At the far western edge of the Gower Peninsula, Rhossili Bay, a spectacular four-mile sweep of sand, spreads wide and flat northwards from Rhossili town to the tiny offshore islet of Burry Holmes. From the elevated vantage point at Worms Head in Rhossili, it seems to stretch forever; a colossal swathe of surf-kissed beach. Access is from Rhossili itself or at the other end of the beach near the town of Llangennith, where a narrow country road arrives at the beach car park and the unassuming surfers’ encampment of Hillend.
Occupying some prime beachside real estate behind the grassy dunes, Hillend campsite has had something of a makeover in recent years. After suffering a reputation for lager louts, all-night parties and boisterous teenage gangs from Swansea, the owners decided to go for a fresh start. They designated two of the four fields as ‘family only’, began turning away groups of dodgylooking youths and built a ‘posh’ family café and one of the finest amenities blocks on any Welsh campsite.
The result is a site that offers a more amenable, grown-up experience, while successfully retaining its relaxed, surf-cool heritage. As an indication of the change of clientele, the staff have reported that when litter-picking in the sand dunes, they now find empty bottles of champagne and vintage wine rather than flagons of cheap cider.
It’s a big site, with 275 pitches on 14 acres of level meadowland, but the new shower block can easily cope with the numbers and there’s more than enough room for everyone to share the large beach during the day.
Beginners and intermediate surfers will find the conditions at Rhossili Bay perfect, with a combination of the full Atlantic swell and a gently sloping beach producing long waves that can be ridden (with a bit of practice) for more than 100 metres. The Welsh Surfing Federation (01792 386426; www. wsfsurfschool.co.uk) runs two-hour surfing lessons from £25.
The appeal of this location is more than just the beach, the surf and the Gower landscape; it’s much more than the sum of its constituent parts. There’s an inexplicable pull about this particular part of the peninsula that has a deep and lasting effect on visitors. Maybe it’s the wild and remote atmosphere, enhanced by the crashing Atlantic waves. Maybe as the wind stirs up the long-grassed dunes it releases a certain mystical energy. Or maybe it’s the fact that the chavs and troublemakers have been banished. Whatever the reason, why not start with just a weekend camping at Hillend and see how you go?
FacilitiesThe shower block has 26 showers plus outside showers for surfers, washing-up and laundry facilities. Next door, Eddy’s Bistro (usually 8am–8pm, but hours vary) is a café/coffee shop serving inexpensive meals, dispensing with the need to bring any cooking accoutrements. A shop sells camping essentials, groceries and beach paraphernalia. Eight acres of the site are dedicated to family camping and there is a children’s play area, too.
NearbyWalk the ¾-mile back into Llangennith, clustered round a central village green and the church of St Cenydd – the largest in Gower, founded in the 6th century. According to legend the church was established as a hermitage by St Cenydd; but in 986 the early buildings were destroyed by Vikings. The present, Norman structure dates from the 12th century. There’s a good pub (see Food & Drink) opposite PJ’s Surf Shop (01792 386669) where you can arrange lessons. From the campsite, walk northwest through the dunes to the Blue Pool (1½ miles), a rock pool which, in the right sea and sky conditions, takes a deep blue colour. In addition to other nearby options, the Gower Heritage Centre (01792 371206) might entertain the kids awhile on a rainy day.
Food & DrinkA 5-minute drive or 15-minute walk back up the road is the King’s Head (01792 386212) in Llangennith, popular with surfers for its music, pool tables and well-priced food.
OpenEarly April – late October.
Pricing£15–20 per pitch, per night, including a car and up to 3 people, depending on season and day of week. There’s a £3–5 surcharge for an extra person. The ‘no advance booking’ policy is a nightmare on summer weekends; best bet is to get there on Thursday night or send someone down early to reserve and pay for everyone. No dogs.
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