The Gower has less obvious headlands than nearby Pembrokeshire and this makes it much more difficult to fashion short but interesting circular walks. This one stands out for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it can be combined with a visit to Oxwich National Nature Reserve, a treasure trove of marshland and sand dunes in a wonderful beachside location. Secondly, the wonderful coastal scenery includes the beautiful and usually deserted beach known as The Sands. And finally, being short, it allows plenty of time for exploring both the atmospheric St Illtud's Church and the majestic ruins of Oxwich Castle.
Once a busy port that paid its way by shipping limestone from quarries onthe rugged headland, Oxwich is now one of the prettiest and most unspoilt Gower villages, due in no small part to its distance from the main roads. The name is derived from Axwick, Norse for Water Creek. For maximum enjoyment, it's best visited away from the main holiday seasons.
Founded in the 6th century AD and tucked away in a leafy clearing above the beach, St Illtud's Church is particularly significant for its stone font, which is said to have been donated by St Illtud himself. The grounds are tranquil with an atmosphere that comes in stark contrast to the summertime chaos of the beach below. Behind the building is the grave of an unknown soldier who was washed up on the beach during World War Two. It's certainly a spooky spot and the graveyard is purported to be haunted by a strange half-man-half-horse creature. St Illtud (or St Illtyd) was a Welsh-born monk who founded the nearby abbey of Llanilltud Fawr (Llantwit Major). He is perhaps most famous for his fights against famine which included sailing grain ships to Brittany. He died in Brittany in AD 505.
Really a 16th-century mansion house built by Sir Rhys Mansel on the site of the 14th-century castle, Oxwich Castle occupies an airy setting above the bay. Sir Rhys, in common with many Gower locals, wasn't above plundering the cargo of ships that came to grief in the bay and was quick to take advantage of a French wreck in late December 1557. The salvage rights, however, belonged to a Sir George Herbert of Swansea, who quickly paid Mansel a visit to reclaim his goods. A fight broke out and Sir Rhys's daughter Anne was injured by a stone thrown by Herbert's servant. She later died from her injuries. Court action against Herbert proved ineffective and there followed a feud which continued for many years until eventually the Mansel family moved to Margam, east of Swansea. Part of the mansion was leased to local farmers, but most of the fine building fell into disrepair.
Walk back out of the car park and turn left to a crossroads. Turn left here (waymarked 'Eglwys') and pass the Woodside Guesthouse and the Oxwich Bay Hotel, on your right. This lane leads into the woods and up to 6th-century St Illtud's Church, where a gate marks the end of the road and the start of a path leading out on to Oxwich Point.
Join the path that runs beneath the church, and follow it for a few paces before going up wooden steps that climb steeply into the wood. Just before the top of the steps turn left to go through the wood, dropping back down a veritable glut of steps and around the headland until it comes out into the open above Oxwich Point.
The path drops through gorse and bracken to become a grassy coast path that runs easily above a rocky beach. Keep the sea on your left and ignore any tracks that run off to the right. After approximately 1 mile (1.6km) you'll pass a distinct valley that drops in from your right. Continue past this and you'll be funelled into a narrow, fenced section with a field to your right. Go through a couple of gates, and you'll eventually reach a path diversion that points you right, away from the beach.
Follow this to a kissing gate and a broad farm track, where you turn left. Continue up and around to the right until you come to a galvanised kissing gate. Go through this and keep right to head up a lane past some houses to a crossroads with a lane on your left marked Western Slade Farm.
Turn right here and follow the road along to a fork where you keep right. Pass through the hamlets of Oxwich Green and Ganderstreet. Drop down to the entrance of Oxwich Castle on the right. After looking at or exploring the castle, turn right, back on to the lane, and head down into Oxwich village. Keep straight ahead to the car park.
Clear paths through woodland, along coast and across farmland, quiet lane
Mixed woodland and rugged coastline
Can mostly run free but watch steep cliffs and livestock
OS Explorer 164 Gower
Opposite Oxwich Bay Hotel near start
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
Also in the area
About the area
There’s no getting away from it – when it comes to image, Swansea is a bit of a mixed bag. During its heyday in the 19th century, as king of the copper industry, it was known as ‘Copperopolis’. Dylan Thomas then called it an ‘ugly, lovely town’, but home-grown megastar Catherine Zeta-Jones raves about it and surveys have concluded it’s the best place to live in Britain. The good news is that regeneration is afoot. The dock area has been redeveloped into an opulent Maritime Quarter, where refurbished old buildings mingle with modern architecture, and the city is home to some appealing attractions.
When you tire of the city, head west along the Gower Peninsula, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The perfect holiday destination, it is the ideal place to surf, kite surf or boogie board, with stunning beaches and pretty inland areas. There are four National Nature Reserves and ample gardens, parks, cycle-paths and bridleways. Inland Gower is mostly heath and grazing farmland broken up into tiny parcels of fields, but it has its fair share of attractions, with a smattering of little villages, such as Reynoldston, situated on the Cefn Bryn ridge from where there are far-reaching views of the peninsula.