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Category: Ceredigion

Somewhere Else

Somewhere Else

Now that some of the Covid-19 restrictions in Wales have been relaxed we can go somewhere else – anywhere – so we did just that.

We headed 60 miles due west and found ourselves in Aberystwyth, Ceredigion. It took us about one hour and fortyfive minutes to do those 60 miles because most Welsh roads are anything but wide and straight. The last 10 miles was particularly wiggley but we got there.

We parked in a large car park on Park Avenue and were expecting to pay £1.70 for the day but all the pay machines were covered with large bags and there was no explanation so we ended up paying nothing.

We headed fo the sea front and soon after leaving the car park we walked past the Vale of Rheidol Railway Terminus which is a Heritage Steam Railway that runs to Devil’s Bridge. The last time we went to Devil’s Bridge we saw the other end of this line and took some photographs when a train arrived from Aberystwyth.

This time the terminus in Aberystwyth was closed with no signs of life anywhere so we continued past. Probably because of Covid-19. Pity really.

We headed for the harbour and were then planning to walk north along the sea front as far as the Funicular Railway at the far end of the bay. Where we parked was an obviously new area including a retail park but the buildings and streets suddenly changed when we reached the old part of the town.

This was one of the streets in the area of New Street and the hill in the distance could be Constitution Hill and the funicular railway runs up that.

It was a short walk further on to the harbour which includes the River Rheidol just before it runs into the sea. Both pictures are taken from the same viewpoint but in different directions.

A short walk from the harbour brought us to the sea front. This view is looking south and shows the wall at the entrance to the harbour.

Walking on South Marine Terrace along the sea front we passed these colourful houses and could see the castle in the distance.

Then an equally colourful plant bed.

A short way on we reached Aberystwyth Castle built by Edward I in 1289 but by 1343 the castle was in a bad state of repair. In 1649 Oliver Cromwell ordered the castle to be slighted, i.e. rendered unusable, hence its current condition.

We finally left the castle after having a really good look round and went back down to the sea front onto the New Promenade which was completed in the early 1900s.

On Constitution Hill in the distance, on the left of the next picture, there is a straight line visible running from the top to the bottom – this is the funicular railway of which more later.

In 1795 John Nash built the Old College buildings on the right, with George Jones as the architect, in Gothic style. It was later sold to the University of Wales who turned it into a college for higher education and it later became the University of Aberystwyth. It remained as the main part of the university until the 1960s when the university open a new campus near the National Library of Wales.

A short way on and we found two things – an ice cream kiosk and the pier. We had some ice cream, to help the local economy you understand, and had a look at the pier. It has to be said that this is the shortest seaside pier that we have ever seen. It does have amusements inside and a restaurant at the outer end which has a sun deck visible at the far end. We didn’t have time to visit the restaurant so we moved on.

When we reached this point along the sea front there was a turning off to the right which, having previously looked at the map, I knew led a short distance to the Tourist Information Centre. Having previous looked at some web sites which gave opening times I thought we’d pop in to see if there was anything we should visit that we might have missed. Needless to say it was closed with no signs of life. It was, however, a pleasant part of the town.

We went back to the seafront which has, as you can see, a rather fine beach. This beach runs all the way along the seafront promenade and has a greyish sand but sand nevertheless and there were plenty of people enjoying themselves.

We continued on towards the Funicular Railway passing some colourful, fine looking houses on the way.

We finally arrived at the bottom station of the funicular railway expecting it not to be running because of the current virus problems but it was so we decided to make use of it and take the easy way up.

We were asked to wear masks whilst on the ‘train’, which they supplied at a small charge, and the single fare was £7 for two.

We boarded the coach and, after a short time, it started to move. As with all funiculars there are two sets of rails and two coaches. When one coach is going up the other is coming down so that each coach acts as a counter-weight for the other.

This funicular is interesting in that the rails start up steeply then level off a little then go up an even steeper slope. When we reached the top I took a photograph from the station looking down.

You will be pleased to hear that there is a cafe at the top -we certainly were. They had a good selection of items on the menu including cake so we had to try some. We both had some cheesecake (very nice) and a cup of coffee each. The view from this level is really quite amazing.

The second picture was taken with a telephoto and is of the castle area with the war memorial on the right and parts of the castle showing on the left. You can also see the sundeck on the pier.

Once we had finished our cake and coffee we had to walk back down but just before we did that we had a look at the view north of Aberystwyth towards Clarach Bay. Beautiful.

This is the start of the footpath down but it isn’t that wide all the way.

