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Revision as of 14:22, 17 April 2014
The Old College seen from the grounds of the Castle. The Pier behind, with the Cliff Railway and Camera Obscura in the background
Aberystwyth is in the county of Ceredigion, in Wales.
Aberystwyth, called the true capital of Wales by some, is a smallish town on the Ceredigion coast, just below the Dyfi estuary. Politically, it's in the heart of Nationalist Wales, and is the birthplace of the Welsh Language movement. It is home to one of the oldest parts of the University of Wales , which is attended by some 9,000 students. It is also home to the National Library of Wales , one of the UK's few copyright libraries, meaning it has the right to claim a copy of every book published in Britain, which also means that it has one of the highest figures for books per head of population in the world. Its other notable - and notorious - feature is the remarkable number of pubs in the town.
Generations of first year students have been brought up on the promise of a pub for every week of the year . True in that there exist over 61 separate physical locations with public bars in the small Welsh town . Aberystwyth has a fairly unique student atmosphere - during term-time the vast majority of young adults are undergraduates and the remoteness of the location creates a more vibrant social life than experienced on most campuses.
'Aber' is at the end of the line, in many senses of the phrase. Direct trains run from Birmingham International. 2 hours from Shrewsbury, 3 from Birmingham. A branch line from Machynlleth provides connections to the coastal towns of West Gwynedd.
Arriva  operates the only regular rail service to Aber. Arriva's service is sometimes criticized by locals and students. Arriva promises improvement.
There are two main routes to Aber by road: the A44 comes from the East, and the A487 goes North to South through the town. The best way to actually get there from any particular point is a subject of much debate. Buy a map and have fun. Minimum 3 hours from Birmingham, 2 hours 30 mins from Cardiff, 1 hour 30 mins from Swansea - highly dependent on the number of tractors on the roads.There is also a Park and Ride facility .
Arriva CymruExpress service 40 links Aberystwyth to Carmarthen daily (and hourly M-Sa), with some journeys extended to Swansea (service 20) and Cardiff (service 10). The X32 is the northern equivalent, providing a link to such exciting places as Machynlleth, Dolgellau and Bangor at least twice a day. Traveline : 0871 200 22 33
Daily National Express  409 service to/from Birmingham and London Victoria.
Presently, Swansea  is the nearest airport, light aircraft only. Birmingham International  is most useful for Aberystwyth - it's about 3 hours 30 mins away by direct train.
Aber is a very compact town; walking is by far the easiest way to get around.
If you require motorised transport, taxis are plentiful and relatively cheap.
Buses  also run up Penglais hill (where the main University campus is) and to Llanbadarn Fawr (the other campus, and the Morrisons supermarket - largest of its ilk locally).
Parking is a problem in the centre of Aber, but a Park and Ride operates from Park Avenue, with a free bus service every 15 minutes M-Sa.
- The best thing to see in Aber is probably the sunset! The view over Cardigan Bay on a summer's evening can be quite stunning. The best places to see the sunset are the long seafront Promenade (see also: Drink), any of the beaches that takes your fancy, and the University plaza (and the Arts Centre cafe located above it).
- The second best thing to see in Aber is probably the sunrise! The 'view over Trilby and Smoking Pipe Cove on a summer's morning can be alright, if you're drunk (see Drink section). The best places to see the sunrise are the long seafront Promenade (see also: Drink), any of the beaches that takes your fancy, and the University plaza (and the Arts Centre cafe located above it).
- Aberystwyth Arts Centre [www.aber.ac.uk/artscentre], +44 1970 623232, is the largest and busiest arts centre in Wales, boasting a theatre (312 seats), concert hall (900 seats), cinema (125 seats), studio (80 seats) and three wonderful gallery spaces. Has a programme of theatre and dance, live music, comedy, exhibitions and cinema. It also runs visual arts and perfoming arts courses for children and adults of all ages, as well as a dance school with over 500 students enrolled. Has a craftshop, a bookshop two cafes and a theatre bar.
- The ruins of the Castle, overlooking the bay, is pleasant enough to wander through during the day - there are also picnic tables scattered around the war memorial that shares the space. Don't go venturing there at night, though - the castle is used by less savoury persons after dark...
