Rhosili Down, Hillend and beach walk
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 Rhosili Down in early September.
National Trust Shop, Rhosili, 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.
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.
Rhosili, grid ref: SS414881
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