We spent the rest of the week hiking around Gower. It was fantastic. It's a really special place, and it's a compelling argument for exploring the countryside on foot. While not as mighty and expansive as the neighboring Pembroke peninsula, it was effortless hiking.
And by effortless, I mean it was easy to find a trail and make a nice loop. Some of the hills were kind of tough! By no mean mountains, but just a good stretch of the legs, and plenty of wind to whip your hair around and redden your face on top.
The next day, a head-clearing walk from Three Cliffs and Oxwich bays back to Port Eynon in a gale.
We got covered with mud and blowing sand and soaked to the skin, but warmed up nicely next to the fire at the end of the day. It's safe to say that we all slept like rocks that night.
Having the cottage was really a fantastic idea. Not only did we eat much, much healthier than we would if we had to rely on whatever random pub we end up next to, it was fantastic to have the option to laze around when the rain and wind got too much (not that we took a day off at any point...but the option was there). Cooking dinner and drinking wine every night, playing board games and singing along to Kenny Rodgers- this made for a much more memorable experience, and no one at the YHA down the road were tormented by a bunch of nutters.
This beachy area along Loughor Estuary was stunning- there were thousands of wintering sea birds, no people at all for miles, huge mounds of dunes to escape the wind in, middens of picked-over mussels and oysters thanks to the birds, and a ghostly iron lighthouse far into the bay.
Our last bit of walking was a big one, and probably the most stunning day of walking yet.
We got up early to hit the tides right, and wandered out across the causeway to the storied Worm's Head, which had taunted us with late-night low tides all week.
This is probably the only hike I've ever done that had a coast guard station with spotters watching your progress, lest the tide swallow your escape route.
We picked our way across, and started up the steep and muddy slopes.
We got to this point, and I stopped. This was not my kind of hiking.
So I sat down on a sunny rock and watched the painfully slow progress of crossing an impossibly craggy puzzle. My ankles would have snapped instantly.
Thank goodness I did decide to stay behind- they told me it only got worse.
And the final scramble to the top as indeed a trail-less scramble.
Well, that was fun. Self-preservation makes for uninteresting photos. I did have good company with some Herdwick sheep though. I've never seen these outside of the Lake District. The fact that they can survive on the fell-tops means they don't mind a seaside holiday on such an unforgiving little island.
On the way back across, we literally stumbled upon a gray seal pup.
Suspicious of us, but unwilling to give up his sunny rock.
Once back on terra firma, we headed up to the highest point in Gower, Rhossilli Downs.
We watched a group of hangliders make their way up with equipment, waiting for the wind to calm enough for a fly.
The views were stunning from the top.
There was a bronze-age carin near the top- a huge circular rock pile- and lots of burial chambers. Ancient man knew how to pick the best spots to spend eternity.
The way down the equally steep far side of the hill, which was a bog, we all had fun slip-and-falls, leaving our bums wet and interesting mud splatters on our backs.
Then a long walk back on the beach- perfectly flat, seemingly endless.
Rhossoilli beach had a rather famous and picturesque site: the bones of a ship, wrecked more than a hundred years ago.
There was also the ghost of the original Rhossilli village along the shore- built too close to the beach, the villagers eventually forced to move to higher ground.
A beach holiday in which not a single bikini was donned.
We lucked out with the weather- having one stormy day to contend with in a week of winter hiking. In love, I am. The people were friendly to a fault, the trails were fantastic. I was in my element.
Dreams of the Pembroke coast now dance in my head. September coastal hiking, anyone?