- The other 'sight' in Aber (and another fine vantage point for sunsets) is Constitution Hill, accessible by funicular railway in season, and a brisk 15 minute walk up to the summit all year round. The views are tremendous, and there is a small museum and Camera Obscura, as well as the obligatory tea shop, at the top.
- The National Library of Wales, (from town, take the Penglais Road [the A487 toward Machynlleth] up Penglais Hill; turn right where signposted (after Bronglais Hospital); the library is at the end of a 400 metre drive overlooking the town.), +44 1970 632800 (fax: +44 1970 615709), . Reading rooms and Entrance Hall Exhibition Area open M-F 9:30AM-6PM, Sa 9:30AM-5PM; Gregynog Exhibition Gallery, Peniarth Gallery, The World of the Book open M-Sa 10AM-5PM. Free.
- The National Library of Wales is one of the six legal deposit libraries in the British Isles and has a collection of more than four million printed volumes. In addition, it has collections concentrating in Welsh and other Celtic cultures. The Entrance Hall Exhibition Area and Gregynog Gallery feature regular exhibits -- primarily of work by Welsh artists. The Peniarth Gallery and World of the Book feature changing thematic exhibits of items from the library's collections. 2007 represents the centenary of the library and, as a result there are a wide range of events throughout the year.
A good place to start is the Tourist Information Centre at the seafront end of Terrace Road.
- The main pastime in Aber, at least for its student population, is drinking (i.e. 'the lash'). There are many fine public houses in the town, and many grotty ones, too. See 'Drink' for more details.
- If walking's your thing, then the countryside around Aber is beautiful. A popular walk is to Borth, about 5 miles up a hilly coastal path, which blessed with wonderful beaches. At the northern tip of Borth is Ynyslas, home to a nature reserve of sand dunes and a submerged forest. A short trip out of town by car or bus is Cadair Idris a popular hiking spot with spectacular view (if the weather is good).
- Watersports are another popular activity, but it's probably advisable to take part in organised outings as far as these go. The Irish Sea is famous for its undertow, and most years at least one foolhardy person gets sucked out to sea - usually after a drinking session.
- There are also boat trips out into Cardigan Bay, where dolphins can be seen in the waters, and seals on the islands. These are seasonal, so check at the tourist information centre for latest times and prices. Sea Fishing excursions can also be arranged in the harbour, a great day out with all equipment included in the charter.
- Vale of Rheidol Railway (Rheilffordd Dyffryn Rheidol), Park Avenue, ☎ 01970 625819 (fax: 01970 623769), . Was the last steam line owned by British Rail until privatisation in 1989. It's now run by a charitable trust. The line climbs up the beautiful Rheidol Valley to Devils Bridge (Pontarfynach), taking about an hour in each direction. Devils Bridge is a major tourist attraction, the site of 3 bridges, each above the other, crossing the deep ravine of the Mynach river where it drops 300 feet to flow into the river Rheidol. Legend has it that the original bridge was built by the Devil as it was too difficult for mortal people to build. The Devil built the bridge in return for the soul of the first life to cross the bridge, but the Devil was tricked by an old woman who threw bread onto the bridge and her dog followed, thus becoming the first life to cross the new bridge. The railway is the best way to visit Devils Bridge as the roads are narrow and winding and parking at Devils Bridge can be a nightmare in peak season. If you're planning on spending a bit of time looking around in Devils Bridge (as well as the bridges and waterfalls there are a couple of pubs and some gift shops, and several waymarked walking trails) be sure to check the times of later trains with the guard when you get off!
- Local Celebrities include Bob the People's Poet usually sporting a khaki outfit topped off with a communist beret. He is the voice of the downtrodden and has a very 'indivdual' poetic style. Another important local figure is 'shoulder cat man' often seen in the local Spar with his fashionable tortoiseshell cat draped about his neck.
- Little Italy, 51 North Parade, Tel: +44 1970 625707. An pleasant if rather oppressively cosy Italian restaurant. The steak is particularly fine.
