Tuesday, 21 April 2015


During the 18th and 19th centuries Swansea, the second largest city in Wales, was a major industrial centre, with copper smelting an important economic activity, in fact the city was known as 'Copperopolis' during that time.  A title well-earnt, since 90% of all copper-smelting activity in Britain was based within 20 miles of the city, which was regarded as the world centre for such activities, and for metallurgy in general.  Much of the impetus for all this came from Bristol-based industrialists who financed enterprises such as the White Rock copperworks of 1737.  

Fast forward to 1914, when another event occurred which was to put Swansea on the map: the birth of the infamous Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.  This momentous event took place at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive in the suburb of Uplands, and the house is now open to visitors who can view it fully restored to its 1914 condition.  However, the city's celebration of the life of its most famous son does not stop there: the former Guildhall in the Maritime Quarter houses the Dylan Thomas Centre.   The Centre was opened in 1995 by no less than US President Jimmy Carter and has a permanent exhibition on the life and work of the poet as well as a range of other facilities including a theatre.  Each year in late October/early November the Centre hosts the Dylan Thomas Festival.

Today, the historic docklands that played such an important role during Swansea's industrial years have been turned into a vibrant Maritime Quarter with a mixture of museums, cafes, bars and restaurants.  The NationalWaterfront Museum takes a hi-tech approach to history, with interactive exhibits telling the story of Wales' industrial heritage.  Across the way is Swansea Museum, with a range of exhibits including artifacts from Ancient Egypt and exhibits from the city's 'Copperopolis' days.  Next to the waterside is the city's marina with its bobbing boats.  Then there is the shopping, the highlight of which is Swansea's famous covered market selling local delicacies such as laverbread. 

For a list of events in the city see here.

Map of the area. 

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The Maritime Quarter. Photo by Pam Brophy, via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, 13 April 2015


Mumbles is more or less a suburb of Swansea, but it has its own seafront, known as the 'Mumbles mile', with a variety of restaurants, pubs and other attractions, making it an ideal base for exploring the Gower Peninsula.  The town's transformation into a resort came with the arrival of the Swansea and Mumbles Railway in 1804.  All that is left of the railway now is the pier, along with its pavilions and a lifeboat station.  The pier used to be visited by the White Funnel paddle steamer that brought daytrippers along the Bristol Channel.  Adjoining the 'Mumbles mile' are quaint little streets with colourful cottages.  On a hill above Mumbles lie the ruins of Oystermouth Castle, where graffiti dating from the 14th century can be seen along with the magnificent views over Swansea Bay.  The lighthouse on Mumbles Head got off to a shaky start in 1792, with the collapse of the structure during the first year of building.  However, it was completed in 1794 and has been guarding the entrance to Swansea Bay ever since.  The present-day lighthouse is unmanned and solar powered.

Map of the area. 

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The seafront.  Photo by Trevor Rickard, via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, 6 April 2015


The violent storms of winter 2013-2014 had a terrible effect at the time, causing untold damage to buildings and seafronts.  However, some places are still feeling the after-effects now.  Caswell Bay on the Gower Peninsula has lost huge amounts of sand, leaving a stony surface which is difficult and painful to walk over in bare feet, and experts have warned that the beach could take years to recover.  A shame, because it is one of the loveliest bays on this stretch of coast.  A report on this subject in the local press drew an emotive response from those commenting, with some suggesting that dredging activities in the Bristol Channel are more to blame than the storms.  I am no expert on the subject, but I hope the bay recovers sooner rather than later.  Visitors to the bay, which is easily accessible from nearby Mumbles, have the use of beach shops geared up for families and there is a lifeguard on duty during the summer months.  From Caswell Bay, a coastal path one and a half miles in length and offering wonderful views across to North Devon leads to the neighbouring Langland Bay.  There are parking and refreshments within easy reach of the bay.  Dog owners should be warned that dogs are banned from the beach from 1st May to 30th September. 

Streaming webcam view of Caswell Bay (and other Gower webcams).

Map of the area. 

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Langland Bay. Photo by Colin Smith, via Wikimedia Commons