Many visitors come to the beaches of Aberystwyth to set up camp for the day with picnics and barbecues, mess about in the waves, explore the treasure trove of rockpools and listen to oystercatchers out to sea. And if you’re very lucky, you may spot the bottlenose dolphins or porpoises in the waters of the bay.
Tucked in the heart of the west Welsh coast, Cardigan Bay’s largest town, Aberystwyth, (or ‘Aber’ as it is known locally), has attracted holidaying families since the 18th century. It is home to a historic university, the National Library of Wales and a vibrant Arts Centre. With a rich heritage in theatre and music, it has as an array of entertainment venues that sprang up for the pleasure of the ever-growing Victorian crowds, alongside, of course, numerous bathing huts to maintain one’s dignity on taking to the water. Today, it’s still popular with locals and visitors alike.
Two kilometres of promenade sweep around from the harbour and the sandy southern beach to Castle Point, and on to the shingle beach beneath the northern Marine Terrace. The promenade is ideal for all ages and abilities as it offers good flat-level walking with regular points of access down to both beaches. It is also well-served by a range of cafés if you want to stop for refreshment and admire the views.
There’s plenty to keep everyone busy along the way, too. Wander freely through the ruins of the 13th-century castle and enjoy a grassy picnic area with outdoor tables, colourful flowerbeds, a children’s playground and crazy golf.
The Royal Pier is just a short walk from the castle. Opened on Good Friday in 1865, the pier was severely damaged by storms in 1866 and 1938, and today is around half the length it once was as a result. But it’s still well worth a visit: explore the glass pavilion, opened by the Princess of Wales in 1896, eat at the brasserie, enjoy amusements at the arcade and, at its spindly extremity, find a good spot to sit in the sun with
a drink or ice cream.
Just beyond the pier, a brief diversion inland at Terrace Road takes you to the tourist information centre, adjacent to Ceredigion Museum, where you’ll find a fascinating insight into the county’s history.
The northern stretch of the promenade, with its dignified terrace of buildings originally built to accommodate the earliest tourist influx, is traditionally busier although ‘busy’ in Aberystwyth is never uncomfortably overcrowded. There is a children’s paddling pool in summer, fairground rides, trampolines and various food, music, and arts events in and around the bandstand.
First to the top
If you’re up for a climb, rising high beyond the harbour, the Iron Age hillfort of Pendinas (capped with a memorial to
the Duke of Wellington) offers a glimpse into the town’s past. Or, on the northern side of town, craggy, gorse-clad Constitution Hill climbs 131m (430ft) to join up with the all-Wales Coast Path.
Energetic siblings can try racing one another up Constitution Hill – the walk is well worth the effort. For a more sedate approach, take the electric cliff railway (the longest in Britain), which clanks up at walking pace.
On a clear day the views from the summit are breathtaking, extending southwards to Pembrokeshire and north to the mountains of Snowdonia. There is also a café, the famous Camera Obscura and an indoor games room and a free bouncy castle. Stay up here for a while and you might be treated to one of Aberystwyth’s glorious scarlet sunsets, to end a perfect day.
HOW TO GET THERE
By road, the main road approaching from east is the A44. The A487 heads north to south through the town. By train, a service runs from Birmingham New Street every two hours. Travelling here by train is highly recommended to enjoy the landscape. The station is a short 10-minute walk from the promenade and taxis are available.
FIND OUT MORE
Aberystwyth Tourist Information Centre
Aberystwyth SY23 2AG
Terrace Road SY23 2AP
Relaxed café bar on the seafront, serving delicious pizzas and Welsh dishes.
The Glengower Hotel
3 Victoria Terrace,
Aberystwyth SY23 2DH
Friendly hotel with excellent views and indoor and outdoor seating areas, hugely popular on warm summer evenings for sunset watching.