Three Cliffs Bay on Gower is regularly voted one of the best beaches along the Wales Coast Path

Fiona Barltrop walks along the Gower coast from Three Cliffs Bay

IT WAS A FINALIST  IN THE ITV SERIES’ BRITAIN’S FAVOURITE VIEW’ (the only nomination in Wales) three years ago and appears regularly in those ‘top ten’ lists beloved by papers. Having seen it with my own eyes for the first time recently I know now why. Three Cliffs Bay on the south Gower coast is, quite simply, captivating.

Gower AONB

The Gower Peninsula, or Gower – but never The Gower, unless you want to incur the disapproval of locals – was the first area in Britain to be designated as an AONB in 1956. Despite its modest size – some 73 square miles – it’s blessed with a very varied landscape, ranging from the beautiful beaches and dramatic cliffs of the south coast to the salt marshes of the north. The interior consists mainly of farmland and common land. With its proximity to Swansea and popular holiday destination appeal, Gower is undoubtedly best visited well out of season.

The Gower Peninsula, or Gower – but never The Gower, unless you want to incur the disapproval of locals – was the first area in Britain to be designated as an AONB in 1956.

Pennard Pill to Three Cliffs Bay

Seat overlooking Three Cliffs Bay on Gower

Seat overlooking Three Cliffs Bay on Gower

Eager for a good long bracing coastal walk, I set off on a suitably wild late autumn day, along the much used path that leads down the east side of Pennard Pill (pill’s the local word for a stream) to Threecliff Bay – as it’s marked on the OS map, and signposted; most refer to it as Three Cliffs Bay.

Appropriately enough for such a beautiful place, it was championed by another local beauty, the pulchritudinous Katherine Jenkins, for the ITV series. How familiar she, or any of those who voted for this view, are with the rest of the Welsh coastline, who knows, but having walked all of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, as well as most of Ceredigion’s and Lleyn’s and some of Anglesey’s, it certainly gets my coastal vote for Wales.

The views, notably from the cliff-tops either side, are just wondrous, especially when the sands are exposed. With the enormous tidal range of the Bristol Channel, the coastal scene changes markedly according to the state of the tide.

Stepping stones

Having crossed the stepping stones to the other side of the river, I headed west over Great Tor then along the beach to Oxwich. Small figures far out in the bay were Chinese cockle-pickers, the café attendant told me; more usually found working the cockle beds of Penclawdd on the north coast. Once round Oxwich Point, a scenic stretch of ‘raised beach’ – reminiscent of that between Start and Prawle Points on the south Devon coast – then actual beach, led me to Port Eynon YH, whence followed several miles of superb limestone cliff scenery: the most dramatic of the walk.

The light had almost gone by the time I reached Rhossili, just in time for the last bus.

The glories of Rhossili Bay and Worms Head would have to wait for another day.


INFORMATION

Distance: 15 miles/24km

Ascent: 1410ft/430m

Time: c.7 hours

Start: Either Parkmill bus stop (GR: SS 545892) or Pennard Cliffs bus stop/NT car park (GR: SS 554874)

Finish: Rhossili bus stop (GR: SS 416881)

Maps: OS 1:50,000 Landranger sheet 159 (Swansea & Gower); OS 1:25,000 Explorer sheet 164 (Gower)

Information: Mumbles TIC, 01792 361302; www.visitswanseabay.com.

Fiona Barltrop

Fiona Barltrop

This article first appeared in The Great Outdoors (TGO) magazine in August 2010, and is re-published here with the author’s permission. Copyright © Fiona Barltrop 2010. All rights reserved.
Fiona Barltrop is a freelance outdoor writer and photographer, with a particular love for coastal walking. She has been a regular contributor to UK walking magazines, including The Great Outdoors and Country Walking, for many years. She is also a member of the Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild and available for commissions.
Contact: fiona2barltrop@gmail.com

Books and maps for this part of the coast