We've been to Wales a few times but never been to Aberystwyth for some reason I just thought another Welsh seaside town.
Aberystwyth is kind of half way up the coast of Wales, a bit down from Barmouth and a lot up from Cardigan Bay!
We visited this October half term for the first time and what a pleasant surprise, we got there at lunch time and need a supermarket, we found a great big Morrisons which in that part of Wales is quite unusual!! We were staying an hour away in Twywn and from there there are no large supermarkets near by.
From Morrisons we followed signs to the seafront as we had a picnic and wanted to just stop for a couple of hours to look around. It was hard to find a space to park - yes even in Oct half term so I have no idea what it would be like in the summer. It's a minimum of 2hrs parking so I guess someone is bound to move on at some point but it's catching it. There are two beaches to Aberystwyth I guess if looking out to the sea a quieter one to the left and the more main one to the right. We parked near the right side and had our picnic in the car (a bit chilly outside!) and watched the people.
There was a lovely craft market in a building on the seafront which was nice and reasonably priced. Being as we were there with the children it wasn't a shopping trip so we didn't stop. Aberystwyth has some lovely old buildings along the front including one which is now part of the university I saw them doing art in the window - how lovely to do art along the seafront in a gorgeous old building! It also has the ruins to a castle and much to our surprise it's free to look round, the children had a great time on this because there were many bits to climb and look around they had great fun pretending which rooms were what! Other children I could see were enjoying it too. In the summer it would be a lovely place to have a picnic too.
from the vantage point of the Castle we noticed that near to where we had originaly parked there was a cliff railway and we reckoned we had time to walk along the front and get to it and back before the car ran out of time!
So off we went. The Cliff railway was built in the 1800's to go up to a camera obscura. The railway cost £11 for family ticket (2 adults and 2 children). It was great fun and the views were great, we didn't go in the camera obscura we were running out of time after having a coffee and ice cream in the little cafe at the top which incidentally can be hired out for parties and even weddings - wow imagine that!! The Camera obscura cost £1 for adults and children free with an adult which I have to say is great value for money. The cliff railway is struggling to survive so on the way up they ask if anyone is a tax payer and wouldn't mind filling in a form so that they get tax back on what you've paid to go up - it all helps so we had no problem with doing that. It looked as if in the summer there is also a bouncy castle at the top for children to go on and frizbee golf which I've never heard of!
This was basically our trip to Aberystwyth but we'll definitely go again and spend more time there, on the way out we noticed that there were park and ride places so you could go in for longer. The university is massive so there is a lot of students around which means it's kept young and there are a lot of good shops through the shopping centre. It looked a good place to shop too.
One small thing if you like sandy beaches - it is not!! it's that gritty kind of fine sand! weird stuff but as a place of interest it is worth visiting.
Now Aberystwyth is one of those places that I have loved for a very long time because I have visited hundreds of times and each time I love the place more. It is in Wales and is one of those places you can visit for a couple of hours or for a whole day and it is up to you as there is plenty to do depending on what you fancy. I will let you know why I love Aberystwyth.
Ok how to find:
This address will take you right into the heart of Aberystwyth if you are driving and you will see signs for the numerous car parks and we have never had a problem parking here at any time of the year. Aberystwyth has a train station so you can get here quite easily from a lot of links, even one from Birmingham New street. Then they have great bus links with neighbouring places so you should get here by any means of travel.
Now we come to Aberystwyth a lot to do some shopping as it is a big place and has things like Woolworths, WHSmiths, New Look, Dorothy Perkins, Burtons and Monsoon. Now in Wales it is quite hard to find somewhere that has all of these shops in one place so we come to Aberystwyth quite a lot for them.
Then they have some shops like Clarks, All Sports and Ottakers. There are other specialist shops such as Albatross which does models and my Dad loves them and then lots of souvenir shops and little craft and jewellery shops which sell some unusual and interesting things. My favourite is one called Polly whish sells clothes and some really cute jewellery.
Aberystwyth has a beach which can get quite windy but it is really nice. It has a massive pier with an arcades room on one side and always sells ice-cream and food by it which is nice. You will always see quite a few people at the beach as it is just relaxing to watch the waves and seagulls.
The beach goes on for a while so there is a nice walking distance and although it is not necessarily the sandiest beach around, you will see people playing on it as if it is.
There are a few cafes dotted around which include a milk bar, fish and chip shops, the penguin café which is a personal favourite and fast food places such as KFC and burger king. There are also restaurants by the pier where you can get some nice food in a pub type environment but looking out to the sea is fantastic.
There are a few places you can go and explore in Aberystwyth. First there are walks up the hills by the beach which took us about an hour to do but you get some great views from the top. Then there are also walks by these castle ruins which are located at the top of the high street which are gorgeous and we didn't even realise they were there until a few years back.
Also just out of Aberystwyth are a lot of walks too so you should be able to find one that takes your fancy.
Aberystwyth is one of those places you can come and visit all of the time and still not be bored because it is such a sweet place. I should also mention that as well as all of the above the university is a gorgeous place as I nearly went and did my course there if they had let me. They do some great theatre productions there to so it might be worth checking what is on before you go. We once went and saw a great little shop of horrors.
It is a beautiful place which is easy to get to and well worth a visit if you are near the area and get the chance.
Thanks for reading.
After visiting Wales pretty much my whole life it can be expected that I have visited the town of Aberystwyth around a thousand times. Whenever we go to Wales, even for a weekend, it seems we have to visit the town. As one of the main towns in Wales it does have a reputation, but for those who are unknowing I will tell you some things about it and why I like the place.
Aberystwyth is located in the far west of Wales. It is on the coast and approximately sixty miles away from Welshpool. If you follow the signs from Welshpool to Machyllenth and then follow the signs to Aberystwyth it should take you about one hour from Welshpool to get there. Or if you want to travel by train there are trains running from Birmingham New Street to Aberystwyth that run every two hours. The location is brilliant, its right next to the sea so you can get some fresh air when your there, it is pretty much in the middle of everything so no matter where you want to go in Wales you can get there from Aberystwyth.
