I’ve skimmed through my ever growing list of draft posts, and found this one that’s been laying about, half-finished, for 10 years or so (eeek!) Back then, I wrote a series of posts on family road trips in Wales. Seems I completely forgot to finish the series. Something must have come up. But better late than never, so without further ado, here is the fifth and final chapter, covering the stretch Aberystwyth-Abereiddi.
Note: when I say final, I mean final for now. There are still unexplored places (unexplored by us, that is) in this misty and mysterious country, particularly in the south. It won’t take another 10 years.
Aberystwyth-Abereiddi road trip
This final chapter is about Aberystwyth-Abereiddi, and points in between. We travel through the southern part of Cardigan county and into Pembrokeshire. Along the way, we pass Cei Newydd (New Quay), Trefdraeth (Newport), the Preseli Hills, Aberporth, Aberteifi (Cardigan), Abergwaun (Fishguard), and several other sweet little spots, many of which begin with Aber.
What’s with all the Abers, you say? Aber is a Brythonic word (an ancient form of Celtic), and means river mouth – confluence of rivers.
OK, let’s head south!
New Quay (Cei Newydd)
Our first stop today is Cei Newydd or New Quay (not Newquay, that’s in Cornwall).
New Quay: green and blue
This tiny fishing village on the shores of Cardigan Bay is perhaps best known as a place of inspiration for Wales’ troubled poet, Dylan Thomas. He spent a year here in New Quay and according to his wife, that year was one of the most creative periods of his life. This is where he wrote one of his most famous works, the radio drama Under Milk Wood, beginning with these famous (if prosaic) first words:
To begin at the beginning…
Of course, New Quay is more than Dylan. There is a scenic harbour, beach walks along the coastal path, and you can get out on the bay to see dolphins frolicking in their natural habitat.
16 km further south, also along the coastal path, is Aberporth, a former herring industry hub. More sandy beaches and pretty landscapes.
In Aberporth, we stay at the 16th century Highcliffe Hotel, which feels like a ‘rooms above the pub’-sort of place. Cosy. (Just checked, it is still in operation now in 2023.)
Breakfast at the Highcliffe Hotel
On the river Teifi (hence the Welsh name Aberteifi), is the town of Cardigan. We are now at the border between county Cardigan and county Pembrokeshire.
Back in the day (i.e. 200 years ago), Cardigan was a major commercial centre, with curriers, coopers, carriers, tanners, tailors and a whole host of other crafts represented. Enough people to keep 60 taverns in business. 60!
Things were going well. Until 1886. Then came the railway! Wreaks havoc for a town built around shipping, a railway does. But fast forward to the present, and things are looking up: in 2017, Cardigan was voted one of the 10 most desirable places to live in Wales.
Cardigan has more than 100 listed buildings, including Cardigan Castle, where you can spend the night in luxurious comfort.
Sorry, folks. Didn’t snap a photo of the castle…
… but making up for it at the next stop.
Newport Castle, built ca. 1200 CE
Continuing the Aberystwyth-Abereiddi jaunt, we have crossed the border into Pembrokeshire and arrived in Newport, a mere 20-minute drive from Cardigan.
Newport is Trefdraeth in the local language, meaning town by the beach. Welsh naming traditions are pragmatic like that, it seems.
Newport street scenes –
– and more Newport street scenes
Newport is on a coastal path as well, the famous – and infamous – Pembrokeshire Coastal Path: famous for stunningly rugged scenery, and infamous for a 1980s serial killer. Well, scenery wins. Pembrokeshire Coastal Path is worth your time. And the killer is in prison for life, so no worries.
The most famous building in town is Newport Castle. On top of town, it commands great views of Newport and surrounds. But even better views can be had from the Preseli Hills above town, so let’s head up them thar hills.
What you lookin’ at?
Pentre Ifan burial chamber
But there’s more than great views and sheep here in the Preseli Hills.
Skeletal remains of a Neolithic tomb – 6 standing stones, 3 of them supporting the 16-tonne capstone.
These stones have been here since about 3,500 BCE. Then, they would have been hidden inside a burial mound. You can see why our ancestors would have chosen this beauty spot as location.
Stonehenge is made of the same bluestones as Pentre Ifan. Recent research shows the stones at Stonehenge most likely were recycled from an even older stone circle here in the Preseli Hills.
No actual bones have been found here, though. Nicked sometime during the last 5,000 years? Or just very well hidden, waiting for the right detective?
Between Newport and Fishguard is Dinas Head, which makes for a pretty 2-hour circular amble.
And that segues nicely back out to the coastline. To Fishguard. Intriguing name, isn’t it?
And it will come as no surprise that Fishguard is a fishing village, living off herring fisheries and trade through the ages. Its Welsh name, Abergwaun, means mouth of the River Gwaun. Aber = mouth of the river, remember. (See, it’s not complicated.)
Now, after exploring the village, you can take the ferry across to Ireland if you want to; you can even take your car. Rosslare is but a hop, skip and a jump away (i.e. 3 ½ hours), and there are four daily crossings.
We debate going across, but decide against it. We are here to see Abereiddi Blue Lagoon, after all. Off we go.
Finally, we arrive at the goal of this Aberystwyth-Abereiddi road trip.
In Abereiddi, we are met with this warning:
Mae clogwyni’n lladd
Abereiddi Blue Lagoon is actually an old slate quarry that has been taken over by the sea. A board along the path tells about ‘The Street’ near the beach, where there once were five slate houses for the quarry workers, most of whom were called Jones or Phillips. The tiny village also had a shop, but no church, no school, not even a pub. The community was abandoned after the quarry was flooded, about 100 years ago.
Nature has taken Abereiddi back.
The 25-metre deep Abereiddi Blue Lagoon looks more green than blue.
Blue, green: whatever you want to call it: looks tempting to jump in, doesn’t it? No wonder it is a popular diving spot. This sheltered lagoon is home to several marine species: sea squirts, bristle worms, sponges, and more. And there are seals further along the coast.
The rocky cliffs here are also ideal for exciting play in the zone where water, rocks, waves, cliffs, tides, gullies and caves meet. More than 100 centres along the Pembrokeshire coast offer guided coasteering trips; some of them even provide guided coasteering for kids.
In 2023, this girl probably wouldn’t have let us get away with not trying coasteering. However, at age 8, the 470 million year dark blue-grey rocks were the most interesting. Llanvirn shales, they’re called.
Found some pieces of slate I can use.