Caldicot to Chepstow
Huge bridges and small villages with big histories.
Along the vast Loughor saltmarshes to the former castle of a man who may have killed a king
Start at the car park in the centre of Penclawdd, finishing in Llanmadoc.
9 miles / 14 kilometres for the whole route, but it can be shortened to 8 miles / 13 kilometres (by starting at Crofty) or 5 miles / 8 kilometres (by starting at Llanrhidian).
In the main, this is a very flat walk along the North Gower coast alongside the saltmarshes of the Loughor Estuary.
We start in Penclawdd, which developed in the seventeenth century as a port to export local products such as coal, cockles, copper and tinplate. Many of the ships which exported these products were also built locally.
From here the path runs alongside the saltmarshes, at one point joining a track which is used by those who still earn a hard living from the back-breaking work of cockling in the Loughor estuary.
We soon reach Crofty, which only really grew when coal mining arrived in the latter half of the nineteenth century. The narrow streets of the original mining cottages remain and give the village a charming rural feel despite the modern housing estates that now surround it.
We soon pass an interesting man-made feature called Salthouse Point. Now a relic, this was an important part of the shipping history of North Gower. World War II gun towers and artillery buildings built here have been demolished and now the area is an important habitat for wildlife.
We then cross Salthouse Pill (turn left here for the Crofty Inn) and head out onto the vast Llanrhidian Marsh. Stretching along the entire length of Gower’s north coast, this salt marsh provides an important winter habitat for ducks, geese and waders – as well as wild ponies. Its also important for agriculture with saltmarsh lamb considered particularly tasty.
This is also the start of the Gower Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Chosen for its classic coastline and outstanding natural environment, Gower was the first place in the UK to be given that official designation.
It’s now another three miles to Llanrhidian, but just before we reach there, we might want to consider taking the short, signposted detour to check out the Iron Age hillfort of Cilifor Top.
Llanrhidian feels very much like a traditional rural village. Its narrow disordered streets and historic buildings evoke the feel of bygone times. The Lower Mill at the bottom of the village is particularly attractive.
However, it was once very much a frontline village in the battle between the Welsh and the Anglo-Normans, separating the “Welshry” of the area towards Penclawdd with the “Englishry” of the area further east.
Llanrhidian was famous for its large weaving industry and the remains of one of its larger woollen factories, Stavel Hagar (also spelt Staffal Haegr) can be seen by taking a short detour off the path here. The remains of other mills are also dotted around the village, some in ruins, others converted into homes.
Llanrhidian’s two standing stones - on the village green outside Llanrhidian Church – are among its more prominent features. Their tops can be easily identified as the remains of a Celtic Cross, and it is believed that historically the upper stone was used as a village pillory.
The Welcome Country Pub and Kitchen nearby is reputed to be haunted by the ghost of a coachman. He has been seen many times by a table near the front window.
Moving on, and after we pass Leason Wood a signed path on the left leads up to Weobley Castle. It’s well worth another short detour to take a closer look at this former high-society home.
It’s a dramatic location and the view is similar to when this fortified manor house was built 700 years ago by the wealthy de la Bere family to create an elegant home to entertain high-society guests.
But the military-style watchtower shows that these were dangerous times and a century later Weobley suffered serious damage during the uprising of Owain Glyndŵr. The castle later passed into the hands of Sir Rhys ap Thomas, who supported Henry Tudor at the battle of Bosworth – and may even have been personally responsible for killing Richard III.
Before leaving we have an opportunity to buy some of the produce of the saltmarshes at the family-run farm shop of Gower saltmarsh lamb in the shadow of the castle. Often the butchers can be seen plying their craft through the windows.
Back down to the coast we turn left and, after Landimore, we can take another detour to visit the gloriously overgrown and ruined Bovehill Castle.
Although the present ruins are probably the remains of a fifteenth century medieval manor house, Bovehill Castle is first mentioned as the possession of Llewelyn the Great.
Only a short push now to reach the end at Llanmadoc -a remote village where, like much of Gower, tales of fairies abound. And the hill above the village is dotted with at least 14 Bronze Age cairns which it’s believed were used as waymarkers.
In Llanmadoc the Britannia Inn offers an opportunity for some refreshments and the main village is up the hill, as is the bus stop.
Tricia Cottnam, Wales Coast Path Officer, said: “This is a mainly flat walk passing through some lovely old villages, and is dominated for much of the route by the area’s vast saltmarshes. It’s a great introduction to Gower AONB and the number of the historic sites on the route indicate how strategically important this area was in the past.”
Buses operate infrequently on this route, so to prevent a potentially lengthy wait at the end - we recommend parking in Llanmadoc, taking the bus to the start point and walking back to the car.
There are plenty of places to eat in Penclawdd, and options at Crofty, Llanrhidian and Llanmadoc.
There are public toilets in Penclawdd. Bear in mind that most of this walk is alongside an estuary and although much of the start of the walk is along paved surfaces, some of the latter stages may get muddy.
Download the Penclawdd to Llanmadog (JPEG, 2.86MB)