Explore the Gower peninsula – The UK’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

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The Gower peninsula (Welsh: Penrhyn Gŵyr) was designated as the United Kingdom’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1956. This longstanding Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty designation means that Gower’s splendid scenery has been protected from over development and commercialisation.
The peninsula projects westward from Swansea into the Bristol Channel and is bounded by the Loughor Estuary to the north and Swansea Bay to the east. The interior consists mainly of farmland, common land and wooded valleys. Along the southern coast, there are a series of small, rocky or sandy bays, such as Langland, Caswell and Three Cliffs, and larger beaches such as Port Eynon and Oxwich Bay. The west coast is dominated by long expanses of at Rhossilli Bay, Broughton Bay and Whitford sands. An extensive salt marsh bounds the estuary on the north coast and it is home to the cockle-beds of Penclawdd. The Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) includes all of the peninsula west of Crofty, Three Crosses, Upper Killay, Blackpill and Bishopston. In conclusion, the population resides mainly in villages and small communities, though suburban development has made a number of communities in eastern Gower part of the Swansea Urban Area. The headland, known as Worm’s Head, at Rhossili known is Gowers iconic landmark and it is used in various forms for tourism purposes.

Gower peninsula logo - Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (ANOB)


Gower beaches - Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (ANOB)

 

The Gower peninsula is ideal for the classic British beach holiday as it provides a wide variety of beaches, bays and coves in a relatively short coastline.

These are located along the east, south and west coastline and all are within a short drive from Hill House.

Distances and driving times are provided in the interactive map at the top of this page.

During the spring and summer, some of the popular beaches have lifeguard patrols and dog walking restrictions.

The area is very popular with surfers and there are a number of surfing schools catering to all age groups and abilities. See our Gower Surfing Schools page for information on the various schools that operate on the peninsula coastline.

In addition, to help you get the most out of your holiday we have produced a smartphone App that gives you detailed information on all of Gower’s bays, beaches and coves. It is free to download and use and available for Android or iPhone as shown opposite.

Click on the icon to view the App in the Google Play store or iTunes App store .


Gower Coast PATH - Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (ANOB)

Gower provides a wide variety of scenery in a relatively small area of about 70 square miles (180 km2). There is a  diverse range of habitats that consequently give rise to widely differing flora and fauna. The area is popular with water sports and outdoor enthusiasts and there are numerous opportunities for outdoor pursuits. These include surfing, fishing, sailing, walking, birdwatching, climbing, coast steering, hang gliding, paragliding, etc.
The public rights of way network are extensive, covering 431 km (268 miles). It offers many memorable walking routes, from short family trips to routes for the more experienced. In fact, “glorious” Rhossili, on the western most point of Gower, is one of the Telegraph’s ‘Top 10 British Walks’ and the Times’s ’20 Greatest Rural British Walks’. This walk forms part of the Gower peninsula section of the Wales Coastal Footpath. You can download a copy of the pamphlet that details the Gower and Swansea section of the Wales coastal footpath here or click on the adjacent image.



In the steps of the saints - Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (ANOB)
In the steps of the saints video - Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (ANOB)

There are fifteen Norman churches located within the confines of Gower’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Some of the churches are also located within local conservation areas.
There is a published trail that describes a circular route to visit each church in turn. Furthermore, you can download a copy of the pamphlet that details the walk by clicking on the image of the pamphlet’s cover on the left.
On the right is our You Tube video that we compiled to illustrates the pamphlet and churches.



History of the Gower Peninsula

All of the historical and archaeological sites and artefacts described in the following paragraphs are found within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

red lady of pavaland - Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (ANOB)
The Gower peninsula is known to have been inhabited since at least the Upper Paleolithic period. There are 83 scheduled ancient monuments and sites representing most periods in history since that time.  These include stone, bronze and iron age sites, medieval castles, eighteenth-century parkland, and industrial monuments. It has been described as an ‘unrivalled microcosm of Wales’s historic wealth.

In 1823 Rev. William Buckland discovered a fairly complete Upper Paleolithic-era human male skeleton in Goat’s hole cave. This is one of the Paviland Caves located between Port Eynon and Mewslade. The find was named the Red Lady of Paviland because the fossilized bones are dyed in red ochre. Later investigators determined that the skeleton was actually a male. This was the first human fossil to have been found anywhere in the world. To date, it is still the oldest ceremonial burial to be discovered anywhere in Western Europe. The most recent re-calibrated radiocarbon dating in 2009 indicates that the skeleton can be dated to around 33,000 Before Present (BP).

At the time of the burial, the cave was probably more than 100km from the sea. The passage of geological time has made the cave a decidedly more scenic final resting place.

In the 1950s, archaeologists excavating a protected site on the peninsula found 300-400 pieces of flint related to tool making. The artefacts were dated to between 12,000-14,000 BC. A rock drawing of a red deer was also found in the same location in 2010. This was dated to the same period and is thought to be the oldest cave art found in Great Britain.

 

 

Arthurs Stone Cefyn Bryn Gower - Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (ANOB)

Gower is also home to menhirs or standing stones from the Bronze Age. Of the nine stones, eight remain today. One of the most notable of the stones is Arthur’s stone near Cefn Bryn. It has a twenty-five-ton capstone that was most likely a glacial erratic. The builders dug beneath the capstone and supported it with upright stones to create a burial chamber.   During the Bronze Age, people continued to use local caves as a source of shelter and for burying their dead. Bronze Age evidence, such as funeral urns, pottery, and human remains have been found in Tooth Cave at Llethryd, Culver Hole (Llangennith) and Cat Hole Cave.

Iron age settlement Cilifor Llanrhidian - Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (ANOB)

With the transition into the Iron Age, hill forts (timber fortifications on hilltops and coastal promontories) began to appear. The largest example of this type of Iron Age settlement on Gower is Cilifor Top near Llanrhidian. The Romans built Leucarum, a rectangular or trapezoidal fort at the mouth of the River Loughor in the late 1st century. It housed a regiment of Roman auxiliary troops and was abandoned after approximately 300 years.

 

Weobley castle gower - Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (ANOB)

Evidence of the Norman influence on Gower can be seen in the many castles that they built in the peninsula. Oxwich, Oystermouth and Weobley are well preserved and are managed by CADW. The remaining castles at Penard, Swansea, Landimore, Scurlage and Llougher are in poor condition and some are completely overgrown. After the Norman’s the commote of Gwyr passed into the hands of English-speaking Britons and it soon became Anglicised. Gower is therefore known as Little England Beyond Wales. To this day the indigenous population within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty are predominantly English speaking. See our Gower Peninsula Castles page for more information on the Norman castles located on the peninsula.
Our other explorer pages gives you detailed information on the Accommodation and facilities at Hill House, the village of Llanrhidian, and the Gower peninsula.