We are almost at the bottom now.

On the way down we saw a number of wild flowers including Sea Campion, Thyme and Quaking Grass.

Finally back to sea level we now have to walk back to where we parked the car but we did pass through some more interesting parts of Aberystwyth.

We finally staggered back to the car and set off home but this time we are going home via the mountain road rather than the main road which brought us here.

We first go from Aberystwyth to Devil’s Bridge where we join the mountain road.

The next picture, which is just before we reach Rhayader, will be of particular interest to our friend Marie because she has been there. It shows one of the reservoirs in the Elan Valley and we brought Marie this way on that little road in the bottom right corner.

We reached home without incident although Amanda was feeling a little travel sick by this time. It took her about an hour to recover.

I wonder where we’ll go next time!

Reservoirs, Roads and Rails

Reservoirs, Roads and Rails

The online weather forecast for today was chilly and cloudy up to about 5:00 PM when we would have some sunny intervals for a couple of hours then back to cloudy for the rest of the day. Knowing how completely wrong the online forecasts had been over the past two or three days we decided to go out for the day.

We set off about 9:30 AM and followed a route we had used a number of times already which led us west to Crossgates where we would turn left for Llandrindod Wells but this time we went straight on towards Rhayader (pronounced 'raider') and as we were heading for Rhayader the sun started to break through. cool

When we reached Rhayader we wanted to continue west but there was a slight problem although perhaps I should describe it as a mountainous problem. Between us and where we wanted to go were the Cambrian Mountains; a large wild and mountainous area with few roads and some of those roads stopped part the way across. However we were lucky that there was one road going in the direction we wanted which went up, over and down the other side. So we left Rhayader and started up, and up, and up. This is part of that road not long after we'd left Rhayader.

We stopped by a stream to look at the view and a little further along we stopped again to look at the Craig Goch Reservoir in the Elan Valley (second picture below). Had we turned off onto the road along the Elan Valley, which we didn't, we would have found six large reservoirs. Perhaps we will have to do that one day.

We traversed these uplands on a road that was often not wide enough for two vehicles to pass, although there were plenty of passing places, and many sharp blind bends. There were also places where there were very steep slopes next to the road and no guard rails. We did, eventually, reach the other side of the uplands and started to go down. This was the view from the top looking down through the pass that we were about to go through. One thing that is noticeable about this area is that there are no trees.

We did make it to the bottom and then onwards to Pontrhydfendigaid (I suggest we pause for a short time whilst you untie your tongue). The name apparently means 'the bridge of the blessed ford'. We turned out of Pontrhydfendigaid and soon found ourselves at Strata Florida Abbey, which was our destination, after a journey of 2 hours. This ruin is owned and maintained by CADW – the welsh equivalent of English Heritage. The name Strata Florida is a corruption of the Welsh Ystrad Fflur, meaning Valley of (the river of) Flowers.

This gateway is the highest part of what is left. The abbey does have a wonderful backdrop as you can see in the second picture below.

There is also a large area of medeival tiles dating from the 14th century which makes them around 700 years old. Is your bathroom going to last that long?

Strata Florida Abbey is interesting but it is not worth making a special (long) journey for simply because there is really not that much to see but if you are in the area or passing through then it is worth stopping off. I doubt that we spent an hour there before continuing to our next destination further north – Devil's Bridge.

Devil's Bridge is actually three stacked bridges as each time that a new bridge has been built to replace the old bridge the new bridge has been built above the previous bridge. There is an old tale that the first bridge was built by the Devil but actually it is probable that it was built by the monks of Strata Florida Abbey. The original bridge is thought to have been built between 1075 – 1200. The bridge is at a point where the River Mynach drops 300 feet in five steps down a steep and narrow ravine.

The next photograph was taken from the newest bridge looking down into the ravine. It is possible, on payment of a small fee, to climb down into the ravine via the steps seen in the picture. We didn't have time to do that on this trip but we do intend to come back.

Th other ting we came to see was the Vale of Rheidol Railway which runs from Aberystwith, on the west coast, to Devil's Bridge and back. The journey takes an hour each way. When the train pulls in to the station it uncouples from the carriages and moves past a set of points then reverses to the other end of the carriages to pull the train back to Aberystwith.

We had a light lunch at the station in the Two Hoots Cafe. I had soup with bread and Amanda had a sandwhich and we each pronounced our food to be very good indeed.

That was the end of our day except for the drive back and the return journey took just 90 minutes as we didn't keep stopping to admire the scenery. Can't wait to go back.