It's a great town, very much a student one as the University is just outside of the town, very vibrant and lively. Driving down the main road to get there you can see all the houses, buildings and the sea so it really does make a brilliant picturesque scene when you're first coming in. The town isn't the biggest in the world but it has many shops that would keep you entertained for the day. All the high street shops are there such as Woolworths, New Look, Dorothy Perkins, Argos and WH Smith. It is missing some of the main stream shops such as Debenhams and Next but it's a great place to go shopping anyway. All of the shops are located on the main high street so its quite easy to find everything and its nice to have all the shops close together for convenience.
Aberystwyth also has lots of independently owned shops which add to the character of the town. There are lots of craft and antique stores within and located around the town so its quite nice when you find one as there may be something quite individual located in them.
The sea front is lovely on a summer's day. Everyone is there walking on the promenade eating ice creams and setting up picnics on the beach. The beach isn't the nicest one I've come across in my life but it's still a nice place to sit down, especially if you have kids and they want to play. There's also a paddling pool for kids which I always find quite a nice touch to the sea front as there are always parents and their kids playing about. For families with young children it's a lovely place to spend an hour on the sea front, just relax and have some fun. They even have some entertainment going on sometimes. I have been there a couple of times when there has been some band or dance accruing, however I am boring and have never joined in!
For the older kids, or teenagers if you will, there is the arcade centre. This was a nice touch on the place years ago but now it does look a bit tacky and a tad chavvy. But for teens it is a fun place to spend some time. Filled with machines like the '10p' machine it can provide some entertainment.
There are quite a few nice restaurants and cafes in Aberystwyth if you know where to look. They all seem to be dotted about the place but the nicest one are on the sea front.
Other things to do in Aberystwyth include miniature golf, which is always a fun activity. There are old castle ruins which are quite interesting to walk around. Then there is the mountain railway. This electric railway takes you up to the top of the mountain where you can get some fabulous views of Aberystwyth and the sea. There are lots of walks that start from the summit as well as a café and a small museum of sorts.
As I've said before you can get to a lot of places from Aberystwyth and there are plenty of attractions such as farms and amusement villages only a small drive away. There is quite an impressive golf course just outside of the town which is amazing to have a game on in the summer.
I will only mention a small bit about the University but it is pretty nice. I went round it when looking at Universities and it is pretty impressive. Nice buildings and student accommodation, plus some lectures theatres overlook the sea which is pretty cool. Overall it is a nice University with some good courses.
To stay in Aberystwyth is quite easy as there seems to be dozens of beds and breakfasts and hotels about the place. The prices can vary starting from anything around £20 per night for something a little out of town to around £60 per night for a hotel that is on the sea front. It can be quite a cheap place to spend a weekend break on holiday as it is good for shopping and close to different places and attractions.
Overall Aberystwyth is a lovely place to visit and I recommend it completely. After visiting the place dozens of times each year all my life I still enjoy going and having a potter around the town. A lovely sea town with great views, good shopping, nice places to stay and a great base for any holiday!
I am going to give the address to the Four Seasons Hotel in Aberystwyth as if gives a good location to go to if you are travelling to Aberystwyth.
Address: Portland Street, Aberystwyth, SY23 2DX
Telephone number: 01970 612120
This year I graduated from the university of Wales Aberystwyth and I've been visiting the place for all my life so I thought I'd give a little guide to the town of Aberystwyth.
Aberystwyth is a small(ish) coastal town situated in the mid Wales county of Ceredigion and lies in the middle of Cardigan Bay. The town centre lies between three hills with Penglais hill to the East, Constitution to the North and Pendinas to the South. It's known primarily as home to the university but has also long been a popular tourist destination that has several attractions on offer. The resident population of the town is relatively small at around 8-9 thousand although this figure rises significantly during the term time with around 7,000 university students and remains high during holiday periods with holiday makers, making a bee-line for the town.
So what's the town got to offer all you potential visitors then?
Well firstly, and most obviously, there's the beach or to be more accurate, beaches. The north and south beach are, to be brutally honest, not really up to much. Though they are technically sandy beaches the reality is the sand is in the main gritty horrible stuff and if building sand castles is your bag you'd be much better taking a trip a few miles north and visiting the glorious sands of Ynyslas. The beach does however occasionally offer up some pretty good surf and so is often frequented by surfer types looking to catch some waves.
Running along the beach is the wide promenade which on sunny days offers some marvellous views across the bay of Cardigan. Half way along this is the Royal Pier that offers up a number of attractions. There's an amusement arcade that'll appeal to all those two-penny falls fans out there and a snooker club with many tables and very cheap drinks prices during the day. In addition to this there's an Inn and the God awful but unbelievably popular nightclub Pier Pressure (more on that in a bit!). Along the prom you'll also be able to enjoy an ice-cream, get a bite to eat from a number of stalls or during the summer months take a boat trip to see wildlife along the Welsh coast or go deep sea fishing.
Towards one end of the promenade are the ruins of the 12th century castle. While it really is a complete ruin its still well worth a look as the grounds are free to stroll around and the decaying walls are an impressive site. It'll also undoubtedly prove popular with children who'll enjoy playing in, around and on the old buildings. Close by you'll also find a childrens playground (with swings et al.) and a crazy golf course.
Take a stroll to the north end of the prom and you'll be confronted with the rather spectacular Constitution hill. This is home to some of Abers biggest attractions. Of all the things there are to do in Aber getting to the top of Constitution is the one that comes with the strongest recommendation from me. The reason for this is that, assuming the weather is fine (a big assumption indeed for Wales), the views of the town and surrounding country are simply stunning. You have two ways of getting to the top you can either walk or take the easy option of a trip in the famous Victorian cliff railway. The electrified trains will take you to the top of Constitution at a not so electrifying speed of 4 miles an hour. Open from mid March to early November both return and single tickets are available at £2.50 for adult return, £1.50 for a childs, £1.75 for an adult single and £1 for a childs. Various concessions and family tickets are also available (see www.aberystwythcliffrailway.com for more details on the railway and prices.) I must admit I've not taken a trip on the railway for well over a decade but I remember enjoying it thoroughly and would recommend it once for everyone, though the walk up to the top can also be fun.
