On this post I will highlight the places we visited and the best places to see and the best things to do in Swansea/Mumbles.
Swansea is the second biggest city of Wales, but it is much nicer than the capital in our opinion. Although it is famous as a party city, it has a much quieter feel, and with so many beautiful beaches nearby, is also a much more attractive place.
It hosts the largest indoor market in Wales with about 100 stalls selling from food to bric-à- brac; however, it is a bit underwhelming and could do with a bit of a revamp to bring back the bustling atmosphere that a market should have.
Swansea is also famous for its fresh cockles, laverbread and salt marsh lamb. Not to mention the Mumbles brewery, which produces a beer made of oysters!
Swansea’s most famous person must be the poet, Dylan Thomas. His birthplace and places of interest can be visited and admired.
Swansea also hosts some interesting museums such as the Waterfront Museum, Swansea Museum, and the Dylan Thomas Centre.
Swansea is right by the sea and Swansea Bay stretches to Mumbles, a lively village with a Victorian pier at the end of the bay.
Mumbles is a continuation of Swansea and is the start of the Gower Peninsula, the UK first Area of Outstanding National Beauty (AONB). Mumbles is also home of Oystermouth Castle, a 12th century castle on the top of a hill overlooking Swansea Bay.
As we arrived a bit early to check-in into our hotel, we stopped in the centre of Swansea to have a look around and get a feel for the town. Being a Saturday, lots of people were just doing what seems to be our preferred pastime: shopping.
We entered the food market and walked around the Castle Square in front of the remains of the Swansea Castle; we walked down the famous Wind Road, full of bars and restaurants. We had a very good first impression of Swansea, and it seemed to be much nicer than Cardiff. Good start, but time to head to Mumbles and check in into the Norton House Hotel.
I had a bit of a problem finding accommodation for that time of the year, and all the nice hotels and B & Bs on our budget seemed to have already been booked. I found the Norton House Hotel, but they only had 1 night at the Superior double room and the other 2 nights we would have to change to a standard twin room. As we had no better option of available accommodation, we happily took this option.
The Norton House Hotel is a big Georgian House that has been converted into a hotel. It is very well located on the first block from the beach. They did a good job of the refurbishment, and the superior suite is very good. The twin room is not bad either, but we were unfortunate to wake up in the middle of the night with a leak coming from the bathroom upstairs into our bathroom. The position of the room did not allow for a window and the room only had double doors on the ground floor. It meant we could not leave it open, so the room did not have enough ventilation, leaving a very strong smell of damp.
Breakfast was OK, but not amazing. Staff was attentive and helpful. This is as far as I can comment on the Norton House Hotel.
After checking in, we went out for a walk-in front of the beach. We walked all the way to the end of the beach and to the pier. The day was lovely and sunny, and although the walk was long, it was very enjoyable.
It was a bit hot for Wales and the promenade was packed with families and people exercising themselves and their dogs. When we got to the end of the pier, we sat at a charming café and had a nice beer to refresh.
The Mumbles Pier is Victorian, dated from 1898, and is one of the most iconic landmarks of Swansea. It is Grade II Listed and received a full restoration, that was completed in time for the start of the new 2021 holiday season. You can visit the new Lifeboat House at the end of the pier and enjoy the beautiful views from there.
With the opening of the pier in 1898, an extension to the Railway Line was opened, linking Oystermouth to the Pier Terminal. In 1807 when the tram road opened, it was the first passenger railway in the world. Initially the trans were horse-drawn and this service lasted for over a century even with the arrival of steam-powered trains. Later, the line was electrified making it even more popular to visit the village of Mumbles for a day by the sea.
The line operated for the last time in 1960 and its closure impacted many people who used the route between Mumbles and Swansea.
Feeling refreshed by the cold beer, we walked back to our hotel for some rest and getting ready for dinner.
