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Gower, Mumbles & Swansea Bay
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GREAT DAYS OUT in Gower, Mumbles & Swansea Bay
Taking you to places where there's just so much to see, do and enjoy
Combine all the come-and-go-as-you-please freedom of self-catering with a terrific location and you have more than just a holiday - you have an unbeatable FBM Holiday! West and south-west Wales is one of the most glorious regions in Britain (if not the world) for its remarkable repertoire of fabulous beaches, magnificent coast and countryside, breathtakingly beautiful hills and mountains, and a huge diversity of wildlife which enriches land, sea and air. And these are just the wonders provided by nature! Add to this great outdoors all the man-made attractions - from shopping to skydiving - and you'd be extremely hard pushed to name an interest, leisure pursuit or holiday activity that isn't well catered for, whatever your particular cup of tea. So the only question is, where will you find all the things that you want to see and do for a truly unforgettable holiday or short break? This brief FBM Holidays guide to great days out will help you find your way
A beach lovers' paradise - If you looked for one quality above all others which distinguishes the FBM Holidays region from any other in Britain (if not Europe), the answer would have to be the wealth and variety of fabulous award-winning sandy beaches. And nowhere is there a greater concentration of such treasures than along the coastline of the extraordinary Gower Peninsular.Just 14 miles long and about 7 miles wide, Gower is nature's showcase of brilliant bays and beaches. Stretching west from Mumbles are the ever-popular Bracelet Bay, Limeslade Bay, Langland Bay, Caswell Bay, Pwll Du Bay, Pobbles Bay, Three Cliffs Bay, Tor Bay, Oxwich Bay, Port Eynon Bay and Mewslade Bay, culminating at the west-facing Rhossili Bay and Broughton Bay. In 2006, a national poll conducted by BBC's Holiday Hit Squad voted Three Cliffs Bay the best beach in Britain. And Rhossili Bay has attracted even greater accolades, hailed by The Independent as "the British supermodel of beaches" and as one of the world's top 25 beaches by The Sunday Times. High praise indeed. All this is just 20 minutes' drive from Swansea city centre - and within easy reach of Carmarthenshire's 7-mile-long Cefn Sidan Sands and Pendine Sands, Pembrokeshire's fabulous national park beaches and coastline, and magnificent Cardigan Bay! Of course, not everyone wants to spend a well-earned holiday or short break on the beach. So it's just as well that Gower, Mumbles and Swansea Bay - not to mention all the near neighbours which fall within the FBM Holidays region - are packed with attractions and activities to suit just about every age and interest.
Adventure & watersports. - Gower's rugged limestone cliffs towering above golden beaches and rocky coves present exciting challenges such as abseiling, climbing and coasteering. And Llangennith in Rhossili Bay is one of Britain's premier surfing beaches, known for its awesome Atlantic break, and is also a favourite spot for canoeing and fishing. Other notable Gower action highlights include Caswell Bay (surfing, windsurfing, fishing, canoeing), Oxwich Bay (sailing, water-skiing, fishing, canoeing, windsurfing), Port Eynon (windsurfing, canoeing, boating), Rhossili beach (surfing, canoeing, hang-gliding, fishing), Langland Bay (golf, tennis, surfing, fishing), Bracelet Bay (canoeing, fishing, walking), Horton (watersports), Mumbles beach (recreation and watersports) and Swansea Bay (windsurfing, fishing, canoeing, sailing, water-skiing). And by virtue of the fact that some face south, some face east and others west, many of Gower's long flat expanses of beach are ideal for windsurfing, kitesurfing and kitebuggying. Other opportunities that can make for a truly memorable holiday or short break are archery, caving, powerboating and scuba diving - plus the fact that expert tuition is readily available from qualified specialists such as Progress Surfing and Watersports4all (Swansea), Gower Wilderness Experience, Gower Coast Adventures, Welsh Surfing Federation Surf School (Llangennith, Gower), Gap Activities(Swansea), All Points West Sea School (Swansea), Dynamic Rock (Swansea Indoor Climbing Centre), G.S.D. Gower Surf School, Swansea Bay Excitement (Rainbow Sailing School), Great Gower Outdoors, Dulais Valley Quads Activity Centre (Neath), Simon Tucker Surfing Academy and Ocean Quest scuba diving (both in Porthcawl). And there's more! Very popular annual events celebrating the great outdoors include Mumbles Open Regatta, South Wales Boat Show and Gower Catamaran Challenge.
