Beach lovers guide to the Vale (and beyond)

I've lived in the Vale of Glamorgan, South Wales, for 14 years and I still feel like a tourist. Living by the coast gives you that holiday feeling all year round and I spend as much time at the beach as I can. As a family and child photographer I tend to combine my love of the beach with my love of photography and do a lot of shoots at my local beaches. If you're like me and only truly happy with sandy feet and salty skin, then have a look at my beach lovers guide to the Vale and beyond!

This is a very personal list, based on the places that I regularly visit or shoot at. I know there's lots of other beautiful beaches in the area and still have plenty yet to visit.

I live in a small village just outside Cowbridge, a busy market town, nestled amongst the gentle rolling hills West of Cardiff. So, I'll start with my favourite local beaches and then head further afield to some of my favourites in the Gower and Pembrokeshire too.

girl on beach, rocks, water.

Southerndown Beach (Dunraven Bay)

At a glance: Car park, Shop, Toilets, Lifeguards, Disabled facilities, no dogs between May-Sept.

Although officially called Dunraven Bay, everyone locally calls it Southerndown, after the nearby village. This is my number one local beach. There's something magical about driving down the steep road from the cliffs at the top to the car park below. You catch glimpses of the water and we're always craning our necks on the way down the hill to see how much beach there is. It took a few years for us to understand the rhythm of the tides and to know what time to go to make sure there was sand to sit on (I'm originally a city dweller!). I've got the BBC Tide Tables as a favourite on my phone, so we never get caught out (anymore).

There's three car parks. One right by the beach and then an overflow car park on one of the fields above and a pay and display car park at the top of the hill. In recent years they have started charging for parking all year around (not just in the Summer months), so it can cost between £3.50-£5 to park for the day. There's also a toilet block (very handy indeed) and a little kiosk shop selling ice creams and beach paraphernalia as well as a nice cup of tea.

The beach itself is a lovely little bay, dwarfed by the Jurassic cliffs along the coast. Please be aware that there a regular rock falls from the cliffs, so you must not sit directly underneath them.

When the tide is low, there's a large crescent of sand to play on and some fabulous rock pools. When the tide is high, there's no sand at all but you can still sit on the rocks (away from the cliffs) and enjoy time at the beach.

If you walk through the car park and up the cliff, there's lots of different paths to take to explore the area and also there's the lovely Dunraven Gardens. Perched high on the cliff, they provide a great spot for a picnic and shelter from the wind as well. There's lots of paths to take through the gardens and beyond to some awesome cliff top walks.

I do a lot of family shoots at this beach all year round. If you'd like to see some, check out my blog and family portfolio. I've put a small handful in a little collage below.

I could talk all day about Southerndown. It has a piece of my heart but there's plenty more to see, so on we go.

Places to eat and drink nearby:

Frolics - An Italian restaurant right near the beach.

Three Golden Cups - The nearest pub to the beach.

southerndown beach

Ogmore

At a glance: Car Park, Mobile vendors, Toilets, Lifeguards, Disabled facilities, dogs allowed all year.

The Ogmore River meets the sea at Ogmore Beach. On one side there's a large sandy beach and on the other side of the river are the Merthyr Mawr sand dunes (some of the largest dunes in Europe!).

There's a large car park at the beach and sometimes mobile coffee and ice cream vendors in the car park as well.

Ogmore is a large beach and when the tide is out, you can walk quite far along beach towards Southerndown. If the tide is in, then there's plenty of rocks to climb and little coves to visit. There are great rock pools too and it's a fabulous place to hunt for fossils.

Places to eat and drink nearby:

Cobbles Kitchen - Winner of the Welsh Restaurant of the Year 2018. This place is highly recommended and our 'go to' place for a coffee (and cake) on the way home from the beach. Also great for meals too.

The Pelican in her Piety- A pub that also serves food.

The Watermill - A Brains pub. It has an outdoor play area, so it's great if you have little ones.

images of Ogmore beach

Rest Bay

At a glance: Car Park, Toilets, Lifeguards, Disabled facilities

Just down the road from the seaside town of Porthcawl you'll find Rest Bay. This is another one of my favourite places to hang out and where I go surfing with my daughter. It's a massive beach and when the tide is low, there is plenty of room to spread out and spend the day (enjoying the odd game of rounders or cricket). The beach is very popular with surfers, kite surfers and body boarders and each has their own separate area to play (when the lifeguards are there).

