The town started life as a coal port in the 19th century, doubling up as a resort town for mining communities on their annual holidays. When mining fell into decline it continued to cater for holidaymakers from the South Wales valleys. Around the town, sites of static caravans still welcome visitors. The harbour area feels interesting with historic buildings having a new career as restaurants and attractions. The lighthouse, built in 1860, still operates.
The vast steel works of Port Talbot are a dense tangle of black/grey smoking tubes, pipes, chimneys, scaffolding and furnaces, mixed up with heaps of slag and piles of coke & ore. Surprisingly, it is the roads that bring some order to this landscape. Vehicles make their way around the edge of the works and then dive into the grid of streets that separate the steelworkers’ houses. Manoeuvre the correct way through and find the small car park and beach which provides recreational opportunities for the local families. Man-made promontories of rocks and boulders have created a popular surfing beach. But one can never get away from where you are. Large ore-carrying vessels dock at the neighbouring concrete pier to unload their cargo – the life and blood of Port Talbot.
Swansea’s sandy beach area stretches all the way around the bay. Swansea originally developed as a centre for metal and mining. It was the centre of the copper-smelting industry from the early 1700s to late 1800s and also had a role in transporting coal and steel. These have now been replaced along the five miles of sandy beach by modern apartments and offices. There’s also a promenade, a children’s lido, a leisure pool, a marina and several museums. Swansea was the birth place of Dylan Thomas.
The magnificent Mumbles is the southern anchor to the bay with a long promenade around the crescent of sand. It is popular for visitors from Swansea and wider afield. From 1835, lifeboats operated from here. Initially they were stored under the cliff and a proper boathouse was built on shore in 1866.
A pier was built in 1898 with access to a new boathouse and the slipway. Another lifeboat station was built directly onto the end of the pier in 2014.
Passing almost hidden from elegant homes with rhododendron-lined gardens, the road drops to the soft sands of Caswell. The café is prepared for the summer rush to its soft sandy beach.
A privately-owned beach charging an admission fee, provides access to the sands, a simple café with a scattering of aluminium tables/chairs and an elegant-looking restaurant.
Soft sands line the bay, backed by grass-tufted dunes, with a few scraped rocks at the low tide mark. A few houses pin each end of the crescent. Smuggling was a common village activity between the 17th & 19th centuries. A derelict salt house is close by, used for extracting salt from sea water.
A large National Trust Centre, with shops, café and large car park occupies the tip of this headland overlooking the wonderful curves of Rhossili Bay. In the distance, the only sign of human habitation are small white-washed farm buildings. Sheep dot the landscape as white pinheads.