A is for Aberystwyth: A weekend in the Wild West of Wales
What the kids enjoyed: Funicular rides, fantastic beaches, waterfalls and spotting dolphins.
Where: Aberystwyth is situated on the west coast of Mid Wales and is a long way from most places, making the trip part of the adventure. It’s somewhere growing up in Wales that seemed familiar to me but not somewhere that I’d ever been. It felt like the right place to start our A-Z adventures.
How long will we need?: Our itinerary was based over a weekend driving in from Cardiff. If you’re coming from much further afield you may want to make a longer stay of it – especially as there is so much to do. You could easily spend a couple of weeks.
When to go: We went mid-August at the height of British summertime. You’d have thought we’d have had the best that the UK weather could offer but it was not the case. What we got was a wind that made the coastline stormy and dramatic and almost swept us off our feet a few times. It didn’t, but the West coast of Wales certainly did!
What to expect: Aberystwyth is a bustling seaside resort as well as a university town. The coastline is dramatic and breath-taking and there are plenty of things in the local vicinity. It’s situated in quite a rural part of Wales, so whichever way you’ll get there, expect some stunning vistas. The area all around Aberystwyth gives you plenty of seaside options, from surfing, beach waterfalls, dolphin sighting, golden beaches and retro pier amusement arcades. If you’re only coming for the weekend, you’ll be left wanting more.
We drove up on the Friday after school and settled into our accommodation and then had two full days to explore. We had already painted and decoupaged out letters and Millie was ready to find all the things she could that started with an A.
Devils Bridge Waterfalls: If waterfalls are your thing then the Devils’ Bridge waterfalls won’t disappoint. Steeped in myths and legend, they seem to cascade endlessly down the hillside. There are two options to see the falls, we chose the waterfalls and nature trail (45 minutes) to see the full falls and a shorter 10 minute walk around the punch bowl.
Do not attempt a pram on this walk, its endless steps to the bottom and back up again, they are steep and slippery. Make sure you’ve all got good walking shoes on and I’d really recommend a baby carrier (we used Tula’s) as at one point, we had them both being carried. It is worth it, Millie was blown away whilst Austin was mildly fascinated.
Aberystwyth Pier: Opened in 1865 and battered a few times during some of the worst of the storms it’s surprising that it’s still standing today. Like a lot of dated piers in the UK, this one has its own amusements arcade so the kids were instantly drawn in by the lights and sounds. I’m sure they could have played in there for a lot longer than we had. Millie grasped the joy of the 2p machine whilst Austin enjoyed some of the smaller machines that moved.
You have to walk through the arcade and the lounge in order to get onto the pier. The wind was so strong whilst we were outside that Millie was screaming for cover and we were trying to remain upright. Not much to see unfortunately when the weather is like that but I’m sure an enjoyable place to enjoy a coffee when the weather permits! We retreated upstairs to the restaurant where the food was nothing to shout about but they did really cater to the kids. Their own book corner and colouring tables kept them amused whilst we procrastinated about the menu and the place was big enough for them to happily roam about without knocking into other diners. We strolled along the adjacent promenade afterwards with our mandatory ice-creams.
Aberystwyth Cliff railway: A short stroll from the pier lies the imposing cliff railway at the end of the beach. For a small fee you can ride the funicular up to see the full view of the town and the coastline. It’s worth the trip for the view. Unfortunately for us, the weather turned into a storm and almost blew us sideways walking around up there. There is a small café on the top which satisfied Millie’s craving for ice-cream despite the horrific weather. You can also head to the top of the hill to look at the camera obscura for an alternative view of the town.
Magic of Life Butterfly House: For a rainy day, this was the perfect little visit, especially as Millie had a recent obsession with them. I thought the entrance fee was a little steep as it’s a tiny place however it is packed full of gorgeous butterflies. After talking to the owner and discovering the vast costs to run the place, it put it into perspective. A few of the butterflies took a liking to Mike and landed on his face, much to the kids amusement. The place is situated in the gorgeous Rheidol Valley where you can see the Rheidol Railway steam train running along the side. There are a few reservoirs around and if the weather is on your side, there are a few lovely walks to enjoy.
