Rhossili Bay: Location
Rhossili is located at the Western part of the Gower Peninsula. The most photographed part of Gower, the Worms Head, stretches out to sea and becomes an island when the tide comes in.
The breathtaking views of the long sandy beach and towering cliffs makes this a popular destination all year with surfers, paragliders and ramblers.
However, Rhossili still manages to maintain its tranquility and unspoilt beauty and is so large that once you walk a mile or so away from the halfway campsite car park you are entirely on your own. There are also some little bays where you can be completely isolated and on your own all day, except possibly on a hot summer weekend.
Rhossili Bay: History
The village and surrounding area are steeped in history.
The wreck of the Helvetia, which ran aground on Rhossili Bay in November 1887, is evidence of the challenging weather conditions.
There are many tales of locals who lured boats ashore to plunder their hold. What kind people they were in those days!
Rhossili Bay: C12th Church
The arch over the doorway of the church dates from the twelfth century and is believed to have been moved from the lost village. Rhossilli was previously nearer the sea but got swamped by sand and sea so moved inland and to higher ground.
The church which is believed to have been dismantled and moved, was built in around 1100 and buried possibly by sand storms some time in the early part of the fourteenth century.
Rhossili Bay: Stone Age man
Remains of stone age man were found in Paviland Cave and fourteen Bronze Age burial chambers and two Neolithic burial chambers (Sweynes Howes) have been identified on Rhossili Down.
A handful of Iron Age promontory forts make Rhossili not only beautiful but full of history.
Walking along the beach can be very windy, which is why it is so popular with surfers and kite flyers. Not many people walk along the headland, which is windswept at times but very scenic.
Rhossili Bay: Ideal for Walkers
The parish of Rhossili stretches from the village to Scurlage and encompasses Middleton, Pitton and Pitton Cross.
There are plenty of pubs, B&B and hotels that offer various types of accommodation so you can stay in this area or simply stay at Craig y Nos Castle and drive down in 40 minutes or so.
There are a great many coves and beaches to discover and you can quite easily spend an afternoon or a whole day walking around the beach, the bays, and the headland.
Walkers are most definitely in their element with some of the most fantastic views on offer and some fabulous sunsets.
Rhossili Bay: Best Beach in the UK 2010
Rhossili Bay was voted the best beach in the UK in June 2010! Neighbouring Oxwich Bay received the same award in a separate year.
At low tide there is a huge expanse of beach. It is possible to walk across the bay to Llangennith or cross onto the Worms Head. Keep an eye on the tide though, to ensure that you don't get cut off. There is always some sand, even at high tide but I have had to wade across on occasion. Some people have got themselves stuck on the islands overnight at high tide.
Many different birds nestle on the cliffs. I am not a bird watcher myself but for those that are into bird watching, this area is of considerable interest.
From Rhossili town there is a very steep walk down to the beach with loads of steps. This may not be suitable for pushchairs or anyone who has difficulty walking. I don't like having to walk up again so a more level access to the beach (no climbing up or down) is available at 'Halfway'. This is a campsite area halfway along the beach that you can park in and from where you can get on to the beach half way along.
More information and photos on Rhossili Bat can be found at
Rhossili Bay: First Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
Rhossili is a small village and community on the southwestern tip of the Gower Peninsula.
This was the first designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the United Kingdom. There are of course many such areas now, but for Rhossili to be the first is indicative of its importance.
However I personally prefer Oxwich Bay for a more manageable size. Rhossili is such a huge beach, though I do like the Bay at the opposite end to the town of Rhosilli.
There is a pub at Rhosilli which overlooks the Bay. Sadly I can no longer drink real ale etc, for health reasons, but if I could, I would have a swift pint at the Pub, then walk it off on the beach.
Rhossili Bay: How does it get its name?
Rhossili probably gets its name in part from the Welsh word for moorland, rhos.
The second element in the name may be a reference to a Saint Sulien or St. Sili, but details are not clear so this is something of a guess.
The present Norman church is dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin.
Inside there is a memorial to Edgar Evans who was the first to perish on the Terra Nova Expedition to the South Pole. He did get there - he died on the return trip.
Rhossili Bay: The original abandoned town of Rhossili
There was a local tradition that there had been an earlier, pre medieval village complete with church closer to the sea which had been abandoned after "be-sanding" in the 14th century. Presumably this means it got overtaken by the sand dunes which abound in this area.
A storm and subsequent excavation of newly-exposed remains in the Warren (an area of sand dunes to the north of the present village) in 1980 confirmed its original location and what had happened to the town before it moved to its current location.