Cycling & mountain biking. - Swansea Bay, part of both the Sustrans National Cycle network and the Celtic Trail, is a real magnet for cyclists and mountain bikers. At one end of the scale are the traffic-free routes deal for kids and families, and at the other is the breathtaking excitement of Afan Forest Park - highly rated by mountain biking experts and listed as one of the world's top ten places to ride! Challenges include single-track descents and monster climbs, with spectacular views over the South Wales valleys. Swansea Bay seafront provides an altogether more leisurely experience - the family-friendly promenade path from Swansea Marina to Mumbles Pier. Clyne Country Park is also good for safe family cycling. And Swansea has a good selection of cycle and hire shops.
Fishing. - Gower is acknowledged as one of the best locations in the UK for fishing from rocks for sea bass, the most favoured spots including Mumbles Head, Tutt Head, and between Port Eynon and Worm's Head. Beaches popular with anglers are secluded Brandy Cove, Limeslade Bay, Horton, Pwll-Du Bay, Caswell Bay, Oxwich Bay, Rhossili, Langland Bay and Bracelet Bay. Beach casting from Pobbles Bay is also popular. Swansea Bay is also a major catch for sea anglers, the port long established as a focal point for boat charters.
Golf. - If you like variety with your game, Swansea Bay will definitely tick your score card! From coastal parkland courses to a links course with medieval castle ruins to the natural beauty of the Gower countryside, this is choice golf in choice locations. Highlights include the spectacular views from Clyne Golf Club (500 feet above sea level), the championship parkland course at Swansea's Fairwood Park Golf Club and, a little further afield, Royal Porthcawl's world famous links course. And it's hardly a million miles down the M4 to Celtic Manor - the 2010 Ryder Cup venue.
Horseriding. - Swansea Bay offers everything from half-hour first sessions for absolute beginners, to the wonderful freedom for experienced horse riders, of exploring the scenic Gower Peninsula's countryside, bays, bridle paths and beaches. For pony trekking and more, visit Parc-le-Breos Pony Trekking at Parkmill or the Clyne Farm Riding and Activity Centre in Swansea, to name but two. There can be nothing finer than galloping across the beaches of the Gower peninsula on a beautiful day with the wind in your hair and the sound of the sea.
Other activities. - East of the city, the crescent shoreline of Swansea Bay is broken by the estuaries of the rivers Neath and Afan before continuing south to the popular resort of Porthcawl and the dramatic scenery of the Glamorgan Heritage Coast - another and easily accessible area for all kinds of activities and watersports. For example, Porthcawl has an indoor skateboarding centre and Adventures Outdoor Activity Centre (quad and mountain biking, rock climbing, abseiling and other fun). Karting is another exciting option available in the area, at South Wales Karting Centre and Race Hire Indoor Karting. And the coastline between Porthcawl and Southerndown, well travelled by walkers and cyclists, experiences one of the world's highest tide changes and is very popular for surfing and other watersports.
Walking. - From leisurely Dylan Thomas trails to the far more taxing walks of Neath's spectacular waterfall country, the area in and around Swansea Bay and Gower could hardly be better landscaped for itchy feet. Delights to explore include the 3-mile crescent of Rhossili Bay (which in 2007 was voted one of the great British rural walks by The Times) and the exhilarating cliff path from Mumbles along the south coast to Worm's Head (a very distinctive landmark of Carmarthen Bay but accessible only at low tide, so be sure of tide times). There are waymarked trails through the Gnoll Estate and guided summer walks in the nature reserve of dunes, marshes and woods which skirts the sands at Oxwich Bay. Bracelet Bay has a local nature reserve too (Mumbles Hill). Country parks are always a big attraction for walkers, Clyne Valley and Margam being perfect examples. And for casual walkers and families, the seafront path linking Swansea with Mumbles Pier is easy going, as are the Lliw Reservoirs just north of Swansea. Then there's the Gower Walking Festival - an opportunity to combine stretching your legs with downing a tipple (or two).
