Cefn Bryn translates from the Welsh as ‘back hill’, and the description fits this long ridge of high land which forms a spine running east-west along Gower. It forms the horizon in views from many parts of Gower, and to be up here can feel like being on top of the world. From the ridge there are views in all directions, and you can savour views across fields, cliffs, beaches and the Loughor estuary. In the distance you can see Pembrokeshire, the hills of Mid-Wales, and the Brecon Beacons. Looking south on a clear day you can see the coast of Devon and the island of Lundy.
This landscape has a strong sense of history. The rock which forms the ridge is Old Red Sandstone (the oldest and hardest rock visible on Gower). It is also one of the richest archaeological areas in South Wales. There are many prehistoric monuments up here, including the possible burial chamber at Arthur’s Stone (from where there are spectacular views across the Loughor Estuary). Clusters of cairns (piles of stones) are likely to have been created when the land was cleared for farming in the Bronze Age. Other evidence for early occupation includes funerary sites (including the chambered long cairn near Nicholston), possible hut circles and burnt mounds (thought to be associated with using hot stones to heat water). Later on, the land was ‘waste’ within the medieval lordship of the Welshry. Commoners were allowed rights on the land, including grazing animals, gathering bracken (for animal bedding) and collecting wood (for fuel).
The area is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its important grass and heathland habitats, including marshy grassland and standing water which support dragonflies and damselflies. The area is also home to many bird species, including linnet and rare breeding curlews. Listen carefully for the skylarks overhead.
The Gower Way follows the ridge along Cefn Bryn, and is an excellent walk. There are other areas of high moorland on Gower, where you can enjoy the views and spot archaeological features and wildlife. If you like Cefn Bryn, then you may also like to visit Rhossili Down, Hardings Down, Llanmadoc Hill and Ryers Down. All contain a network of public footpaths and bridleways to explore.