No grumbles in Mumbles

Between Swansea and the Gower peninsula lies a modest town with stout chapels and a mile of pubs. Claire Jones drinks in the atmosphere

Talkin' (Cumbria), Chatterton (Lancs) and Laughton (Lincs) are all places with connotations of conviviality that somehow elude Mumbles (West Glamorgan). Or, as the gazetteer has it, The Mumbles - which sounds like a minor complaint affecting an organ located somewhere between mouth and stomach. In fact Mumbles (the locals deny it the definite article) is located between the architectural nightmare that is Swansea and the area of outstanding natural beauty that is the Gower peninsula.

Yet the meandering roads, the modest shops, the stout chapels -and Oystermouth Castle, which sits on a hill overlooking the village - have sweet memories of sunny summers for me. I have been spending holidays there since I was born (my family is from Mumbles), so I see the place through rose- tinted glasses. But how do others find the place? The way to assess a town whose name tumbles rather than trips from the tongue was to take a cynical London friend there for a cheap week's holiday.

An unscientific survey of random Londoners reveals that none of them knows exactly where Mumbles is, but they've all heard of "the Mumbles Mile" - a series of pubs stretching along the front that overlooks Swansea Bay. A seaside pub crawl was mandatory. But being women of a certain age, with the Protestant work ethic thrown in for good measure, we felt we had to do some culture and exercise first.

We started with a stroll around the grounds of Oystermouth Castle, a beautiful Norman building with twiddly bits added by a Victorian philanthropist who didn't think it looked quite interesting enough. And then we diligently set ourselves walks of increasing length and adventure each day.

We started with the coastal path from nearby surfers' heaven Langland Bay, and made our way right round to Caswell Bay, admiring the waves crashing on the rocks below and looking out (vainly) for seals. The next day we drove to a windswept and out-of-the-way beach called Slade, where the low tide provided a chance to commune with a splurge of seaweed by the water's edge, and also a chance for my metropolitan friend to fall into some rockpools.

Finally, spurred on by one of my less distant aunts, we drove into "deep Gower", the Welsh equivalent of darkest Peru: to Rhossili, a magnificent and huge bay, renowned for spectacular views, strong winds and the odd wayward hang-glider. From Rhossili village, high above the beach, we walked to the coastguard's cottage, then picked our way over mussel-covered rocks to Worm's Head, two blobs of land which dare you to visit them before the tide cuts you off. After that we felt ready for the obligatory pub crawl. Indeed, the young lad serving in the Co-op had mumbled to us on our arrival three days before: "If you haven't done the Mumbles Mile, you haven't lived."

With eight pubs to be tackled in one evening, we started early. Number one, The White Rose, was obviously gearing up for the holiday season proper and was closed for refurbishment, so we made our way all of 10 yards to pub number two.

The Nag's Head used to be called The Oyster Catcher, since the bay was once a fertile shell-fishing area - that was before the Surfers Against Sewage had anything to campaign about. Being sensitive thirtysomethings, it pained us to see that we were older than practically all the Nag's customers by five - tell a lie, 10 - years. They turned out to be students from nearby Swansea University - who else would be out drinking to excess on a Thursday night?

I quickly put paid to my companion's suggestion of "starting with a soft drink". I knew that boy in the Co-op wouldn't have approved. Before we finished our lager, the students had downed theirs and left. The bar staff and a handful of older regulars heaved a collective sign of relief. "Feels like the end of the night," said one. "Might as well go home."

Not so for us. Out into the misty evening rain and into pub number three. Vincents used to be an oldies' singalong pub. At some point it metamorphosed into a themed tapas bar complete with singalong Gypsy kings, Spanish maps on the wall, pleasingly mismatched wooden tables and mock beams. Rebecca asked for a Diet Coke and went to the loo. I got us a couple of lagers, sat on a hessian-covered bench and surveyed our fellow customers.

Pub number four, The William Hancock, was a mere dozen paces from Vincents. But as it was already filled to bursting with those students, we leapfrogged to one of my favourite pubs, The Antelope - a handsomely proportioned building on two floors, whose other attribute is that the student clientele heads for the upstairs bar where the pool table is. Downstairs we wallowed in the presence of a few grey and receding types and relaxed over another half-pint. We should then have gone to The Mermaid, famously frequented by Dylan Thomas. But it burnt down a couple of years ago, and its remains have just been demolished. The Mumbles Mile is not what it was.

Next stop: The George, a roomy pub with a pleasing view of the arc of orange lights stretching round the edge of Swansea Bay. Some delightful sepia photos of turn-of-the-century Mumbles on the wall made us muse on the schizophrenic personality of my beloved Mumbles: full of families on holiday by day, and loutish drinking by night.

It's a cliche, I know, but the best was saved till last. The Pilot is the final pub on the Mumbles Mile and its name celebrates those heroic little boats that guide big ships through the sandbanks of Swansea Bay to the docks. I complimented the barman on the fresh flowers he had put on each table. "I'll have to put them away tomorrow night," he said. "The students will be pulling all the heads off them."

Clearly can't hold their drink, I mumbled, contentedly.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Sport
footballLIVE City face Stoke, while Warnock returns to Palace dugout
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
books
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Graduate Sales Executive / Junior Sales Exec

    £18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Sales Exe...

    Web Developer / Software Developer

    £25 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Web Developer / Software Developer is needed ...

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Day In a Page

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference