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Gower Peninsula

The first area in Britain designated "an area of outstanding natural beauty," Gower is a broad peninsula stretching about 22km (14 miles) from the Mumbles to Worms Head in the west. This attraction begins 6.4km (4 miles) west of Swansea on A4067. The coastline of Gower starts at Bracelet Bay, just around the corner from the Mumbles. You can drive -- at least to some parts of the peninsula -- but the best way to see its sometimes-rugged, sometimes-flat coast is to walk, even for short distances, if you don't have time to make the complete circuit.

There are many and varied beaches on Gower: Caswell Bay, with its acres of smooth, golden sand and safe swimming; Langland, a family attraction with facilities for golf, swimming, tennis, and surfing; and Rotherslade, which, at high tide, features some of the largest waves around the peninsula crashing onto the shore. Secluded Pwil-du is a place to sunbathe in solitude, despite the crowds elsewhere along the coast, and there are numerous other small coves tucked away beneath the cliffs. Oxwich Bay is one of the largest on the peninsula, with 4.8km (3 miles) of uninterrupted sand, where you can enjoy beach games, picnics, water-skiing, and sailing. Windsurfing is popular at Oxwich, too. Oxwich village, at one end of the bay, is a typical Gower hamlet of cottages and tree-lined lanes. There is a nature reserve here that is home to some rare orchid species.

After the commercial and often-crowded Oxwich beach, you may be happy to see Slade, which has to be approached on foot down a steep set of steps. The spotless beach is usually wind-free. Around the next corner, you'll find the villages of Horton and Port Eynon, with a long, curving beach backed by sand dunes. Refreshments are available on the beach, and the two villages offer nighttime entertainment.

From Port Eynon, a spectacular 7.2km (4.5-mile) cliff walk leads past Culver Hole, Paviland Cave, Mewslade, and Fall Bay to Worms Head and Rhossilli. The Paviland Caves can be explored. It is here that 100,000-year-old human remains have been found. Worms Head is a twisted outcrop of rock shaped into the form that sometimes, depending on the tides, looks like a prehistoric worm sticking its head up out of the water. Rhossilli is a long, sweeping bay and a beach reached from the treeless village of Rhossilli, with a church and houses perched 61m (200 ft.) up on the cliff tops. This is an international center for hang gliding. Halfway along the beach at Llangennith is the most popular surfing site on the peninsula. Rolling dunes connect it with Broughton Bay and Whitford Sands, and eventually you come to Penclawdd, a little village where a centuries-old cockle industry still thrives. If the tide is right, you can see the pickers with their rakes and buckets gleaning the crustaceans from the flats.

Although the coastal attractions are Gower's biggest lure, there are pleasant farms, attractive country roads, and places of interest inland. Parc le Breos (Giant's Grave) burial chamber, almost in the center of the peninsula, close to Parkmill on the A4118, is an ancient legacy from Stone Age people. The remains of at least four people were found there. A central passage and four chambers are in a cairn about 21m (70 ft.) long. Pennard Castle has suffered under ravages of weather and time, but from the north you can see the curtain wall almost intact. Admission is free.

Weobley Castle, Llanrhidian (tel. 01792/390012), on North Gower, is actually a fortified house rather than a castle. There was no space for a garrison, and the rooms were for domestic purposes. On the northern edge of bare upland country, it overlooks the Llanrhidian marshes and the Loughor estuary. There are substantial remains of this 13th- and 14th-century stronghold, and the view is panoramic. Weobley is off the Llanrhidian-Cheriton road, 11km (7 miles) west of Gowerton. It is open daily 9:30am to 6pm (closes at 5pm in winter). Entrance costs £2.70 for adults or £2.30 for students and children ages 16 and younger.

Even though it is protected from development, Gower has been invaded by caravans (mobile homes), recreational vehicles, beach huts, retirement homes, and bungalows. Nevertheless, you can still find solitude in secluded bays and especially in the center of the peninsula, along the Cefn Bryn ridge or on Rhossilli Down. From the top of Cefn Bryn, 185m (609 ft.) above sea level, you can see the entire peninsula and far beyond on clear days. By taking the Green Road, which runs the length of the ridge from Penmaen, you'll find a path about 1km (a half mile) east of Reynoldston that leads to Arthur's Stone, a circular burial chamber. The mound of earth that once covered it has been weathered away, but you can see the huge capstone that protected the burial place. From Rhossilli Down, at 192m (632 ft.), the English coast comes into view. Here also are megalithic tombs, cairns, and barrows.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.