It had been 28 years since I’d last visited the Gower and as I drove along the peninsular I wondered how much had changed. It was perhaps hard to think these thoughts as I dodged the surfers in their tiny, battered Peugeots hurtling down the country lanes… But when I got there it was like nothing had changed. Rhossili Bay was still at its magnificent best – amazing sand, great views, so big that you’d need a city worth of people to make it feel busy.
But why? Why was it still relatively undisturbed? It’s true that the road into Langennith was narrow and windy – it would deter some caravans I’m sure. But the natural holiday resources are all there for some big company to come along and commercialise it all. The beach is amazing. There are waves and mile after mile of sand. The dunes are pretty good too – probably enough for a golf course if you were that way inclined. There’s history too – hints of long-gone abbeys and iron-age hill forts around the place.
And then it hit me: the surfers. So near to Swansea, Rhossili Bay is a major surfing beach and I’m sure many hundreds career down the winding roads to catch a few waves whenever they can. I’m not a surfer, but I could see in the way they drive that waves are the only things that matter – they didn’t want to waste a single valuable second away from the sea. And good on them too – I’m sure they are the main reason why that part of the Gower is so undisturbed.
Meanwhile back at the Kings Head in Langennith I was amazed to see the whisky selection at the bar. Three rows deep and in alphabetic order it’s the best collection I’ve ever seen, and that includes the bars I visited earlier this year on Islay.
If you ask for it, they hand you a well-thumbed list, including tasting notes. I tried the Penderyn – a Welsh whisky that I hadn’t tried before. It was light and floral, with a honeyish feel to it – perfect for a Summer’s evening. Then I saw that the list had Port Ellen on it – a drink I learned about in Islay and still haven’t sampled. Unfortunately they had run out – so I’ll still have to wait a little longer. So I tried the peated Penderyn instead and I was a little disappointed. I guess firstly because I associated peated whisky more with winter months – so while it is my favourite kind, I had made a poor choice on this occasion. Secondly I thought it tried a little too hard – I felt the peatedness was a little forced and it detracted from the original Penderyn that I had so enjoyed initially.
Langennith for me has now transcended legend. It was a place that I looked back on with fond memories of idyllic beach holidays. It is still that idyllic place, but now it has whisky too.