Swansea Bay is an area of natural beauty beyond compare and the perfect destination for a legendary adventure. From the rugged coast line, to the winding country roads, in just 3 short days I was completely blown away by what the southern coast of Wales has to offer. Oh, and it’s only a 35 minute flight from my hometown of Dublin – how have I never made the trip before?
I remember the day I opened up the email from Visit Swansea Bay, asking if I would be interested in coming to visit. They had attached a couple of photos at the bottom to give a little taster of what was to come. “That’s Wales?!” I said to myself as my mouth dropped to the floor in disbelief that I had never made the short trek to our neighbours across the pond! Fast forward to April 2019 when I found myself quickly falling in love with this beautiful little part of the world.
Located on the southwest of the United Kingdom, Wales is commonly known for its rich history and culture, their interesting use of the famous ‘laverbread’ (which isn’t actually bread, but I will leave that as a little surprise for your arrival into Wales), and of course their incredibly charming accent, that I have attempted to reenact on many occasions, buy failed miserably!
But aside from all of that, I am ashamed to say that I had no idea just how spectacular Wales would truly be, in particular, the Swansea Bay area.
Arua and I had the pleasure of spending 3 incredibly sunny days (as an Irish native, I know just how lucky you have to be to catch a ray of sunshine in this part of the world), exploring the region by car. Visit Swansea Bay did such a fantastic job of creating the perfect road trip itinerary for us, that we thought it would be rude to keep it to ourselves! So with that being said, let’s start off at the very beginning.
Once you’ve landed in Cardiff airport, it’s time to hop in your rental car and start your road trip adventure to Swansea Bay! It takes roughly 1 hour to get to your first stop, so get comfy, set up your spotify playlist and enjoy the journey.
No matter where I am in the world, I always try to visit the local museum or grab a bus tour as soon as possible. The aim is to find out as much information about the area as I possibly can, so that I can get a better understanding of the place and the people who live here.
So, on your arrival in Swansea, head straight to Swansea Museum (the oldest museum in Wales), for an in depth introduction to the local history and culture. Here you will be able to view the 17th Century Flemish masterpiece (worth around £3m and recently discovered in the Swansea Museum storeroom). Can you imagine their surprise when they discovered that this painting was tucked away in the back room? The “important and beautiful” painting by artist Jacob Jordaens – a pupil of Peter Paul Rubens – was previously unknown to art historians and was only identified when the new BBC Four series, Britain’s Lost Masterpieces, recorded an episode within the Swansea Museum.
Lunch at The Swigg:
Just a short walk across Museum Green, you’ll find a trendy harbour side bar, kitchen & venue called The Swigg. Their aim is simple, serve the finest food on small plates. When we took a look at the menu, we fell in love with this idea, as it means you get to try a little bit of everything (and trust us, it’s VERY hard to decide which delicious-ness to go for!).
We finally decided on the Crab Sliders, Duo Tacos, Duo Cod, Arancini, Lamb Rillette and the Halloumi Fries – as you can tell from the photos below, I was a very happy lady! The Arancini melts in your mouth, while the crunch of the Duo Tacos will make you wish you had ordered another plate.
If you’re lucky enough to arrive on a sunny day, we highly recommend taking advantage of the outdoor seating and enjoy a bit of people watching as the boats sway in the dock next to you.
National Waterfront Museum:
With a tight schedule we didn’t have a lot of time to explore this epic museum, but it was certainly one of Arua’s favourite spots of the day. It’s right next door to The Swigg so it provides the perfect spot to stroll around after lunch, while exploring the interactive and high tech approach to Wales’ history.
The Industrial Revolution in Wales had a tremendous effect on the local community as well as that of the rest of the World. The National Waterfront Museum puts you in charge of the experience, allowing you to delve as deeply into the exhibitions, displays and information as you want. If you are traveling with children, this place will keep them entertained for hours.
Swansea’s LC Leisure Complex
Similar to back home in Ireland, it might not be warm enough in Wales to have an outdoor waterpark, but this is certainly the next best thing. Head for the pool where you can tackle the Masterblaster – the ultimate white-knuckle rollercoaster waterslide or the aqua slide and aqua tube for some adrenaline-filled adventure.
