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South Wales: The Gower

South Wales: The Gower

Whenever I told anybody I was going to Wales to tour, they’d say ‘don’t miss the Gower, you big poncey flower’ – so I didn’t – Kate and I spent two days there. Have at it!

30.06.2014 – 01.07.2014
We were in Blaenavon, and I wanted to see the valleys – the villages that built up around the coal mines. Rows and rows of terraced houses, strung up along the winding roads climbing the hills. So we drove through them down to Caerphilly, to see the castle there. The drive was lovely – wonderful views, but I was left wondering what the locals did for money now the mines have closed (though they keep tidy townships!)

The cute terraced coal miners cottages in the valleys

In Caerphilly we visited the castle. It was a pretty impressive defensive fortress, big moat. The great hall and inner gatehouse have been re-constructed which was cool to explore. The really stand-out bit for me was the wonderfully developed touch-screen table display thing detailing information about the castle! You could light a match and set it to powder kegs and open flood gates, pinch and zoom images and things – totally cool.

Caerphilly Castle
The neat table thing
Kate hasn’t boundaries – busting in on me in the latrine
The great hall – where’s the wally?
We had a quick shop in Caerphilly township, then hit the road for the Gower. Taking an inland route instead of the main roads, we were concious that the van wouldn’t be that happy over some of these mountain passes. The A4061 looked particularly troublesome with tonnes of switchbacks. So inevitably we ended up on the A4061 taking the said switchbacks, but Dorothy handled them like a champ. 
The Craig-y-Llyn layby at the top of the A4061 pass
There’s only so many castles one can be bothered to see in a row, and it’s important to mix it up. With Wales being known for it’s abundance of waterfalls we took the opportunity to visit one – the Melincourt waterfall. This also had the bonus of still being ‘open’ after 6pm unlike most attractions, which is a consideration considering it only gets dark at about 10 at the moment! 
The Melincourt waterfall
Waterfall viewed, we decided on a pub stop for the evening, and headed out to the Kings Head at Llangennith. This pub is near the eastern tip of the Gower. They were happy for us to spend the evening there, however the carpark was at an unholy angle of about 5 degrees. We enjoyed a fine pub meal there and local Gower beers, then jumped in the van to a freecamping spot near Cefn Bryn.
From this public access land, grazed by horses, cattle and sheep, you can see from one side of the Gower to the other. We watched the sunset and were woken by cows prowling around the van the next morning – it was magic. 
Pub grub at the Kings Head
The sunset, Cefn Bryn. 
The cows got closer and closer in the morning, eventually deciding to lay down about two metres apart all around the van. Kate thought it was ace but I was left worrying how I was going to navigate my own cow out of the field! Fortunately, as luck would have it this layby was actually the carpark of one of the sights for the day – Arthurs Stone – and once I got back from looking at that, one cow had cleared my way. Arthur’s stone is a neolithic burial thing, 3000BC. 
Bovine intervention
Arthurs stone (standing on 6 small stone legs!)
Mooving through the cows we headed to Rhossili and Worms Head – a National Trust beach and headland. At Rhossili there was but one disturbance in the perfect miles-long stretch of golden sand – the hull of the shipwrecked Helvetia, wrecked in an 1887 storm. 
The Helvetia – pissing off fontophiles since forever ago. 
Kate and I above Rhossili
I GOT ONE WITH A PROPER SMILE!
Worm’s head – from Wyrm, as it looks like a dragon. See? Accessible at low tide. 

In the afternoon we headed back South West to Oxwich to visit the Oxwich castle and perhaps another cute seaside town. This wee outing was not our finest. We parked at the beach by accident, so walked up the steep hill to see the castle. We found it was closed on Tuesdays.

Oxwich Castle

Determined to make a success from this failure, I convinced Kate to not return the same route, but take a shortcut through farmland to the coastal pathway and loop around there.

Walking through deserted farmers fields was lovely; getting completely lost wasn’t. Dodging gorse around a sheer cliff face, we came across some WW2 gun emplacements and eventually, thanks to Google Maps, we found our way down to the coast path. A brown snake was spotted as we headed back. Steep banks were climbed, then promptly descended, only to find the field from the start of our journey nearly adjacent to our end. I should probably mention here that Kate did this all in jandals that were little more than slats of plastic at this point – it was bad enough for me in my boots!

Kate near one of the surprise WW2 emplacements at Oxwich

Arriving back at the van, we were both buggered. We booked a Caravan Club site in Gowerton in for two nights and hit the road, keen for booze and showers.

But fortune does not smile on the wary. En route, the traffic slowed, then stopped. There was an accident that was blocking both lanes. One by one the motorists ahead of me made their U-turns. Luckily there was a driveway close by, else I would’ve been stuck reversing on those hedgerow-locked lanes!

Back in motion, our rerouted convoy headed back east and up past our cow buddies by Arthurs stone. We stopped at a Nisa to pick up some plonk, because if we didn’t need it before hand we sure did then! And the last nail, the ATM ate Kate’s EFTPOS card. It was the end of the month, the card had expired – it was gone.

It could be a comedy of errors, if it weren’t all such a pain in the ass! A beer in a camp site never tasted so good.

Larry's a 30-something chap interested in travel, being a dork and changing the world via less boring training.

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