Destination Guide: Swansea, Mumbles and the Gower Peninsula

Wales’ second largest city is the setting of a new Dylan Thomas movie starring Elijah Wood. Ahead of the movie's release, Radio Times explores the location...

This year marks the centenary of the birth of literary great Dylan Thomas. This season, a Hollywood crew, including Elijah Wood (Lord of the Rings), filmed scenes for new flick Set Fire To The Stars in Swansea – a movie about the great poet’s life. Radio Times Travel explores the city, coast and backdrop that inspired Swansea’s most illustrious export, and bumps into a few stars along the way…

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The City

Home to the largest Wetherspoon’s pub we’d ever seen, Swansea’s town centre has everything you’d expect from a major British city (think: a shopping centre and high street chains dotted between familiar restaurants, cafes and bars). But you don’t make the journey here to peruse the racks of Dorothy Perkins and indulge in a chicken korma on curry night; you visit for literary, industrial and agricultural history and the beautiful Gower Peninsula. In this underrated corner of the world, guests will find stunning sandy beaches, dramatic cliff top walks and the Dylan Thomas Centre.

The Man and Myth exhibition at the Dylan Thomas Centre includes the last suit Thomas wore before he died, personal correspondence, photographs and video footage of contemporaries eulogising the man they knew. Plus, four of Dylan Thomas’ poetry notebooks and a red prose notebook will be on loan from the University of Buffalo between May 31 and August 31.

In the Maritime Quarter, there’s the opportunity for a selfie with a Dylan Thomas statue, and chance to take in the magnificent views across the bay from the city’s tallest building, the Meridian Tower. A short walk away sits the National Waterfront Museum, displaying Welsh industry and innovation over the past 300 years.

The Outdoors

Rhossili Bay, on the west point of the Gower peninsular, is an hour bus ride, or 20-minute drive from Swansea’s city centre. En route, the city quickly gives way to fields and farmland, wild forests and rolling hills and this dramatic scenery offers views of striking Horton Bay, Mewslade Bay, Oxwich Castle and Port Eynon.


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Rhossili itself teeters on the cliff top and overlooks Rhossili Beach, twice voted the best in the UK, and it’s not hard to see why. The golden sands stretch for three miles, with the waves and landscape making the area a hotspot for ramblers and surfers. TV fans may recognise this spot from Doctor Who (David Tennant and Bille Piper relax on the cliff top in episode New Earth), and those who like a good walk can follow in their footsteps on the Rhossili to Meswlade Bay walking route. It’s a gentle walk (depending on the weather) that takes around two to three hours. For a more demanding hike, take the four hour RSPB Rhossili Coastal Trail for bird watching and wonderful views over the bay and the rest of Gower from the beacon. Bay Bistro is a good place for a pit stop; this smart café serves hot food, drinks and some truly tantalising cake. Lunchtimes are busy so factor a proper sit down into your schedule.

Further afield

Around five miles from Swansea is the trendy village of Mumbles in Oystermouth Bay. The streets are littered with cafes, arts and craft stores, and charity shops, perfect for those searching for that special gift to take back home. The Mumbles has been settled since ancient times and Oystermouth Castle (built shortly after the Norman conquest) still stands, though now surrounded by houses, and it’s only a short walk from the main drag. Wander around the castle’s grounds and, perched as it is at the top of an imposing hill, it is easy to imagine the original inhabitants scanning the horizon for enemies.

A stroll along the promenade past dry-docked pleasure boats and amusement arcades will bring you to Verdi’s, a café probably best known for its ice-cream parlour. With up to 30 flavours available, there’s a scoop for every palette. Savoury treats include an Italian menu of salad, sandwiches, pizza and pasta. 


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Population

239,600

Region

South West Wales

Airport

Cardiff

TV and Film Shot Here

Drama TV series Da Vinci’s Demons, Doctor Who, Torchwood, Dylan Thomas film Set Fire To The Stars is currently in production.

Stay

The four star Dragon Hotel, in Swansea’s city centre, has recently undergone a £3.5 million refurbishment – the bedrooms and dining areas are slick and welcoming. When not out and about, you can lounge in your complimentary dressing gown and slippers watching TV shows from the local area or try out the 18 metre indoor swimming pool, sauna and gymnasium. Meanwhile, the hotel’s Dragon Brasserie has developed quite a reputation in town, serving well-presented European creations like roast chicken with spinach velouté and passion fruit cheesecake on a ginger biscuit base with strawberry coulis. It’s no wonder that we spotted a certain former hobbit enjoying a drink after a days filming here.

Getting There

By road: Swansea is around a three hour drive from London, two and a half hours from Birmingham and around four hours from Manchester.

By train: Multiple First Great Western trains leave from London’s Paddington and Manchester’s Piccadilly daily (return tickets from around £40). Trains leave from Bristol hourly (fares from around £20 return).

Set Fire To The Stars is filmed in and around Swansea and is released this year.

Radio Times was hosted by Visit Swansea Bay www.visitswanseabay.com


Visit Wales with Radio Times Travel, visit here for more details


Pictures courtesy of Nick Earl, Wiki Commons and Alamy


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