Porthcawl (English: /pɔːrθˈkɔːl/, Welsh: [pɔrθˈkaul]) is a town and community on the south coast of Wales in the county borough of Bridgend, 25 miles (40 km) west of the capital city, Cardiff and 19 miles (31 km) southeast of Swansea. Historically part of Glamorgan and situated on a low limestone headland on the South Wales coast, overlooking the Bristol Channel, Porthcawl developed as a coal port during the 19th century, but its trade was soon taken over by more rapidly developing ports such as Barry. Northwest of the town, in the dunes known as Kenfig Burrows, are hidden the last remnants of the town and Kenfig Castle, which were overwhelmed by sand about 1400.
Porth is a common Welsh element, here it means harbour, but the second element is disputed. Local tradition states that cawl is a corruption of Gaul, and that the area was an ancient landing point for Gaulish and Breton, or later Frankish and Norman knights. A modern, if unlikely, interpretation is Cawl harbour.
Porthcawl is a holiday resort in South Wales and is home to a large static caravan park known as Trecco Bay, which is owned and operated by Parkdean Resorts. It has an extensive promenade and several beaches, two of which[which?] are Blue Flag beaches: a tourist-oriented beach at Trecco Bay, at the east end of the town; a sandy beach at Rest Bay, which lies to the northwest of the town; and the quiet and sandy Pink Bay leading out towards Sker Point where a tarmac-covered car park serves a sandy beach.
There are many hotels (including the prominent Seabank Hotel) and guest houses as well as a funfair called Coney Beach. Four rocky points line the shore: Hutchwns Point, Porthcawl Point (on which a lighthouse stands), Rhych Point and Newton Point.
Porthcawl, like many British resorts, has suffered a decline in its holiday trade over recent years, especially since most of the South Wales Valleys coal pits closed. A major feature of the summer was the miners' fortnight, when large numbers of miners took their annual break.
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Tourist attractions in the area include sandy beaches, a grand pavilion, a funfair named Coney Beach (modelled on Coney Island in New York), a museum and three golf courses.
Built in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee, Porthcawl's promenade runs along the seafront from Lock's Common in the west to the harbour, before joining the Eastern Promenade and leading to Coney Beach and Griffin Park. The promenade was restored in 1996. There are many cafes, bars, restaurants and hotels along the promenade, which offers views across the Bristol Channel.
The Grand Pavilion, built at a cost of £25,000 in 1932, is the venue for popular shows, including the annual pantomime. The singer, actor and civil rights activist Paul Robeson once performed 'live' at the Pavilion via a transatlantic telephone link.
Controversial luxury flats now dominate the seafront on the site previously occupied by the Esplanade Hotel, which dated back to the late 1880s. The Royal Society of Architects in Wales awarded 'Esplanade House' a Welsh Housing Design Award in 2006, but the architecture has proved unpopular with many local residents who have nicknamed it "the bottle bank".
Porthcawl Lifeboat Station, purpose-built in 1995, is situated near the harbour. The station operates an inshore B class Atlantic 85 lifeboat and a D class IB1. 'Cosy Corner' is a park area, which over the years has housed a theatre, cinema, roller skating rink and ballroom. The Jennings Building, built in 1832, is a grade II listed building and Wales' oldest maritime warehouse, and is currently vacant. The building has been identified as a potentially important facility as part of the Porthcawl Regeneration Strategy.
At the end of Porthcawl Pier stands a white lighthouse built in 1860. The lighthouse is currently in use as a navigational aid. Porthcawl Lighthouse was the last coal and gas-powered lighthouse in the UK. It switched to being powered by North Sea gas in 1974, before becoming powered by electricity in 1997. The pier and surrounding area are popular spots for sea fishing.
The historic ships the PS Waverley, the last seagoing paddle steamer in the world, and the MV Balmoral sail from this area during the summer months.
The Porthcawl Male Voice Choir, or Côr Meibion Porthcawl, is a male voice choir formed in 1980 with 17 members. The choir currently has 45 members. Each year the choir performs with a celebrity guest, the latest of whom was Leslie Garrett.
Porthcawl has seven beaches.
Newton Beach on the eastern edge of Porthcawl is a long sandy and rocky beach, backed by the Newton Burrows and Merthyr Mawr sand dunes, a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest, and ending at the mouth of the River Ogmore at Ogmore-by-Sea.
Trecco Bay is a large, sandy and rocky Blue Flag beach. Trecco Bay holiday park is situated alongside the beach.
Sandy Bay, with the area in front of the fairground known as Coney Beach, is a large sheltered and sandy beach.
Seafront Beach, also known as Town Beach, is a rocky beach in the centre of Porthcawl which was partly tarmaced over in the 1980s to repair sea defences.
