Gower was the first place in Britain to be named an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. With cliffs and woodlands ringed by sparkling beaches, the Gower peninsula is so adored by walkers, birdwatchers, sunbathers and surfers, it’s been scooping awards ever since. Here are 10 ways to enjoy this 70-square-mile (180sq km) paradise.

Worm’s Head

Gower’s most iconic sight is this rocky promontory that snakes out into Rhossili Bay: the name ‘worm’ comes from the Viking for ‘sea serpent’. The walk out to Worm's Head is a fabulous adventure on a sunny day, but do check the tides, which are displayed on a board near the causeway – it’s only reachable for two hours either side of low tide. Even locals get it wrong: as a boy, the poet Dylan Thomas was marooned until midnight.

Rhossili & Worm's Head "Helvetia" wreck beneith the sunset at Gower Peninsula
Rhossili & Worm's Head "Helvetia" wreck

The star beaches

Rhossili regularly makes lists of the world’s best beaches, for very good reason: its three-mile (4.8km) golden sands feature towering cliffs and Worm’s Head at one end, dunes at the other, and a genuine shipwreck in between. In summer, you can watch paragliders ridge-soaring the updrafts on Rhossili Downs. For sheer natural beauty, Three Cliffs Bay is just as good: the Pennard Pill river cuts a deep cleft into the wooded hillside before emptying into a gorgeous bay, overlooked by the ruins of Pennard Castle and the eponymous three jagged cliffs. Strong currents mean that Three Cliffs isn’t ideal for swimming, and it’s a bit of a walk to reach it – but that makes it quieter, and even more special.

The easy beaches

The first two beaches you hit on the way out of Mumbles onto Gower are also the easiest with small children. Caswell and Langland have all the trimmings you need – parking, ice cream, toilets, shops – as well as Blue Flag and Seaside Awards. The clifftop walk between the beaches is also a good introduction to coastal walking. Further along the peninsula, Port Eynon has all the same facilities but feels a little less urban.

The secret beaches

Pretty Pobbles Bay is tucked behind the iconic Three Cliffs at the end of a long-ish walk over cliffs and dunes, so it’s often overlooked. The same goes for Mewslade, which is overshadowed by neighbouring Worm’s Head and Rhossili. But the least visited of all is Blue Pool Bay, accessible only after a yomp over dunes from Broughton Bay on the remote northwest corner. The Blue Pool is a natural tidal plunge-pool, beloved of wild swimmers.

Get active – in the sea

Gower has been a surfing hotspot for decades. UK champion surfer Gwen Spurlock’s favourite break is at Langland in the right conditions, but Llangennith on the northwest tip has the most reliable waves. Gower Surfing run year-round courses at Caswell, heading up to Rhossili Bay in the summer. Stand Up Paddle (SUP) Gower do SUP sessions all around the coastline, while several operators run coasteering sessions. You can search here for a full list of providers.

Young family day at the beach Rhossili Beach & Worm's Head Gower Peninsula
Surfers on the Gower

Get active – on the land

Although Gower is deservedly known for its beaches, there’s plenty to do inland. You can ride horses on the beaches or up on the moorland, rock-climb and abseil on the sea cliffs, or learn some bushcraft skills in the woods. Mountain bikers can find miles of rough track along Rhossili Down and Cefn Bryn common, while road cyclists will love the quiet lanes on the north side of the peninsula.

Go for a walk

For a relatively compact area, there’s a huge variety of landscapes on Gower. The Wales Coast Path runs around the coastline, taking in the dramatic cliffs and coves of the south, and the quieter saltmarshes of the north. The Gower Way cuts for 35 miles (56km) right through the middle. Visit Swansea Bay and the National Trust have come up with lists of their own favourite walks. Our own personal favourite is anything with a pub at the end. Talking of which…

Aerial view of Three Cliffs Bay Gower Peninsula
Gower Peninsula

Where to drink…

A lot of walks/cycles in the Gower uplands tend to gravitate towards The King Arthur in Reynoldston, a proper roaring-log-fire country pub beneath Cefn Bryn, the highest point on Gower. Another good local is the award-winning Britannia Inn at Llanmadoc, whose beer garden has lovely views down to the Burry Inlet. And finally, anywhere that sells a pint of local brew Gower Gold, basically. The Gower Brewery was founded in 2011, and they’ve now got a small empire of three very good pubs on Gower - The King's Head in Llangennith, The Ship Inn at Port Eynon, and The Rake & Riddle at Penclawdd.

Where to eat

The Beach House won AA Restaurant of the Year in Wales within a year of opening in a fantastic beachfront spot in Oxwich Bay. Chef Hywel Griffith is a master of seasonal, local ingredients: the fish is landed by boats that bob in the sea just beyond the terrace, veg from local farms, and lamb from the salt marshes a few miles away. Gower is also the spiritual home of those twin Welsh delicacies, cockles and laverbread. The laver (seaweed) is harvested from the shoreline, while cockles came (and still do) from the sandy estuary at Penclawdd on the north coast. If you see either/both on the menu anywhere on Gower, go for it.

History and heritage

The oldest buried human remains in Britain were found on Gower, dating back more than 30,000 years: the 'Red Lady' of Paviland (who later turned out to be a fella). The uplands are littered with Neolithic remains, most notably the burial chamber topped by the 25-ton Arthur's Stone. The Normans tried to oust the Welsh from Gower in the 11th and 12th centuries by bringing in Flemish settlers, and there’s still a noticeable difference in place-names, accent and dialect between the Welsh north and Anglicised south of the peninsula. The Gower Heritage Centre is a good place to learn about rural culture, while the Gower Festival brings high-calibre classical performers to a dozen ancient local churches each July. There’s also a strong folk tradition on Gower, best experienced at the annual Gower Folk Festival in June.