Travel: August 12, 2018: Retraced Steps Around Swansea Bay

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It’s been almost a year, and I haven’t finished typing up my British adventures for you!  Though a lot has gotten in the way, I haven’t forgotten.  These may not have as many details in them as they might have done a year ago, but I can still share photos and recommendations with you all, and I hope you’ll still enjoy them.  I hope you aren’t too upset by the delay, and I hope you can enjoy these despite the passed time.

As we come up on the anniversary of my travels, my hope is to keep up an alternating pattern for a little bit, one week a travel blog and the next a book review.  I have 4 more travel blog posts after this, so I think even alternating, we should be back to all books all the time (or most of the time) by September’s end.

If you’re just joining us, you can find the earlier posts about this UK adventure here.

And while I’m doing some housekeeping, check out my newest page!  I’m selling my used books, and I still have another 2 and a half boxes of books to post, so keep an eye on that shop.  There’s more fantasy in this next box.

After traversing Ireland and northern Wales, Swansea University, where my sister was earning her master’s degree, became our home base for the rest of our travels. The first day in southern Wales, we decided to spend the around Swansea Bay, especially as the day’s forecast was a bit gloomy.

The day began with a tour of the campus itself and all the hidden gardens and gems that my sister had discovered in her months there. The main office buildings of the campus were once part of Singleton Abbey, the 19th century estate of the Vivian family, but the majority of the campus is housed in modern buildings, of which I didn’t take any pictures.

We went through a corner of the next-door Singleton Park to reach the road, and just across from the road, just across from the University, is the beach.

We walked along the boardwalk back into town to catch the bus to Mumbles.

More or less, we followed my sister and mother’s earlier path through the small town of Oystermouth so that I could experience all of the places about which they had been raving for months.  My mother was particularly enamored of the Mumbles area, where they stayed when my sister first came to Wales.  We first ate lunch at a pub called The White Rose in sight of Oystermouth Castle. The White Rose has been on that site since 1856, though the mock-Tudor style building is from the early 1900s.

After a relaxing lunch, we went up the short hill to Oystermouth Castle, a fairly well-preserved castle—there are even stone fireplaces and chimneys still intact.  I’ve been in a few ruined castles and monasteries and forts and estates that are called castles, but this was by far the most impressive, I think, in any country.  With a castle on the site since 1106, the oldest of the remaining stone structures is from the 12th century, but the majority of the stone structures that remain were constructed by the de Braose family in the 13th century. The castle was briefly the primary residence of the lords of the Gower in the late 13th century.  The de Braose connection was especially interesting to me as Count Falkes de Braose is a prominent figure in Stephen Lawhead’s Hood, which I was rereading prior to my trip to Wales in anticipation of perhaps stumbling upon some of the book’s locations.  (Falkes himself is fictional as far as I can tell, but the family is obviously not, and they were eminent in southern Wales.)

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Armed with a free-to-borrow map from the gift shop and informational office, we gave ourselves a tour.

We wandered the outer walls and then through the remaining residential structures, including several basement rooms and the second story 14th century chapel with its remaining tracery windows. The chapel’s design is attributed to the Alina, daughter of the last de Braose to be lord of the Gower.  She became Lady John de Mowbray, fled by boat to Devon following her husband’s unsuccessful rebellion against Edward II, survived imprisonment in the Tower of London, and then succeeded in securing the Gower for herself and her heirs.  She’s a pretty awesome, 14th century lady!

Oystermouth Castle definitely offers some of the best views of the seaside town.

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There were a few exhibits too about the castle’s history.

Leaving the castle, we carried on down Mumbles Road towards the tip of the peninsula, pausing to explore art galleries along the way. Most were closed (it was a Sunday), but I know we climbed all the floors and explored the crannies of Gower Gallery and Picture Framing, and I ogled the paintings visible through the windows of others.  Gower Gallery is neat for its eclectic, busy collection of British art in all sorts of mediums, some of it quite inexpensive too.

We left the street at the parking lot for the pier.  The road blocks at the pier were all decorated for the Festival of Stitch, adding an extra bit of fun to the seaside scenery.

At the end of the pedestrian road, which housed a few shops and restaurants, we found the stairs to the beach that was exposed by the low tide. I had been too long from any beach to keep away.  I like a great deal about the city and area that I have come to call home, but one of its features that I most dislike is that it is at least 4 hours’ drive to the ocean.  The Mumbles (the tidal islands themselves) separate Swansea Bay and Bracelet Bay, both bays visible from the beach.  I went out along the sand and then the stones to explore the rocky outcroppings of the nearest tidal island at the beach’s end and its crannies that are sometimes underwater. I didn’t make it all the way out to the lighthouse, choosing to keep in sight of my sister, who waited, like a saint, on the stairs above the sand.

I’ll admit that though the draw is supposed to be the long, Victorian pier, I was far more interested in being near the water than above it.  We walked back along the boardwalk, me soaking up as much of the seaside as I could do.  Before we left for Swansea, we made sure to stop for some of Joe’s vanilla ice cream. Joe’s didn’t live up to the hype for me, but it was good ice cream.

Our adventures over, we visited Swansea’s Tesco Superstore and had a quiet night in the dorm, getting in an earlier night in preparation for the next day’s adventure.

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Image created using Google Maps. We didn’t take a car, but I was better able to manipulate the route pretending that we did. This should be a fairly accurate route map, though not exact.

All photos are mine.  Most will be more impressive if you click on them.

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