SUE SMITH discovers you can have your cake and eat it in

idyllic Wales

“PLANNING anything nice for your week away from the office,” said my colleagues as I was heading out the door.

“London for a few days,” I said to replies of “how lovely, have fun.”

“And then Swansea,” I added as the room fell into stunned silence.

“Ah well, you can’t win them all,” was the general consensus.

Well titter ye not because my two nights and three days in Wales turned out to be a stonking success to the extent I would go back in a heartbeat.

We were based in Mumbles, a ten to 15 minute drive from the centre of Swansea and very well placed for forages into the city in one direction and stunning Rhissili at the opposite very tip of the coastline.

The area lies within the historic boundaries of Glamorgan and includes the Gower Peninsula.

Arriving at Langland Cove B&B we were greeted warmly by Sarah Elliot who scooped up our bags and took off with an Olympic style sprint up the stairs to our room.

She and partner Carwyn Thomas have lovingly transformed the chic B&B which sits in a quiet road with the sea running along the end.

With two small children, most of the day-to-day running falls to former British Army serviceman Carwyn with Sarah helping out in the background.

The light and airy room was a calming palate of muted greys with large lamps and mirrors and stylish furniture blended with traditional Welsh wood and tiles in the bathroom.

My first squeal of glee was after discovering real milk in the mini-fridge –I loathe those UHT little cartons that barely colour your morning coffee which in this case was the real stuff along with a cafetiere and a proper teapot.

Freshly baked brownies beckoned on the tray. The area is walkers’ paradise so there’s always a cake to come back to at Langland and the chocolate and Guinness offering on the second day was to die for.

We had stopped off for lunch earlier at Verdi’s, a family-run café and ice-cream parlour overlooking Swansea Bay and boyo was it bustling. They don’t take reservations so you have to take your chances.

Tagliatelle Pesto Genovese and Spaghetti Vongle whet the tastebuds before some sensational Italian ice-cream.

The fact that it came with a mountain of cream on the top and fresh kiwi meant there was nothing for it but a hearty hike up to Oystermouth Castle to try and walk it off in time for dinner.

Sitting majestically on the hill over Mumbles with stunning views across the bay, the castle boasts ancient graffiti art from the 14th Century and a Medieval maze of deep vaults and secret staircases.

A meander back along the high street allowed us to explore the numerous boutiques and art galleries and crafts shops. The Gower Gallery is a showcase for artists inspired by the local landscapes and the Lovespoon Gallery offers a collection of lovespoons all made by carvers in Wales.

An Indian meal wouldn’t have been my first choice for dinner, especially after the glut of the day but we arrived at the family-run Mumtaz, a ten-minute walk downhill into the town and were greeted warmly. The curries are what you would expect but there is also a Health Conscious Menu cooked with olive oil and featuring fresh vegetables and garlic.

Breakfast the next day at the B&B served at a very civilised 8am-10am left us thinking the full-tummy snatchers had been in during the night because we were ravenous on sight of the choice on offer.

Cereals, fruit, yoghurt, full-English, Eggs Benedict or Royal, scrambled with smoke salmon, poached on herby mushrooms or pancakes with bananas, maple syrup or blueberries would set any walker in good stead for the day.

We however, were car-bound setting off for the centre of Swansea to Cwmdonkin Drive, the birthplace of Dylan Thomas.

This house was bought in 1914 a few months before the famous poet and writer was born in the front bedroom. Now restored to its original condition by former structural engineer Geoff Haden it has seen many transformations which have included a sacrilegious period as student bedsits.

The house is now as it would have been as the young Dylan was growing up, even down to his untidy teen bedroom with drawings on the wall and unfinished drinks on the table. It has earned its place in The Times Top 25 Small Museums and attracts around 4,000 visitors a year. Former USA President Jimmy Carter is a big fan of Thomas and invited Geoff to the White House when he heard about the Swansea restoration.

On seeing a portrait of Thomas in Carter’s office, Geoff decided to return the favour and a picture of the former president now graces the study in the Thomas home.

A walk around the pretty Cwmdonkin Park where Dylan used to play as a child set us up for lunch at The Westbourne, the first self-serve pub in Wales. Put your debit/credit card on the table and key in your order into the iPad. It’s good old fashioned pub grub and the atmosphere is buzzing.

Soon it was glaringly obvious that there was something very wrong about this trip as we realised we hadn’t allowed anything like long enough to do justice to everything the area has to offer.

A tour of The National Waterfront Museum and Swansea Museum (the oldest museum in Wales) gave is a good insight into the history of Swansea before dinner at the stunning Grape and Olive, a restaurant at the top of the tallest building in Wales with a 360 degree view across a five mile sweep. A sublime Seafood Plate Selection was devoured as the sun dropped into the sea.

Water sports, horse-riding and cycling as well as numerous parks and gardens to visit and golf and heritage sites puts this Welsh city right up there in the ‘something for everyone’ category.

And we couldn’t leave without a taste of what Wales does best –singing. An evening at The Taliesin Arts Centre saw The Phoenix Male Choir belt out everything from classics to modern with a bit of help in between from the Ukoholix, Wales’ famous ukulele band.

Leaving with a heavy heart the next day we stopped by TwoCann, an award-winning café in one of the original Grade 2 dock buildings in SA1.

It started out as a coffee shop in 2007 and this year has made it into the Good Food Guide. With commanding views across the Sail Bridge, we enjoyed Moule Mariniere and a Hummus Mezze followed by mushroom omelette and Crayfish, prawn and smoked salmon salad and reflected on a truly fantastic few days in Wales’ second largest city.

Langland Cove is at 4 Rotherslade Road, Langland, Newton, Swansea SA3 4QN Tel 01792 366003

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