There is also a wave pool (which myself and Arua enjoyed far too much – 2 big kids here!) or why not relax in the whirlpool or float around the lazy river? We ended off the day ‘attempting’ indoor surfing on the Boardrider – I now have bruises all over my knees, but the pain was well worth the fun!
If water slides and surfing isn’t your cup of tea, head to the spa to relax and unwind. You can always opt for the steam rooms and hot tub instead.
Where to stay: King’s Head Inn
Head to Llangennith in Gower (the UK’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) to check in to the King’s Head Inn, a 17th century four star B&B. You have everything you need here to rest after a long day of exploring Wales. Cozy accommodation with beds that are so comfortable, it’s hard to get out in the morning, a pub/restaurant that is clearly a favourite among the locals (I recommend the fish and chips!) and a stunning view to wake up to over the area.
Wakey wakey, rise and shine, big adventures are awaiting you so get on the road nice and early! Once you are on the road, you have the option to stop off at Penmaen to explore this ancient village buried by sand and enjoy the spectacular views of Three Cliffs Bay. Sadly, we didn’t get a chance to visit due to technical difficulties (why is it that camera equipment only decides to have a break down, when you are in the middle of your trip? It never does that at home!).
Once you’ve got your nature fix, head to the cosy but cosmopolitan seaside village of Mumbles. Full of local character and charm, Mumbles is home to handmade crafts, luxury boutiques, a Victorian Pier and arguably the worlds’ best ice cream. Don’t miss the Lovespoon Gallery (the original specialists offering the largest collection of lovespoon designs from Wales’ best lovespoon carvers) and the Gower Gallery, which boasts a continually changing selection of paintings, ceramics, sculptures, and limited edition Giclee prints.
Mumbles coastal walk was one of the highlights of our trip as we blissfully strolled along the seaside path, watching the world go by, soaking in the light spring breeze and gazing out at the bright blue waves that wash up onto the shoreline. It doesn’t get much more peaceful than this.
Lunch and Ice Cream at Verdi’s
Our lunch recommendation while you’re exploring Mumbles has got to be the famous ‘Verdi’s’ – a family run Café, Ice Cream Parlour and Licensed Restaurant with a reputation for authentic Italian flavour and quality, located right on the seafront (they couldn’t get any closer to the sea if they tried!). Now sit back and relax, while you dig in to a delicious panini or fresh focaccia bread, overlooking the beautiful Swansea Bay.
First built in 1898, Mumbles Pier has become one of Swansea Bay’s most defining features from the Victorian era. Unfortunately the Pier itself was closed for refurbishment during our visit, but the site includes an amusement arcade, a Beach Hut Café and a number of other attractions including a mini bowling alley, an XD Theatre and a Pirate Boating Lake, so it’s still definitely worth your time visiting.
Enjoy an afternoon walk along the Gower Coast Path from Bracelet Bay to Langland Bay and back. This is a beautiful coastal route that just keeps getting better and better as you make your way along the winding pathway. We were lucky enough to chat to some of the charming locals on our journey that gave us loads of new recommendations for the rest of our time in Wales – many of which we didn’t get around to this time around, so I guess that means we have to go back again ;-)
Dinner at Beach House
While doing my research before our visit to Wales, I heard many fantastic things about this hidden foodie heaven. Tucked away in a stunning natural setting, overlooking the beautiful Oxwich Bay, their Head Chef and native Welshman Hywel Griffith is famous for his passion for local produce.
We decided to go for the 5 course tasting menu so that we could get a real flavour of the local area, and it was clear that every single dish was prepared with skill, experience, creativity and love. Take a look at our vlog at the bottom of this post to get an insight into the level of detail that goes into each course.
After waking up a little bit nervous for the days main activity, we jumped out of the bed (nice and early to make sure we have time to enjoy the epic breakfast at the Kings Head Inn), and made our way to our first stop of the day…
Voted Wales’ Best Beach 2018 and 3rd in the UK in the TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards AND it has it has been in the top 10 for the last 6 years! The awards cabinet is really filling up at Rhossili Bay. And it doesn’t stop there, it has also been described as ‘The supermodel of British beaches’ by The Independent and has won accolades from UK Travel Writers and awards for being the best spot to have a picnic! Rhossili has even been nominated as the ‘The UK’s No.1 dog-friendly beach’. What’s not to love about this place??