Rest Bay is a sandy Blue Flag beach situated in the west of Porthcawl.
Pink Bay has a steep pebble bank down onto a flat beach edged by a rocky shoreline. These rocks have a unique pink marbling effect – hence the name Pink Bay.
Sker Beach is the most westerly beach in Porthcawl and is accessible only by walking from Rest Bay or Kenfig National Nature Reserve. A plaque, in memory of the 47 lives lost on the S.S. Santampa, capsized and wrecked in heavy seas, and the Mumbles RNLI life boat which attempted rescue on 23 April 1947, is visible at low tide.
Five rocky points line the Porthcawl shore: From east to west these are Newton Point, Rhych Point, Porthcawl Point, Hutchwns Point and Sker Point.
There are three scheduled monuments in Porthcawl Community area. including a prehistoric site and a Roman villa.
Hutchwns round barrow (51.4849°N 3.7098°W, SS813776) Only partly surviving mound of a Bronze Age round barrow, It is near a public par and a modern standing stone has been placed alongside it.
Dan-y-Graig Roman villa (51.4893°N 3.6717°W, SS840780) This Roman villa, a rare feature in Wales, dates mainly to 3rd-4th centuries and is in Newton. The site includes agricultural buildings. It was partly excavated in 1985-86.
Nottage Court inscribed stone (51.49°N 3.7005°W, SS820781) A Roman milestone with 3 Latin inscriptions plus possible Ogham Its current location is in a garden at Nottage Court, moved there in the 19th century, from SS763890, now Port Talbot Docks.
Newton village dates from the 12th century. St. John's Church, founded by the Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem 800 years ago, and originally built as a fortress, overlooks the village green.
The Jolly Sailor pub, the oldest in Porthcawl and the Ancient Briton pub also overlooks the green.
To the south of the church lies St John's Well, the water from which is reputed to have healing properties.
Newton village homed St John's School, an independent day school established in 1921 and which closed in c2016. Newton is also home to St Clare's School which is also an independent day school which was established in 1938 by the Poor Clares order of nuns.
Porthcawl Town Carnival takes place annually in July. A procession of themed floats and acts make their way around the town, collecting money for charity, and competing for the prize of the best float. The procession makes its way to the carnival field where there are stalls, a fun fair, and live acts to be enjoyed.
The Porthcawl Jazz & Blues Festival is held annually in April hosting a variety of musical performances, workshops and family events over a weekend.
Surf Cult runs for a week in September. Events include surf contests, music, art, fashion and film plus an outdoor market. The festival ends with the legendary Surfers' Ball.
The Elvis Festival runs every September, attracts Elvis tribute artists and devotees from across the world. It is recognized as the biggest gathering of Elvis fans in Europe and maybe in the world. The Elvis Festival was selected as one of the UK's top twenty summer festivals by The Times in 2008.
Porthcawl is one of the top locations in Wales for surfing with both national and regional competitions held at Rest Bay.
Other alternative sports like skateboarding and rollerblading are also popular with the former PADS skate park by the Harbour and the new bowl park off Heol Y Goedwig. There are three golf courses to the north of the town including Royal Porthcawl Golf Club, which attracts players from around the world.
Porthcawl is home also home to football side Porthcawl Town Athletic F.C. which boasts a 1st, Reserve and 3rd team as well as numerous junior teams. Rugby also has a rich heritage with Rugby Union team Porthcawl RFC
Porthcawl is also home to lifeguard clubs that train the lifeguards that guard Coney Beach and Trecco Bay as well as Rest Bay and Sker beaches.
Porthcawl hosts a free weekly Parkrun at 9am each Saturday. It starts on the Lower Promenade in front of the Grand Pavilion, heads out to Rest Bay and finishes near the Pier.
Porthcawl waterfront is proposed for substantial regeneration as part of the 7 Bays Project. The Planning Guidance outlines proposals that will result in the comprehensive regeneration of Porthcawl's waterfront, stretching from Cosy Corner and the harbour in the south, to Trecco Bay in the east. The plan includes the construction of new sea defences, enabling regeneration of the area to take place and also protecting more than 440 existing properties from flood risk.
The first phase of Porthcawl's regeneration, Porthcawl Harbourside, was launched on 28 March 2008. A 17-acre (69,000 m2) site has been marketed to developers for a substantial mixed use scheme. The scheme is envisaged to include a new foodstore, extra retail space, leisure and community facilities, up to 450 houses/flats, a new promenade, town square and car parking.
The scheme forms part of the 7 Bays Project for Porthcawl and the first phase in the regeneration of the whole waterfront. The regeneration project is one of the largest of its kind in the country.