Newest Review: ... 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 se... more
It's in Wales Boyo
Member Name: pipjim
Date: 08/10/05, updated on 08/10/05 (1147 review reads)
Advantages: Small, Friendly yet lively little town. Beautiful scenery
Disadvantages: Miles from almost anywhere. Wales means rain!
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/liv e/.
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
Summary: A lovely Welsh coastal town that's well worth a visit