We also had some difficulty reserving restaurants on this trip as the best ones were fully booked well in advance. So, for tonight, we were lucky to book a restaurant in Swansea called “Truffle”; it had good reviews and there was an available table for 2 people at 7:30 PM, so I quickly reserved it to guarantee good food in a pleasant atmosphere.
“Truffle” is a family restaurant that seems to be very well regarded by the locals. People were coming and going all the time, seemingly regulars, judging by the way they interacted with the staff. When we arrived, the restaurant was full and, by the time we left, it was still full.
Although “Truffle” is a fully licensed restaurant, you are allowed to bring your own bottle if you wish, and we noticed that many people were doing just that. However, they do have a small but well-chosen wine list at affordable prices.
We ordered a bottle of wine from the wine list to accompany the very well executed food we were served. First dinner of the holidays was a success, and we can highly recommend this enjoyable restaurant.
After dinner we went back to our hotel for a well-deserved rest.
After breakfast we went back to Swansea as we had booked the Thomas Dylan House visit at 10 o’clock.
The birthplace of Dylan Thomas is a house at no 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, Swansea, SA2 0RA. He was born on the front bedroom of the house in 1914 and lived there until 1937.
Until a few years ago the house was an abandoned ex-student bedsit in need of lots of love and care. That was when Geoff Haden embarked on the journey of restoring the property to its former glory. Geoff had always been a great admirer of Dylan’s work and jumped at the opportunity to save this important historical building and bring the memory of Dylan Thomas back to life.
The house was restored back to what it was in 1914, with the same building details of the time and furniture. It was self-funded by Geoff with the help of some local craftsmen, building suppliers and antique furniture businesses. The building never received any grants or support from the Government or the Local Council, and the fact that Geoff persisted on it until the end on his own must be commended.
Nowadays the house is open to the public at certain days and times with a tour that includes details of the restoration and what life used to be at the time Dylan lived there. The house also functions as a hotel; yes, you can book it to spend a night or a few days at the property.
This is a very interesting activity to do in Swansea and you should find some time to fit this tour on your trip. It really makes the trip to Swansea worth for.
For more information, booking tours and lots of photos of the house go to their website:
After visiting the house, we headed in the direction of the Gower Peninsula. To be more precise, Rhossilin Bay.
We parked the car and walked down the path that leads to fabulous views of the beach below. To get to the beach, you will need to go down various steps until you reach the unspoilt and sprawling beach. We didn’t go down to the beach, the views were impressive enough from the top. We took the path and had a good walk to the end of the cliff with more fabulous views.
At the end of the path, there is a sunflower farm that at the time was in full bloom, and many people were walking back carrying huge sunflowers with them. We did go to the farm and walked around the beautiful sunflowers. This is a different and entertaining programme if you have small kids as well.
After many photos among the sunflowers, we made our way back to the car park and where a pub, Helvetia, took proud presence facing the wonderful views. We didn’t need much persuasion to get in, and as you can imagine, the pub was very busy on a very sunny hot day, but we managed to grab ourselves an outside table and enjoyed a pint of beer and some snacks in the sun.
After the break we drove back in the direction of Mumbles, but stopping at the Arthur’s Stone, near the village of Reynoldston.
This is a prehistoric, Neolithic tomb dating back to 2500 BCE, and it is connected to the legend that King Arthur removed a stone from his shoe and threw it across the Swansea Bay, stopping at its final point at Cefn Bryn.
To get to the stone, you need to park the car on the side of the road and walk through a path for a few minutes.
After walking around and taking some photos we headed back to the car and back to our hotel for a rest.
Dinner tonight was in a Turkish restaurant called “Mediterranean” and we walked down the beach to where the restaurant was. We really enjoy Turkish food and as we could not find any other restaurant with availability in the area, this one was our best bet.
We chose various dishes and made of that a “meze” so we could sample most of what they had on offer. We also ordered a bottle of red Turkish wine, that was lovely. The food was delicious and again we had a very good dinner and left very satisfied.
