Pocket Britain

Jutting out from South Wales and an area of outstanding natural beauty

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To the west of Swansea, jutting out from the south of Wales, is a small piece of land, around 29 kilometres long and 8 kilometres wide. This mostly rural spot is called the Gower Peninsula. In 1956 it became the first place in the whole of Britain to be designated as an official "Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty", ensuring its protection for the future. Thanks to this, over 50 years later, the Gower Peninsula remains one of the most attractive, unspoiled places in both Wales, and the United Kingdom.

Beautiful scenery on the Gower Peninsula
Photo by metacheetr
The area's 180 square kilometres are full of pristine beaches, green fields, tall trees, and taller cliffs. It almost seems like someone made a list of all the beautiful natural features they could think of, and then squeezed them all into the same place.

Rhossili Bay on the Gower Peninsula
Photo by heatheronhertravels
The Gower is undoubtedly most famous for its coastline, which changes dramatically as it wraps around the land. The northern side faces the Burry Estuary, at the mouth of the River Loughor. Every day, as the tide goes out, the shoreline undergoes a surprising transformation. The water almost completely drains away, and vast expanses of sand are revealed. The newly uncovered ground is covered with cockles, which are harvested by the townsfolk and sold both locally, and worldwide.

Burry Holmes on the Gower Peninsula
Photo by CharlesC
As attractive as the estuary is, the Gower coast's highlights are saved for the western and southern sides. These are filled with an almost uncountable amount of incredible beaches, from tiny bays, to long stretches of golden sand. Many of these have won awards for their cleanliness and quality, so choosing which one to visit is an extremely difficult task. The bay at Rhossili is a deserved favourite, with its never-ending beach, and its distinctive rocky headland. The sunset here is often described as the perfect beach scene.

Rhossili beach and headland
Photo by CharlesC
However, this accolade is contested strongly by other sections of the Gower Peninsula, such as Oxwich, with its clean and clear waters, green woodland, and sandy dunes. Or, if you're willing to spend a little more time exploring, you can discover one of Gower's many smaller, secluded beaches, which you can often have completely to yourself.

Oxwich Bay
Photo in the Public Domain (PD)
These tiny bays aren't the only secrets that the coastline has up its sleeve. Over hundreds of thousands of years, the sea has eaten away at Gower's limestone coast, forming dozens of mysterious caves. One of these is Paviland, which was the site of a famous archaeological discovery in the 19th century. Explorers stumbled across a real human skeleton, which was later believed to be around 24,000 years old!

Paviland Cave
Photo by PhillipC
Scattered throughout the peninsula, there is further evidence of human life from prehistoric times. There are at least half a dozen standing stones, which date from the Bronze Age. In fact, Gower contains relics from almost every stage of human development, including ruined castles, and ancient churches. The area is full of stories, from covert smuggling, to full-scale invasions. Those who decide to spend a little more time here, finding out about all the tales and legends that have occurred throughout Gower's history, will find more than they could possibly imagine. But as interesting as these stories are, the real reason to come to the Gower Peninsula is just to see it. The amazing scenery has been here before any human, and it will still be here after we've left.

Ruins on the Gower Peninsula
Photo by AndEggs

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