I tried the wood-fired sauna sat on one of Wales’ most beautiful beaches and it was like a mini spa day

I’ve always thought that Oxwich Bay is underrated. It’s rarely overcrowded despite being in a stunning location on the Gower, with two and a half miles of white sand, nearby car parking, toilets, a snack bar, and no ban on dogs - even in the summer months. If those perks haven’t been enough to lure you in previously, it’s now got two wood-fired saunas for hire that will make your trip to the beach feel more like a spa day than an afternoon spent looking after the kids.

On the last bank holiday in May, I booked in for a one-hour communal session - meaning each of the eight seats were available to book individually. At 4pm, the sun-seeking crowds were heading back to their cars to call it a day, while I wandered down the sand to the Ty Sawna flag waving in the distance.

Though I imagined it to be on a secluded area of the beach, far from the hustle and bustle, it was a mere three minute walk from the car park and about one minute from the public loos. Despite that, the set up still had allure: two wooden barrels with chimneys poking out the top, perched high on the beach looking out toward the sea. Simple, in a good way. For more ideas on things to do in Wales, subscribe to our What's On newsletter.

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I wasn’t sure what to expect from this super-heated sitting session, but a little research suggested saunas must have longevity for a reason. They are thought to have been in existence since 2000 B.C., and were eventually popularised all over the world for their alleged health benefits, including weight loss, detoxification, improved circulation, and more. If that’s not convinced you, well, the Finns love a sauna and they’re some of the healthiest people on earth.

After ditching my bag and shoes in the small guest changing room, I washed the sand from my feet in the communal water bucket (definitely not my favourite part) and climbed up into the wooden barrel for an hour of sweating with strangers. Instantly, I was hit by a wall of heat, almost intensely enough to make me gasp. I took a seat by the door and sat back for an hour of cooking myself in the name of self-care.

The small corner of the beach where Ty Sawna lives -Credit:Jillian MacMath
The small corner of the beach where Ty Sawna lives -Credit:Jillian MacMath
I'm not sure it's meant to be a photo opp -Credit:Jillian MacMath
I'm not sure it's meant to be a photo opp -Credit:Jillian MacMath

A man sat beside the fire poured a spoonful of water on the hot stones and we all watched it sizzle. Someone broke the ice, asking: "What's the temperature in here?" The thermometer on the wall read 90C. After debating whether that could possibly be right, and whether it was enough to kill us all, we sat back and looked out the large half-moon window. Pointed directly out to sea, it was an incredible view - the kind that makes you pause. It was a beautiful day, with a bright blue sky and sunshine reflecting off the wet sand. Small waves were rolling up on to the beach and inviting you in. I thought what an incredible sunset we might have been treated to if we had just booked this about four hours later…

We chatted some more, fanned ourselves to no avail in the dry heat, and after a dizzying fifteen minutes, took turns stepping outside to pour bowls of cold water over our heads - something I said ‘yeah, right’ to before entering, but now welcomed like an icy drink on a summer's day.

You can't help but sit and stare out the half moon window -Credit:Jillian MacMath
You can't help but sit and stare out the half moon window -Credit:Jillian MacMath
Ty Sawna on Oxwich Bay -Credit:Jillian MacMath
Ty Sawna on Oxwich Bay -Credit:Jillian MacMath

About 30 minutes in, a man and a woman who had come together made a break for the sea to cool off properly. Two girls followed, before I caved and decided a Wim Hof-esque moment might do me some good. I’m not a cold water dipper, but the chilly sea felt fantastic after 30 minutes in the stifling heat. I wandered in up to my waist before heading back for the final 10 minutes.

Once you’re in a rhythm of hot, cold, hot, cold, the extreme temperatures get easier to bear and by the end of the session, you’re wondering where the time has gone. I didn't leave feeling thinner, younger, or detoxified, but I did have an odd sense of satisfaction, sort of like what you get after seeing through a hard workout. And even better, I left feeling supremely relaxed, like I'd just been given a long massage. And for £15, that was good enough for me.