Rhossili Bay – The Ultimate Guide

by Jun 6, 2020Wales

RHOSSILI BAY

Rhossili Bay is one of the best beaches in Wales and the UK. Don’t just ask me – it has been given these accolades by popular votes many times, and it’s also recognized as one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe and one of the best beaches in the world. And one of the top sunset locations in the world.

Rhossili beach is located at the western end of the Gower Peninsula, the first part of the UK to be designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1956.  In our view it’s the pick of the twenty-plus Gower beaches – it’s a 3-mile (5km) crescent of some of the most perfect golden sand you could ever hope to see. It sits at the base of spectacular 250-foot high cliffs and a 633-foot (200 metre) high hill, Rhossili Down.

Image of Rhossili Bay Beach Gower Peninsula Wales
Any idea why people keep raving about Rhossili beach?

The beach is on an incredibly scenic stretch of the Gower coast, and a tidal island shaped like a basking dragon, Worm’s Head, lies 3 km (2 miles) offshore from the beach. Rhossili Bay beach draws visitors from all over the world, but there are plenty more things to do in Rhossili besides.

Our guide to Rhossili tells you everything you need to know about getting to this superlative beach, and how to get the best out of your time there. We’ve walked every inch of the area many times over, so we’ll also tell you about the best Rhossili walks, including the low tide trek across the rocky causeway to Worm’s Head. We’ll also give you the lowdown on Rhossili hotels and other accommodation.

So make yourself a coffee, relax and discover one of the most beautiful places in Europe and the world.

WHERE IS RHOSSILI BAY?

Image of Worm's Head tidal island from Rhossili beach Gower Peninsula Wales
The famlous tidal island of Worm’s Head off Rhossili

Rhossili is located 11 miles (18 km) west of the city of Swansea, the second largest city in Wales after the capital, Cardiff. It’s one of the best day trips from Cardiff, which is 59 miles (95 km) to the east, roughly a 90-minute journey.

HOW TO GET TO RHOSSILI BAY?

Image of Rhossili Bay Swansea County Wales UK
Rhossili Bay in summer from Rhossili Down

If you’re travelling by car, there are two possible ways to reach Rhossili, Gower, and both involve the M4 – the main motorway through South Wales – and passing through part of the city of Swansea.

The first is via junction 42 of the M4. Turn left onto the A483, head for Swansea city centre and follow the brown tourist signs. You eventually turn right on the A4216, then left onto the A4118, which takes you all the way to Port Eynon beach, a few miles from Rhossili. The B4247 turn on the right just before Port Eynon takes you to Rhossili, 3 miles (5 km) away.

WAles Rhossili beach Image of a misty sunset on Rhossili beach Wales
A misty sunset on Rhossili beach

There is another approach route via M4 junction 47 which is a bit more convoluted.  Take the left turn onto the A483, head down the hill then take the A484 right-hand turn towards Gower and Llanelli, turning left to the village of Gowerton. From there, turn right onto the B4295, following the brown tourist signs, through the village of Penclawdd to Llanrhidian. There you take the B4271 left for 1 km, before turning right onto a minor road over the hill to Reynoldston village. Continue through there to the A4118, where you turn right and follow the Rhossili Bay directions as above.

Otherwise if you’re travelling from Cardiff to Rhossili Bay – or from further afield – you can catch the train to Swansea, a bus across the city centre and the 118 bus to Rhossili from Swansea Bus Station.

RHOSSILI BEACH

Rhossili Gower Peninsula Image of the Helvetia shipwreck on Rhossili Beach Gower Wales UK
The last timbers of the Helvetia ship

Rhossili Wales is a tiny, remote village, but known the world over thanks to the internet, online polls and its stunning beach. We made it the top item on our Wales bucket list and cannot praise this place enough. I’ve taken many friends there over the years and the reaction has been the same every time. – they’ve been blown away.

Rhossili Bay is an amazing sight throughout the year. Spring is gorgeous, with the yellow gorse flowering brightly on the cliffs above. It’s at its busiest in summer, and looks so beautiful with the vivid green grass and purply pink heather flowers on the hill above. Autumn is the ideal time for a bracing walk along the clifftops flowed by a cold pint in the Worms Head Hotel. And winter is often a time for unforgettable sunsets, especially from the Helvetia shipwreck (see below).

RHOSSILI BAY – PRACTICALITIES

Image of Rhossili Bay from the cliffs above Rhossili United Kingdom
Another glorious summer day at Rhossili

Many shots you see of Rhossili beach are from above – quite high above. It’s at the base of 250-foot (76-metre) high cliffs, and you’ve got to get down there, and back up. The winding stepped path is surfaced, and at first it’s a gentle descent, with shallow steps. The latter section of the path down is the most difficult, with some steep sections and deep steps to negotiate.  It’s not unheard of for the journey back up the hill to take 15-20 minutes.

