Gower’s spectacular coastline, Michelin restaurants and pricey properties all explain why it’s the ‘Monaco of Wales’, says FRED REDWOOD
Which Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty comes top when judged by house price premiums?
It could be a question set for an estate agents’ quiz night — and you might imagine the answer to be the Cotswolds perhaps, where the likes of the Beckhams and Jeremy Clarkson have homes.
Or South Devon, where wealthy weekend sailors drop anchor. But you’d be wrong on both counts. Top of the list is a 70 square mile peninsula near Swansea — Gower.
Pristine: Gower begins in Mumbles, a former fishing village, with Port Eynon beach pictured
According to the Land Registry, the price of a detached house in the Gower is 78 per cent higher than just three miles outside the boundary.
‘The Gower property market has changed dramatically in recent years,’ says Daniel Rees of Savills in Cardiff. ‘It has traditionally been popular with retirees but now ex-pat parents with young children are moving back here.’
They have fond memories of the beaches from their own childhood and want the same for their kids.’
Gower begins in Mumbles, a former fishing village now nicknamed The Monaco of Wales thanks to a collection of high-end restaurants, bistros and fashion shops.
Famous faces are often seen here — Bonnie Tyler has a house behind high hedges on the front; Joanna Page of Gavin & Stacey fame makes regular visits home, while Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas have a home overlooking the Lighthouse. And if you drop into the yacht club, you may see Robert Pugh, who played Craster in Game Of Thrones. The little fishermen’s cottages lining the hill make ideal second homes or investment properties and many have been given facelifts.
The average price of a terraced cottage is £250,000 according to Rightmove — and it’s more if you want somewhere to park your car.
Gower is a patchwork of different social landscapes. The Mediterranean vibe of Mumbles is soon replaced by the well-heeled suburbia of Caswell and Langland.
Daniel Rees describes Langland as the ‘jewel in Gower’s crown’ — with some justification.
Pretty beach huts stand next to the car parks; you can either walk the coastal path or watch the surfers from its brasserie above the beach. Prices are high, for Wales. An apartment overlooking the bay will set you back £500,000.
Variety is the essence of Gower’s charm. ‘North Gower with its salt marshes and wild ponies feels a lot wilder than the tourist beaches,’ says retired chartered accountant Jeannette McLellan, 64, who moved to the village of Llanmadoc four years ago having lived in Swansea and before that, London.
‘Then you have downlands in the centre of the Gower and the rocky coves and the beaches of the south where it’s not unusual to see seals, dolphins and porpoises.’
Famous faces: Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas have a home overlooking the Lighthouse
Rees has also noticed many more people moving to Gower to work from home, perhaps reporting to the office a few times a week.
Being within range of the M4 (London is under four hours away) is important for these buyers and this is more accessible from villages closer to Swansea such as Southgate, Penmaen and Bishopston, which has a comprehensive school judged ‘excellent’ by Estyn, the Welsh Ofsted.
The restaurants are another attraction. The Beach House at Oxwich has a Michelin star, while The Welcome to Town at Llanrhidian and the King Arthur at Reynoldston have glowing reputations. It’s worth noting broadband can be a bit patchy the further west you go.
It’s easy to see what makes the Gower beaches so popular. Port Eynon, with its whitewashed cottages has a Devonian feel. Three Cliffs is pretty while Rhossili has a three-mile sandy beach.
Investing in a cottage as a holiday let can pay dividends. The tourist board has done much to publicise Gower and according to Zoopla house prices have risen 10.58 per cent in the past year.
The Old Rectory, standing above Rhossili beach, is often booked two years in advance. It would set you back £1,884.
Move to Gower and you will find a few beaches still relatively secluded. Park near Southgate Social Club (with its picture of Michael Douglas pulling a pint) head down a little lane and you will find the delightful Pobbles.
Tor Bay is another gem.
What is it like to live in Gower? ‘The traffic can be a pain in summer,’ says Jeannette. ‘But we have the place to ourselves again in winter. That’s my favourite time to live here. I’d never leave.’