The Gower Peninsula juts out of the south Wales coastline, westwards from Swansea. It was the very first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is well know for the many beaches along its coastline. I discovered a handful of glorious castles on the Peninsula, much less well known, but brilliantly adapted for visitors. This combination of good facilities and emptiness make these castles feel like a personal discovery, set as they are in atmospheric rural locations.
EASTERN SLADE BARN near Oxwich makes a great base for a family holiday or a group visit to the Gower. There is a small beach at Slade Cove which is a short walk east across the fields. The small village and large expanse of sand at Port Eynon are 20 mins’ walk westwards along the coast. Port Eynon sands are ideal for swimming and watersports.
Oxwich Castle, on the quiet no-through-road from Oxwich to EASTERN SLADE BARN, is a 10 minutes’ walk along the narrow lane. On first appearance the castle looks like a ruin with a small car park, but on closer inspection it turns out to be two story Tudor house, complete with attendant and an upstairs floor of glorious costumes to try on. There is even a four poster bed you can get into! A treasure trove of stuff you can touch, wear and interact with, perfect for children of all ages !
These are plenty of ruins at Oxwich Castle; the remains of a ‘Wonder House’ built by a Tudor prince with such an ostentatious number of windows that it became impracticable to maintain by the time his son came to power.
Penard Castle, this time just a ruin, looks over the glorious beach at Three Cliffs Bay, 15 minutes’ drive east of EASTERN SLADE BARN. This Castle is a ruin and dominates the skyline on its sandy cliff above the beach. There is an ancient fable of how the castle and its village were smothered in sand by an angry elf lord because of its warmongering prince. Three Cliffs Bay beach is stunning and huge with a sandy river running down the middle and a mirad of coves and headlands which appear at low tide. But beware this is the most dangerous beach on the Gower and a man was killed trying to rescue his son from the rip tide while we were there.
Another great base for a holiday, for groups up to 15 people, is HARDINGSDOWN BUNKHOUSE. This is further west on the Gower close to the massive expanse of sand at Rhossilli Bay. A five minutes’ drive from the bunkhouse along the north coast of the Gower is Weobly Castle. This overlooks the salt mashes of the Loughor Estuary and I think it is the most atmospheric of Gower’s castles. The castle has a gentle outlook and feeling of near desertion but, even here, there is a roofed room of displays telling you why the castles of the Gower were built and what life was like living at Weobly Castle. The nearby farmhouse will provide you with a cup of tea and there is an old stone toilet for the use of castle visitors. While we were enjoying our drinks in the farmhouse garden we heard the sheep being herded in from the marches with the incoming tide. We bought some of the much prized salt marsh lamb which was delicious on our BBQ that evening.
Close to Hardingsdown Barn is another great base for a holiday on the Gower. RHOSSILI BUNKHOUSE is in the village of Rhossili and is available to individuals and families as well as groups of up to 24 people. The awe inspiring Rhossili Bay is 3 miles long and backed with huge sand dunes and towering hills. It is highly prized as a location for paragliding and surfing and is also known as Llangennith Sands.