Rhossili Beach Swansea Image of Rhossili beach on the Gower Peninsula Wales UK
A sublime evening at Rhossili Bay

Some may decide it’s simply too challenging a walk to go onto the beach. I’d still suggest visiting Rhossili anyway – the path along the clifftop from the Worms Head Hotel gives sensational views, and that together with a meal out or an afternoon tea in the village can make a wonderful day out.

The range of Rhossili tides is enormous. At low tide, Rhossili beach is vast, the sea seemingly miles from the steps down to the beach. It never feels crowded, even at high tide when the beach narrows to 10-15 metres’ width.

There are no facilities down on the beach – but everything you could conceivably need can be found in the village above. 

HELVETIA SHIPWRECK

Image of the Helvetia shipwreck at sunset on Rhossili beach Gower Peninsula Wales
The Helvetia and Worm’s Head at sunset

Rhossili beach Wales isn’t just famous for its scenery and golden sand. It is the final resting place of several shipwrecks, the best-known of which is the Helvetia. This Norwegian barque was carrying a cargo of wood across the Atlantic from New Brunswick, Canada, and ran aground in a storm in 1887.

Very little of the wreck now remains, but it’s one of the most popular places to photograph in Wales. As you stand behind the wreck, Worms Head Rhossili, the nearby tidal island, is right in line. In autumn and winter (November and February) it makes for an amazing, dramatic sunset location.

RHOSSILI CHURCH

St Mary’s Church in Rhossili village dates back to around 1200, and has a wonderful ancient, timeless feel. It replaced an earlier church in the sand dunes near the beach which was submerged. It’s one of the most intriguing things to see in Gower, with a simple saddleback tower – fairly common in South Wales – and a memorial inside to Edgar Evans, a native of Rhossili village and one of Captain Scott’s party which perished in the Antarctic expedition of 1912 after reaching the South Pole.

RHOSSILI WALKS

Image of the south Gower coast on the Port Eynon to Rhossili walk
The majestic cliffs of the south Gower coast

The Wales Coast Path covers all 870 miles (1400 km) of the country’s coastline, and some of the Rhossili Bay walks are up there with the best in the whole country.

The best of them is the magnificent Port Eynon to Rhossili walk, which is one of the best coastal walks in Europe. It’s a 6-mile (10 km) trek, full of ascents and descents, wild cliff scenery and hidden, secluded beaches. If you have a whole day you can briefly divert to a smuggler’s cave (at Culver Hole, around the headland from Port Eynon beach), and you also pass near to the famous Paviland Cave, where a skeleton estimated to be 33,000 years old was discovered in 1823. I wouldn’t approach this unless you’re an experienced climber with suitable equipment.

Image of Paviland Cave on the Gower Peninsula Wales UK
Paviland Cave, the resting place of the ‘Red Lady of Paviland’ who was not a lady after all

You also pass the Iron Age hillfort above the Knave rock formation, before reaching wild, majestic Mewslade Bay (ideally at low tide – at high tide you can’t see any of it!) before heading to the rocky, remote beach at Fall Bay. From there it’s either a cross-country short cut through the fields or a 2-mile (3 km) walk around the clifftops back to Rhossili Bay, Gower.

RHOSSILI DOWN

Image of Rhossili Bay and Worm's Head in summer Gower Peninsula Wales UK
If you find a better summer scene, please let us know – the view from Rhossili Down

Rhossili Down is the hill immediately above Rhossili beach, Gower. It’s a short, steep walk up the hill from the lane behind St Mary’s Church, and the superb views start opening out. The summit trig point is just 633 feet above sea level, but you feel on top of the world up there. In summer (late July through to the beginning of September) purple and pink heather is in full bloom for a few hundred metres either side of the summit ridgeway path, and looks amazing.

Image of Sweyne's Howes burial chamber near Rhossili Wales UK
One of Sweyne’s Howes burial chambers on Rhossili Down

The views over Rhossili Bay Gower are breathtaking, extending beyond the islet of Burry Holms to Cefn Sidan Sands across the water in Carmarthenshire. Rhossili Down is also a great vantage point for Worms Head, behind which the sun sets in the depths of winter. The best time to visit Rhossili Down is when the heather is in bloom, when you have stunning views across the vast patchwork of fields, hills and heathland of which Gower is composed. Continue north for around 1 km from the trig point, and head down the hill to the two prehistoric burial chambers of Sweyne’s Howes.

