Aberystwyth: An Overview
Home of Aberystwyth University and the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth town is perfectly nestled between the mountains and the picturesque haven of Cardigan bay.
The bay is overlooked by the town’s medieval castle ruins, a Victorian pier and promenade and working harbour.
Aberystwyth is a lively University town and home-from-home to some 9,000 students. Throughout the year the vibrant town is filled with students from around the world or buzzing with tourists, enjoying Aberystwyth’s sights, creating an evident cosmopolitan feel to this Welsh Seaside town.
The colourful Victorian seafront townhouse glance down over the graceful 2km sweep of the promenade, where students, locals and visitors mingle as they jog or walk along. The town retains much of its Victorian character and architecture, and many hotels, student residences are located along the terrace.
Tradition dictates that visitors and students alike ‘kick the bar’ at the northern most point of the promenade underneath Constitution Hill (or ‘Consti’ as it’s known to locals) a tradition that dates back to the early twentieth century though its origins are unclear.
The wide promenade offers space to sit, relax soak up the sun under the shadow of Constitution Hill. On a clear day you may see the tallest mountain in Wales, Snowdon, peaking up above the horizon to the north or sit back at dusk and the natural spectacles of Aberystwyth's stunning sunsets, dramatic seascapes and famous winter starling murmurations. Entertainment along the promenade include a paddling pool, amusement arcade at the pier and the recently remodelled bandstand.
The town is often visited by Bottlenose dolphins – usually seen feeding off South Beach at dawn or dusk.
The harbour was once one of the busiest in Wales, with ships destined for far flung destinations, is fed by the rivers Ystwyth and Rheidol (which incidentally, is the steepest river in Britain). Aberystwyth town is the centre of local rural life and is visited by many to sample the numerous cafes, bars, and restaurants. Indeed, Aberystwyth was the first town in Wales to win the converted purple flag for a welcoming and safe nightlife.
Overlooking the southern side of the town and harbour is Pen Dinas hill top and iron age settlement and fortification. An annual race, the ‘Twin Peaks’ takes runners up Pen Dinas, along the prom and up Constitution Hill. This is not a race for the faint hearted or those weak in the knees!
Aberystwyth castle straddles two sides of the town’s promenade. The once impressive structure now lies in ruins, eroded by centuries of storms from the Irish Sea and castle stone pilfered by locals for housebuilding.
For those looking for a panoramic view of the town, the Constitution Hill, is the best place to take in the seaviews, the mountain backdrop and the town and university itself. For those not keen on walking up Constitution Hill a seasonal alternative is in place as ‘Consti’ is also home to The Aberystwyth Electric Cliff Railway, the longest electric cliff railway in Britain. It climbs Constitution Hill from the northern end of the town's promenade with trains running every few minutes during the spring, summer and early autumn.
Reaching the summit reveals an amazing panorama which on a clear day extends as far as the Preseli Hills in Pembrokeshire to the south, while the whole expanse of Cardigan Bay opens out to the west and the mountains of Snowdonia to the North can also be seen. There is a cafe at the summit and the famous Camera Obscura. The present building is a recreation of the Victorian original. As the carefully-balanced mirror revolves, detailed views of the surrounding countryside are thrown onto the table in the centre of the building.
The Cliff Railway also provides the simplest start to the beautiful walk over the cliff-tops to Clarach Bay, part of the All-Wales Coastal Path, from where you can catch a bus back to Aberystwyth or walk further along the coast to the sea-side town of Borth and catch the train back to Aberystwyth.
Adventures in Aberystwyth
Aberystwyth as a town lends itself to numerous outdoor adventures with three beaches surrounding the town and the Plumlumon and Cambrian mountains within easy distance just waiting to be explored.
Surfers and paddle boarders can be seen daily off the coast of Aber. Triathletes in training can be seen working on their sea swimming. Kayakers can be found paddling amongst the bottle nosed dolphins. Numerous clubs and societies are linked to the university’s Student Union and the union’s website is a great place to start your next adventure.
Aberystwyth is surrounded by beautiful beaches, North Beach, South Beach as well as Tanybwlch Beach across the river in Trefechan. North beach, a designated blue flag beach, is most commonly used by students, locals and families, with the backdrop of Constitution hill and the bandstand, there’s no better place to kick off your shoes and feel the sand beneath your feet.
South beach is more commonly used by water sport enthusiasts and BBQ enthusiasts. In the summer South beach is packed full of students and locals watching the sun go down with a small fire or a BBQ.
Land based activities
Located around 10 miles from town, Bwlch Nant-yr-Arian Forest Visitors Centre is a must visit for any walking or mountain bike enthusiast with over 9km of red (hard) graded mountain bike trails. All University accommodation is equipped with safe bike storage while Fferm Penglais is also equipped with bike showers for our Mountain Biking enthusiasts. An hour away by car is Coed y Brenin, one of the best mountain biking centres in Europe.
The National Library of Wales
Home to over 7 million book and publication, the National Library of Wales’ impressive neo-classical façade overlooks the town. One of 6 copyright libraries in the UK, the Library hosts numerous events, and impressive exhibitions throughout the year. A wonderful resource right next door to the University’s Penglais campus, the resource-only library is free to use, boasts an impressive café for those all-important study breaks.