Today we had the tour to Oystermouth Castle booked for 10:30 am, so after breakfast we left the hotel and walked the small distance to the castle.
At the time of our visit, we could only visit the castle if we booked the tour in advance, online, and there was a maximum of 10 people in the group.
Oystermouth Castle dates from the early 12th century and is full of history. It seats on the top of a hill with spectacular views of Mumbles and the sea. It is surprisingly well kept and well looked after to preserve this piece of Welsh history.
The tour is very informative with very enthusiastic and knowledgeable guides explaining each part of the castle in detail and answering all questions from the group. It was a very enjoyable hour learning a little about its history.
Once the tour was over, we drove to Oxwich Bay. There are a few walks in there that seemed to be really beautiful, and we took the Oxwich Point Walk. That lasted a good two hours, passing through the woods, following the coast with beautiful views, crossing farmlands, and ending up at Oxwich village again.
The plan was to have lunch at the Oxwich Bay Hotel, but at the time we were there the restaurant was closed and we could only have a drink and some crisps on the tables outside.
After the walk and drinks, we felt quiet tired, but still drove to Three Cliffs Bay to walk around and take some photos. Lovely place to spend more time and stay on the beach if you have the time. We only walked a little bit and drove back to the hotel to rest.
Most restaurants around Swansea are closed on Mondays, but we found a table at the “Langlands Brasserie” for the evening. This is a bit far from the beach and where we were staying, so we booked a taxi to get there as we wanted to enjoy a drink or two without having to drive back.
The place looked very nice and during the day you can seat at the terrace and enjoy the beautiful views. As it was evening and with a bit of a chilly wind, we were happy to be seated inside.
At the time, every restaurant was experiencing shortage in staff and this one was particularly impacted. Our waitress came and left us with the menu for a long time before coming to take our order. The menu was not very exciting, and we ended up ordering a hamburger and fish and chips.
It was only later, when the food arrived, that we realised there was a board with the dishes of the day placed in a location not visible from the area where we were seated. Certainly, the waitress should have told us about it when she first came to give us the menu, but she was so busy attending so many tables by herself, that we excused her.
It was a shame, because there were plenty of fresh fish dishes on the board that we would have chosen if we knew they were available. In anyway, the food was OK, but nothing special or exciting to talk about. After dinner we took another taxi back to the hotel for our last night in Mumbles.
Below you will find a list of what to visit, where to stay and where to eat in Swansea/Mumbles. I classified each place as follows:
BOLD – Visited, tried and recommended
NOT BOLD – Not visited or tried, but planning to visit or try and heard very good reviews
*** – Excellent
** – Good
* – OK
£££ – Expensive
££ – Fair and affordable
£ – Cheap
WHAT TO VISIT IN SWANSEA/MUMBLES AND AROUND
2 – Swansea Museum
4 – Food Market – *
5 – Swansea Castle
6 – Thomas Dylan’s Birthplace – ***
7 -Mumbles Beach and Pier – ***
8 – Lifeboat House
9 – Oystermouth Castle – ***
10 – Gower Peninsula – Rhossilin Bay – ***
11 – Sunflower Farm – ***
12 – Arthur’s Stone – ***
13 – Oxwich Bay/Oxwich Point Walk – ***
14 – Three Cliffs Bay – ***
WHERE TO STAY IN SWANSEA/MUMBLES
1 – The Music Fable Hotel – Beachfront Swansea – 5* – £££
2 – Oyster House – Beachfront Mumbles – 4* – £££
3 – Norton House Hotel – Mumbles – 3* – ** – ££
4 – Luxury Mumbles View Apartment – Swansea – 2* – £
WHERE TO EAT IN SWANSEA/MUMBLES
1 – Truffle – Swansea – *** – ££
2 – Mediterranean – Turkish – Mumbles – *** – ££
3 – Langlands Brasserie – Mumbles – ** – ££
4 – Bistro Pierre – Mumbles – ££
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