Seen one beach and you’ve seen ’em all right? Well those folks over at Trip Advisor disagree, they have a list of the top ten beaches in the whole wide world, and guess what? A little beach in Wales was named as the best beach in Britain! I decided to take a closer look…
Rhossili Bay in the Gower is already known as a haven for surfers and beach addicts across Britain, but it was when it was named as Britain’s best beach, within the top three of Europe and ninth in the world by Trip Advisor (check out the Beeb article about it here) that it suddenly gained mainstream publicity.
We used the first day of the Easter holidays as an excuse to pay Rhossili a visit and see what all the fuss was about.
Rhossili is a small coastal village just in Gower (just outside Swansea), the first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty designated in Britain (in 1956). The drive there is pretty pleasant; once you get through the M4 and Swansea city centre traffic, it was plain sailing for us through picturesque country roads on the outskirts of Swansea as we moved through the small villages within Gower. We followed the postcode of SA3 1PP which took us right into the National Trust car park (well, the overflow car park as it was packed!) where we paid £4 to park all day (the money goes towards the maintenance of the Bay).
The area of Rhossili immediately around the car park is small and quaint, there are a couple of small hotel/pub places which looked nice (the aroma from the cafe was amazing!) as well as a small corner shop and surf shop. There really isn’t much else other than some toilets and a visitors shop. This village is not commercial at all, there were no chain stores or supermarkets in sight. We bought some homemade cornish pasties from one of the small shops, and whilst not cheap (£2.50 each!) they were delicious and definitely homemade. Yes this was more expensive than Greggs, but it tasted so much better and we were happy to contribute to the local economy during our visit. If pasties aren’t your thing though, you might want to bring a picnic.
Why visit Rhossili?
One of the most well-known natural features of Rhossili Bay is the famous Worm’s Head. Worm’s Head is a spectacularly shaped piece of land, and forms the most westerly point of Gower. It is joined to the mainland and accessible by foot but you must beware of the tide and also let the local coastguard know if you are going to make the crossing (you definitely do not want to be stranded there). The crossing is only exposed for a couple of hours each day depending on tide times, and can be treacherous.
The juxtaposition of the grass, cliffs, sea, sand and Worm’s Head forms an amazing landscape, and also encouraged a long line of people in front of the fencing taking selfies (I hate those selfie sticks!). There is a well-worn stoney path which you can use to walk towards Worm’s Head before you attempt any crossing (which we didn’t due to the tide times) and we saw many sheep and even some lambs grazing on the grass that surrounded the path. There were a lot of people on the path as you would expect on a bank holiday weekend, but the sheep weren’t fazed at all, and just carried on munching.
After walking around the path we decided to make the trip down to the beach, the views from the cliffs (before the descent) were really amazing and great for clearing thoughts (something which I needed at the time!).
We took the long walk down to the beach and trust me, it is a little challenging! The path is not suitable for wheelchairs or prams, and will be difficult for toddlers and any small children. Our seven-year old made it but he was a struggling a bit, especially on the way back (mainly through general tiredness rather than the path itself). The path is made up of lots of steps down to the beach (it is quite steep in places) and it gets quite narrow at different points. Once you make it down the path, you are met with a pebble beach of a few feet, and then beautiful sand.
The walk is worth it if you can make it, the beach is not the biggest but it is so peaceful. Even on this relatively busy day, with lovely weather, there was plenty of room on the beach. We saw a lot of tourists and heard many other languages being spoken which was good to see for Welsh tourism; there were also a lot of dog walkers but no dog mess, which was a plus!
The sand was flat, immaculately clean and surrounded by cliffs, which made for a great enclosed space. The kids really enjoyed running around, looking at shells, and kicking a ball around in the safe, quiet space.
As well as the sand and the sea…there is a shipwreck! The Helvetia ran aground in 1887 and the oak frame is still buried in the sand in the middle of the beach. The full story of the shipwreck is here, and again makes for a really eye catching feature that fascinated the kids! We theorised with the kids over whether it was a pirate ship, and what may have been on it.
We had a great afternoon and just as we were planning to leave we could hear the sound of aeroplanes or helicopters in the background (Rhossili is quite close to Swansea airport, which is a private airport used quite regularly), we then noticed six small planes flying in formation and performing different stunts! We had a free airshow for about fifteen minutes, as they looped loops and performed some amazing manoeuvres. I did try (and fail) to capture the moment with my iPhone camera, the below was the best I could get I’m afraid:
The walk back up the path was pretty challenging, and by now my younger children were struggling. We made it back to the car park though and headed back home with three sleepy children (and as two tired parents).
We had a fantastic day out and I highly recommend it for anyone who likes to walk, loves nature or landscapes, or any families looking for a cheap day trip. I don’t feel like I can comment on whether this is really the best beach in Britain, I am a little bit of a ‘meat and potatoes’-type guy who agrees that once you have seen one beach you have pretty much seen them all…but even I was impressed with the spectacular views, the friendliness of everyone there and the amazingly clean beach.