Ian Hislop was born there, Catherine Zeta-Jones was brought up there, Dylan Thomas drank there and Bonnie Tyler lives there. It has been compared to the Bay of Naples (it is better, apparently) and can boast of having the world’s first passenger railway. Also home to one of the most famous drinking challenges in Britain – Mumbles may only be a small seaside village but it has lots to boast about.
Mumbles is attached to South Wales’ second city of Swansea. Swap the mountains for the seashore simply by driving twenty minutes from your self catering holiday cottage. The Mumble Mile pub crawl starts from the famous White Rose, where Dylan Thomas was often seen drinking. From there progress towards the famous Mumbles Pier, stopping at any of the ten or so drinking establishments that take your fancy en route.
Why the strange name? It is nothing to do with muttering or stuttering, but instead is probably derived from the French word mamelles, or “breasts”. Look over to the two islets at the end of the headland to see why. On the furthest of the two is Mumbles Lighthouse, and in the village are the ruins of Oystermouth Castle.
Oystermouth is Oystermouth because the sands around the bay fed millions of oysters to many mouths. The creatures were farmed in Swansea Bay until they were no more – in the 1920s. In 1871 alone, a staggering ten million of the shelled aphrodisiacs were harvested from the sea beds of Swansea Bay and Gower. They are beginning to be farmed again, and are back on the menu of some Mumbles restaurants.
In 1806, the Oystermouth Railway was built between Oystermouth and Swansea to carry coal to Swansea. A horse-drawn passenger service started in March, 1807 – the first passenger railway service in the world, called the Mumbles train. Mumbles became a popular tourist destination and the train line was extended, and a pier opened in 1898 as the new terminus.
A RNLI lifeboat slipway was added to the pier in 1916 and a boathouse in 1922; then in 1966 an amusement complex.
As for the view over Swansea Bay from Mumbles – it is often compared to the bay of Naples in Southern Italy. 19th Century poet Walter Savage Landore said, on returning to Wales from his travels: “The bay of Naples is very fine but give me Mumbles for scenery every time.”
The difference between high and low tide levels across the Bay is huge, with the second-highest ‘tidal reach’ (the difference between high and low tide) in the world, beaten only by Canada’s Bay of Fundy.
Directions to Mumbles from our Holiday Cottages
To reach Mumbles from your holiday cottage, drive down the Swansea Valley to the city of Swansea, then follow the beachside road until you pick up signs for the Mumbles.