One of BB’s most-respected research associates has kindly sent a 1930s travel guide to “Aberystwyth and North Wales”. We plan to write a whole entry about this shortly (here’s a scan of the Aber street map as evidence of our good intentions), but in the meantime we’re going to outline, delineate or otherwise circumscribe the parameters of the perfect day out in modern-day Aberystwyth. See, BB takes you to all the best places. Well, one of them. Repeatedly.
“I could stay right here and never ever leave,
What else do I need.”
The best entrance into the town if you can swing it is on the A487 from Bow Street that comes down Penglais Hill. (If you’re coming across on the A44 and have a little time, take the A4159 turning via Capel Dewi to come out just after Bow Street and turn left.) You’ll see the town laid out before you with the sea glittering beyond, only slightly spoilt by the footbridge that latterly connects the main university campus with the student village. Admire its compact size, and consider that it holds everything you will require for your stay (that chiefly consisting of Food and Beer).
Outside weekends and peak summer times, you may be able to park along the prom or down by the harbour. Otherwise, it’ll be one of the new car parks along Boulevard Saint Brieuc (it were all fields in my day), and a walk back into town. Admire the new Ystwyth Retail Park - there’s posh.
If you’re extra-specially blessed, you might take the train instead (a long but scenic journey through nowhere of much consequence), in which case you can walk straight out of the station into the bustle of Aber. Let’s start outside here then. Cross the road and go down Terrace Road opposite. While you’re passing, buy a baguette for lunch at Spartacus II if you want to eat al-fresco. If you need breakfast, turn right on the main street and go to the Upper Limit Café for the full Welsh (previously The Limit Café - the name change was suggested to the new owner by our Glamorous Research Assistant, trivia fans). If it’s mid-morning, find a bakery - Y Popty further up Terrace Road or the Hot Bread Shop on the corner of Cambrian Place and Chalybeate Street are good. Doughnuts on the seafront are even better. (Add a tot of whisky if you’re an old school geek.)
Spend the morning wandering around town and browsing the shops. Everybody comes down to town on a Saturday, so you’ll probably find the pavement regularly blocked by groups of nattering locals. Relax, be tolerant, step round - the traffic’s not heavy. We suggest hunting out: Ystwyth Books (street off the rear of the Market Hall); Stars, outfitters to generations of emo & goth students; Cheap Charlie’s (for all lovers of discount hardware stores); the caffs on Pier St; the sex shop on Pier Street (just to gawp, not go in unless you’re planning a really squalid evening); the whole of Eastgate Street (unremarkable in itself, but a nice quiet row parallel to the main street); the reinstated clock tower at the top of Great Darkgate Street; Portland St up to the town hall, and then north along Queen’s Road to the seafront, past the tennis courts and the county court with its ornate iron balcony, looking like it belongs in the Deep South. (At this point you might as well cut through to the front via the restored 1926 public shelter. Decent toilet stop here if needed, although the interior of the modern block on Park Avenue has the edge we feel.)
From the end of the prom, you can stroll up Constitution Hill (Consti) or take the funicular. There’s a swish new café and bar on top if you need a beer already (note: such places are going to feature heavily in the following), and a classic view over the town.
If it’s now lunch time and you bought lunch, this is a good place to stop if the wind is tolerable. Sitting on a wall on the seafront or the castle are also fine choices. Otherwise, definitely go to the Treehouse for a vegan/organic treat (they don’t have an evening sitting). If that’s full, try the Clock Tower.
Afternoon: more wandering. Walk back down the seafront and carry on to the castle. Plenty of good strolling, idling or (from the war memorial on the head) sightseeing here, plus a decent playground if you have kids with you. Exit to the top of Great Darkgate Street, near no. 64, admiring the clean lines of the old music department opposite, and instead of heading back into town, walk past the Castle Theatre and explore the area below the castle: a maze of residential streets plus the odd curio like the old Albion pub sign and a preserved shop window on Vulcan Street. The Castle pub can also be found here, although BB could only consistently locate it during our first year in Aber when drunk. Heading back towards the seafront via South Road, turn left and complete the remainder of the prom right out to the beacon on the end of the harbour wall (if it’s not stormy).
If you still have energy to burn, retrace your steps, follow the edge of the harbour back round past Rummers Wine bar to Trefechan Bridge and cross the river. Turn right near the fire station (towards the marina) to walk around Tanybwlch Beach or the lower slopes of Pen Dinas. It’ll be much quieter out here. Stop for a pint in The Fountain on the return. Alternatively, there’s a new “millenium” cycle path that starts down by the river and heads out towards Llanbadarn.
(On a personal note, BB may instead head up Penglais to campus along the back roads like Cae’r-gôg and via the National Library. For those who didn’t spend their most impressionable years here, the Arts Centre - especially the café with its view over the bay - is worth a gander, though likely not much else is unless you’re a keen enthusiast of concrete. However, crossing the road opposite the main UWA entrance and heading back down through Penglais Woods offers a very pleasant return walk.)
By now, it should be early evening and the shops are closing. This is a fine and just time to start drinking. No, I mean properly (that was just thirst-quenching before). At least one before dinner, probably in the Wetherspoons in the old station (Yr Hen Orsaf = The Old Station, see?). This has the advantage that you can also order (some approximation of) food without moving on. Alternatively, maybe a ruby (Eastgate St, last time I checked)? The Clock Tower is still good if you want up-market, and Corners & Gannets Bistro are Aber mainstays. For something lighter, order a pizza at Rummers; you’re going to end up there anyway. The rest of the evening is a free-for-all, or possibly a blur. Rest assured, there are plenty of pubs and bars here, but unfortunately BB is too old and married-with-kids to offer up to date guidance. However, should you need some air to clear your head late on, simply retrace today’s explorations by strolling down to the harbour, up to the castle or along the front towards Consti. (Avoid the beach or the end of the harbour if it’s stormy - plenty of drunks have been swept away here.)
Alternatively, you might head home… Bah, don’t do it. Early evening is a depressing time to leave Aber, particularly in summer - everyone is going to have a lovely evening here, and you’ll be back in grim and grimy England. Morning isn’t much better either, they’ll have another full day ahead of them while you’ll be cursing caravans and lorries on the road home. No, if you have to leave - and you really shouldn’t, probably ever - go late at night when it’s dark and the only other option is on to a nightclub (not recommended, anywhere but especially not in Aber). If you’re sober, that is. If not…ah well, maybe tomorrow night, eh?