Greentraveller's Guide to the Gower Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
Written by Sian Lewis
Artwork for Greentraveller's Guides by Tina Smith and Mark Edwards
Paul Lloyd, Chair of the Gower AONB Partnership
Designated in 1956 for its classic limestone coast and the variety of its natural habitats, Gower was the first AONB designated in the UK. Rich and diverse, Gower’s scenery ranges from fragile dune and salt marsh in the north to the dramatic limestone cliffs along the south coast, intercut with sandy beaches. Inland, the ridges of Cefn Bryn and Rhossili Down dominate a landscape of traditional small fields, wooded valleys and open commons.
Its history is just as varied – from the oldest ceremonial human burial in Western Europe, to WWII defences, via a 12th Century Norman invasion, and smugglers tales. For centuries, Gower was remote and self-reliant, developing its own traditions, and a unique Gower dialect. The development of Swansea at the heart of the Industrial Revolution brought many changes to Gower – but also left the landscape unspoilt.
Now it is easy to catch a bus from the centre of Swansea, and get off in the centre of Gower just 20 minutes later. The Wales Coast Path, and the many other footpaths around Gower, make exploring by foot easy – from the open, rolling commons with their Bronze and Iron Age remains, to wooded valleys with small villages nestling in their shelter, and the dramatic coast, with its stories of smuggling and ship wrecks.
A new and free downloadable app, called ‘This Is Gower’, is packed with walks, stories, wildlife and history – making it easy to explore the past and present of Gower. Award-winning beaches, dramatic coast and rolling downs, with traditional villages linked by small lanes make Gower a place to unwind and recharge your batteries.
What our writers discovered in Gower AONB
Gower’s scenery ranges from fragile dune and salt marsh in the north to the dramatic limestone cliffs along the south coast, from pony-dotted moorland to sweeping sandy beaches. Inland, the ridges of Cefn Bryn and Rhossili Down dominate a landscape of traditional small fields, wooded valleys and open commons. Sixty years ago Gower was the first region in the UK to be designated an AONB, not only for its beautiful landscape but also for its unusual variety of natural habitats. We hope this guide will help you discover why the Gower occupies a special place in the hearts of so many.
As part of our series on the eight Welsh Protected Landscapes, Sian Lewis walks along the glorious coastal path of Gower Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in South Wales
As part of our series on the eight Welsh Protected Landscapes, Sian Lewis visits the Gower Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and tries local delicacies, ales and 'Welshman's caviar'
Stay, Eat, See & Do
Our pick of places across Gower AONB
Google Map Key:
Click on the coloured icons for more information about each listing
Green = Places to stay
Blue = Places to eat
Yellow = Attractions
Purple = Activities
Click on the square brackets top right of map to reveal expanded map
- Gower was designated the UK’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty back in 1956
- Swansea-born Dylan Thomas called the peninsula "one of the loveliest sea-coast stretches in the whole of Britain"
- Worm's Head is so called because Viking invaders thought it resembled a serpent rising from the depths
- Famed local delicacies include salt marsh lamb, laverbread and Penclawdd cockles. The latter were once collected from the marshes by barefoot cockle pickers
- There are 1200 archaeological sites in the AONB, including listed buildings, caves, forts, castles and a cast-iron lighthouse
- Whilst many locals and visitors call it 'The Gower', 'Gower' or 'The Gower Peninsula' is actually the correct way to refer to the area
Map of Gower Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Wales
Map supplied by Gower AONB
Main images: Oxwich Bay glimpsed through trees, supplied by Gower AONB. Rhossili Bay, Pennard Castle, both supplied by Visit Swansea Bay. Surfer: Photo: Sian Lewis/Greentraveller.
Guide written and researched by Sian Lewis.
This online guide to Gower Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was funded by Welsh Government.