Rhossili (Welsh: Rhosili) is a small village and community on the southwestern tip of the Gower Peninsula in Swansea. It is within an area designated as the first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the United Kingdom.
Rhossili probably gets its name in part from the Welsh word for moorland, rhos. The second element in the name may be a reference to a Saint Sulien or St. Sili, but details are not clear. Certainly the present Norman church is dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin. Inside there is a memorial to Edgar Evans who was the first to perish on the Terra Nova Expedition on the return from the South Pole.
There was a local tradition that there had been an earlier, pre medieval village complete with church closer to the sea which had been abandoned after "besanding" in the 14th century. A storm and subsequent excavation of newly exposed remains in the Warren (an area of sand dunes to the north of the present village) in 1980 helped to confirm the truth of this.
Despite its relatively remote position, Rhossili is a popular tourist destination: the views from the headland and the Down are panoramic; several pleasant walks begin, end, or pass through the village; Iron Age remains are found on Rhossili Down; and the 4 mile (6.4 km) long beach attracts surfers, particularly at the Llangennith (northern) end. The prominent wreck of the Helvetia, which ran aground in Rhossili Bay in November 1887, bears witness to the challenging sea conditions.
Rhossili Bay curves along an arc running northwards from the village. The sandy beach is three miles (5 km) long and is backed with sand dunes. Locals refer to the beach as Llangennith Sands. Behind the beach just north of the village is Rhossili Down with the highest point on the Gower Peninsula, the Beacon (193 metres), and a number of prehistoric remains. It is between Rhossili Down and the beach proper that the Warren is found.
At the southern end of the Bay is the small tidal island called Worm's Head. At the north is Burry Holms. These islands are accessible at low tide only. Also at low tide, it is possible to see the remains of several shipwrecks, wood from the wreck of the Helvetia being the most prominent when looking north from Rhossili. Worms Head consists of two islands, Inner and Outer Head. Outer Head reaches 56 metres in height (184 feet), Inner head 47 metres (154 feet).
Rhossili Bay featured in the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, a youth choir began a cappella performances of "Bread of Heaven" live on the beach which was broadcast at the Olympic Stadium. The bay has been used as the setting of New Earth in the sci-fi show Doctor Who and the bay including the Old Rectory was used in Torchwood: Miracle Day. In 2014, it was voted the UK's number one beach, third best in Europe, and 9th best in the world, by TripAdvisor users.
Fall Bay is one of the most remote and hardest to reach beaches on the Gower. The beach is never crowded due to its remoteness. There is no beach visible at high tide. The beach is very popular with surfers. At very low tide, it is possible to walk over from the beach to Mewslade Bay. The beach is reachable via a path which passes Rhossili village hall. It continues over fields and many stiles and has a steep final descent. The cliff path leads east to Mewslade Bay or westwards towards the Worm's Head and Rhossili Bay.
The National Trust owns and protects much land on the Gower Peninsula. The Trust operates a visitor centre near the Warren, the Down, Worm's Head, Rhossili beach and coastal cliffs. Scenes from Torchwood: Miracle Day were filmed at the National Trust's Old Rectory cottage in Rhossili Bay.
A walk across the headland takes in stunning views across Rhossili Bay and out to Worm’s Head before leading back through the Vile; the remnants of an ancient landscape. Classified as Moderate this walk is about 3 and a half miles long and should take around one and a half hours. It is dog friendly.
Start at the National Trust Shop, Rhossili, grid ref: SS414881. With your back to the bus stop, turn right and walk along the road, continuing between the car park and the Worms Head Hotel. The National Trust shop is a little further on your left. The National Trust shop is in one of the former coastguard cottages.
Looking to your right you will see the three-mile-long beach of Rhossili. The powerful tides and shifting sands caused many ship wrecks. The remains of the Helvetia can still be seen on Rhossili beach at low tide. Continue to follow the path through the gateway on the surfaced path. To the right of the path there are a series of mounds. These are the remains of an Iron Age fort. The magnificent views from here meant the inhabitants of the fort could see their enemies for miles around.
As you continue along the surfaced track you will see fields and hedge banks on your left which are part of a medieval open field strip system. The Normans introduced this system of farming in the 12th century. Where the surfaced track bears sharp left, walk straight on following a wide grass path towards the coastguard lookout where you will have a spectacular view of the Worms Head. The coastguard lookout was built in Victorian times and is now staffed by volunteers. The Worms Head name comes from the Nordic word 'Wurm' which means serpent or dragon.
At the lookout, turn left along the cliff top to join the path that runs alongside a stone wall. The path heads down a short slope to a kissing gate. On your left inside the wall is an area known as The Vile. The Vile is a rare survivor of the medieval open field strip system introduced by the Normans during the 12th century. Continue to follow the path alongside the wall. After a few minutes the path will descend quite steeply and then follows the wall sharply to the left. Follow the well worn path through the rose, ascending gradually. Be careful on the stones as they are often slippery. Listen out for yellowhammers along this section of path. They can often be seen perched on the top of blackthorn bushes, resplendent and easily identified in their canary yellow plumage.
Keep to the left and the path eventually brings you to a metal ladder and wooden steps over a wall. Cross the wall and follow the footpath as it heads back inland to Middleton. Shortly before you reach Middleton take a sharp left at the fork in the track and walk back through The Vile to Rhossili village and the end of the walk.
The Terrain. Gentle gradients sloping downhill from the start and uphill on the return leg. Generally accessible to all, although there are some lumps and bumps so walking boots are preferable. Dogs are allowed, providing they are kept under control. Ponies and cattle are present throughout the year. There are Toilets between the car park and the National Trust shop and visitor centre.
