Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Is Gower any Good?

The Gower peninsula is the bit that sticks out between Swansea and Llanelli. My mum was born in Mumbles a few miles from Swansea, a picturesque village of Victorian quaintness, steep narrow streets, pier, lifeboat house, lighthouse, lots of pubs and a village castle.

She goes back every year, and I try to go back every year with the boys, or boy as it was this year as my eldest has decided that although he loves going to Wales, it's the height of uncool to go with his family. No one goes on holiday with their parents, I was told. To be separated from one's friends is to descend into a communication/social hell-hole, exacerbated to the heights of frustration and bad temper by a lack of text message capability (because someone didn't sign up to the international option before he left France despite being forewarned...). When I suggested Facebook messaging via wifi, I was met with withering scorn because no one under 'old age' uses Facebook now, but, in the end, it was the only functional solution. The old ways are the best...

So my eldest dashed over to London, and dashed back as soon as he decently could. Sooner, in fact... while the rest of us enjoyed going out, seeing friends and family and having fun.

For our second week's holiday, I drove us all (mother, youngest, me) up to Wales, stopping at the first service station on the M4 having set off early to avoid any M25 trouble to eat our traditional bacon sarnies fried up that morning to be nice and fresh, with a cup of tea from Café Nero. We cheered as we crossed the Severn Bridge and made the obligatory stop at Swansea's Tesco's car park to stock up on essentials from the market such as fresh cockles, local vegetables, and a large wild sewin.

Gower weather is nothing if not unpredictable, so we had clothes for everything except Arctic snow which was a good thing because it was indiscriminately sunny, chilly, wet and windy. Unperturbed, our activities of note this year were:

Perriswood Archery and Falconry Centre
This is a fantastic place, originally just a farm, but was diversified after the Foot and Mouth outbreak nearly ruined the family. It is set above Oxwich Bay so while you sit outside in the sun enjoying a nice cup of tea and slice of home made coffee cake, you can admire the stunning view right down to the sparkling sea.

Outdoor archery for kids? Oxwich Bay in the background

My youngest was delighted to be able to shoot different airsoft guns in an indoor shooting range. He fired with a pistol, sniper rifle, auto rifle and even a Tommy gun! He then went outside and tried his hand at the air rifle range.

Firing the Tommy gun

Meanwhile, my mother and I admired the falcons and owls which were doing a turn for another visitor who was so hooked on landing the birds that she took two sessions.

Falcons resting in the shade, the owls were next door

1940s Swansea Bay museum
Of particular interest to my mother who lived through the War in Swansea. You walk through the museum's 1940s street through a sitting room where you can try on bits of uniform including natty hats. My mother and I noted familiar household items - she because she'd grown up with them, me because I remember seeing them in granny's house. As well as shops, there was a communications room, a dad's army room, warden's room, and a bit of trench complete with rat.

Communications room
The young woman holding the fort (as it were) was very merry, and happy to chat about the museum and exhibits, especially as we were the only ones there towards the end of our visit. We found it fascinating. My youngest most enjoyed seeing the unexploded missile plunged into the ground outside... Our ticket was valid for a month so we could have gone back for free!

Visit of Carmarthen town
My mother had never shown any interest in visiting Carmarthen. She had always believed it to be a bit down at heel and of no particular interest. We decided to go this year because my brother and his family (two ado girls same age as my two) were staying in Llanelli and suggested it as a thing to do on a rainy day.

It turned out to be a fab visit. Although the ruins of the castle are pretty uninspiring (not much there), the rest of the town has been spruced up, and there's a good market where we found the purveyor of Carmarthen ham. Carmarthen ham, so legend has it, is a precursor to Parma ham. The Rees family has been making this cured ham for generations, and they tell the story of how, when the Romans came to settle in Carmarthen, they took the recipe back with them to Italy, to Parma...

