There’s a lot going on in Cardigan Bay, but it’s often overlooked by visitors who want to go for the more traditional tourist destinations. And whilst places like Pembrokeshire and Snowdonia have beaches and mountains aplenty, Ceredigion also has them in abundance, and often within a very short distance of one another.
Ceredigion does beaches. Most of the coastline is protected heritage coast, and scattered through it are Blue Flags and Green Coast Awards aplenty. It’s also home to an extraordinarily diverse range of rich wildlife and plant life: bottlenose dolphins, porpoises, Atlantic grey seals and sea lamprey; there’s always the possibility of sighting Minke whales in this area, and thresher sharks.
In Aberaeron you’ll encounter a pick and mix village of brightly coloured houses, and in July every year they host their Fish Festival: increasingly one of the highlights of the Welsh food calendar, attracting several thousand people. The Victorian promenade at Aberystwyth is a genteel front for one of the liveliest and most diverse seaside communities in the whole of Wales, packed with cafes and delicatessens.
One of the great things about the coast, in addition to is wildlife and beaches, are the huge range of water-based activities accessible to visitors. You can learn to sail in New Quay or surf in Borth. Or you can walk 60 miles along the Ceredigion Coast between two gorgeous estuaries. If that all sounds a bit strenuous, you can simply relax on one of the areas fantastic beaches: the secluded sandy bay at Mwnt, for example, a National Trust managed beach that’s an idyllic spot with fantastic views across Cardigan Bay from the summit of Foel Y Mwnt. Or you can find ancient sand dunes such as the ones in Ynyslas, part of the Dyfi Biosphere.
Ceredigion isn’t just about Cardigan Bay. It also lays claim to more than its fair share of rolling green hills and mountains. This is quintessentially Wales: rural farming communities and country cottages located in shady woodland dells; Iron Age forts and Elizabethan mine workings, Roman villas and the remains of medieval abbeys – here you’ll find the soul of Wales, amidst the Cambrian Mountains and across the Great Welsh desert.
Visit Cors Caron (a glacial bog near Tregaron, formed over the last 12,000 years), an untamed mix of raised bog, reedbed, wet grassland, ponds, streams and patches of woodland, home to otters and peregrine falcons. You’ll find Devil’s Bridge, built when the Devil walked in Ceredigion; you’ll find the majesty of Pumlumon and the quiet tranquillity of Nant y Moch. You’ll find the old university town of Lampeter, great for walking and fishing; the National Library of Wales, based in Aberystwyth, is home to some of the great manuscripts of Welsh history and the oldest known version of The Canterbury Tales.
If you’re looking for traditional Wales, then you could head to the National Wool Museum in the Teifi Valley: for something more physical, The Ystwyth Trail follows sections of the old Great Western Railway line and links up with the Tregaron and Lampeter Cycle Break route and to several Sustrans routes (Aberystwyth with Shrewsbury, and to Cardigan and beyond) together with the Rheidol Cycle Trail, connecting Aberystwyth and Devil’s Bridge.
One of the most amazing things about Ceredigion is the untamed area known as the Welsh Desert. It’s sparsely populated, with few roads. You can do a little stargazing here. The Elan Valley in nearby Powys has recently acquired Dark Sky Status, and you can see why when you get up into the hills and mountains of Central Wales.
There are few places here that are not connected to some ancient legend or myth, and the night sky also has its fair share of stories. The constellation of Perseus, for example, a part of the Milky Way (Sarn Gwydion), represented to early Welshmen the legendary Llew Llaw Gyffes, child of Arianrhod (herself represented by the Coronae Borealis). Llew was killed by his adulterous wife but upon his death, his soul turned into an eagle. His uncle Gwydion finally found him as the constellation Acquilla after traversing Sarn Gwydion in search of him.