Once you've made it up top you may choose to visit the rather unusual Camera Obscura. Now I've not been in the Camera Obscura since I was about 4 (not knowing it was actually free of charge (amazingly!!)) so I'm not sure I'll be brilliant at explaining what it is. As I gather though a system of lenses and mirrors reflect 1000 square miles of countryside and Irish sea onto a screen. Apparently this fascinated and amazed our Victorian forefathers but word on the street is it's not really up to much in theses days of computer visuals and special effects. Still it is the worlds largest Camera Obscura (are there many more?!) so it's probably worth checking it out as it's free.
Personally though I just spend my time up on consty (as the locals call it) walking along the cliffs and admiring the view. If your into walking then you can walk all along the cliffs to nearby, but unimpressive, village of Clarach or for a more serious walk of a good few hours to the town of Borth. I walked to Borth with friends assuring them it was only a couple of miles....it was more like 8 (I wasn't very popular that day). Back to constitution hill and I should mention there's also a newly refurbished cafe to refresh you after all that walking.
Whilst we're on the subject of cafes I'll give you a little overview of some of the eating establishments with which I'm familiar in Aber. There's a pretty wide number and I think you'll be able to find whatever you're looking for in town. For a quick and tasty lunch the likes of the Home Cafe on pier street will provide whatever you desire from a quick snack to a full meal. During the day the Shilam Indian restaurant, situated next to the train station, provides a very nice all you can eat lunch for £5.50 which makes it INCREDIABLY popular with the students of the town. For more formal evening meals restaurants such as Le Figaro and Gannets Bistro are excellent and the Kings Hall provides good food at more everyday prices (and an excellent carvary too). In the wider area there are also a number of restaurants of national acclaim such as the Conrah Hotel (Good food but just too pricey for what you get) and the Penhelig Arms in Aberdyfi which is absolutely superb and winner of Welsh Seafood pub of the year on a number of occasions. There's also a large number of takeaways which encompass most food types including Chinese, Indian, Fish and chips, Thai and, for that early morning drunken bit of unhealthy muck, 3 or 4 kebab houses. Oh and there's a McDonalds, Burger King and a number of pubs do good meals too (such as the Varsity and the ever faithful Wetherspoons conveniently situated in the train station.)
Which brings me nicely on the joyous subject of pubs themselves. With Aberystwyth you certainly won't be able to complain there isn't much choice. I'm unsure of the exact current number of pubs but last I heard there were no less than 58 pubs, clubs and bars in the town. Now that's one hell of a lot given the size of the place and I'm sure it's the student population that are to thank for that. For those seeking trendy pubs and bars might like to check out the Glen on the Seafront or Varsity or for a more traditional pub the Angel or the black lion may suit. Most of the pubs also offer promotions of some sort to entice the students in. Some of the more popular include the Inn on the Pier and the excellent Rummers. A personal favourite of mine is the Bay hotel/pub/club mainly because of its live music nights and tendency for the pool table to be not in use during the early evening.
The two 'proper' nightclubs in Aberystwyth are Pier Pressure and Club Yokos. Now I'm not really into clubbing but can still say that Pier Pressure is absolutely terribly awful. It's mix of cheesy music, a relatively small and always packed venue and often dubious clientele make visiting the place a harrowing experience! I've been dragged there twice and the second time left after a matter of minutes. The second club, Yokos, is better. It's much classier (you get a man/women in the toilets offering you aftershave/perfume and drying your hands), always less packed, has lovely leather sofas and the music has a tad more credibility. I still don't really like it but if you're looking for a club this is definitely the place to go. A number of bars also stay open till 1 or 2 in the morning and offer dance floors such as the aforementioned Bay and Glen and the student Union (more on that in a sec.)
As far as live music goes Aberystwyth isn't the best but doesn't do to badly really. The pub the Coopers arms has the most regular live bands, particularly of the folk variety while the Bay often has live bands from the local area and sometimes further afield in addition to regular open Mic nights. The Castle pub and the Glen also have live bands. Thanks to students there're also many music nights in the pubs around aber such as weekly indie (Monday), Punk (Wednesday) and Reggae/Ska (Thursday) nights at the back of the Angel and the bay has many Rock/Metal and urban music nights. However it's up on the university campus where the widest array of music is on offer. At the arts centre there are many classical performances along with many cultural music performances, tribute bands and live music from some big pop/rock groups too. The Student Union too has many music nights with the occasional big band playing.
The university itself is, in my opinion, quite excellent. The main campus lies on top of Penglais hill and includes a number of halls of residence and a student village. The teaching staff here are, in the main, very friendly and understanding as well as being good at their jobs. There are also excellent facilities including many computer rooms (including many that are open 24 hours a day) and very well stocked libraries. If you can't find what you want in those though there's also the National Library of Wales which has every book published in the UK. I'd recommend the place to all potential students!
The Penglais campus is home, as mentioned, to the arts centre. In addition to the live music this also offers a home to many theatrical performances, talks by well known figures (I went to see Sir Patrick Moore give a talk here), an art gallery and a cinema which shows many "arty" films as well as the occasional Hollywood blockbuster. For more information on what's happening at the centre soon visit http://www.aberystwythartscentre.co.uk/whatson/live/.
As far as shopping in Aberystwyth goes its not too bad and you'll likely be able to find everything you need. It's certainly improved a lot in the last couple of decades (as has the town as a whole). It lacks the big department stores such as Marks and Debenhams but elsewhere does well. There's a number of nice little independent stores such as the Stars selling all things ethnic and alternative and Andys records, situated at the bottom of Penglais hill, is a great little independent record store. A nice shop for me is pixiemoon which specialises in juggling and circus equipment and I love to juggle (expect a review of the art at some point!). Only problem is the shops hardly ever open! As far as Food shopping goes there's several supermarkets with Morrisons just outside the town being the best along with a very handy 24 hour Spar in the town centre and a couple of Delis and fine butchers.
