Aberystwyth is our nearest town of any size and is worth a visit. At a first look, you may feel it’s not much to write home about, but look closer, spend a little time there, and you may get to see why people love it. And they really do love it. There are some things we’d recommend if you visit:
- Take in some sea air and walk the 2,000 metre length of the prom from Constitution Hill (known as ‘the Consti’ locally) to the far end at South Beach. You’ll be able to indulge in the local tradition of ‘kicking the bar’ before you set off (you’ll find information about this on a board at your starting point). Along your route, you’ll pass the pier, the marvellously Victorian gothic old university building and the marina. The North Beach is the one popular with tourists and right near to the town centre. South Beach, at the far end of your walk is much quieter. There’s an RNLI station there, with a little shop and the chance to look at the lifeboat.
- Aberystwyth has its own ruined castle, right by the sea. It’s worth a wander around. There’s a convenient car park in the grounds of the church right in front of it.
- Take the funicular Cliff Railway up Constitution Hill. It’s the longest funicular electric cliff railway in Britain, and it’s been transporting visitors to the summit since opening in 1896. At the top, you’ll find a café and one of the world’s largest Camera Obscura, offering a view of 1,000 square miles of land and sea. The views down into the bay are lovely at any time, but especially at sunset. You can also walk up Constitution Hill if you feel like some exercise.
- On the subject of Railways, Aberystwyth marks the start of the Vale of Rheidol Railway, where you can take a scenic ride on a steam train to the spectacular Devil’s Bridge. At the end of the trip you’ll find the bridge itself (you descend many steps to look up down at the swirling Devil’s Punchbowl in the river, and up at the multiple bridges), a hotel for snacks or lunch, and the chance to buy locally made chocolates from Sarah Bunton’s shop.
- Take a walk up the 120 metre Pen Dinas hill at the South Beach end of town. There are directions here.
- Watch the Starlings. From autumn to spring, up to 50,000 Starlings roost under the pier. They fly out to feed in the countryside each day, then as the sun sets, they all come home again. On many evenings, they form mesmerising murmurations, but even on the nights when they all just pour down into their roosting spots, they are wonderful to watch. On clear nights, you get some glorious sunsets, too.
- Visit the Arts Centre. Driving in to Aberystwyth town, just a little way down the very steep Penglais Hill you’ll see signs for the Arts Centre (Canolfan Celfyddydau). It’s one of the largest in the UK and has a theatre, a concert hall, a cinema and frequently changing free art and craft exhibitions. There’s a bar and café too.
- Visit the National Library. You’ll see a signpost for this is just a little further down the hill. It must be one of the most spectacularly situated libraries in the UK, with amazing, uninterrupted views out over the town and the bay. Inside, as well as the national reference library there are exhibitions, a café and a gift shop.
- Visit the Ceredigion Museum. This is a quirky little museum of local history sited in an old cinema in the town centre. The newly revamped ground floor is the Tourist Information Office and gift shop, and there’s a café on the first floor too.
After exploring, of course you’ll be wanting to eat and drink. Here are a few places we’d recommend:
Eating and Drinking
- Medina is a lovely place, offering hot and cold drinks, fantastic cakes and lovely hot and cold food with a Mediterranean influence. There is also a second-hand bookshop and organic fruit and veg for sale inside.
- Ultracomida. This is a great Spanish deli and tapas place. The front of the building is a deli full of Spanish goodies and a stunning cheese selection. They will also prepare take-out sandwiches and snacks. The rear room is the restaurant, and the tapas here is very good.
- The Olive Branch. A Greek restaurant opposite the pier. We have eaten the platter of dips with beautiful home-made pitta bread for lunch a few times and left feeling VERY full!
- Mama Fay’s is a little Caribbean restaurant run by a very friendly man who named the place after his mother. The interior is basic, but the food is good.
- The Tree House is a local institution comprising an organic food shop, a housewares and toiletries shop and a vegan and veggie restaurant on the first and second floors. It’s been there for years and I am sure will see us all out! It’s always nice to eat there.
- Coffee #1 is a really nice coffee shop offering light snacks as well as cakes and hot and cold drinks. It’s spread over two floors and has a very laid-back feel to it.
- Grail is a very tiny, cosy café that’s a good stop for tea and cake or for a light lunch. Good home-made soup!
- Agnelli’s (known locally as ‘Aunt Nelly’s’) is a pocket-sized Italian restaurant and deli. Owned and run by an Italian family, it’s the closest you’ll get to being in Italy without actually being there! Great coffee, wonderful cannoli, delicious, light as air, piadini pizzas, pastas, cheese and cold cuts. Conversation is a bonus – the four or five tables on the main floor are so close together that chatting with your neighbours is a frequent occurrence! There is more room downstairs.
- Byrgyr is an up-market burger restaurant with a ‘farm to table’ approach, using quality local meats and produce.
- Baravin is a good place to stop for a glass of something and people-watch as you look out at the prom. They make nice pizzas too.
- Next to Baravin is our favourite local ice cream shop, Ambassadors. Sadly, the ice cream is Cornish, not Welsh, but the range of flavours is fantastic. Just guard your cone as you leave – the local seagulls know the place well and will swoop down and nick your ice cream in a heartbeat! (Actually, this is true for any food you eat around the Prom. Guard it well and NEVER feed the gulls!)
If you feel the need for a larger supermarket than the Co-op in Machynlleth, there is a Morrisons and a Tesco in Aberystwyth, as well as a Lidl and a Marks and Spencer with a decent Food Hall.