The Gower Peninsula

I've always been attracted to the freedom and sense of adventure given by cycling, being able to explore new places.  Naturally this has led me to become interested in bikepacking, riding out somewhere for several days at a time completely self sufficient.

For our first attempt we decided to do an overnight trip around the Gower peninsula which is just outside of Swansea, a large city in Wales.  To prepare for this trip we would have to buy all our camping gear and setup, it would also be a good opportunity to test run everything for longer trips in the future.  The route we took is more or less the Gower Peninsula Route posted on www.bikepacking.com



The Route



The route itself starts off in Swansea in the south of Wales, just to the west of the city centre is a peninsula which juts out into the Bristol Channel and eventually leads to the north Atlantic.  The plan was to ride to the western edge of the peninsula where there is a beach, camp overnight and ride back  to Swansea the next day.

Day 1

The first day involved getting the train out from London Paddington on the GWR service to Swansea.   The new trains they have are really quite nice, although the bike accommodation is quite poor, only a cabinet the size of a shower cubicle is available with only 4 bookable bike spaces per train.  These spaces require you to lift up your bike to hook the front wheel in a very confined space, which would be quite difficult if you aren’t that strong and/or your bike is heavily loaded like ours were.


The first part of the ride out of central Swansea involves going right past the beach to the south of the city heading out where you can see the peninsula beyond.



We rode up a hill and along till we got to three cliffs beach.  The route that we followed takes you through some sand dunes, take my advice, if you ever do this route please avoid!  This was an absolute pain in the neck to do and we lost about an hour dragging our bikes through sand to only move about 2km.





Eventually we got to Rhossili soon after, there’s a stunning view from the pub overlooking down the 5km long spine of the beach, just as the sun set.  This was a first for the both of us doing the whole camping and bikepacking thing together, we came prepared with our new camping kit.

Once we got to the site we pitched our tent in the dark, somewhat slightly misshapenly in hindsight but nonetheless upright and useable.  It was a new and strange feeling, a feeling of remoteness, being so used to an urban environment where water, phone reception, food and shelter are a given.  Where we got to we had to haul our own shelter and food, it felt strangely liberating in a sense when you realised that most urbanites live a quite sheltered life.

Day 2 

This was the first time I’d slept in a tent in a very long time, and before that it was only a few times.  I normally don’t sleep well in unfamiliar situations so this time was no exception. In the morning the temperature dropped to about 5 0C, I had my jumper on and was still quite cold, the sleeping bag I brought along was one I had since I was a school boy which was only really rated to about 8-9 0C. To compound this I had stored it in a compressed for a long time thus it didn’t insulate all too well... Let’s say I learnt the hard way about sleeping bags.  My wife was also quite cold too, her sleeping bag was only rated for about 10 0C.

We set off after a hearty breakfast at the campsite surf club.  Not so remote after all... The aim for today was to get back to Swansea in time for our train back to London.

 

We hit a few grassy hills, which gave some great views off into the distance



We managed to cross over a 500 year old medieval bridge along the way



And found our way back onto the roads

 

 Then back to the beach where we started.  This part of the ride went by a lot quicker as we mostly went on road.  You can see the bike setup in the picture below, I had an Ortlieb handlebar bag on the front carrying mostly clothes, cooking stuff, mattress.  I had a rack lying around which I strapped the tent and sleeping bag on.  This setup actually worked ok, considering I had only done it at the last minute, nothing really fell off and I was able to strap down my jacket on the back when it got warm.




We got back to Swansea earlier than we expected and rode along the hard packed sand back towards the town centre.  This was our first bikepacking trip and nothing went horribly wrong apart from being cold.  Nonetheless this was quite a memorable experience and we learnt a lot about the whole camping and bikepacking thing.  The Gower peninsula has a feeling of remoteness once you get to Rhossili beach, despite it not being all that far from Swansea.  We really enjoyed this trip and found that it was a great start to our foray into bikepacking, especially that you could easily fit this in as a weekend trip.

Thanks for reading

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