You really have to see it to believe it. I will put my hand on my heart and say that I have never seen anything like it! Picture this… 3 miles of sandy shore, encompassing one of Gower’s most famous landmarks, Worms Head. Which is where our first activity of the day was about to take place.
Gower Activity Centres
The reason why I was so nervous when I woke up that day, was because I actually had no idea what I was about to get myself into… have you ever heard of Coasteering? The guys at Gower Activity Centres describe it like this – “With hidden caves and secret steps an adrenaline fuelled Coasteering journey has never been so interesting. Swimming, scrambling and jumping your way through our breath taking scenery is a must for any adventurous Gower visitor. This is an activity you won’t forget at a venue you won’t believe.” – And they hit the nail on the head!
The sun was shining down over Worms Head and my heart was racing as we made our way down a steep rocky path to the jagged cliffs below. As someone who has suffered from a fear of heights ever since my skiing accident, I had little to no faith in myself as I stood at the edge of the rocks, looking down at the crashing waves below.
As my knees locked into place and my inner voice was screaming “what the heck are you doing? Don’t do it! You can’t do this!”, I heard another voice coming from the water beneath me. I can only describe our coasteering instructor Stuart as the guardian angel I never knew I needed :-P His kind and patient words slowly drowned out the negative voice I had in my head, as I found myself counting down from 5, and doing something I never thought I would ever be able to do. The adrenaline was pumping through my veins in a way I had never experienced before. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… JUMP!
Never in my life have I felt that sheer level of fear and excitement all at the same time. The cold rush of sea water will certainly wake you up in the morning! This was definitely our favourite stop on the entire road trip, an experience we will never ever forget. No words will ever do it justice, you have to experience this for yourself. Feel the fear and do it anyway.
Lunch at Worm’s Head Hotel overlooking the beautiful Rhossili Bay
Once the adrenaline has calmed down and your heart rate is back in full swing, it’s time to dig into some tasty grub with some of the best views in the world! If you are lucky enough to get there on a sunny day, you might just find it hard to find a seat in this popular spot. The fish and chips seem to be a fan favourite among the locals and it’s not hard to see why. The crispy batter and fresh fish was exactly what I needed after a morning of adventure.
Now that you have had your fair share of adrenaline and your tummy has been fed, it’s time to soak in the area at a much slower pace. Take a stroll along Rhossili beach, or head in the direction of Arthur’s Stone, where you will find 360 degree views across Gower from Cefn Bryn. It’s also a 2 minute drive from The King Arthur Hotel, which is where we recommend you go for your evening meal.
Dinner at the King Arthur Hotel
Renowned for their traditional ales (normally four or five to choose from) and delicious, home cooked food, sourcing as much local and welsh produce as possible for their menus. If the queue of cars parked outside was anything to go by, we were in for a treat! Seperated into a pub and restaurant, with different menus for each, the waiting list looked like it was a mile long, with people traveling from all over the Gower region to eat here. As we waited for our table to be ready, we witnessed towering plates of nachos, bulging steak pies and delicious hand carved ham all pass us by.
It was almost impossible to choose, but my juicy Chicken Fillet, wrapped in cured ham with a Welsh cheddar & leek sauce, with seasonal vegetables, was exactly what the doctor ordered to end the trip on a high.
If you’ve got some spare time to catch one last stop before your flight back home, enjoy a morning walk at Oxwich Point, around one of Gower’s most beautiful and dramatic headlands; through beautiful woodland and across open cliffs, using a section of the Gower Coast Path. The shorter walk is 3¼ miles (5km), the longer walk via Oxwich Green is about 4½ miles (7km). Oxwich Bay is roughly 1 hour and 30 minutes away from Cardiff airport, so if you have a tight schedule, be sure to factor that in before you make the trip out there!
And that my friends, is our complete Swansea Bay road trip itinerary which thanks to Visit Swansea Bay! We couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to this spectacular country that is so close to home.
With just a 35 minute flight from Dublin, there is no excuse not to go and experience the beauty of Wales for yourself. From the stunning seaside town of Mumbles, to the epic sights of the Gower Coast Path and everything in between. I cannot recommend this road trip adventure enough.
I know I will be back again very soon to delve into more delicious Welsh foodie joints, explore more of the striking natural beauty and to possibly even pump up my adrenaline to the next level with bigger and bolder cliff jumping – there’s no stopping me now ;-)
Check out my full vlog from day 1 + 2 below!