We had to check out of our accommodation about ten o clock, we decided to pack up earlier to get a full day sightseeing and made sure the itinerary took us closer to home with each stop so we didn’t waste time coming back on ourselves at the end of the day.
Aberaeron Harbour: The harbour is one of the most beautiful that you will come across with a rows of pastel painted terraces surrounding the harbour. Worthy of a little stroll around the pretty little seaside town.
New Quay Beach and Dolphins: This was one of our highlights of the weekend. The town like many seaside ones trails down to the sea where a focal point is the imposing sea wall. You can’t miss it as there is always a small crowd gathered watching eagerly for the sight of the pods of dolphins that frequent the coast. After helping our self to a locally made pasty, we headed down to join the crowd.
We were a little worried that due to the bad weather the dolphins would be hiding but much to our amazement they were out in force, jumping out of the sea only metres from where we were standing. This was the first time that Millie had seen them and she was blown away. A few local companies do some boat trips to take you out closer to the action but due to the waves and my dispensation for sea sickness we took a pass on this.
The sun came out to our delight and we took advantage of the gorgeous little beach to the side of the harbour and had a paddle. Millie was also very interested in the crabbing that other families were doing on the side of the harbour wall and watched with interest at them being caught and then scuttling off back into the sea.
Tresaith: A little way down the coast you’ll come across the wild beach of Tresaith. The car parking is a little way from the beach and the quickest way to get there is down a number of steps (so be aware if travelling with a pram!)What drew us to this beach is a fantastic waterfall which cascades down the side of the cliff into the sea. It’s on the far right of the beach as you descend past the lifeboat station. You have a few rocks to walk over to see the full view but you have to have a more adventurous scramble over the rocks to get much closer to it (which also depends on the tide). It was just about manageable with the two of them but we did have Austin in our carrier. You learn to surf here amongst many other activities and wetsuits/boards are available to hire. There is a small shop/café selling the usual seaside wares and also a little fish and chip shop.
Cenarth Falls: This lovely area is worth a stop and this for us meant on the way home. It is a lot nicer in real life as opposed to the photos and is number of rapids/cascades down the river. There is a little café to the side of the site and although you have to pay for the car park, you only have to walk a few steps from it to get to the falls. There is a little path that you can follow if you fancy more of an amble along the riverside.
How to get there: We drove (well it’s the easiest option with kids and all that comes with them). I’m guessing most of you will have satnavs to rely on but the last section of the trip will be on winding single lane roads so add a little bit of time onto your satnav’s as you’re bound to get stuck behind a tractor or two!
Train: Up to a dozen direct trains run from Birmingham and Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth a day via the stunning mid- wales. Surely the more scenic way to travel.
Bus: National Express offers a daily link with London and Birmingham whilst Megabus provides a service to London via Cardiff. There are regular services also to North and South Wales.
Where to stay: We love Air BnB, it’s the perfect solution for us. We like to have a place to ourselves, somewhere to put the kids down to sleep and a separate area for us to relax in, safe in the knowledge that they’re nearby. We found a lovely cottage in the nearby Llangybi.(SA48 8NL). It was a cute two bedroomed cottage, situated in the middle of nowhere on a farm. It had a separate play room for the kids and a picnic area outside and a couple of fields to roam about in. We wished we could have stayed longer. There is plenty of alternative accommodation in Aberystwyth itself, from Air BnB to guesthouses and hotels and there are plenty of camping and holiday parks nearby if that is more your thing.
I’ll just leave you with the our collection of As that Millie found along the way….
Plus the final A which will now rest in her room:
Now over to you, what have you done whilst visiting that we haven’t covered here? Share it for others or take a trip yourself to discover more…..A-Z Weekends