Most people tend to plonk their stuff down as soon as they hit the sand but if you walk a little way along the beach, it's much quieter.

There's also a lovely boardwalk/path that runs along the back of the beach and beyond in the westerly direction. You can walk all the way from Porthcawl, past Rest Bay and along the coast on the same path. When my kids were younger it was a regular day out for us, with scooters, bikes or roller skates. We always tempted them with a picnic at Rest Bay and then a promise of a cake when they got back to Porthcawl! It's also the route of the weekly 5k Parkrun on a Saturday morning.

There's a couple of surf schools and you can hire equipment from them as well as book lessons - so if you need a wetsuit or a surfboard in a hurry then they've got it covered. Visit Porthcawl Surf and Adventures Wales for more information.

Places to eat and drink nearby:

There are plans for a brand new sports centre and café to be built near the car park.

Porthcawl is only a minute down the road and there's plenty of cafes and shops there.

 

surfboards, flip flops, beach

The Gower

Rhossili

At a glance: Car Park, Shop, Toilets, Disabled facilities

Ah Rhossili. I first visited Rhossili on a camping trip with friends about 5 years ago. I'm ashamed to say, that even though I'm a massive beach lover, I was a little afraid of the water. Then one day in Rhossili, I threw caution to the wind and had my first experience of body boarding. The waves there can get pretty big but the bigger the better right? I've never looked back since that day. I went off and bought my own body board and then progressed to surfing a year or so later. Surfing is now my favourite thing to do. Ever. I'm rubbish at it but learning all the time and determined to improve.

With a 3 mile stretch of sandy beach, ending with the iconic Worms Head and more beach awards than you can shake a stick at, Rhossili is one stunner of a beach.

When we visit, it's normally via the campsite Hillend, which is just behind the sand dunes in the centre of the beach. There's a car park and also a cafe on the campsite with toilets etc. You can also access the beach from the National Trust car park at the Rhossili end of the beach. It's a steep walk down from the car park but worth every step.

If you love body boarding or surfing get down there. If you look closely you can see me surfing on the smallest wave in the world below. You can hire and buy surf gear from PJ's Surf Shop in Llangennith.

Places to eat and drink nearby:

The Bay Bistro in Rhossili

The King's Head in Llangennith is great for a drink and dinner - a regular haunt of ours when we're camping.

Pembrokeshire

Barafundle Bay

At a glance: Car Park, Shop, Toilets

For years I wanted to visit Barafundle Bay but legend (Mum friends) had it that it was a massive walk from the car park to the beach and I was afraid of schlepping the kids on an epic walk so put off the visit until they were a bit older. We eventually made it there a few years ago and were pleasantly surprised (after packing supplies as if we were going to the North Pole), that it was in fact about a 10-15 minute walk from the National Trust car park. A pretty flat and easy walk too, apart from the stairs at the start and end. So, don't be afraid my friends! Set the sat nav and off you go.

There's a car park, run by the National Trust and of course the obligatory National Trust café and toilet facilities.

The last time we visited we went for a walk around the headland as well and could see over to the beautiful Broadhaven beach a bit further down the coast.

images of barafundle bay

I know there's a plethora of gorgeous beaches all the way along the Welsh coastline. It would be impossible to mention them all, so this is just a little taster of my favourites.

I can't leave without a little shout out to some of the other gorgeous beaches that we've visited since moving to Wales 14 years ago. There's many more that are on my 'to see' list. If you have any suggestions, let me know!

woman holding a scarf on a beach

Even more beaches

Three Cliffs Bay - an absolute stunner.

Bracelet Bay - a cute little bay with playground, car park and restaurant nearby.

Langland Bay - family friendly beach with car park and facilities.

Caswell Bay - popular with families and surfers. Car park and facilities nearby.

Tenby - gorgeous beaches in this beautiful Pembrokeshire town.

Saundersfoot - I can highly recommend the very decadent and perfectly placed St Brides Spa Hotel perched high on the hill overlooking the beach. Check out a fabulous headshot photo shoot in the hotel and a portrait shoot on the beach below.

children playing on a beach at sunset

I'm always on the look out for new locations for family photo shoots and love discovering new beaches. If you have any recommendations for the next beach lovers guide, please let me know!

If you'd like to book a family photo shoot in South Wales, get in touch!

Gem x


Winter beach family shoot

I love taking photos at the beach all year round. This winter beach family shoot, just after the snow fall in February, is gorgeous.