- Ultracomida Delicatessen, 31 Pier Street, ☎ +44 1970 630686. The only restaurant in Aberystwyth to recieve a Good Food Guide rating (2, 2012). Regularly changing menu that includes panini to dine in (two large tables and a bar with stools in the back room) or take away for lunch, platters of freshly sliced cheeses and Spanish meats, and various hot and cold tapas and main portion dishes all of a high quality. The delicatessen features local and imported cheeses and meats and produce and Spanish olives and peppers, as well as freshly imported coffee.
- Piazza Cafe, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, . Fantastic range of home-made meals and cakes as well as the best coffee in Aber available until 5pm each evening (closed on Sundays). With a fantastic seated terrace that overlooks Cardigan bay.
- Wasabi, 31 Eastgate, ☎ +44 1970 630800. Excellent Japanese Restaurant offering both sushi and sashimi as well as ramen/udon meals. Reasonably priced and also serves warm sake!
- Arts Centre Cafe, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, . Tasty, wholesome food and cakes available until 8pm each evening (6pm on Sundays).
- Baravin, Llys Y Brenin, Terrace Rd, SY23 2AP, ☎ 01970 611189, . A pleasant new restaurant & cocktail bar situated on the seafront. Serves rustic pizza as well as meat and fish mains in a modern open-plan dinning area. While they are quite expensive it serves the only decent cocktails in town. ££.
- The Pier Brasserie, The Royal Pier, Marine Terrace, ☎ 01970 636123 , . A mid-priced restaurant at the end of the Royal Pier. Serves decent food and has very good views of the ocean and the Aber seafront. Has a deal currently running where you can get two good-sized pizzas and a bottle of wine for £20.
- Scholars. Local favourite amongst students, often with live bands at the weekend, and with a decent selection of beers. The Guinness is usually good as it is ordered regularly and so doesn't sit in the pipes.
- Rummers. Rowdy traditional pub with nice walls and slate floors. It opens late at the weekends. Live music of varying quality on Friday and Saturday. Tuesday is cheep vodka night, this is the most important event of the Aber week. Good place to finish a night out if you don't fancy dancing to cheesy music on a sticky dance floor
- Glengower Hotel, 3 Victoria Terrace, ☎ +44 1970 626191, . A nice bar on the sea front. Quiet in the evenings but gets busy on nice days. The beer garden offers stunning views of the sunset and perhaps a couple of dolphins too but, beware, the sea is a cruel mistress. It is rumoured that the late Liz Taylor's grandaughter worked behind the bar.
- The Angel, Great Darkgate Street. This dank and grimy dive is ideal if you're looking to indulge your dark side. With warm pints and the worst toilets you've ever dreamed of it's not one to take your granny to. The rock and fetish nights held in the back room are popular with really RAD Aber resident. Probably the cheapest pub in aber.
- Y Cwps (The Coopers Arms). Recently renovated (although not dramatically) the Cwps - as it's generally known - has a long relationship with Welsh language campaigns and music.
- The Inn on the Pier. Although 'The Pinn' isn't the nicest place for a drink - and certainly won't be somewhere you'll find a real ale - it is on the Pier jutting out into the bay and offers a truly unique experience, especially in a storm!
- Theatre Bar, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, ☎ +44 1970 628454. A lovely place to chill out and relax before or after a show. Serves tasty panini too!
- The Ship and Castle, 1 High Street, . The Campaign for Real Ale pub of the year in 2011, this recently-renovated bar features a rotating set of ales, well-informed staff and a cozy atmosphere. Is very popular so can get packed on weekends, but definitely worth checking out if you're visiting.
Aberystwyth offers a very safe environment and is probably one of the few places remaining in Britain where an unlocked door doesn't guarantee burglary.
Friday and Saturday nights can be a bit boisterous during the summer, though incidences of drink related violence are still far less than in large cities.
The town descends into Carnage twice a year when boodthirsty students take to the streets in disguise to inflict terror. Best to stay safely tucked up in bed.
Also, the sea can be a cruel mistress (see above: Glengower Hotel).
Check out this online area guide which has reviews of places to eat & sleep along with ideas for walks and places to visit around Aberystwyth.