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Grand Pavilion, Porthcawl
Grid reference: SS825775
Location: 51°28’48"N, 3°41’24"W
Population: 19,238
Post town: Porthcawl
Postcode: CF36
Dialling code: 01656
Local Government
Council: Bridgend

Porthcawl is a seaside resort town on the south coast of Glamorgan, 25 miles west of the county town, Cardiff, and 19 miles southeast of Swansea. Porthcawl stands on a low limestone headland overlooking the Bristol Channel.

The town 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.

Holiday resort

Seabank Hotel

Porthcawl is a holiday resort. It has an extensive promenade and several beaches, two of 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. It also has a large static caravan park known as Trecco Bay.

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 coal maines of the valleys closed. A major feature of the summer used to be the miners' fortnight when the miners would take their annual break in large numbers.

Local attractions

Tourist attractions in the area include sandy beaches, a grand pavilion, a fun fair named Coney Beach (modeled after Coney Island in New York) a museum and three golf courses.

Porthcawl promenade

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. Many cafes, bars, restaurants and hotels are located along the promenade which offers spectacular views across the Bristol Channel.

The Promenade Princess Road Train runs along the promenade from Rest Bay to Coney Beach throughout the summer.

The Grand Pavilion, built at a cost of £25,000 in 1932, is the venue for popular shows, including the annual pantomime. The singer and actor 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".[1]

Harbour Quarter

Porthcawl Lifeboat Station, purpose built in 1995, is situated near the harbour.[2] The station operates an inshore B class Atlantic 85 lifeboat and a D class IB1.[3] '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 is the county’s oldest standing maritime warehouse. It is currently vacant. The building has been identified as a potentially important facility as part of the Porthcawl Regeneration Strategy.[4]

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 United Kingdom. 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 seafront

Porthcawl has seven beaches:

  • Newton Beach, to the east 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. Newton Beach and the sand dunes are popular with walkers and horse riders. The beach is popular with windsurfers, jet skiers and power boat users.
  • Trecco Bay is a large, sandy and rocky Blue Flag beach. Trecco Bay holiday park is beside this beach.
  • Sandy Bay, in front of the Coney Beach fairground, is a large sheltered and sandy beach. Sandy Bay is popular with families who can enjoy donkey and pony rides on the beach, alongside other facilities such as trampolines and bouncy castles and the adjacent Coney Beach Fun Fair. Sandy Bay is also popular with surfers. Sandy Bay hosts the ever popular Christmas morning swim where hundreds of swimmers, many in fancy dress, have braved the waters on Christmas Day since 1965, drawing in thousands of spectators and raising thousands of pounds for local charities.
  • 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. Swimming is prohibited at the beach and conditions are only suitable for experienced surfers due to the tides and sharp rocks.
  • Rest Bay is a sandy Blue Flag beach situated in the west of Porthcawl popular for water sports.
  • Pink Bay is a quiet beach, 15 minutes’ walk from Rest Bay that 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. Its remote location makes it one of the quieter beaches in Porthcawl. At low tide a plaque emerges in memory of the 47 lives lost on the SS ‘’Santampa’’ on 23 April 1947 in heavy seas, and on the ‘‘Mumbles’’ life boat which attempted rescue.

Five rocky points line the Porthcawl shore: From east to west these are Newton Point, Rhych Point, Porthcawl Point, Hutchwns Point and Sker Point.

Scheduled Monuments

There are three Scheduled Monuments in Porthcawl, including a prehistric site and a Roman Villa.

  • Hutchwns round barrow (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.[5]
  • Dan-y-Graig Roman villa (SS840780) This Roman villa, a rare feature in Glamorgan, dates mainly to 3rd-4th centuries and is in Newton. The site includes agricultural buildings. It was partly excavated in 1985-86.[6]
  • Nottage Court Inscribed Stone (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.[7]

Newton village

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.

Newton village is home to St John's School, an independent day school that has been in the village since 1921. Newton is also home to St Clare's School]] which is also an independent day school.


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 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 Festival is held annually in April hosting a variety of musical performances, workshops and family events over a weekend.[8]

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 Presley tribute artists and devotees from across the world, and is the biggest gathering of Elvis fans in Europe. The Elvis Festival was selected as one of the UK's top twenty summer festivals by The Times in 2008.

Other festivals include the Nottage Beer Festival and the Porthcawl Sea Festival.


Porthcawl is one of the top locations in Britain for surfing; both national and regional competitions are held at Rest Bay.

  • Football: Porthcawl Town Athletic FC
  • Golf: three courses to the north of the town including Royal Porthcawl Golf Club, which attracts players from around the world.
  • Rugby Union: Porthcawl RFC
  • Rugby League: Bridgend Blue Bulls

Air crash

On 11 February 2009 two RAF Grob Tutor training aircraft collided over the area, one landing in Kenfig and the other landing in Margam. Two instructors and two teenage air cadets died in the incident.[9]


  1. Rose, Steve (2007-01-31). "It's just so tacky". The Guardian (London). http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2007/jan/31/communities.architecture. Retrieved 2010-05-22. 
  2. Porthcawl Lifeboat Station
  3. RNLI newsletter
  4. public/documents/report/011452.doc Porthcawl Regeneration Strategy
  5. coflein NPRN: 307249. GGAT PRN: 00194m . Cadw SAM: GM103: Hutchwns round barrow
  6. coflein NPRN: 403307. GGAT PRN: 00218m. Cadw SAM: GM587: Dan-y-Graig Roman villa
  7. coflein NPRN: 307251. GGAT PRN: 00038m. Cadw SAM: GM040: Nottage Court Inscribed Stone
  8. rcl. "Welcome". Porthcawl Jazz Festival. http://www.porthcawl-jazz-festival.com. Retrieved 2013-04-23. 
  9. "Four die in mid-air collision in Britain". iol. 2009-02-11. http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=24&art_id=nw20090211210614500C706829. Retrieved 2009-02-13. 

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Porthcawl)