Despite its relatively remote position, Rhossili is a popular tourist destination: the views from the headland and the Down are panoramic. The road to it is a single track and in busy periods there is some competition to get to the town against oncoming traffic departing.
Iron Age remains can be found on Rhossili Down.
The beach is 4 miles long though some writers say it is 3 miles long. It feels longer when I have walked end to end, which my dogs and I have done a few times, so that makes an 8 miles return walk.
The wreck of the Helvetia, which ran aground on Rhossili Bay in November 1887, can still be seen. There are rough weather conditions here so villagers in the past would lure boats ashore to plunder their holds.
Rhossili Bay: Also known as Llangennith Sands
Rhossili Bay curves along an arc running northwards from the village. The sandy beach stretches hundreds of yards out to see at low tide and inland from the beach there are large areas of deep sand dunes which you can also explore.
Locals refer to the beach as Llangennith Sands. Behind the beach just north of the village is Rhossili Down with the highest point on the Gower Peninsula, (the Beacon), and a number of prehistoric remains. The Warren is between Rhossili Down and the beach and is where the old town of Rhossili would have been before it got covered by the sand dunes.
At the southern end of the Bay there is a small tidal island known as Worm's Head. At the northern end is Burry Holms. These islands are accessible at low tide only. You can get cut off if the tide rises while you are on these islands and if you are cut off in bad conditions, stay put as the tides can be tricky.
At low tide, it is possible to see the remains of several shipwrecks, with the wreck of the Helvetia the most visible when looking north from Rhossili.
Rhossili Bay: London 2012
Rhossili Bay featured in the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. A youth choir sung "Bread of Heaven" live on the beach. I remember ths scene well from when it was broadcast at the Olympic Stadium.
Read more about "Bread of Heaven" performed on Rhossili Bay.
I could not find the actual recording of Bread of Heaven as sung on Rhossili Bay for the 2012 Olympics so have had to make do with a link to another recording of Bread of Heaven here.
Rhossili Bay: Torchwood Miracle Day
The bay has been used as the setting of New Earth in the sci-fi show Doctor Who.
The bay including the Old Rectory was used in Torchwood's Miracle Day. Remember this was where the lead characters lived to escape into a private life. There is a scene of helcopters roaring along the beach, ride of the valkyries style, once their remote escape cottage is discovered.
The series Torchwood was of course kicked off by Queen Victoria's visit to Craig y Nos Castle (aka Torchwood House) where she met the Doctor. Concerned by the appearance of aliens and strange creatures, Queen Victoria set up her own investigative organisation, Torchwood, to protect the British Empire. The series Torchwood continued as an off-shoot of the Dr. Who franchise.
One of the Torchwood actors liked the Castle so much they subsequently got married at the Castle, but that is another story.
Rhossili Bay: The Downs
Rhossili Bay is the most westerly bay on the Gower peninsula and bears the full might of the Atlantic swells. It is the most consistent surfing beach on Gower, with the biggest waves at the north end at Llangennith.
It is a dramatic environment with Rhossili Downs towering above the vast expanse of beach that stretches four miles.
Heading west along the cliff path towards the end of the peninsula there is Worm's Head, a mile long serpent-like promontory jutting out into the ocean.
For spectacular panoramic views over the bay, walk out of the car park at Rhossili going towards the sea, but staying on the Downs. Leaving the Bay behind you to your right, you can walk around the coastline on a well worn coastal path. There is a National Trust Visitors Centre though this was closed when I did the walk.
As you walk along the coastal path high up on Rhossili Downs, the views will take your breath away, but the wonderful sea air will soon fill your lungs again. This is a lovely alternate walk to just going along the bay itself and dogs love charging up and down and all around.
Also there are lots of small prettily coloured snails. This is not mentioned on any guides, but is of interest to me as I used to collect the yellow and black striped snails and the orange and black striped snails when I was a child. As these are quite hard to find, compared with the numerous large brown garden snails, I was astounded by how many of these coloured snails I could find on the Down. I grew out of collecting them when I was ten or thereabouts so the snails remain on the Down!
Rhossili Bay: Information
At the western end of Gower, the village of Rhossili, which is a gateway for walkers and beach lovers, lies above the sandy crescent shaped Rhossili Bay.
The terrain and Downs west of the village is owned by the National Trust. The NT information centre displays important information such as tide times.
In the church there is a memorial to Petty Officer Evans, who was born here and perished with Scott in the Antarctic in 1912.
Rhossili Bay: Information
From the southern side of the headland there are magnificent views of the South Gower coast to Port Eynon Point, with cove after cove receding into the distance, battered by rolling waves.
Below is Fall Bay, with its raised beach of conglomerate shells.