The shoot was booked as a surprise for Dad's birthday. The idea was to get some lovely pictures of the three children (plus puppy) together, to be printed on a canvas. I say 'children', even though the two eldest are officially adults because you're never too old to take part in a family shoot. Just because you're in your twenties, doesn't mean that your parents don't want to look at photos of you.

The shoot took place at my favourite local beach, Southerndown (Dunraven Bay). If you look closely in the background you can see a bit of snow left on the hillside. It was absolutely freezing but we managed a walk around the gardens and made it to the beach in time for the sunset.

It was super slippery and myself and youngest both fell over and had a nice coating of mud. I managed to hit both cameras on the floor as well as getting covered in mud in the car park before we'd even started! Not the first time I've fallen over on a shoot and I'm sure it won't be the last either!

But, it's all worth it to get a beautiful set of images.

Have a little nosey below to see what we got up to. At the end of the post, you'll see a 9 image collage - my most popular product. Putting 9 images together from a shoot is a great way to display your favourite images. Find out more about my products on my Products page.

Book your family shoot

If you'd like to book family photo shoot - have a look at my Family Portfolio and Pricing page for more information.

Get in touch if you have any questions.

Gem x

 

3 siblings watching a beach sunset in the wintergirl on the beach watching the sunsetboy on the beach watching the sunsetthree siblings and doglittle boy leaning on fenceboy and girl on the beach watching the sunsetsiblings, sea, beach, rocksportrait of girl leaning on fenceboy, leaning on wallblack and white portrait of girl3 siblings portraitcouple portraitteenage boy laughinggirl leaning on fence3 siblings portraitbrother and sister portraitgirl on the beach watching the sunsetsiblings on the beach watching the sunsetsiblings and puppyboy leaning on gateboy on the beach watching the sunsetgirl on the beach watching the sunsetbrother and sister on the beach girl on the beach watching the sunsetblack and white portrait of three people on beach

portrait of girl on beachportrait of boy on beachportrait of girl on beachteenage boy leaning on gate3 siblings on rock at the beachblack and white portrait of girl on beach3 siblings portraitgirl on the beach watching the sunsetbrother and sister


South Wales Photo Shoot

Happy New Year!! I hope you all had an amazing time over the festive period. This South Wales photo shoot had to be kept secret before Christmas but now it's all out in the open I can share it with you!

I met this lovely family last year on a sunny Autumnal day back in September.  The day was crisp and bright with plenty of blue skies. Their little one is super cute. We had a lovely walk around the coast, finishing with a trip to the beach. 

If you have a little one that isn't walking yet, don't worry, there's still plenty of opportunities for great photos on an outdoor photo shoot like this one. Make the most of being able to throw them in air and give them big squishy hugs!

If you want to see more of my family photography work - have a look at my family portfolio. There's lots of great locations all over Cardiff & South Wales for family photo shoots - find out more about great locations in my location photo shoot blog post!

See more of my latest work by following me on Facebook and Instagram!

Get a date booked for your 2019 shoot! Drop me a line for more info. Gem x

Baby photo shoot South Wales
Family photo shoot
Baby photo shoot South Wales
Baby photo shoot South Wales
Baby photo shoot South Wales
Baby photo shoot South Wales
Baby photo shoot South Wales
Baby photo shoot South Wales
Baby photo shoot South Wales
Baby photo shoot South Wales
Baby photo shoot South Wales
Baby photo shoot South Wales
Baby photo shoot South Wales
Baby beach photo shoot South Wales

South Wales Family Photo Shoot

My last blog post of 2018 and what a way to finish up a fantastic year! My aim at the start of the year was to do more beach shoots as I'm in love with the South Wales coast and I think it's safe to say I achieved my goal.

I absolutely love the images from this South Wales family photo shoot with the super talented lady behind Skratch Ceramics and her family. Check out her amazing work on Instagram! This shoot was wonderful - full of life and cheeky smiles, plus we had the most amazing pink sunset at the end of the session which lit up the beach in a peachy haze. We started off with a stroll around the gardens and then we headed down to the beach for a run around. 

If you have a family photo shoot on your list of new year's resolutions, then it's not too late to buy a gift voucher for a family photo session. Pop over to my gift voucher page to find out more or send me a message for more info.

There are lots of great locations for your South Wales family photo shoot - check out my blog post about location photo shoots and also find out the best time of year for your photo session.