In the town close to the beach you'll also find the museum which is a fairly large but interesting look at the way the welsh have lived in the local area in times past. It's definitely worth a visit as it's informative fun and best of all FREE!
Aberystwyth town centre is also home to the Commodore cinema which although a traditional single screen is great mainly because of the bar that allows you to bring drinks into the cinema itself! It's also more reasonably priced than the major muliplexes at just £3.50 for an adult ticket. You'll also find a swimming pool (if you don't fancy the sea) and a number of sports clubs such as tennis, bowls and a football ground.
In the wider area around Aber there are a few attractions worth a look. The most notable of these is Devils Bridge, a bridge, over waterfalls, which was, funnily enough, meant to be built by the devil. To get here is simple and enjoyable as there's a steam train that runs from Aberystwyth town itself. The 11 ¾ mile journey, which runs from march to November, is sure to be a hit with the young ones. It's pretty pricey though at £12 return for adults (visit http://www.rheidolrailway.co.uk/fares.htm for more)
The nearby town of Borth also has its attractions the premiere one being the Animalarium which is basically a small zoo. Other nearby attractions include the Fantasy Farm park at Hafod Peris, the Magic Life Butterfly House at Cwm Rheidol and the spectacular surrounding welsh hills which play host to much wildlife including the Red Kite which is a wonderful bird to watch soaring high above.
Aberystwyth is a fairly easy place to reach by both road and public transport. Trains to the town run from Birmingham every two hours during the day which take about 3 hours and run through Shrewsbury, among other places. There's also regular bus services from around Wales. There is a wide array of accommodation in and around the town from cheap B&Bs to very pricey hotels. It's a lovely little town and well worth a visit. It's also seen a great deal of improvement in the past few years.
If you want to know even more visit www.aberystwyth-online.co.uk
Ok - not true, not unless you inhabit the world imagined by Malcolm Pryce in his two amusing and excellent books (Aberystwyth Mon Amour and Last Tango in Aberystwyth).
The town I know is more mainstream but is definitely a town with beguiling charm. It is heavily dependent on the University for its livelihood, but its presence has blessed the town with more assets than you might expect - for one so small and remote (approx 12,000 people).
So why visit when it takes forever to get to, whether by train or car?
For the journey as a starter. The road into Aberystwyth from Llangurig is arguably one of the most beautiful in the UK, as it winds its way through the Cambrian Mountains - truly dramatic - before giving you a glimpse of the Irish Sea and descending towards the town. Alternatively the train teeters on the River Dovey's banks and then heads towards the estuary at Ynyslas, Borth and then Aberystwyth.
If arriving by train you may well arrive late, and feasibly have been standing for an hour, so you may wish to have a drink at the pub on the station. It's a Wetherspoons - do I need to say more?
The town is full of hotels and B&B's of varied quality. They do get busy at certain times (the start of University terms for example) but finding a bed is not generally difficult. I have stayed in a couple of indifferent B&B's but general consensus among friends is that the Marine Hotel on the promenade is top of the pile. There are no luxury hotels.
Once you have found a bed a good point to head for is the top of Constitution Hill, from where you get spectacular views of the bay, Snowdon National Park and the town itself. For a close up view there is a Camera Obscura from which you can identify buildings in the town with pinpoint precision. There is also a fairly basic café at the top, which you may be glad of if you have walked. If energy levels are low you can take the electric cliff railway, Britain's longest - and an experience in itself.
For lunch my favourite place is the Blue Creek Café near the Castle, with wonderful wraps, cakes and coffee. It's a true gem of a place, but it doesn't have much space, so you may have to wait, or be disappointed.
Other possibilities include Corners, in Chalybeate Street, or for an organic meal the Treehouse in Baker Street, which also has a good organic food shop. Both do excellent food. If, on the other hand, you are just peckish, there is a Sandwich shop at the bottom of Great Darkgate Street that has sublime chocolate doughnuts.
After all that food you may wish to walk it off, and if you head for the promenade via Terrace Road pop in to the Ceredigion Museum, which has fascinating historical objects and displays. And, according to the blurb, it is 'probably the most beautiful Museum in Britain'. It is impressive, but I'll leave you to make your own mind up. Next door is the Tourist Information Centre which is full of pamphlets and maps giving details of all local attractions. Staff are very helpful and friendly too.
I got distracted - the walk. You would join the promenade by a café that sells coffee and ice cream. It is only open in the summer and is a great favourite of the bikers who regularly congregate on the promenade. Walking for about a mile, away from Constitution Hill, take in the colourful hotels and B&B's, the pier, the castle and the harbour. The pier is a popular place, with amusement arcades, a snooker club, pub, pizza restaurant and nightclub. Unfortunately you cannot walk around it and it is not as impressive as in some towns (Eastbourne, Brighton for example).
The castle is a ruin, but it is in lovely surroundings and can have quite a daunting atmosphere to it, especially when the wind is blowing in hard off the Irish Sea.
Shopping in the town is limited. However its remoteness and size has kept many of the typical high street shops away so you do get some interesting individual ones. Siop y Pethe in Great Darkgate Street is a good place for all things Welsh. There is also a regular, although not exceptional, market on Saturday's. Better is the occasional farmers market, which has interesting local products. Some of the shops give very poor service, knowing you are a captive market, but most places you will go to as tourist have very helpful and friendly staff.
The council has recently worked to improve the shopping experience by widening the pavements in Great Darkgate Street - a success, and limiting parking in Terrace Road - not such a success, not least for wheelchair users who now find it difficult to cross the roads due to unhelpful dips between the pavement and the road.
For night entertainment, most of the pubs are geared for the student market and are usually lively in term time. Rummers (a great atmosphere), Scholars (nice surroundings, not too crowded) and Yr Cwps (more traditional, friendly local) are three that I particularly liked. For restaurants, Gannets Bistro has exceptional food and service, and at Figaro's there are good meat and fish dishes, and you can watch your food being cooked. Others I like are Little Italy, Serendipity and Harry's. There is nowhere I have had a bad meal.