My mother and I had read the leaflets on Carmarthen which extolled the virtues of this ham, so naturally we hunted high and low until we found their shop, where we had a very jolly chat with the Rees guys and bought some. I ate it when I got back to France, and can confirm it is very tasty.

We had a surprisingly good lunch in Debenham's, the only place which could cater for the varied tastes and demands of our party of 7. Their delicious roast pork came with crackling, and I got extra for my youngest to enjoy with his pork bap. The staff were very accommodating and cheerful too, so it was a pleasure to eat there. I had the veggie tart of red onion and melted Camembert in a gluten-free pastry, which was very tasty. Afterwards, my brother told me he'd looked for the most "disgusting sounding" thing on the menu and knew that I would choose it. He was right... he saw the tart, and of course, that is what I chose. Clever him!

Coastal walk Caswell Bay to Mumbles
Another of my brother's suggestions, but which did not go down too well with the three adolescents in the party... In fact, it's a walk that my mother has done many times, starting from childhood when she accompanied her father, but had never dared suggest to us because it is about 4 miles in length and didn't think it would be approved by the young'uns. My bro is made of sterner stuff and bribed them with the thought of an ice-cream in Verdi's at the end. This perked them up and a pact was made.

It didn't include a ban on moaning however, which was a shame... We parked in Mumbles and took the bus to Caswell Bay, got off, and after all that effort had to buy a pancake each for the teens to prepare them for the rigours ahead. After admiring the beach with its golden sand surrounded by craggy rocks, we set off along the coastal walk.

At the start of the walk, Caswell Bay behind me

Coastal walk

The walk is lovely, with fab views of the rugged coast, sandy beaches and crashing waves. About half a mile in, a squall rushed over from Devon and hit us with a cold shower. Cue much moaning. I had fortuitously taken my cagoule, as an old hand of Gower weather, but the kids had next to no protection and thus got wet. We forced them on despite howls to go back (where to?), and after a bit, out came the sun and dried up all the rain.

Dramatic coastline

We ate our picnic lunch at Little Langland outside the café with drinks for all. My youngest distinguished himself by opening a water bottle of lemonade which burst forth after being shaken about in his backpack, and landed unceremoniously in my niece's glass of hot chocolate. She was not impressed but it was quite a feat. If he'd wanted to do that, he would never have been able to pull it off!

Overlooking Little Langland, with Langland in the background

Our walk was taken at a leisurely pace and it wasn't until mid-afternoon before we got back to Mumbles, and bought ice-creams at Verdi's a short walk from the pier. Later in the week we at the Mumbles Pier Café in the photo below, and it's the place to go for excellent battered fish. The chips are nothing to write home about, but the fish is gorgeous with lovely light crunchy batter.

Mumbles pier and Mumbles Pier Café

And as we were staying in Scurlage, near Rhossili, no blog post about our holiday would be complete without pics of Rhossili Bay and the Worm's Head!


Worm's Head


  1. It sounds a wonderful trip....pity the teens were grumbly!

    1. It was! Teens are always grumbly so we didn't let it get in the way of having a good time. :)

  2. Shame about the weather. We've had many a Welsh holiday, but now go in search of some sun. It's still a novelty for us. I appreciate you need to find cooler weather though. Trying to sleep at 28 degrees! Thanks for heads-up about Swansea Bay museum. I love local museums.

    1. If I lived in the UK I'd be heading out in search of sun too. As it is, I get more than enough. :)

      Check the times for the museum as it's not open for long during the day because of the massive reconstruction of the area that's going on.

  3. That is a spectacularly beautiful part of Wales and it looks like you covered lots around there too. I had a friend lived just outside Camarthen and we would go there regularly. Am amazed you managed to find anything gluten free there tho! They're obviously moving with the times nowadays. Looks a great holiday :)

    1. Yes it was, as ever in Gower. :)
      The UK is way ahead when it comes to gluten-free in restaurants. At least you're not considered a pariah or pain in the backside as you are here... I usually don't bother worrying about it because it's too much hassle. :)


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