- Swansea & Gower Peninsula
In 1700, Swansea was a small village of only 300 people clustered around a medieval castle. Today, the port city is Wales second largest with close to a quarter of a million people.
Details of Swansea's history and industrial past can be found at the Swansea Maritime and Industrial Museum, in refurbished waterfront warehouses, where a 600 berth marina is located. The Museum features vintage and antique motor vehicles, historic boats and ships and the industrial and maritime history of the city. Neath Abbey Woolen Mill is at the Maritime and Industrial Museum on the Quay. You can watch garments being made on an 1840 great spinning wheel, then buy them later in the gift shop.
Swansea Castle, in the city centre, was built in the late 13th/ early 14th centuries by the de Braose lords of Gower, William II and William III, and their descendant, John Mowbray, added to it. In the late 18th century it became, for a while, a debtor's prison. The ruins of the castle are now part of a large plaza, which contains a cascading waterfall, making for a pleasant picnic spot on a sunny day.
The Swansea Market, located in the city centre, is well worth a visit. Fresh fish, local cheeses, vegetables, pies, and cockles and laverbread are available. Pick up a picnic and go for a walk or bike ride along scenic Swansea Bay-a five-mile waterfront path. Plantasia is another attraction in the city. It contains 1000 varieties of rare and unusual plants in a tropical glasshouse environment.
Dylan Thomas, one of Wales' most famous writers, was born in Swansea. The Dylan Thomas Centre has a year round program of literary events with a room of Thomas memorabilia, books about, and by, the poet and an AV program. A festival is held in the fall, and there is a city trail of landmarks associated with his early life. The Clyne Gardens, further out from the city centre are in bloom with rhododendrons and azaleas in the spring. Attractive paths skirt a stream and hillside; there are treed and open areas.
Oystermouth is the name of the small village in the Mumbles area. The Mumbles area, the most populated of the Gower, is located at the beginning of the Gower peninsula, strung along the coast from Swansea. There is a walk and cycle way from Swansea as well as a road. The village became popular in Victorian times. It caters to tourists with eateries, entertainment, shops, and places to stay. There is a scenic walk to the top of the cliff. Oystermouth Castle is an early Norman keep popular with Georgian and Victorian artists.
The Gower Peninsula is accessed by travelling south through the city of Swansea. This small but scenic peninsula is home to many historic churches. There's an old mill and other interesting exhibits and historic information at the Gower Heritage Centre at Parkmill. The Gower is well known for its fresh seafood, and there are a number of excellent restaurants. Cockles are harvested on the northern shore at the village of Penclawdd, site of the small Penclawdd Shellfish Factory, which can be visited. Phone first for directions and to check on times.
The peninsula is also the site of several castle ruins and prehistoric burial sites - Parc le Breos is one of the larger ones. Above the Llwchwr estuary stands dramatic Weobley Castle, erected by the powerful de la Bere family in the early 14th century. More fortified manor than castle, Weobley was expanded in the 15th century and provided with a tall, arched entry. Visitors can ascend to the solar, or lord's private chamber.
Above Oxwich Bay is the 16th century mansion of Oxwich Castle. Built on earlier medieval foundations, the mansion is built in two ranges about a courtyard. The southern and western coasts of Gower consist of dramatic cliffs interspersed with sandy beaches - Oxwich Bay is a very popular large sandy beach with dunes and cliffs that are a national nature reserve.
The most famous beach is Rhossili Sands on the western coast. Near Three Cliffs Bay is Penmaen Old Castle, a 12th century earthwork, Penmaen Megalithic Tomb, and Old Church - remains consist of only a stone wall, but supposedly a whole village is buried under the sands. Surfing, sailing, walking, and fishing are popular sports on the peninsula.
The Vale of Neath is a narrow valley with steep wooded hills and waterfalls. The 80-ft waterfall at Resolven is worth a visit as is the one at Aberdulais. Nearby are the restored and preserved remains of an industrial site. The Cefn Coed Colliery Museum tells the story of the former coalmine, the world's deepest. A working sawmill and museum are located at Seven Sisters' Museum along with 18th century woodworking machinery.
Tourist AttractionsThe Dylan Thomas Centre Somerset Place, Swansea
Tel: 01792 463980
Taliesin Arts Centre University of Wales, Swansea
Owned and managed by the University of Wales, the Taliesin Arts Centre is home to a wide variety of performances, exhibitions, activities and events, with a cinema, gallery and conference facilities.
Tel: 01792 236883
Gower Heritage Centre Y Felin Ddwr, Parkmill, Gower, Swansea
The centre includes a 12th century water powered Corn Mill. It one of the oldest 'Toll Mills' in Wales, where farmers brought their crops for grinding. Over the centuries the original mill has been expanded to cater for traditional country crafts. The centre also includes a Saw Mill, Wheelwright's Shop, a 17th century Miller's Cottage, Agricultural Museum, craft shop, traditional tea room, animals, and children's play area. The area is said to be haunted by the ghost of a woman.
Open: Every day Jan-Dec 10.00am - 5.30pm. Tel: 01792 371206
Oxwich Castle Oxwich Bay
The Castle is actually a mock-fortified Tudor manor house. Built upon, and incorporating the 14th century castle in which he was born, Sir Rhys Manseland, his son Edward, constructed this extensive mansion in the first half of the 16th century.
Swansea Castle Swansea city centre
Built in the late 13th/early 14th centuries the castle is now a ruin situated in a modern city-centre plaza.
Gower offers a superb range of spectacular beaches and Rhossili Bay is one of the most breathtaking that you will find anywhere. Well worth the long walk required to reach the beach just to take in the splendour of the bay.
Swansea Maritime & Industrial Museum
Open: Tues - Sun & Bank Holidays, 10am-5pm, admission is free. Tel: 01792 653763
Dating back to the 14th century, Weobley Castle remains largly intact. Includes an exhibition "Gower Castle and the Peninsula through the Ages."
Swansea and Area Tourist Information CentresMumbles Tourist Information Centre
The Portacabin, Oystermouth Square, Mumbles, SA3 4DQ. Tel: 01792 361302
Swansea Tourist Information Centre
Plymouth Street, Swansea, SA1 3QG. Tel: 01792 468321
Destination guides by kind permission of Britain Express