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rhossili-beach-and-down

Rhossili Beach and Down

The wide sandy beach at Rhossili, with its dramatic moorland backdrop of Rhossili Down, is one of the most well-known scenes on the Gower.  However, there is much more to see in this area.  At the southern end of the beach, near Rhossili village and visitors centre, are the earthworks of the ‘Old Castle Fort’, thought to be an Iron-Age Promontory Fort (a defensive structure located on a headland, where the sea provides defence on three sides, and earthworks defend the landward side).  Continuing westwards you will see magnificent views of worm’s head- named after its striking resemblance to a dragon or sea monster surfacing from the waves.  At the northern end of the beach is the tidal island of Burry Holms, which contains archaeology spanning several centuries, including another prehistoric Promontory Fort, and a medieval hermitage associated with St Kenyth.  According to legend, St Kenyth was a Welsh prince who as a baby was cast out to sea in a coracle made of willows.  Sea birds brought the baby to the shore on the west coast of Gower, and protected him as he grew up with the birds on the cliffs.  As an adult, he built a shelter on the island of Burry Holms, where he gained a reputation for kindness to everyone, including robbers.

There is more archaeology on Rhossili Down, including many prehistoric cairns, a hut circle, and the group of prehistoric structures including a burial chamber at Sweynes Howes.  From Rhossili Down there are superb views across the Gower and beyond, as well as out to sea.

At the foot of Rhossili Down at its southern end is the site of the medieval village of Rhossili, which was buried by sand in the Fourteenth Century.  The church (and a medieval house nearby) were excavated in the 1980s.  The church was found to date from the early-medieval period, and contains surviving wallpaintings.  The house had stone walls, and material from the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries were found in its midden (rubbish heap).

Inland is the village of Llangennith, which has a magnificent church dedicated to St Kenyth, and in medieval times was a very important settlement, as it contained a priory and college.  Between Llangennith and the northern end of Rhossili Beach are Llangennith and Hillend Burrows, extensive areas of sand dunes which provide a home for a number of unusual plants and insects, including the native cockroach.