Mark Drakeford grilled on 'advising' Wales travel restrictions
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After the tedium of a long drive, the sight of the Gower Peninsula in West Wales instantly eradicates any feelings of tiredness and you want to embrace the panoramic scenery. We had switched from the M4 to the coastal road approaching Swansea, and stopped at the seaside city – dramatically transformed in recent years – before winding our way to the Oxwich Bay Hotel and its incredible beach views.
We’ve visited the hotel on several occasions, lured by excellent surfing conditions for our teenagers, and fabulous coastal walks for us – never disappointing, whatever the weather.
We stayed in the hotel’s Secret Garden, housing six modern accommodation pods. They are small but comfortable, and an enjoyable alternative to traditional hotel accommodation. The staff worked wonders to keep them spotlessly clean – no mean feat after we returned somewhat grubby after a day in the great outdoors.
The hotel itself, a former rectory, prides itself on offering a warm Welsh welcome and tasty food using locally sourced ingredients. To set you up for the day I’d recommend the Welsh full breakfast with laverbread, a traditional delicacy made from seaweed.
You’ll certainly need your energy for surfing on the amazing Rhossili Bay. Our instructor, Guy Richards, has a friendly and easy-going manner that is perfect for beginners. And if you’re less than agile on the waves there are always the views to admire.
After a morning of strenuous activity, we had an excellent lunch at The Bay on top of Rhossili cliffs.
In the afternoon, we explored the endless expanse of coastal paths.
Part of the appeal of this rugged coastline is that you can easily avoid the crowds. We took a stroll to the rocky promontory known as Worm’s Head, where poet Dylan Thomas was once stranded when he misjudged the tides.
Two of his short stories, Extraordinary Little Cough and Who Do You Wish Was With Us? were inspired by his love of this “very beautiful peninsula, some miles from the blowsy town and so far the tea-shop philistines have not spoilt the most beautiful of its bays”.
The “dry spiked bushes” of gorse and “its spring board grass, monstrous thick grass that made us spring heeled” that he described can still be experienced in all their magnificence thanks to the National Trust, which has fiercely protected the natural beauty of this special spot.
Thomas’s stay on Worm’s Head moved him to write: “Why don’t we live here always? Always and always. Build a bloody house and live like bloody kings”, before adding laconically: “It’s too wild for a townee.”
Thankfully, our evening meal at the Beach House was only a short stroll away. Welsh TV chef Hywel Griffith opened the restaurant five years ago. The proud holder of a Michelin Star, his food is spectacular. It is worth a visit for the bread and butter alone.
But you can’t visit Wales and not eat the lamb – it was sublime. We savoured every mouthful in the contemporary interior before drinking the last of our wine on the terrace with its fabulous views across Oxwich and Three Cliffs.
The following morning, a crystal-blue sky was the perfect backdrop to take in the spectacular Three Cliffs Bay beach, a mix of sand dunes, salt marsh, and the three limestone cliffs.Mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins is a fan of the area, saying: “I grew up on the edge of the Gower, but it was still a holiday place for our family. We’d go on weekend breaks to Three Cliffs Bay – six miles down the road!
“That’s how gorgeous it is. It still takes my breath away.”
No one admiring the view from the ruined 12th-century Norman Pennard Castle could possibly disagree.
We stopped off at another Gower institution, the Pennard Stores, serving local delicacies from seaweed caviar and oysters to delicious cakes.
Our short weekend visit to Gower and Wales will be repeated, and often. It is one of the world’s most beautiful locations. So avoid the uncertainty of overseas travel with a staycation here – you won’t be disappointed.
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