Cultural needs are met by the Aberystwyth Arts Centre, which is half way up Penglais Hill at the University. Excellent films, exhibitions and shows are put on here, the quality of which puts many larger towns to shame. The centre also has an excellent café (generous helpings), a craft/gift shop and a Waterstones bookshop.
Further down the hill, back towards the town is Wales' National Library which puts on excellent exhibitions, and has the right to a free copy of every printed work in the UK, so good for research.
Near by it is well worth going to Ynyslas for its wonderful sandy beach and dunes. You can walk from Aberystwyth. It takes about two hours and if you are extremely lucky, as I was, you may see a family of Pole Cats along the way. The path does hug the cliff, so if you suffer from severe vertigo, this may not be such a good idea.
Further out, Devils Bridge looks down over an impressive gorge and has an excellent walk in the surrounding woods. You can get there from Aberystwyth by the Vale of Rheidol steam train. It takes about an hour (return cost - £11) and gives wonderful views of the Rheidol valley.
If you want action, mid Wales has some of the UK's best mountain bike tracks at Nant yr Arian, about 8 miles east of the Town. Close by you can watch Red Kites being fed - there is a pay and display car park off the A44 - and there are good short walks.
It is true that at times Aber can be crowded, with students and holiday makers competing for pavement space, and it can rain quite a bit. But it is a charming beautiful town that once visited would not be forgotten
For more information try: http://www.aberystwyth-online.co.uk/
First, the disclaimer. This op is really a "Wales in General" review, but since that category doesn't exist, and I want to publish this while the days are still long enough for the route to be followed (we took twelve hours door to door for the round trip, and that was rushing a little in some places), it's going here as the destination was Aberystwyth, even though most of the day was spent on the roads of mid-Wales. (I'm intrigued to see the "auction at eBay" button, incidentally - do Dooyoo know something we don't...?) This trip started as something of a novelty family get-together - "let's all go to the seaside for the day". That's quite an undertaking if you live in the Midlands, so first we had to decide on our destination. Weston-super-Mare? Done it before, and the sea's halfway to Ireland usually. Llandudno? A nice place, but horribly crowded on Bank Holiday weekends. Ah! Howsabout Aberystwyth? This got the approval of all concerned, as "it is better to travel hopefully to arrive", and there looked to be some excellent countryside along the way. We set off at 8am from Bewdley (Worcs), and despite the slightly murky weather took the A4117 over Clee Hill to Ludlow (see my "Titter(stone) ye not, missus" op for more on Clee) - not a lot to see; even the Malverns, under 20 miles away, were almost lost in the murk, and the idea of seeing the spiky peak of Skirrid at twice that distance was laughable. Still, the weather forecast had said that things would improve as we travelled west. From here, we aimed west towards the border town of Knighton (in Welsh, "Tref-y-clawdd", "the town on the Dyke" - Offa's, that is), and despite an unintented diversion at Leintwardine, which took us on a brief and not unpleasant trip around Bucknell, we were making decent time when the famous "Croeso i Gymru" sign hove into view. (Okay folks, we'
;re on-topic now - this *is* Powys!) Even in these Anglicised border areas, many roadsigns now have the Welsh first, and this helped to give a sense of adventure to the trip - we were in a foreign country now. We saw very little of Knighton, as almost before we entered the town we turned southward towards Radnor Forest, passing through the interestingly named village of Evenjobb. Old Radnor (Pencraig), perched precariously on the side of a hill, was once the home of King Harold, while New Radnor (Maesyfed - only briefly Radnorshire's county town before losing that status to Presteigne), a few miles to the west, has its castle with a long and eventful history - most famously being captured by Owain Glyndwr in 1402. Now we followed the A44 over some fairly low hills and turned south at the Crossgates roundabout to the Victorian spa town of Llandrindod Wells, which is quite an interesting place for a bit of aimless pottering. It's home to the National Cycle Exhibition, and you can still drink the (revolting!) spa water for a small charge. Today they were putting on a Victorian fair, and the odd people we same in period dress seemed to fit in perfectly with the surroundings! Slightly more recent, but still of note, is the town centre garage that still dispenses petrol from roadside pumps via long overhead hoses - far less intrusive than the usual forecourt and canopy. After buying a local paper so dull I can't remember its name (The Cambrian Times, perhaps? All I can remember is a p2 story about a man in a "shopping basket fracas!), we returned to the car (which we'd left round the back of the town hall, parking not being too easy in Llandrindd), and headed out of town towards Builth Wells (Llanfair-ym-Muallt). Builth is rather dismissed in most of the guidebooks as an "earthy, agricultural place" with little to detain the tourist. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing - too many towns have been overwhelmed
by visitors and lost any semblence of independent life - but from the brief view we had it must be said that it didn't look particularly inspiring. A couple of miles west of town was the small village of Cilmeri, with a startlingly large "Prince Llewelyn" pub. The reason for this was revealed shortly afterwards - a large stone set up to mark the place where Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, last true Prince of Wales, fell to the English in 1282. Several wreaths of fresh flowers adorned the stone - it is still a place of pilgrimage for some. For a few miles now, the road followed the Heart of Wales railway, an unlikely survivor of the Beeching Axe that wanders for around 100 miles between Craven Arms in Shropshire and Llanelli, stopping at numerous tiny hamlets along the way. It's certainly recommended if you have the time. At Garth, the A483 continues to Llanwrtyd Wells (Llanwrtud), but we would be getting there another way, as we wanted to "bag" all four spas, so turned off left onto a yellow road. This lane took us down to the valley of the Irfon, a river we would meet again later, as we travelled through pleasant though unspectacular countryside to Llangammarch Wells, now forgotten save by anglers but once a centre for the rich and powerful, with such as David Lloyd George coming to savour the delights of the barium spa. A mile to the north lies the rambling black and white pile where they stayed. The lane ended at our fourth and final spa, Llanwrtyd Wells, but we had no time to dally - a shame, as this is perhaps the most unspoilt and most Welsh of the spa towns, and despite some well-publicised difficulties (Barclays removing the only bank, and concern even over the post office), it seemed a pleasant and reasonably prosperous place. We were headed across the way, though, along the famous "Mountain Road" to Abergwesyn and Tregaron. The first part of the road, though narrow and winding, was e
asy enough, climbing gradually with the dwindling Irfon through conifer plantations (boo!) and past an isolated hotel and a small chapel with its gravestones running up the hill behind it, until we reached the tiny hamlet of Abergwesyn, where the lane from Beulah joined. This was, if you like, the Last Homely House - there would be no more settlements larger than the occasional farm (and one phone box!) until Tregaron, 14 difficult miles to the west. We passed the point of no return (well, sort of), and began to drive along the Irfon valley, a wonderful (and well-surfaced, though very narrow) road which hugged the right-hand hillside giving superb views across the bracken-covered valley below. Every so often small laybys allowed us to leap out and bang off zillions of photographs (anyone following this drive, do *not* forget your camera, or you'll kick yourself for months!), and to say hello (again) to the cyclists who we had already passed three times! The fords marked on the OS map were no longer there, and had been replaced by low wooden bridges, but almost immediately afterwards things took on a darker tone, as the road zig-zagged up the now forested hillside at what seemed an impossible gradient - the (in)famous "Devil's Staircase"! In fact, provided you have a working clutch on your car, the only thing you really have to worry about here is meeting a car coming the other way, as though very steep (the sign says 25% or 1 in 4, but some parts are 1 in 3), it's clean and not too narrow, and provided you don't take the corners too tight you'll be fine. There is a good passing place on the left (as you climb) about halfway up, though it's not labelled in advance. A little later, we had a choice between the direct route past the (gas-lit!) youth hostel at Dolgoch or a longer loop around the Esgair Ganol forest. We chose the latter, and it was a good choice, with the views opening out after Soar y Mynydd to
show us wide expanses of empty hills covered with great swathes of heather as we came back north along the Camddwr stream. Not far from a small lake, we stopped the car, and had one of the most memorable sights of the day. No, not a red kite - in fact, we didn't see a single one of those, which was a pain - but a buzzard, so low above our heads we could see individual feathers clearly, and taking no notice whatever of our presence. It stayed close for five minutes or so, and for that time we forgot all else. A wonderful, fabulous sight, and worth the drive on its own. Not far further on was a somewhat complicated junction, with roads winding in all directions, though the presence of a white house (possbly a pub) helped us work it out, and we made our way west towards the Berwyn Forest, reaching our highest point of the day (481 metres; around 1500 feet). We were running late, and had no time to stop here, but it would make a fine location for forest walks. Gradually now the country became more populated, and wound inexorably downhill towards the old droving centre of Tregaron, which is famous for its Bog (Cors Caron), a haven for wetland birds. The (Welsh-speaking) town also boasts the Rhiannon Welsh Gold shop, and was the birthplace of Twm Sion Cati, a local Robin Hood figure who featured in the TV series "Hawkmoor". The Talbot Hotel here features a fine programme of live roots music. The road junction at Tregaron is a right pain, but somehow we got it right, and drove north along the A485 on the last leg of our outward journey to Aberystwyth. The A485 is an odd road - one minute it's wide and fast, the next it's narrowed so much that passing places are required. By and by the western horizon disappeared, a sure sign that the sea was at hand. Here we were in no doubt that this was "Y Fro Gymraeg" ("the Welsh-speaking Wales), as the many political posters bore witness. Most of them were either too deta
iled to be read at speed, were in difficult Welsh, or were faded and peeling, but one stood out, calling for "Tai, Gwaith, Iaith" - "Houses, Work, Language" - a slogan that would be at home in many small states around Europe. (In fact, a rock by the A487 south of Aberystwyth bears one of the most famous graffiti in the country: "Cofiwch Dreweryn" ["Remember Treweryn") - a protest against the creation of a reservoir for Liverpool in 1963.) Sure enough, the great headlands at either end of the bay appeared, the southern hill bearing the ruined castle and (on a somewhat smaller scale) the town's war memorial; and the northern being the location of Europe's largest camera obscura, reached either by an exhausting slog up the hill or (for preference) by the very handy cliff railway (which costs £2 return; the camera obscura is free). Parking in Aberystwyth is utter hell. There is a park and ride, but we assumed (erroneously, it seems) that it did not run on Sundays, so wasted a lot of time looking for a long-stay car park. There isn't one, as far as we could tell, only rows of one- and two-hour bays, all packed solid. The Commodore Cinema has a tiny car park, but that was full too. We eventually ended up in a leisure centre almost two miles out of town and walked in. Aberystywth itself is surprisingly small - certainly nothing like the size of Blackpool or Torquay. It has more of a non-beach life than most resorts, however, with the usual mess of Woolworths and suchlike a couple of streets back from the front. The roads were being dug up this Bank Holiday, which made things even worse than usual as regards traffic. We flopped down in the first chippy we could find (which didn't appear to have a name other than "Take Out - Eat In - Same Price", and luckily it was a good decision - big portions of fish and crisp hot chips. Finally, off to the sea. Aberystwyth has a pier, b
ut one which is a sore disappointment - a noisy, cramped amusement arcade (not that there's anything wrong with that in itself) and a pub-cum-nightclub (well, it is a university town, I suppose). That's all, folks. What on earth is the use of a pier which has no outside areas? (There do seem to be some, but you can't get at them. Maybe they're dangerous - if so, some explanatory signs would have helped.) Oh, there is an ice-cream place, but that's not exactly remarkable in a town like this. There's a wooden jetty a few yards along the beach, but that's not exactly a replacement. The beach itself is surprisingly steep in places, so be careful about letting small children (or adults!) run out into the water. There were red'n'yellow flags flying, but I saw no sign of any lifeguard. It's of shingle rather than sand for the most part, but not too sharp for bare feet, and there are some rocky outcrops that are good for rockpooling (footwear recommended as they're a bit slippery). You can't say that the bay is in the same class as somewhere like Llandudno or even Paignton, but it's perfectly acceptable for a day out. We walked along the seafront for a while, weaving our way through the zillions of motorbikes that had gathered on one part of the prom (an annual event? Looked that way). Not Hell's Angels types, but rather a generally older crowd riding large-capacity machines - Triumphs, Ducatis, Yamahas and so on. Made a sparkling sight in the now-bright sun. They were being entertained by a brass band from, of all places, Cleobury Mortimer, which is not ten miles from me! Also bouncy castles and suchlike for the kiddies. Along the prom fly a large number of flags, but you'll search in vain for a Union Flag. Instead, the poles represent a variety of the minority states of Europe - Galicia, Brittany, Flanders, Sardinia... - and for the most part the posts are labelled, trilingually, with the name o