Beyond it is secluded Mewslade Bay, dominated by the white limestone pinnacle of Thurba Head, which is crowned by the remains of an Iron Age hill fort.
Rhossili Bay: One of Europe's Greatest Beaches
Rhossili Bay is the largest expanse of white sand on the Gower.
It stretches for over three miles to the islet of Burry Holms and is accepted to be one of Europe’s greatest beaches.
You can look out to sea and see the skeletal remains of wrecked ships. Gower’s best known wreck, the Norwegian barque Helvetia, was driven onto the beach in a gale in 1887.
The bay was carved out by the Atlantic Ocean from the imposing Rhossili Down, whose green bulk looms over the whole vast arc of sand.
The sandstone Down, at 633 feet the highest point of Gower, is a favourite launching point for hang-gliders. You can often see up to a dozen hang-gliders all floating about in the sky.
On a clear day there are fine views of Lundy Island, and on a clear evening there are impressive sunsets.
Rhossili Bay: The Old Rectory Cottage
Breathtaking Rhossili bay, with its three (other reporters say four) mile long sandy beach, is overlooked by the Old Rectory. Apparently now it is one of the most popular National Trust holiday cottages.
Rectory Cottage is the lone, yes, the ONLY residence on the bay! Once popular with ghost hunters, Rectory House half way along the beach was featured in an episode of Torchwood. I had not known it was now a holiday home and if holiday makers knew of its reputation they likely would not stay there (ghost hunters excepted).
It was once a private house but rarely lived in after the many suicides there. Successive owners felt so lonely and isolated that they committed suicide one after the other. Apparently so many residents committed suicide in this house, it was abandoned and no one lived in it for years. I was even told people were not allowed to live in it because so many killed themselves there.
With all the visitors nowadays, they would not feel lonely and could have got some company by opening a tea shop for the walkers who make it this far along the beach!
From the top of Rhossili Down, the highest point on Gower, views of the peninsula can be seen as well as across the sea to West Wales, Lundy Island and the north Devon coast. Rhossili Down is lowland heath and home to a variety of birds and insects including the rare black bog ant. The south Gower coast hosts many rare plants and birds including yellow with low grass and choughs.
From the National Trust shop and Visitor Centre in Rhossili there is a level walk along the grassy cliff top to the Old Coastguard Lookout. If the tide is out, the adventurous can cross the rocky causeway to the tidal island of Worms Head, where grey seals can be seen lazing on the rocks below.
Gower’s landscape has been shaped by farming since the Stone Age. The Vile, at Rhossili, is an example of a Medieval open field strip system. With many archaeological features at Rhossili and along the south Gower coast, including Neolithic burial chambers, bronze age cairns and Iron Age forts, it is an ideal place to discover these remnants of our ancestors.
Rhossili Bay: deaths and drownings at Rhossili Bay
WARNING: There is no Lifeguard patrol on this beach, do not swim in big surf as there are strong undertows. Before you walk out onto Worm's Head please check the tide times carefully and allow enough time to get back.
If you google 'deaths at Rhossili bay' you will fgind the odd story of people getting swept out to sea and drowning. Also there is a story of someone on their own who it is presumed slipped on the wet rocks, banged his head, and drowned, which testifies to the danger of walking on slippery wet rocks.
Once upon a time I was crossing the River Tawe at Craig y Nos Castle on some rocks which had been wettened by splashing water from the river. One minute I was walking across, the next moment I was aware of the most colossal BANG, and I found myself sat dazed in the water. I could not get up for several minutes, so dazed was I, for I could not stand. I was aware of a lot of blood pouring from my face and washed myself down with the cold water to stop the bleeding. I may have broken my nose - since they don't x-ray noses (too close to head and brain) I was never sure but I had sinus pains for a good year after. Suffice to say, I could easily have knocked myself out and ended up face down in the water - which is probably what happened to one of the people who drowned at Rhossilli.
The moral of the story is do not take risks on wet rocks as they get greasy and slippery. If on your own, and even if with a group, help each other and stay within sight of each other when crossing causeways and slippery wet rocks.
|Local Dog Walks, Reservoirs and Beaches a short drive from Castle|
|1||Henrhyd Waterfalls Dog Walks|
|2||Brecon Beacons Mountain Centre|
|3||Lady of the Lake Arthurian Legend|
|4||Oxwich Bay Walk, Gower, Swansea|
|5||Penwyllt Mountain Walk - railway|
|6||Dog Walk on Rhossili Bay, Gower|
|7||Usk Reservoir Circular Woodland|
|9||Itinerary: what to do & see locally|