WORMS HEAD

Worm’s Head, the picturesque tidal island that supposedly resembles a basking serpent or dragon, is one of the most popular things to see in Rhossili, Wales. You can reach it in a five-hour window – essentially two-and-a-half hours either side of low tide. The rocky causeway is revealed as the tide retreats, and it’s best to be at the start – 2 km along the clifftop track to the west of Rhossili village – right at the start of the time window. If you have forgotten to check tide times Rhossili and Worm’s Head tidal information is displayed in the white National Trust building next to the main Rhossili Bay parking area, close to the Worms Head Hotel.

Image of Worm's Head at sunset from Rhossili Down
Worm’s Head at sunset from Rhossili Down

The causeway can be rather laborious going, as the rocks are often very slippery. It doesn’t look far, but can take longer than you anticipate. I would also advise you check the weather forecast in advance – the Rhossili Bay weather can be unpredictable, and the first time I crossed the causeway to Worm’s Head the forecast was rather erratic, with squally winds making things a lot more difficult than we had hoped for, and reducing the time we had available to get back.

The scenery is absolutely enthralling, and you get the bonus of seeing many a swooping seabird and a few basking seals along the way. The last part of the walk can look precarious, but once you’re across the Devil’s Bridge it’s not far to the Outer Head. But steer well clear of that blowhole, whatever you do!

LLANGENNITH

Image of Llangennith beach Gower Peninsula Wales UK
Llangennith beach is the northern end of Rhossili beach with beautiful sand dunes

If you want Rhossili surf, head to Llangennith.  This small village 3 miles (around 8 km by road) up the coast has always had a very different feel to Rhossili because of its long-standing surf scene. ‘Llangennith beach’ is actually the northern end of Rhossili Bay, and it gets bigger, better waves than the Rhossili end of the beach because it’s more exposed to the prevailing south-westerly winds. The cliffs below the village provide some shelter from the windiest Rhossili weather. 

BURRY HOLMS

Worm’s Head isn’t the only tidal island at Rhossili. Burry Holms is at the northern end of Rhossili Bay, and is best reached from the Llangennith end of the beach – allow over two hours after high tide before attempting to access it. It’s a lovely windswept spot with views up and down the coast, which was settled around 10,000 years ago by hunters. An Iron Age hillfort (between 2000-3000 years ago) was also built on the island.

FALL BAY

Image of Fall Bay beach near Rhossili Gower Wales UK
Remote Fall Bay on a wonderful sunny winter afternoon

Fall Bay is one of the most beautiful beaches on Gower, tucked away a mile or so from Rhossili village. If you approach from the Coast Path via the coastguard hut overlooking worm’s Head, you get the best views, with fishing boats and wave-cut platforms along the way. Access to the beach itself is quite difficult, with a steep path and a bit of a scramble down the last rocky section to the sand.

MEWSLADE BAY

Image of Mewslade Bay beach Gower
Magnificent Mewslade Bay

Mewslade Bay is a splendid beach just over 2 miles (3 km) along the coast path from Rhossili. We rate it one of the best beaches in Wales, but there’s a caveat – you need to be there at low tide, otherwise you won’t see any of it. It’s completely submerged at high tide, and it takes a good while before the beach is revealed in all its splendour.

The quickest way to get to Mewslade Bay is via the path from the tiny car park at Pitton Cross, on the B4247 road to Rhossili. ‘Slade’ is the local word for ‘valley’, and Mewslade is at the end of a short, steep valley, the final approach involving a brief scramble between rocks. When you emerge onto the beach, you get to really appreciate it, with jagged spires and spears of rock soaring to the sky.

RHOSSILI BAY HOTELS

Image of Worm's Head island on the Gower Peninsula South Wales UK
Worm’s Head at sunset

It’s amazing – given that the village is right on top of one of the best beaches in Europe – that there are hardly any Rhossili hotels. There is a fair amount of accommodation in Rhossili – more on which in the next section – but just the one Rhossili hotel.

The Worms Head Hotel has one of the best settings in the world, overlooking the vast sweep of Rhossili beach. It’s a 2-star hotel that doubles as the one and only Rhossili pub, with a restaurant and bar downstairs that does very good pub meals. I’ve never actually stayed at the Worms Head Hotel, despite having visited the beach and pub countless times. I’ve spoken with many guests from there, and they’ve all been fulsome in their praise of it.

If you can’t get a room in the sole Rhossili Bay hotel, then it’s worth considering other Gower hotels.  The Oxwich Bay Hotel is a perennial favourite, especially on summer weekends, and you’re more likely to find a room during the week. The Hotel has superb views along Oxwich Bay towards Three Cliffs Bay.

OTHER RHOSSILI ACCOMMODATION

Most Gower accommodation tends to be in the form of holiday homes, with short-term rentals of Rhossili cottages available through many of the accommodation sites. Rhossili camping is also a popular option, especially with British visitors, and Hillend campsite in nearby Llangennith is always a popular draw.

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