August 27th, 2018
Aberystwyth is a bustling market town occupying a prime spot right in the middle of Wales’ beautiful western coastline. Join us as we discover the gorgeous promenade, rich history and lovely beaches.
Aberystwyth, or Aber, as it’s locally known, is one of the largest towns along the craggy coastline of West Wales. This lovely seaside resort is one of a rare kind of town these days; a perfect mix of the modern, the ancient, the quirky and the vintage.
Approaching from the North, the road into Aberystwyth (which gets its name from the River Ystwyth that flows through the town and spills into Cardigan Bay. Aber is the Welsh word for estuary) winds through the spectacularly desolate scenery of the South Snowdonia Mountains and Dyfi Valley. And Aberystwyth’s position right on the centre of the Cardigan Bay coastline means that looking north towards Snowdonia or south towards Pembrokeshire, you’re greeted with more gorgeous vistas.
As with all great seaside resorts it’s best to start along the prom. Aberystwyth’s Victorian promenade sweeps out in a perfect arc, it has the dominating peak of Constitution Hill at one end, the medieval castle at the other and about a mile of perfect Edwardian seaside charm in between! The pier looks to have seen better days, although it was the first to be built in Wales. It was designed by the famous architect of Brighton and Margate piers, Eugenius Birch and was built in 1865 as the very essence of seaside grandeur and luxury. Today, the beaches here are bustling and busy but well worth a visit to enjoy an ice-cream and to watch the world go by.
At the southern end of the promenade lies the oldest history of Aberystwyth at the medieval castle. When Edward I took over the English throne in the late 13th century, he decided there was only one way to curb the noisy rebelliousness of the Welsh army, and that was to build huge dominating castles along the coast and English border, to remind them of the power and force of English rule. Edward I began building his castle here in 1277 after he defeated Welsh ruler Llywelyn ap Gruffydd.
It took Edward and his builders over ten years to finish the castle and it survived two fiery Welsh attacks during that time. It remained under English rule for more than 100 years until it was captured in 1404 by famous Welsh rebel Owain Glyndŵr, who made it an important seat of Welsh government until the English king overturned the Welsh army and peace returned to Wales in the 16th century.
Nothing much remains of the castle today, but it’s still possible to appreciate it’s once mighty fortresses and impressive power; not least that the ruins have withstood over 700 years of harsh Welsh weather and fierce coastal storms!
At the other end of the promenade, heading northwards is the curiously named Constitution Hill. This steeply rising hill overlooking the town is something of an institution. It is home to the country’s longest electric funicular railway, which will take you to the top of the hill if your legs aren’t up to it. And when you reach the top, be prepared not only for the town’s finest viewpoints but also some quirky vintage attractions that date back to the Victorian era.
When the railways arrived at Aberystwyth in the mid 1800s, the town was an instant hit with city dwellers from the midlands and the north of England who flooded to Aberystwyth to enjoy the fresh sea breezes and restorative Welsh air. Constitution Hill is thought to be so named because the brisk walk to the top was said to be very good for one’s constitution, but the clever Victorians soon changed that when they opened the railway to the top in 1896.
And not content with stunning views at the top of the hill, the Victorian equivalent to a theme park was opened and included an impressive camera obscura, dance hall and restaurant. Much of it remains today with modern additions such as games room, bouncy castle and mini golf.
Aside from the views, one of the best things about the top of Constitution Hill is the Wales Coast Path – it’s easy to pick it up here and head north, following the winding and craggy coastline through the pretty bays of Clarach and Wallog for the five mile hike to the village of Borth, calling in along the way at the Animalarium, one of the area’s best small zoos.
Aside from the medieval castle, the Edwardian promenade, the Victorian fun fair and the gorgeous coast path, Aberystwyth is a thriving University town. Its population increases by a third during term times, making the centre of town lively, modern and upbeat, and packed with shops, delis, bars and good pubs. And if you’re in Aberystwyth for longer than a weekend there’s plenty more to discover, especially if you head further into the Cambrian countryside to explore the area’s remote, rural and windswept regions, including the intriguingly named Devil’s Bridge and the Red Kite region around Nant yr Arian.
Although Aberystwyth is beyond the southern edge of Snowdonia and will take about an hour to get there by car from the Oakeley Arms, it’s well worth a day trip if you’re staying with us. Ask our staff if you need any further directions.