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FOLLOW DYLAN THOMAS AROUND THE GOWER

Dylan Thomas statue in the Maritime Quarter of SwansweAn interest in the works of Dylan Thomas led Reg Butler on a trail around the Swansea poet's favourite haunts on the Gower Peninsula.

Dylan described Gower as having "one of the loveliest sea-coast stretches in the whole of Britain". That opinion was backed in 1956 when the Gower became the first place in Britain to be designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The scenery ranges from superb limestone cliffs at Worm's Head and Oxwich Bay to salt-marshes and dunes in the north. It includes five National and Local Nature Reserves. 

Travel Facts

 

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Road access is easy, via M4 - exit 42 onto A483. 

For a day trip across the Bristol Channel to Devon, the pleasure boats 'Waverley' and 'Balmoral' operate in summer from Swansea to Ilfracombe. 


Bracelet Bay, Langland Bay, Caswell Bay and Port Eynon are Blue Flag beaches.

Tourist Information Centre, Plymouth Street, Swansea SA1 3QG. Tel: 01792-468321. 
  

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As a dedicated teenage drinker, Dylan was a regular along the so-called Mumbles Mile, located on Swansea Bay four miles from the city centre.

Dylan wrote: "Mumbles is a rather nice village, despite its name, right on the edge of the sea."

In the centre, pubs stand shoulder-to-shoulder, rated high among the great pub crawls of Wales. Dylan's top choice was the Mermaid, which has since burned down but re-launched itself as Dylan's Tavern. But you can find the authentic prewar pub style at The Antelope, which was another of Dylan's favourites.

However, Mumbles is not a boozy resort. In recent years family holiday and short-break business has flourished. New shops, good restaurants and art galleries have opened up to cater for an increase in visitors. 

High cuisine is on the menu at a restaurant called Patrick's With Rooms, right there on the seafront. It has only five bedrooms, furnished to luxury standards. 

The Hollywood movie star Catherine Zeta-Jones was born in Mumbles and named her first baby as Dylan. As a bolt-hole from California, she has built a 2.4 million mansion just around Mumbles Head, near Langland Bay. 

Egged on by all this celebrity approval, I picked a b&b from the "Which Good B&B Guide", and settled into the 6-bedroom 4-star Alexandra House on Mumbles seafront. 

Like many other b&bs, it's a converted house from Victorian times, when families were large and their cook and a skivvy toiled in the basement. 

But it's very comfortable if you want to avoid hotel prices for a gym and swimming pool which you don't use.

The centre of Mumbles is called Oystermouth, with an uphill climb to Oystermouth Castle. This was built by the Normans to restrain the unruly Welsh, and keep an eye on the Bristol Channel. Later it became more residential. 

Mumbles beach is more mud than sand, while the much better beaches for the bucket-and-spade trade are spread around the south-facing shores.

The sandy beaches of Langland and Caswell are close to Mumbles, and the stretch towards Pwll Du Bay is favoured by surfers. 

Looking for antiques along the Mumbles seafront Most of the beaches and coves are overlooked by dramatic cliffs which make good walking, climbing and caving territory. But for family business the most popular sector is Oxwich Bay. 

That's where a wide selection of campsites, caravan parks, b&bs and budget hotels cater for holidaymakers. In peak summer, driving down the narrow, winding access roads can be very jammed.

A smaller touristy rival is Port Eynon, where a curving beach is sheltered by a National Trust headland of craggy limestone with some natural and man-made caves. The Youth Hostel at Port Eynon has one of the finest views in Britian. This former Lifeboat Station is right on the beach of the Gower coast.

Inland, due north, Reynoldston is the Gower home of the Arthurian legend. King Arthur's Stone is a 25-ton capstone that roofed over a burial chamber from around 4000 BC. 

This lofty dead-central area of the Peninsula - a ridge called Cefn Bryn - offers wide views over the countryside. 

At lower levels there is arable farming, cattle and sheep, and pick-your-own soft fruit smallholdings. Rabbits are everywhere. 

In springtime there are masses of bluebells. An evening stroll gives you the smell of wild garlic. Late summer offers blackberries galore. Anywhere on the Gower you should leave your car and walk, whether inland or around the coastline.

King Arthur's Hotel, not far from the Stone, is a friendly old pub with round tables for those who want to eat or drink outside. It's an inn specially catering for walkers, cyclists and anyone else who prefers outdoor activities. Home cooked meals feature a seasonal range of fish and game. In winter there are blazing log fires, making it a popular year-round short break for countrylovers.

Finally, the western tip of the Gower is marked by Rhossili. At low tide a string of rocks make up the Worm's Head, reached by a causeway. The Worm is a popular target for walkers to get there and back before the tide beats them to it. Reckon at least three hours.

Facing due west, Rhossili Bay encloses a very long sandy beach backed by Rhossili Downs. Llangennith at the north end is rated among the finest surfing beaches in Britain - certainly the best in Wales. 

The north coast of the Gower is mainly mud flats, marshes and dunes. It's great for birdlife and cockles. 

Here are more ideas on where to go in Wales

CARDIFF - great to visit any time

CARDIGAN - Self-catering along the Heritage Coast

LLEYN PENINSULA - Go walking around the Edge of Wales

TENBY - along  Pembroke's coastline

WALES - Steam up for North Wales

WALES ALONG THE A5 - Follow the historic highway for great sightseeing

WELSH RAREBITS - for a taster of Wales


"Books to read - click on cover pictures" or click on the links below

Cardiff, Swansea and Gower (Jarrold Pathfinder Walking Guides) - An ideal publication for any walking enthusiast who wants to spread into the two great cities. 

Circular Walks in Gower  by Nick Jenkins - Featuring some of the best coastal walking in Wales.

Dylan Thomas: A New Life  by Andrew Lycett - Use this latest biography of the poet's tempestuous life, to relax after visiting some of the Gower and Swansea locations linked to his memory.

Dylan Thomas Reading His Poetry: Complete & Unabridged [AUDIOBOOK] - Tune in to the authentic Welsh sound of Dylan's voice, and try to pick out these sounds from what you hear today among the native speakers of the Gower Peninsula.


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