City of Swansea
The city of Swansea is a great base for FIT holidays. There is easy access to the sandy 5 mile (8 km) sweep of Swansea Bay and the spectacular coast of the Gower Peninsula and the open green countryside, enabling many contrasting day trips. Here are some suggestions.
Swansea (Abertawe in Welsh, meaning the mouth of the River Tawe) sits on the edge of Swansea Bay. There is little left of Swansea’s industrial past, as “Copperopolis", a dock for the heavy copper smelting in the Swansea Valley.
A modern Maritime Quarter, buzzing with bars and cafes, has replaced most of the old docks. Dylan Thomas, a son of Swansea, is the most quoted writer in the English language after Shakespeare. The Dylan Thomas Centre in the Maritime Quarter has the Man and Myth exhibition which captures the essence of Dylan’s life.
Visitors can also visit 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, Dylan Thomas birthplace and where he lived for 23 years, writing two-thirds of his work. There are tours of the house, afternoon teas and, for a truly unique experience, visitors can stay the night. Other tours on offer will take visitors to all Dylan Thomas’ haunts in and around Swansea and further afield to Laugharne and West Wales.
To meet the warm-hearted people of Swansea and Gower head for Swansea indoor market, where stalls are piled high with fresh, local produce. Try the seafood delicacies, cockles and laverbread (seaweed) from Gower.
Museums and galleries
The National Waterfront Museum in Swansea tells the story of industry and innovation in Wales, now and over 300 years. It also has a fun-packed events programme and excellent facilities for visitors. Free entry.
The Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, housed in a very handsome Edwardian building in the city, offers a broad range of visual arts. Paintings from Monet and Pissaro to modern works and sculptures by Barbara Hepworth are on permanent display.
Beaches, walks and activities
Swansea is often referred to as the “Gateway to Gower”.
The Gower Peninsula was designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) nearly 70 years ago, the first in the UK. It’s west of Swansea and packed with a captivating coastline, world class beaches, a coastal path along dramatic craggy cliff tops, wild moorland and an abundance of historic sites.
Gower is relatively small in area, 19 miles (30 kms) long, There’s plenty to do to appreciate the beauty of this special area, including walking, golf, horse riding, surfing, paddle boarding kayaking around the coast and bushcraft skills with Dryad Bushcraft.
Visitors can enjoy the promenade walk along the seafront from Swansea to Oystermouth Castle 4 miles (7 km) in Mumbles. The 12th century castle on a high ridge commands stunning views across Swansea Bay. Kings, lords and ladies have lived within the thick stone walls through centuries of turmoil. Look for the 14th century graffiti art and explore a medieval labyrinth of vaults, chambers and rooms. A variety of open air events are regularly held at the castle.
Wales is a golfer’s paradise with around 200 courses, many of them championship courses. Swansea and Gower have their fair share. Play, eat and stay at The Gower Golf Club. Marvel at the view of Three Cliffs Bay from the Pennard Golf Club. Along the rugged coast towards Caswell Bay lies Langland Bay Golf Club.
These are just three of the many courses for the keen golfer, within easy reach of Swansea, all at affordable prices and all ready to receive visitors with a Welsh style ‘Croeso’ (Welcome).
Poet and pints
The boathouse, in the coastal village of Laugharne, was home to Dylan Thomas, his wife Caitlin and their two children for many years. Here, in the writing shed, he wrote many of his best works, including Under Milk Wood. The views of the Taf Estuary and the north coast of Gower would have been an inspiration. Dylan Thomas Boathouse is now a museum, shop and tea room. The village is dominated by the picturesque ruin of Laugharne Castle. Visitors can enjoy a drink at Brown's Hotel, in the bar where Dylan enjoyed a pint most nights. For more on Dylan Thomas see the three day itinerary In the Footsteps of Dylan Thomas.
The green flag status Clyne Gardens is internationally famous for its Pieris, Rhododendrons and Enkianthus. The national collections and rare species are set within ancient woodland and bog garden which provides views toward Swansea bay. Limited parking is available but there are opportunities for on-road parking. Other gardens to explore in the city centre are Plantasia and Swansea Botanical Gardens in Singleton Park.
Within an hour’s easy drive from Swansea 30 miles (48 km), visitors can spend a day at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, set in 600 acres of 18th century parkland. Its centrepiece is the vast glasshouse, the world’s largest single span glass structure. There is plenty more to enjoy, including walled gardens, lakes and areas of varied planting. It is also home of the British Bird of Prey Centre. There is a shop and restaurant on site. Visitors can make the most of their visit with a number of trails and apps.
Near the National Botanic Garden in Llanarthne is Aberglasney, a garden lost in time. There are 10 acres of gardens, including the Elizabethan Cloister Garden, Asiatic Garden, Alpinum, Upper Walled Garden, Lower Walled Garden (Kitchen Garden), Pool Garden and the 18th century Yew Tunnel. The ground floor of the grade II listed mansion is open to visitors and there is also a café on site.
Nature - walking and waterfalls
A picturesque drive of around 30 minutes, 16 miles (27 km) through the Neath Valley takes the visitor to the southern edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park to Waterfall Country. It’s a very popular and beautiful part of the National Park and the Fforest Fawr Geopark, with its steep-sided tree-lined gorges, caves and a large number of impressive waterfalls. The adventurous can walk on a natural path behind the most famous waterfall, Sgwd yr Eira, 'fall of snow'. Walkers and climbers, photographers, cavers and canoeists are drawn to this truly unique and remarkable area.
Craig-y-nos Country Park provides 40 acres to explore in the Upper Swansea Valley. Part of the Fforest Fawr UNESCO Global Geopark, a Discovery Point has been created for visitors to plan their exploration of the Geopark. The paths are easy to follow, most of which are surfaced, and travel alongside rivers, large beech trees, meadows, woodland and lakes. The car park is suitable for minibuses.
The Spirit of Wales
Penderyn Distillery is located at the southern side of the Brecon Beacons National Park, less than an hour’s drive from Swansea 28 miles (45 km). The distillery produces award-winning single malt whiskies and spirits, with fresh water from its own spring. The tours last around 90 minutes and should be booked in advance. There is a shop on site selling the full range of Penderyn and other Welsh products.