Allimages: (copyright) Visit Swansea Bay/Swansea Council.

James Hendicott gets hold of the original Volkswagen hippie-mobile, and heads for the Welsh coast to sample the simple pleasures of an outdoor family holiday of old.

Being a sun lover, Wales has never been on my list of preferred travel destinations, and yet here I am, and it works.

Our newly acquired campervan’s parked on a hilltop, a great expanse of sand stretching out to three Hobbit-like peaks beneath me.

The Gower is a rugged peninsula south west of Swansea; a largely unheralded corner of south Wales with a distinctly rural complexion, known for its beaches, walks and pub dinners.
There’s a Famous Five-like innocence to the place, the kind of happy middle-class escapism that pushed Enid Blyton’s characters into adventurous antics on rowing boats of dubious stability.

My wife, five-year-old son and I have decided to explore the area in an old VW, which we check in to the civilised but minimalist peaks of the Three Cliffs Bay campsite.
It’s a spot that’s home to a mid-sized camp shop, lots of alluring footpaths, a view of the waves and the heady waft of burning campfires every evening.

The beach is a short stroll down a hill, past timber-framed houses and onto an expanse of sand that varies between a small ledge and 500 metres of smooth, water-dappled space, depending on the state of the tide.

There are the ruins of a castle, views out over the Atlantic, and a long walk round the headland at low tide takes you to sea-view restaurants and more hilltop visages.
Life drifts. Days involve lying in rock pools, trying to surf the gentle ripples that lap against the shoreline, or ad hoc games of football between two corners of the campsite, obstructed by dogs and ended with marshmallows melted vigorously over a fire.

Within a swift half hour stroll of Three Cliffs if the Gower Heritage Centre, where chickens roam about, Ariel the mermaid provides lively entertainment for the children, and plastic ducks race down a tiny stream to a still-functioning mill.
It’s fronted by a cinema no bigger than a living room and a yoga venue, with cider served up in the courtyard to hardy folks in designer hiking gear.

Further along the road – but better accessed by a winding trail that takes you into a cliffhanger of a footpath through the trees – the Gower Inn is all meat and two veg and local beer, a gigantic rural pub that’s taken on a culinary bent, and draws the crowds for miles around.

Not everything has to be on foot, of course, though in a place like this, it can be.
The half hour drive to the less rustic seafront of The Mumbles is worth the effort.
There are countless outdoor stores just in from the faded seaside glamour of the picturesque, throwback walkway.

They take in crazy golf and watersports, a rugged old pier complete with penny slots and Sega-era arcade games, and the unmissable fish and chip shop.
Back at the campsite the wine and books come out around the fire, the hilltop breeze nullified by the knowledge that a heater, duvet and shower wash away the day’s activities.
There’s still not much luxury to be had in campsites, but there is comfort in the hippie-chic, and a real sense of re-engagement with the world outside our windows.

 

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