Gower.The fact that this small peninsula was the first place in Britain to be officially designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (way back in 1956) says a great deal about Gower's unique appeal. And when you add a mild climate and a good sunshine record to the amazing choice of amazing beaches, there's not really much more you need to know than here is a highly enjoyable holiday paradise for families, fishermen and watersports enthusiasts. Or is there? Yes! For example, once on Gower you're sure to be struck by the great diversity of landscape: towering cliffs and hilltops commanding spectacular views over Welsh and English coastlines, deep wooded valleys, open downs and wide commons leading to vast areas of saltmarsh and sand dune. It's a landscape steeped in centuries of history and myth, with more than 80 listed ancient monuments, from Iron Age hillforts to medieval castles to a Tudor manor house. On the ridge of hills known as Cefn Bryn, which divides north from south, stands the giant cromlech Arthur's Stone - a Neolithic burial chamber with a 25-ton capstone. And near Penmaen Sands to the west of Three Cliffs Bay are several historic sites, including the remains of Penmaen Old Castle, a megalithic tomb and a church. According to legend a lost village lies buried here beneath the sands. Evidence of past lives has also been uncovered along Gower's very popular south coast, where the limestone cliffs are punctuated by caves. Bones of prehistoric animals such as woolly mammoth have been found here, along with the famous Red Lady of Paviland - a headless skeleton stained with red ochre and thought to be that of a woman from the Roman period. Tests and carbon dating subsequently proved it to have been a young man who lived about 24,000 years ago. Gower's protected status also makes it a haven for an abundance of wildlife and rare habitats. Another guardian of Gower is the National Trust, which owns a large share of the coastline and has a visitor centre at Rhossili. Other specific Gower attractions are Gower Heritage Centre, Oxwich Castle and Weobley Castle.
Mumbles. - Once a small fishing village (you can still see the fishermen's cottages in the narrow streets), this famous resort was discovered by wealthy Victorians and became a highly fashionable 19th-century holiday retreat. It has been popular ever since. On a hillside above, with spectacular views over the bay and Mumbles Head, are the substantial remains of 13th-century Oystermouth Castle, while the attractions at street level are varied and abundant: pubs, restaurants, ice cream parlours, Welsh lovespoons, art galleries, boutiques, craft shops, gift shops, Mumbles Pier & Winter Gardens, and the lighthouse, built in 1793 and a very distinctive landmark. Just around the headland is Bracelet Bay and Gower's fabulous south coast, while 5 miles the other way, along the prom, is Swansea Maritime Quarter and city centre.
Swansea Bay. - For visitors who crave the buzz and excitement of busy streets and bright lights, the life and soul of the bay is Swansea, the city by the sea - but with 50 named bays and beaches (not to mention stunning countryside) within just a 20-minute drive, this is no ordinary city. In minutes you can step from big-brand city centre shopping to the award-winning and very fashionable maritime quarter. Swansea's many other attractions include the busy marina; interactive state-of-the-art National Waterfront Museum; The Egypt Centre; Swansea market; the Dylan Thomas Centre (celebrating one of the city's most famous sons, born in the Uplands district in 1914); Swansea Grand Theatre and other smaller theatres; art galleries; Brangwyn Hall (the city's principal concert hall); Plantasia (a tropical paradise with aquarium, free-flying butterflies and tamarin monkeys); an impressive number of beautiful parks and gardens; a very active sporting scene (from Olympic-standard facilities to Swansea City's new Liberty Stadium); lively nightlife guaranteed by pubs, clubs, cinemas and restaurants; and shopping bargains at Bridgend Designer Outlet - an easy drive from Swansea to J36 of the M4. And for rail travel fans, two very scenic routes run to Swansea: the 120-mile Heart of Wales Line from Shrewsbury, and the West Wales Line from Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire.