Porthcawl Accommodation and Holiday Guide
Porthcawl is a lively tourist town that attracts lots of holidaymakers each summer. Porthcawl has a mix of sandy beaches and wild rocky coastline, such that it is a fascinating place to visit all year round, particularly if you are not afraid to have a bracing walk in the Winter, when you can feel the fine spray from waves crashing against the Promenade. Porthcawl is also includes the quaint villages of Nottage and Newton and the surfing mecca of Rest Bay.
Ambitious plans have been drawn up to downsize the Coney Beach Fun Fair and to redevelop it and the surrounding area into premium waterside living and additional café bar and retailing facilities. Therefore, from 2010, Porthcawl should be an even more attractive place to visit (and in the meantime, the redevelopment shouldn’t impact on the existing main tourist area.)
Porthcawl has a wide range of accommodation, ranging from hotels overlooking the promenade to small B&B’s, also on the promenade or inland, to character cottages.
Geography of Porthcawl
Porthcawl is a tourist town and therefore, the focal point is the main promenade. Apart from the fantastic views of the sea (which looks beautiful in the sun and is compellingly wild and powerful in poor weather), the promenade has a number of cafes and kiosks overlooking the sea. There is a wide range of bars, pubs and restaurants situated on the promenade (see Wining and Dining below).
Porthcawl has a number of beaches, from Newton towards the east end of town, to Sandy Bay, and Coney Beach which leads to the Promenade. There is a beach at the Promenade, although this is a small one. From here it is a short walk oover Locks Common to Rest Bay, which can get quite crowded in the summer. For a quieter day head to Golf Bay (nr to the Royal Porthcawl Golf Club), Pink Bay or even over to Sker beach. The beaches are long sandy stretches with enough room to accommodate plenty of people.
Porthcawl is also residential town, so it has a main high street called John Street, a largely pedestrianised area of shops and a supermarket, which takes you in from the main promenade. John Street also has a tourist office (tel: 01656 786639) which is open Monday to Saturday between April and September and on Tuesdays and Fridays in the winter months. The tourist office is situated in the Old Police Station and also has a small local history museum.
Wells Street is a short street that runs parallel to the promenade, off the high street and has a few boutique shops, a couple of cafes (including the famous Sidoli ice cream parlour and café – the Sidoli family have established their ice cream as a famous brand in South Wales and they have a number of cafes and chip shops in Porthcawl.
A mile to the West of Porthcawl is the residential area of Rest Bay, which has an uncommercialised beach that surfers and kite flyers flock to. Rest Bay is linked to Porthcawl by a Cliffside common and in the opposite direction you can walk alongside the beach and the Royal Porthcawl Golf Course – as such this area is very popular for walking and dog walking (see below for more details on Rest Bay and the Royal Porthcawl).
Porthcawl is situated about 5 miles from the M4, coming off at junction 37. The nearest train station for Porthcawl is at Bridgend, which is 5 miles to the East. Bridgend is on the main London Paddington – Swansea train line and is 2.5 hours from London Paddington.
Events in Porthcawl
In recent years Porthcawl has become famous for its Elvis weekend Http://www.elvies.co.uk that is held every August / September and is now the largest Elvis event in Europe! During the weekend, there are Elvis impersonators at most pubs and bars in Porthcawl, and hundreds of Elvis fans, most dressed up in jumpsuits, and brylcreemed quiffs can be seen wandering around the town!
Every Christmas, Porthcawl really develops a community feel. On Christmas day there is the traditional Christmas morning swim Http://www.christmasswim.co.uk at 11.45am at Coney Beach, 0.5 miles to the East of the main promenade. The swim, which is done for charity, was run for the 43rd time this year and is one of the largest such events in Britain. This year there were 700 swimmers (including lots in fancy dress- if you haven’t seen a pantomime reindeer diving into the surf on Christmas Day, you haven’t lived!) and thousands of spectators. For those who are brave or stupid enough to go in the water (including my husband this year) you are rewarded with a nip of whisky afterwards, plus a warm response from the crowd. In addition to the swim there are Christmas Carols and the bar is open to encourage people to brave the refreshing conditions!
Then on Boxing Day, the Boxing Day 5km run hosted by The Porthcawl Lions Club is held, again for Charity. The run can be as fast or as slow as you like – participation is more important than recording a personal best time. Again, this starts from Coney Beach, with runners performing a loop that takes in the promenade. http://www.porthcawllions.org.uk/funrun.htm
Aside from all these Christmas exertions, Porthcawl’s pubs and bars are usually pretty lively all year round (including on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day). And a refreshing walk on the promenade before and after your 5th turkey meal and 20th mince pie can’t be beaten.
Periodically, surfing competitions are held here. However, the local surfers (and those who travel to Porthcawl) can be seen bobbing in the water all year round if the surf is good.
Every May Day, there is a May Day Family Fair. This used to be held on the Green at Nottage, but has recently been transferred to Rest Bay near the Royal Porthcawl Golf Club.
Activities in Porthcawl
Porthcawl is above all a tourist town and a surfing Mecca. Therefore, there are numerous bars and pubs along the main promenade (see Wining and Dining below).
Porthcawl has a small beach in front of the promenade, and there is also a small harbour and a lifeboat station at one end. Therefore, most tourists flock to Coney Beach, which is 0.5 miles to the East of the main promenade. Also at Coney Beach there is a large permanent Coney Beach Fun Fair. The fun fair has a rollercoaster, a ferris wheel, waltzers, a rifle range and all the other rides you would expect to find. There are also pubs, cafes and fast food eateries (including a Burger King) in the area. There are currently plans to downsize the fun fair, as part of the sea front redevelopment plans – however, at the moment there is no definitive decision.
Also situated on the main promenade is the Pavilion (tel: 01656 786996) which has pantomimes, wrestling bouts and other entertainments. It also has a promenade café.
For those that love the beach and beachside walks, but are less keen on the commercial side, then the surfing Mecca of Rest Bay will be more appealing (see below for more about Rest Bay).
Porthcawl or more specifically Rest Bay is famous for the Royal Porthcawl Golf Club, Http://www.royalporthcawl.com probably the only golf course in Britain where you can see the sea from every hole. The Royal Porthcawl is situated on Rest Bay and is a tough, rugged course that is exposed to the weather. A few years back, the course was host to the Curtis Cup (the Amateur equivalent to the Ryder Cup between Europe and the US). Tiger Woods also played there when he was a teenager. The Royal status was bestowed on the club by King Edward VII, who played there in 1909 and 1932.
While the Royal Porthcawl Golf Club is steeped in history and tradition, there are a number of other golf courses in the area that are just as picturesque and will give a warm welcome to non members. There is the beautifully manicured Pyle and Kenfig Golf Club, Http://www.pandkgolfclub.co.uk which is set either side of the main road out of Porthcawl to Kenfig, about 3 miles to the West of Porthcawl. There is also the Grove Golf Club, Http://www.grovegolf.com which is set further inland, just off the main Pyle to Porthcawl road. Both these clubs serve food, and the club house at the Grove in particular is well known for providing good quality meals.
Near to the Pyle and Kenfig Golf Club is the Adventures Outdoor Activity Centre offering such thrills as quad biking, high ropes, paintballing and coasteering. The centre is ideal for corporate days out as well as stag and hen parties. Http://www.adventureswales.co.uk
For those of you keen to learn to surf, there is the Simon Tucker Surf Academy Http://www.surfingexperience.com based at Rest Bay, a mile to the West of the main promenade of Porthcawl. There are also some excellent surf shops on Station Hill in Porthcawl. For surf reports check out Magic Seaweed.com’s surf report or for Tide Tables Check out: BBC.co.uk’s Tide Tables for Porthcawl. If you fancy treating yourself to the luxury of a custom made wetsuit contact Greg Owen at No Limit Wetsuits Http://www.nolimitwetsuits.co.uk
In the summer you can get day trips out into the Bristol Channel and over to Devon on passenger cruisers (cost approximately £15). Http://www.waverleyexcursions.co.uk
Wining and Dining in Porthcawl
Porthcawl is developing a wider range of restaurants, bars and cafés to cater for a wider profile of locals and visitors. For special, or romantic occasions you should go to Coast, which is situated on Dock Street, close to the High Street and the main promenade. Coast serves a high quality menu in well designed surroundings and the young owners give you an enthusiastic welcome. Http://www.coastrestaurants.co.uk
The recently opened Salthouse comprises a bar and restaurant. By day the Salthouse serves casual bar meals in the restaurant, such as nachos to share, and roast dinners on a Sunday. In the evening, the restaurant becomes known as ‘Sodium’ and offers a more adventurous menu, such as Sea Bass and Confit of Duck. Sodium provides an excellent dining experience which was much needed in Porthcawl. The views over Coney Beach and the harbour add to the breezy feel of the bar.
The Waterfront bar is situated on the main promenade. The Waterfront opened a few years ago and provides regular bar food and a range of coffees, in addition to the regular alcoholic drink offerings. In the evenings, it gets packed with locals and tourists alike.
For Indian food, the recently refurbished Jaipur is situated on the promenade and provides traditional Indian fare in modern surroundings. Further inland, Le Raj is situated on the outskirts of Porthcawl and nearby Cornelly and also provides good quality Indian food.
La Rochelle on Wells Street offers good quality French cuisine, in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
As you would expect for a seaside tourist town, there is a wide range of fast food outlets. Finnegans fish and chip shop on Station Hill has a reputation as being one of the best chippies in South Wales, while Beales at Griffin Park also offers takeaway fish and chips or the opportunity to sit in.
There is also a Chinese takeaway on Station Hill, and Caspian’s Kebab house on the Promenade.
Porthcawl is not short on drinking establishments, as demanded by its thriving tourist community and the local surfers. There are numerous pubs on the promenade, such as the Waterfront, the Green Man (formerly the Pier), the Marine/ the Anchor. Many of the larger hotels, such as The Fairways, The Seabank and The Atlantic have bars, including extensive outdoor patios, which get packed with holidaymakers when the weather allows. For a different experience, try Bar 19 on Mary Street (again just off the promenade), which was formerly the living room and dining room of a Guest house. It has a wide range of sporting memorabilia, particularly from boxing champions, including Muhammed Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard. There is also a warm welcome and periodic late night discos, attended by locals of all ages and tourists alike. An experienced not to be missed, I’m sure you will agree!
There are also a couple of nightclubs. There is the Apollo on the promenade (which is well served by Caspian’s kebab house afterwards!) and on John Street is Streets nightclub at The Porthcawl Hotel in John Street.
There are also more quaint country pub establishments set further inland, particularly in Nottage, which has a green surrounded by a number of pubs, including the Rose and Crown which has recently come under new management, and does good pub food, including a very popular Sunday carvery and also the Farmers Arms and The Swan.
Nearby Attractions and Towns
Rest Bay is a sub-district of Porthcawl, situated on the coast to the West of Porthcawl’s main promenade. Rest Bay is an uncommercialised area (it has only one café, Malcs, which is open only in the Spring/ Summer period and which overlooks the bay and serves breakfasts and coffees, snacks and ice creams) and in the Winter months is mainly populated by the locals and the burgeoning surfing community (Rest Bay is one of the best surfing areas in Wales). In the summer, Rest Bay becomes more crowded with picnicking tourists keen to get away from the more commercialised main promenade of Porthcawl. During the holiday season, the lifeguard station is manned.
The Rest Bay beach allows dogs between 1 October and 31 March, but they are prohibited during the holiday season. A short walk to the west brings you to Golf Bay and Pink Bay where dogs are allowed on the beach all year around.
Rest Bay is linked to the promenade by a lovely wild common to the East, which is edged by cliffs overlooking the sea and the rocks below. To the West you can walk along the shingle during high tide and on the sand during low tide. The walk takes you alongside the first few holes at the Royal Porthcawl Golf Club (see below) Golf Bayand then Pink Bay and on to coastal farmland (friendly pedigree Welsh Black cows periodically roam along the grassland next to the beach) and past Sker House, a well known yellow Mansion House which was until recently owned by the National Trust, but which is now owned by the historian Niall Ferguson, author of War of the World, who recently presented the series Empire on Channel 4.
There are a number of quaint villages close to Porthcawl. Newton is also on the coast 1 mile to the East of Porthcawl. Newton has a number of small pubs to while away the hours and also has its own small pocket of shops for tourists lining the beach area. Newton’s beach is lined with dunes, such that you cannot see the sea until you clamber over them. Newton has the Trecco holiday homes and caravan and campsite alongside it, Trecco being the largest caravan park in Europe.
As noted above, Nottage is a village enclave situated just inland, which has a number of village pubs and a convenience store.
Local Golf Courses
Royal Porthcawl Golf Club
Host to the Amateur Championship (six times), the Walker Cup, the Curtis Cup, the European Team Championship, the Home Internationals (eight times) & more.
Pyle & Kenfig Golf Club
Known by the locals as 'P&K', this course features towering sand dunes and deep bunkers and is one of the most highly respected courses in the area.
The Grove Golf Club
Like most new clubs, it boasts a splendid clubhouse, the facilities including an excellent restaurant/bar, function and conference rooms and a lovely terrace area where you can relax before and after your round.
Southerndown Golf Club
Undulating fairways and tight lies give the course a downland/links character. Bracken and gorse punish wayward shots and on windy days golfers need to negotiate the hazards with care.
Celtic Manor Golf Club
1400 acres of parkland offering novice or scratch players alike an opportunity to enjoy the very finest courses and experience the ultimate in facilities.
St Mary's Golf Club
St Mary's Hotel Golf and Country Club has two courses, a championship standard 18-hole offering and a smaller nine-hole test.
Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015