If you have questions - maybe my FAQ's page can help! 

 

South Wales family beach photo shoot
South Wales family photo shoot
South Wales family photo shoot
South Wales family photo shoot
South Wales family photo shoot
South Wales family photo shoot
South Wales family photo shoot
Sibling photo shoot
Sibling photo shoot
Portrait of girl
South Wales family shoot.
Portrait of boy
South Wales family beach shoot.
South Wales family beach shoot.
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South Wales family shoot.
South Wales family beach shoot.
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South Wales family beach shoot.
South Wales family beach shoot.
South Wales family beach shoot.
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South Wales family beach shoot. Family on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Family on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Family on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Family on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Girl on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Family on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Family on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Family on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Family on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Siblings on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Girl on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Family on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Family on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Siblings on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Family on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Siblings on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Family on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Boy on the beach.
Girl on the beach.
South Wales family beach shoot. Siblings on the beach.
Siblings on the beach.
Portrait of a girl on the beach.
Portrait of a girl on the beach.
Portrait of a boy on the beach.

What's the best time of year for a Cardiff family photo shoot?

This happens a lot. I'll be walking around Tesco or dropping my son at school and I'll get stopped by someone - 'Ah Gemma! I've been meaning to get in touch to book a shoot with you! When is the best time for a Cardiff family photo shoot? How long does it take? Where are the best locations?' etc.

So, I thought I'd write a little blog post to answer all those questions - if you would like to know more, please drop me a line!

Let's talk about the best time of year for a Cardiff family photo shoot. Honestly, family shoots can take place all year round, but there are certain times when nature will provide some stunning backdrops. Spring is always a fantastic choice because you have so many different options - there's crops of wild bluebells, fluffy blossom trees, blooming rapeseed meadows and life bursting at the seams. I have a whole host of favourite locations for each season, so I can recommend plenty of places to choose from. Have a look at some gorgeous Spring images below and the scroll down to see how the other seasons look....

Girl standing with flowersGirl blowing dandelion seedschildren dancing in meadowgirls lying in blossom

Next up is Summer. Now I'm a real beach lover, so I opted for my own family shoot take place at the beach in the Summer. It's where I feel most at home and so couldn't imagine my family photos being taken anywhere else. Summer means beaches, sandy toes, playing in the surf, long grassy meadows, picnics, flip flops - you get the idea. Each family photo session is unique and there's plenty of time for a walk and even a snack break. All of my clients will tell you that I'm pretty chilled out during the shoot and I'm in no hurry to wrap things up - most of the time I have to be gently directed my back to my car or I'd keep on shooting! If Summer is your favourite season, then maybe that's the right time of year for you?

family walking on beach family beach shoot south waleschild on beachsunset on beach south walesfamily on beach south wales child in water on beachchildren on beach south walesfamily beach shoot south wales

And on to Autumn. The time of crisp mornings, log fires and chunky knits. The colours that nature provides in the Autumn are just incredible. A whole range of yellows, oranges, reds and greens can literally light up the backdrop of your family shoot. This year, I've had some of my favourite Autumn shoots ever. Check out this lot...

family photoshoot in the Autumnfamily photoshoot in the Autumnchild smiling through leaveschild smiling with leafpotrait of girlkids jumping in leavesbrother and sister piggy backportrait of a childchilds portraitautumn photo shoot

Finally we've reached the Winter. It is probably my quietest time as an outdoor photographer in Wales but that's not to say there aren't opportunities out there for the more hardy amongst you.  I wouldn't recommend taking VERY young children out for a photo shoot at this time of year, because they need to be bundled up in coats and hats etc and it makes it harder for them to move around and for me to see them properly. Older kids and adults though can still make the most of what Winter has to offer. I love a good snow shoot but the problem then is getting out of the village!

Here's some Winter fave's from me...

winter portraitwinter family shootsisters walking in the fog

boy snowboardingboy walking in the snowSo there you have it. We're really lucky in the UK to have such a variety of beautiful natural backdrops throughout the year. There isn't one particular time of year to choose or avoid (oh alright, maybe January!). It all comes down to how you feel. If you're a beach bum like me, then you're going to feel more at home in the warmer months. If Autumn makes you feel all warm and cosy, then start shopping for chunky knits and get booking for September/October. If you love the verve and joy of Spring, then it's time to drop me a line.

What are you waiting for?  See you soon! Gem x