsula last weekend felt like a trip to Maine or Cape Cod. And finally the light has come on: England came before New England, and there might be a reason the latter was named just so.
Gower Peninsula juts into the Atlantic just an hour west of Cardiff, which means that like the Brecon Beacons, it’s an easy day trip from Cardiff.
As we made our way past the industrial-looking shores of Swansea, Jon and I were thrilled to see sandy beaches when we rounded the Swansea Bay to Mumbles, which is the first big beach town on the peninsula.
Determined to reach the peninsula’s most western point, Rhossili, we snaked our way through small, picturesque beach towns for over an hour and a half. While the distance across the peninsula is not much in miles (i.e., 19 miles from east to west), the roads are small and windy, and they don’t accommodate a lot of traffic. We encountered much of the sharp-bends-in-a- one-lane-road situation but miraculously managed to avoid head-on collisions.
I took in the scenery of tidy cottages, blooming flower trellises and hilly, green terrain, which was great for the first half hour on the peninsula, but because Jon and I hadn’t planned for slow going and thought we’d reach Rhossili in time for lunch, we were starving during our drive. So we tried a cafe at Beynon’s Farm, a pick-your-own in the town of Nicholaston, and the cheese-and-onion pasties were amazingly good and just £1.20 each. Flaky, buttery pastry shell and a savoury filing that only hot cheese, potato and onion can create (a la the best knish you’ve ever had in your life). Cornwall Pasty Company, eat your heart out.
Rhossili Beach (pictured above) was beautiful. We hiked up a steep ridge that follows the curve of the beach, called the Rhossili Downs, and from the Downs, we had views of the slithery rock formation called Worm’s Head (photo at top of post) as well as of farmland and beaches for miles around. I did wonder why a steep hill would be called a Down, and of course Wikpedia came to the rescue.
Beautiful as it is, Rhossili Beach seems not the right place for a swim. I thought the water was kind of chilly, but Jon jumped in and had a fab time, and he wasn’t the only one. So maybe you just need to be a polar bear kind of guy.
Even though I didn’t enjoy the water, I look forward to going back to Rhossili (or the Gower peninsula, generally) for the hikes, views, and the chance to park myself on the sand and read a book to the soundtrack of crashing waves.