Caldicot to Chepstow
Huge bridges and small villages with big histories.
In the footsteps of smugglers and press gangs along beaches described as the most beautiful in Britain
Start in the centre of Oxwich village and finish in Caswell Bay.
10 miles / 16 kilometres
We start this walk at the magnificent Tudor manor house of Oxwich Castle high on the hill above the wide sweep of the beautiful Oxwich Bay.
From the moment you walk through the imposing gateway emblazoned with the arms of Sir Rhys Mansel, it’s clear this was the home of a family looking to make their mark on high society in the sixteenth century.
We can also see the remains of an immense dovecote which supplied the occupants with fresh meat all year round and, just as importantly, provided visible evidence of their wealth and power. Remarkably the castle is still owned by descendants of the Mansel family.
Now we walk down the road (be careful, there is no pavement) and consider a stop at the Dunes cafe and shop to grab a snack before heading to the front of the Oxwich Bay Hotel. A very short detour here will take us to the church of St Illtyd.
Oxwich beach, described in one travel magazine as “the most beautiful beach in Britain” is a vast stretch of golden sand, and can get quite busy at the village end during the summer.
But getting away from all the hubbub is simple as the eastern part of the beach is rarely busy. It is backed by extensive sand dunes which form part of a nature reserve. And if the tide is out, we can just walk along the beach for the next two-and-a-half miles (which may require paddling across a couple of streams). But we follow the official route through Oxwich National Nature Reserve, home to some rare wildlife.
Soon enough, we arrive at Nicholaston Burrows. A walk through here and the adjoining Pennard Burrows will take us through heathland, woodland, sand dunes and cliff tops. Rich in history, the area is home to the remains of a Neolithic burial chamber, a Norman ringwork and a medieval church. It’s also possible that a lost village is buried under the sandy plateau.
Through some woods and along the clifftop we now reach Great Tor. The area offers some fantastic views back towards Oxwich Bay and onwards to another of the most beautiful beaches in the UK – the iconic Three Cliffs Bay. The fact that it’s not accessible by car means we could have the whole beach to ourselves. And as a spot to enjoy our packed lunch then this must be the place to do it, it is a truly stunning location.
Moving on through Pennard Burrows, we can take a short detour here to check out the dramatic ruins of the Norman-built Pennard Castle. Again, the views towards Three Cliffs Bay from here are frequently described as being amongst the best in Britain.
Back on the Wales Coast Path the next section again is quite special. The clifftops of Pennard offer some of the finest walking on Gower, which is quite an achievement. Make sure to turn around every now-and-again on this section, the views behind are just as stunning as those in front. On the way, we’ll pass Southgate village which has toilets, a car park and a few cafés.
In 1760, Pwlldu was the site of a major maritime disaster as 68 men were drowned on the Royal Navy ship, Caesar. They had been press ganged in Swansea and were probably shackled below deck when the tragedy happened. Buried by local people in a mass grave marked with a circle of limestone rocks, the area is known to this day as Graves End.
We then pass another beautiful quiet beach in Pwlldu Bay, then along a lovely undulating path to the romantically named Brandy Cove. As well as being the haunt of smugglers in the past, the beach was also used for loading lead ore from local mines onto boats.
We’ll need to check the tides at this point. If it’s high Caswell Bay will be completely cut off – so we’ll need to follow the signed High Tide route to Caswell Bay.
Around the headland is the end of our walk, the pretty beach at Caswell Bay. If we need a break from magnificent coastal scenery by now, the small Bishops Wood Local Nature Reserve behind the beach is a good example of limestone woodland, which is relatively rare in Britain.
Tricia Cottnam, Wales Coast Path Officer, said: “A route with sections often described as being the best in Britain really needs no selling. And it’s easy to get find peace and solitude away from the busiest beaches even at the peak of summer.”
Public transport options are not good for this route – there is no direct bus service between Oxwich and Caswell Bay.
We suggest using two cars or taking a taxi. But if public transport is your only option, we recommend parking in Swansea, catching a bus to Oxwich (you will need to change buses at one point) and then catching a bus from Caswell Bay back to Swansea at the end of the route.
There are car parks, public toilets, and options for refreshments at Oxwich, Southgate and Caswell Bay.
Download the Oxwich to Caswell Bay map (JPEG, 2.41MB)