On holiday, does splintering rain and howling wind have a transcendent effect on the mind and body? It was certainly a question we considered over the course of our wet weekend in south Wales, cheeks raw, bodies soaked, temples throbbing from wind.
And extreme weather was, of course, very much a theme the whole 48 hours we spent in Gower. Driving past Bristol, warnings on the radio advised against non-essential travel to the west country and Wales, amid further fears of flooding to match any that had already happened during a record-breaking January. But the hotel had been long booked, and, perhaps foolishly, we decided to press on.
Just beyond Swansea is Mumbles, a picturesque resort named after French sailors dubbed its twin islets mamelles (breasts). Climbing out of the car, the bay was shrouded in mist, and rain fell steadily as a handful of brave visitors flapped about in waterproofs. Meanwhile from the seafront cafe, pensioners, mugs of tea in hand, gazed silently out into the grey.
We scurried along trying to find somewhere to eat, past rattling masts on the promenade, and discovered upmarket brasserie Patrick’s – which proudly boasts of “20 years history” – nestled in an attractive parade (see review below) of restaurants. On a summer weekend, we concluded with a sigh, this strip must be jumping.
Mumbles is on the cusp of Gower, and the rain continued as we navigated the snaking lanes deeper into the peninsula, checking into our simple lodgings in the village of Llangennith (left), near the tip.
And then, around 430pm, stepping out onto the famous four-mile Rhossili Bay, something happened. The downpour stopped, light started to seep through the duvet of cloud, and a weak sun began to warm the sand. Light and movement was everywhere, a Lost World awoken; quite miraculously, a sunset burst its yolk into the sky, drenching the coastline in amber and burnt orange.
It was a rare moment of calm. For the remainder of the weekend, we witnessed every season rolled into one. Saturday morning saw the light go black before one torrential downpour after another, and the vast moors were bleak as we drove past skeletal trees towards famous beauty spot the Worm’s Head.
So named because this hump-backed series of rocks was first discovered by old Norsemen who named it ‘Wurm’ (the Dragon), it’s accessible for only two and a half hours either side of low tide. There are all sorts of myths about people getting stranded, including poet Dylan Thomas who, like everyone else, simply had to wait on the promontory for the water to go down.
We battled to the clifftop edge (not too near, mind), the sky bright, the wind so eye-wateringly strong that it almost lifted us – and our Jack Russell – along, spray crashing against the Head, sheep oblivious as they grazed vertically on the steep cliff. And then swiftly the sun slid away into sleet, and back again. Reaching what is normally the descent to the promontory, we realised it was submerged, due to the high water. It was back to the car.
And so we drove. To the inland village of Reynoldston, with its village green and Arthur’s Stone; to Oxwich Bay, with its castle (only open April-Oct); and finally to Port Eynon, where we experienced biting, slicing rain as we crossed the end-of-the-world beach, empty other than a lone windsurfer.