Walk to the highest point on Gower, take in the views and meander through ancient landscapes before descending onto one of the most iconic beaches in Wales. This autumn, enjoy a last blast of colour as the heath comes to life on Rhossili Down in early September. This walk is classified as Challenging. The walk is about five miles and will take at least two and a half hours. It is dog friendly.
Again, start at the National Trust Shop, Rhossili, grid ref: SS414881. Start at the bus stop. Follow the footpath as it bears left towards the churchyard and past St. Mary's Church. The church was built in the 12th/13th century. Look out for the unmarked sailor's grave in the corner of the churchyard. At the junction with the stony track go left and continue on this track until you reach the gate marked with a National Trust sign for Rhossili Down.
Head up the hill through the heathland. It is steep so take the opportunity for a well earned rest on your way. If you look back towards Rhossili village you will see the Medieval strip field system of The Vile on the headland. Well rested, make your way to the top of the Down. Continue on the main path along the ridge of the Down. The beacon marks the highest point on Gower and is also the site of a Bronze-Age cairn built around four thousand years ago. As you continue along the ridge path you will pass the remains of Stone Age burial chambers called Sweynes Howes. The Stone Age burial chambers known as Sweynes Howes were constructed around 6,000 years ago.
The vegetation around you as you walk on the ridge path is predominantly heathland and is a dazzling display of pinks and purples in late summer into early autumn. Further down the slope to the right there are areas of wet heath. The plants in the wet heath, such as bog asphodel and cross-leaved heath, are visible but care should be taken if exploring as it can be extremely boggy at times.
As you approach half way along the Down you will see the remains of a Second World War radar station in front of you. Continue through here and continue up the slope on the far side. The radar station was built to provide early warning of threats to Swansea from German bomber planes. From here the path descends steeply towards Hillend campsite. Go into the site and straight on past Eddie's Cafe and turn left on the beach. You are approximately half way around now and this may be the perfect opportunity for a cup of tea and a chance to rest your feet.
Turn left onto the beach and head back towards Rhossili. The muddy cliff to your left is actually the remains of a glacial feature known as a solifluction terrace. Soil would slip from Rhossili Down whenever the ice melted a little and over time built up into the raised area we see today. As you walk look out for the remains of the Helvetia, which was shipwrecked on the beach in 1887 whilst carrying a cargo of wood. Rhossili beach. At 3 miles long, Rhossili beach is one of the longest beaches on the Gower. It's a haven for people who want to get out and enjoy the coastline.
Once you have passed the Helvetia, look for the bottom of the steps on your left, as they mark the route back to Rhossili village. The steps are steep and it is well worth resting on one of the benches on your way up to admire the views over the beach and across to Carmarthen and south Pembrokeshire. At the top turn right to head towards the car park and National Trust shop, or choose to eat in one of the many cafes and tea shops on offer in the village.
The terrain. The walk covers a variety of terrain including steep footpaths, uneven tracks, a sandy beach and steep steps to the finish. Dogs are allowed, providing they are kept under control. Livestock are present throughout the year. Toilets are between the car park and National Trust shop. There is a Café in the village as well as a shop selling local produce. A Pub is available opposite the car park.
Follow the circular walk past the National Trust shop, along one of Wales best beaches taking in the beautiful views as you go. This walk is classified as Easy. It is dog friendly, takes about 30 minutes and is one mile long
Once more the walk begins at Rhossili. With your back to the bus stop, turn right and walk along the road, continuing between the car park and the Worms Head Hotel. The National Trust shop is a little further on your left. The National Trust shop is in one of the former coastguard cottages. The powerful tides and shifting sands caused many ship wrecks. The remains of the Helvetia can still be seen on Rhossili beach at low tide.
One of the best beaches in Wales, Rhossili is a haven for people who want to enjoy the coast - walking, surfing or just building sandcastles. Continue to follow the path through the gateway on the surfaced path. To the right of the path there are a series of mounds. These are the remains of an Iron Age fort. The magnificent views from here meant the inhabitants of the fort could see their enemies for miles around. As you continue along the surfaced track you will see fields and hedge banks which are part of a medieval open field strip system. The Normans introduced this system of farming in the 12th century.
Where the surfaced track bears sharp left, walk straight on following a wide grass path towards the coastguard lookout where you will have spectacular view of the Worms Head. The name 'Worms Head' comes from the Nordic word 'Wurm' which means serpent or dragon. The coastguard lookout was built in Victorian times and is now manned by volunteers. Once you have reached the Coastguard lookout, you can make the choice to cross onto the island or return to the start by the route you've travelled. The Worms Head is a tidal island with access possible for approximately two half hours either side of low tide. The coastguard lookout has tide tables available and will offer advice as to the best time to cross.
The walk is on a gentle gradient sloping downhill from the start and uphill on the return leg. The coast path here is a disabled access track and therefore level and even. The final 110yards (100m) or so to the coastguard lookout is on very short/flat grass and uphill. Accessible to all. No stiles to cross, one gate at the start. Dogs are allowed as long as they are under control as livestock (usually sheep) graze here most of the year round. There are toilets between the car park and the National Trust shop and visitor centre.
Location : Rhossili, Swansea, SA3
Transport : Swansea (National Rail) then bus (19 miles). Bus Routes : Gower Explorer 118 and 119 stop 2 minutes.
Opening Times : Dawn to Dusk
Tickets : Free.
Tel. : 01792 390707