While I’d heard of its beautiful beaches and friendly folk, I have to admit I’d only crossed the Bristol Channel once before my trip to Swansea Bay for a long weekend this summer.
Our adventure began with a saunter through the town of Mumbles. It is a good old fashioned seaside town complete with pier, amusements and row after row of B&Bs clustered together on the waterfront.
We took a stroll along the prom and into the amusements before a lovely walk along the pier.
The new lifeboat station gives you a lovely view across the bay, and we watched dozens of catamarans sailing in the Friday sunshine.
The little town has enough cute little boutique shops to amuse you for a couple of hours, and we made an obligatory stop into one of the bars to watch the waves and sample the local tipple – Brains beer.
Before going to find our home for the night we took a stroll around the grounds of 18th century Oystermouth Castle – an imposing fortress overlooking the town.
After a half-hour drive – dodging sheep on the way – we arrived at the our stunning five star home for the night, the Fairyhill hotel.
The instant we were greeted at the door I knew it was a pretty special place. It only has eight rooms and is smack bang in the heart of the Gower peninsula , but with huge sprawling grounds it has the feel of a huge grand hotel tucked away in a secret corner of the world.
When we headed down to dinner that night we were taken to the lounge for delicious canapes and a glass of bubbly while we mused over the TWO menus.
In the end I settled on beautiful scallops for starters and a yummy truffle and pea risotto for main, while my other half had pan seared mackerel and then generous lamb chops with a posh garlic mash.
Make sure you’ve got room for puddings by the way. I had chocolate truffle pudding with a peach ice cream, and he had an earl grey chocolate cake.
The food was amazing, the wine delicious and the service was top notch. If you’ve got someone you want to impress, you won’t get much better than this.
Rooms start at £190 and you wouldn’t get any change from £100 for a three-course dinner, but boy is it worth it. A night here feels like a holiday in itself. I only wish we could have stayed longer to admire more of the grounds and take advantage of their spa treatments.
After a brilliant night’s sleep – and an even better breakfast of smoked salmon and eggs – we headed just 15 minutes away to the stunning Llangennith beach for a surfing lesson.
Now, I have less coordination than Bambi on ice, and my nerves about pulling on a wetsuit in public were only eclipsed by my nerves about jumping on a surf board for the first time.
But I took a deep breath – and remembered all of our readers exploits on the Alive and Kicking page – and went for it.
Well, it’s the best things I’ve done in blooming ages. The staff at Welsh Surf Federation Surfing School were so helpful and more importantly very patient.
My face hurt from smiling by the time I got to the end of our two hour lesson and I am pleased to brag that I managed to stand up (even if it was just for about five seconds!).Our group of 20 was made up of all ages and abilities but if surfing isn’t your bag, I can promise you would earn mega Grandparent-points by booking a lesson for the young ‘uns while you play the role of photographer on the sand.
Exhausted but very happy, we whizzed around to Rhossili Bay beach, voted in the top ten in the world by Tripadvisor – and it’s not hard to see why.
It’s impossible not to just stand and stare at the amazing views. We expected the beach to be packed, but we easily found a quiet spot for an afternoon of sunbathing (and snoozing).
Lunch was enjoyed back up the cliff at the simple but pleasing Bay Bistro – packed full of families gulping down much-needed food to fuel a day on the beach.
Our pit stop for the evening was the Mercure Hotel in Swansea.
It was hardly comparable in the glamour stakes compared to our last hotel, but very clean, fuss-free and very friendly.
Continuing our weekend’s theme of eating with a view, we headed to the top of the tallest building in Wales, to the Grape and Olive restaurant on the 19th floor.
It was quite amusing to see diners huddled round the lift with residents of the block of flats waiting to be taken up to the top floor.
The view is definitely worth the wait and we watched the sun set with the waves lapping against the bay.
I had a delicious veggie pate and then an enormous bucket of local mussels while my other half enjoyed his customary, but thoroughly decent, sirloin steak.
We sadly had to rush home the next morning, leaving a list of places we would still like to visit in the area, including the Dylan Thomas Centre for his famous Notebooks exhibition.
by Laura Elvin, Mature Times reporter
For more information on the places visited, or anywhere else in Swansea click www.visitswanseabay.com