f the state, so that you might see "Llydaw / Brittany / Breizh". Unfortunately, the sticker budget seems to have run out a few poles from the northern end, so we never found out what the striking black, red and white flag was - Papua New Guinea, perhaps? We stopped here for an ice-cream and sat in one of the (not *too* smelly) shelters watching the sea - something I never grow tired of. Behind us, a family were arguing about the name of the bay we were looking at - if only they'd turned round, they'd have seen a huge sign proclaiming the premises of the "Gwesty Bae Ceredigion" (Cardigan Bay Hotel)! Time was getting on, so we reluctantly gave up on the Camera Obscura and wandered (slowly) back to the pier. Just before it, the green window frames of an otherwise unassuming building caught our eyes. Wrth gwrs! (Of course!) This was the HQ of the Welsh Language Society, better known by its Welsh name of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg - best known in England for defacing monolingual English roadsigns in the 1960s and 1970s, but still actively campaigning for a better deal for Welsh. Some Welsh people find them a nuisance, but in Aberystwyth they seem to be pretty popular. We had to start back to the car soon, as we wanted to be back in England by nightfall. Not because of any relic law that might make us targets of the bowmen of Glyndwr, but because driving at night on unfamiliar roads is very tiring! First, though, we stopped off at an excellent three-story bookshop (whose name, to my shame, I forget - but the sign was blue), and bought a few bits and bobs - an atlas of the Welsh language, a small book of poems and the odd map. Interesting to see a Terry Pratchett novel translated into Welsh ("Lleidr Amser" - "Thief of Time") - a sure sign that demand is there for Welsh reading material. The route home was quicker than the route out, though still blessed with some fine scenery. We stopped at D
evil's Bridge, where three bridges cross a gorge on top of each other, and where the Vale of Rheidol narrow-gauge railway (from Aberystwyth) has its eastern terminus. There were a surprising number of people about for mid-evening (it had gone six by now), and standing along the narrow, pavementless road from which (some of) the gorge could be seen demanded caution. We didn't pay the necessary pound or two to go through the turnstiles down to the gorge itself, but apparently it's well worth the expense. Joining the A44 a little further on, we wound along the valley of the infant River Wye (Afon Gwy) - this is archetypal "Kite Country", but as I said earlier we were fated to have our hopes dashed on that front. Never mind, though - the view was superb. After some miles, we turned south towards Rhyader (which means "waterfall"), which seemed a pleasant enough place, though there was no time to stop. It didn't seem very long before "the town on the dike" was upon us again, and with it a return to monoligual roadsigns and the end of the hill country (except for the brief run over Clee). We got home just after eight - almost exactly twelve hours after setting off. The great majority of the day had been spent in the car, but no-one considered that a disappointment, as we had been blessed with good weather (for the Welsh portion, anyway), and had seen some of the most beautiful countryside in Britain. And yes, we'd managed to taste the sea. (Though as it's the Irish Sea, we'll probably be doing a Ready Brek impression for a while!) The entire distance travelled was around 220 miles, and it's definitely a journey that I would recommend.
Okay Okay this ain't an opinion on Aberystwyth in General it's an opinion on the 'Inn on the Pier' pub. I have waited nearly two months for my choice to be added to Abersytwyth>Bars/Pubs so have written it here, if you ain't happy - don't rate :-) ----------------------- Admittedly it feels a little bit weird sat by the window overlooking the sea when there?s huge waves smashing into the sea wall below you but the Inn on the Pier, and indeed the clubbing experience of Pier Pressure that inevitably follows, offers one the best nights out in Aberystwyth. Situated on the Royal Pier you won?t be able to miss the Inn (as I will now be calling it) if you are anywhere along the long Promenade. It?s a short walk from any of the main car parks in Aber. There are of course a few car parking spaces along the Promenade but come summertime they?ll be difficult to find at the busy times. If you?ve come from the surrounding area then I might just be as easy to hop on a bus or train and walk from the train station. The drinks promotions are what really bring people flocking in, there are numerous promotions going on at any one time and an extensive cocktail bar. Only the other week the bar staff were wandering around actually giving away shots of Southern Comfort, how great is that? The bar has all the drinks you?d find in any major bar, including Guinness Classic and Extra Cold, though you won?t find any proper cask beers here, sorry! The Inn is open from 11am everyday until midnight, apart from Sundays obviously. All bottles are £1-60 until 8pm then they do become rather expensive. On Tuesdays and Thursday all the usual spirits are 50p a shot, encouraging all the penniless students to come out of their shells. As mentioned there is an extensive cocktail menu, all reasonably prices at about £3-50 but on a Friday they are all £2-50, or at least they have been recently. Without the promotions the drinks can be a little
bit expensive but if you ask the bar staff what?s on you can comfortably get smashed on £15. There isn?t an extensive range of exotic sounding drinks but the normal range that they provide is what most are looking for. As part of the Royal Pier it is slap bang next to the biggest night club in Aber and consequently can get very busy in the evenings. On a Monday and Wednesday there is a Karaoke competition with a cash prize of £50 and if you buy a drink you will get a stamp enabling free entry to the aforementioned night club, obviously towards 10pm the place can be absolutely crammed. Tuesdays and Thursdays start slowly but towards late evening time the masses once again emerge. As always the weekends are busy, it?s only really on a Sunday night when the video quiz is on that there is room to move. Even during the day there is quite a trickle of holiday makers and locals so if it?s a quiet drink you?re looking for then you probably won?t get it in the Inn, however it is a great place to meet people. It has to be said that the place does have a bit of a tacky feel to it. The bar itself is in no way original, fake wooden panelling and the odd picture on the wall, as well as a little Pizza Parlour type job at one end of it. However like most seaside type places the Inn does seem to get away with it. Obviously you?ve also got the added bonus of being able to watch the sometimes vicious waves crashing against the rocks beneath and on a clear day you can see all the north coast of Wales in all its splendour. There is usually quite a lot of music on in the background, not only loud but also the dreadful pop type dross you hear everywhere. It?s not really my cup of tea but all the little teenieboppers seem to like it. There?s plenty to make up for the crap music however. The bar staff are bloody great, sit at the bar and they?ll chat to you about owt. They remember what drink you drinks and they don?t judge you when you?re up on stag
e trying to win the £50 just so another night of drinking can be funded. They?ve always got a smile on their faces and are just all round wonderful people! Not only are the bar staff great the Inn also has all the major sporting events on the telly, they even had ITV Digital until it went bust so I could go on watch the City play. It?s just super, smashing, great, you?ll have to take my word for it. Only drawback is there isn?t a pool table or a darts board but you can always nip next door and have a few frames at the snooker club. They serve food all day and children are welcome, not sure if they have a children?s menu but I would imagine so. Again I?m not too sure if they like having little babies in there crying the house down but I?ll give the phone number at the end. The food is all reasonably priced and is either cooked in the little Pizza kitchen at the end of the bar or in the nearby Pier Pavilion restaurant. It serves all the usual pub meals throughout the day, just watch out for the lunchtime rush. Portions are ok, well better than Wetherspoons but probably not as big as some of the more local pubs. I know I don?t eat Pizza but I?m assured that on Tuesday and Thursday evening you get two pizzas for the price of two. Overall it?s blooming great! I think it?s probably more of a young trendy pub but you do get a few locals in there but it?s all very welcoming and well worth a look in if you?re here in Aber. Phone Number is: 01970 636101 Address is: The Inn on the Pier The Royal Pier Promenade Aberystwyth Email Addy is: ROYALPIER@AOL.COM Website is: www.royalpier.co.uk Nice little piccy: http://www.royalpier.co.uk/innphoto2.html
Well, if you want a good old fashioned seaside holiday, without the glitz of Blackpool, then you couldn't do much better than Aberystwyth. Withs its many beaches, and surrounding tourist attractions, its a great place to be. There is plenty to do, eveni nthe town if you have no car (such as the free museum, or the cliff railway). The people are friendly, the town is clean, the traffic is not too bad, and contrary to popular opinion, the weather isn't too bad either! Aberystwyth - I love it!
A centre of academic excellence with the huge population of University of Wales students that invade from September through to June, and then the tourists come in their droves, and not only during the summer months either. Everyone who has an inch of joy in their soul will fall in love with the promenade, and the sound of the waves gently rolling onto the shingle beach. Unless you are there during the long winter months when the waves bang and crash onto the beach and the surrounding rocks....and don't, just don't, park your car near Constitution Hill unless you want to drive away with the unwelcome addition of a couple of boulders through your windscreen!!! The walk from the south beach past the castle remains (the grounds are a wonderful vantage point to look out to sea), past the old university building, the Royal Pier, through Marine Terrace and down towards Constitution Hill is very special. Even better at night I think when the twinkling of the lights lining the prom gives it a warm glow, and you can look further up the coast to see the lights of Aberdovey and Barmouth. The little train still runs up and down Constitution Hill and the view from up there is breathtaking. The bandstand provides traditional entertainment, and a snack bar and deckchairs are available alongside. If it's some traditional Welsh entertainment that you're after, a local male voice choir entertain in their own little cubby-hole under the castle grounds every evening in the summer.....and the sound...well, there really is nothing quite like it for making the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. I suppose that I have to mention the untrained dog owners that frequent the prom....nuff said! The appropriate bins have now been provided for them....and I can report that some do actually use them, so a twilight walk is not the hazard that it once was before the council, fair play, did take this problem to task. The beach itself
is full of shingle, but if sandy shores are a must, then a 5-10 minute drive further up the coast to Borth and Ynyslas will provide you with a gloriously sandy beach - a magnet for jet-bikers and other energetic water-sport types in their wet suits!!! The National Library of Wales is also worth a visit. The imposing white building appears to be looking over on the town - keeping an eye on things. The shopping centre has developed considerably over the last few years, and more chain stores are moving in all the time. Locals are still apt to travel, possibly by direct line on the railway to Shrewsbury, for a proper shopping 'day out' though. The railway has been downgraded in recent times, and the once thriving station platform with its collection of fruit stalls and newsagents has closed and is now a depressing sight. The Vale of Rheidol railway still runs from here regularly, taking locals and visitors alike on a trip along this stunning landscape towards the falls at Devils Bridge. Accommodation is plentiful - good class hotels and hundreds of B&Bs both in the town and its environs. Local buses run every half and hour or so up and down the coast, and the Traws cambria coach which spans the whole of Wales from Cardiff through to Holyhead usually stops here for a change of driver. Cafes are really too numerous to mention - catering for all sorts of tastes and foibles. The look and feel of the licensed premises has changed considerably over the years, and some not for the better. I still mourn the loss of the White Horse in Terrace Road which has now been turned into a goldfish bowl, but maybe I'm getting old. The most exciting addition is The Academy next to the indoor market opposite the town clock. I remember sitting here some 16 years ago...when it was a chapel. I used to go there on a Sunday morning with my fingers crossed having been tripping the light fantastic at the hostelries all over town onl
y a few hours previously!!!!!! But now it is a welcoming, spacious, noisy bar with all ages enjoying the ambiance - and the stuff that churns out the music looks down on us from the pulpit! I haven't mentioned the gay Mayor and her consort partner again have I.....well, I think that enough was written about them in the national press during her recent inauguration. But she is possibly a reflection of the fact that the townspeople, just like the town, are full of character.....and I applaud both.