There's been so much going on in life lately, we scrambled to find something to do with that elusive free week between Xmas and New Year. With so much free time from work, we really have to go somewhere. A plane was out of the question: the stress involved with flying somewhere around the holidays makes me actually remember the occasion last year when I said "never again", and I meant it.
Someplace with palm trees.
I phoned up some outdoorsy friends and booked a cottage for the week in Gower, a storied peninsular near Swansea. It's about an hour to drive to the Breacon Beacons from here, and loads of gorgeous beaches and countryside trails to explore just outside our tiny rented cottage in Port Eynon.
After a somewhat stressful stormy drive to get there, we awoke to pleasant skies and temperate climes. Though the sun not coming up until nearly 9 was a bit harsh, we were on the trail to greet it every morning as it lazily peered over the water.
Gower is stunning- go if you get a chance. Ruined castles dot the landscape, and a beautiful ancient former saltworks sat seaside, right next to the rather well-located youth hostel with beach access. I'm telling you, the YHA here is really worth looking into.
On this first day, we aimed to hike from our front door, all the way to Worm's Head along the coastal path, and then back to the cottage following tracks through farm fields. It would be about 14 miles of walking.
The day- perfectly sunny, but exhaustively windy. We saw no one on the trail at all until we got close to Worm's Head, and then it was mayhem.
The coast here was extraordinarily beautiful, in a way that I didn't think Wales might be.
Even in late December, it was brilliantly green.
There were beautiful sandy coves that you would have to hike quite a ways from the nearest car park to get to (and possibly not in a bikini as there were thorny brush everywhere) and lots of dramatic vistas to be taken in from the clifftops.
Finally- the most beautiful beach in Wales, Rhossilli. With Rhossili downs rising up dramatically over a huge sandy beach, a lone farmhouse, and the coast of Pembroke on the horizon, this became my favorite place in Wales so far.
Worm's head juts out far into the sea here. This is a tidal island that you can walk out to a few hours around low tide, but I was knackered and ready to get out of the wind at this point.
Dylan Thomas famously took a nap after hiking out here and ended up having another few hours to kill as the tide came in while he was out there. There is a a coast guard station overlooking it to make sure no one gets stuck and everyone scuttles back over the causeway before the sea swallows it.
The wind was really getting to me- gusting strongly enough to knock you off balance, and cliff-top wise that was less than ideal. The car park in Rhossili was streaming with visitors trying for a walk out to the point and blowing back to the car in haste.
We walked back to the cottage inland going along swampy farm roads and across sheep and cow pastures. I did spy some some intrepid surfers, shuffling through the mud on their way to the beach.
In the end, we came home in the dark. Somewhat windblown and exhausted, but proud of my first foray into the slightly uncomfortable world of winter hiking.