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

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. It is renowned for its scenery, bays, beaches and coves.

The peninsula forms part of the south Wales coastline. It projects westward into the Bristol Channel and is bounded by the Loughor estuary to the north and Swansea Bay to the east. The interior landscape is predominant rural with 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. On the other hand, the west coast is dominated by long expanses of sandy bays at Rhossilli Bay, Broughton Bay, and Whitford sands. An extensive salt marsh bounds the estuary on the north coast tat 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.

Gower Peninsula Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty logo

In conclusion, the population resides mainly in villages and small communities. Suburban development has made several communities in the east of the Gower peninsula part of the Swansea Urban Area. The headland, known as Worm’s Head, at Rhossili is Gower’s iconic landmark and it is used in various forms for advertising in the tourism industry.

Bays, Beaches and Coves

Gower Peninsula bucket and spade

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

The pins in the map below show the locations of the most easily accessible beaches.

Click on the pins to see the locations with distances and driving times from Hill House.

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

The area is very popular with surfers and there are several surfing schools. They 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.

The following videos illustrate the Gower peninsula’s beautiful scenery and magnificent coastline.

The Gower Peninsula – BBC series Coast

BBC Coast

Three Cliffs – ITVs Britains Favourite View
ITV Britains favourite view

Gower cast path pamphlet map
Gower provides a wide variety of scenery in a relatively small area of about 70 square miles (180 km2). A diverse range of habitats that 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 cover 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 westernmost 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 pamphlet
There are fifteen Norman churches located within Gower’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Some of the churches are also located within local conservation areas.
There is an established 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.

Watch our  video that we compiled to illustrates the pamphlet and churches.

In the steps of the saints

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.

thee red lady of Paviland

The Gower peninsula is known to have been inhabited since at least the Upper Paleolithic period. There are 83 scheduled ancient monuments and sites that represent most periods during this time.  These include stone, bronze, and iron age sites, medieval castles, eighteenth-century parkland, and industrial monuments. It has been described as an unrivaled microcosm of Wales’s historic wealth.

The Red Lady of Paviland

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 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 artifacts 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.

Gower is also home to menhirs or standing stones from the Bronze Age. Of the nine stones, eight remain today.

Of the nine stones, eight remain today. Arthur’s stone at the top of Cefn Bryn is the most notable. 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.

Arthurs stone Cefn Bryn Gower
Cilifor Iron age settlement Llanrhidian Gower
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.
The Normans

Evidence of the Norman influence on Gower is shown by the number of 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 is predominantly English-speaking. See our Gower Peninsula Castles page for more information on the Norman castles located on the peninsula.

Weobley Castle Gower

You can read more about Gower attractions and history in our posts on golf, surf schools, walking festival, cycling festival, folk festival, and smugglers.

Our other explorer pages give you detailed information on the accommodation and facilities at Hill House, the village of Llanrhidian, and Swansea Bay and Mumbles.

Gower Beach Guide smartphone App

If you are visiting Swansea download our Gower Beach Guide App onto your mobile phone before you leave home.

It is free to download and use and available for Android or iPhone. Also, there are no annoying advert or in-App purchases.

Gower Beach Guide App logo
  • For iPhone and Android .
  • Details over thirty unique locations
  • Road and footpath directions
  • Car parking, refreshment and toilet facilities
  • Tide table and lifeguard patrols
  • Duration of dog walking restrictions
  • …. and much more

Use thes buttons (or above icons) to view the App

Open Gower Beach Guide App Google Play

Open Gower Beach Guide App Apple App Store

Gower Beach Guide App screen shots
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