Friday 27 November 2015
Machynlleth to Aberystwyth
7 miles (+ train)
Llwynygog Guest House
Rather unsurprisingly it was raining heavily when I emerged from The White Lion. The rain was coming in waves and I had decided not to walk the 15 miles back along the ridge line that separates the hills from the Dovey Valley; I wouldn’t see anything and it would take all day. Instead I had time to wander around Machynlleth again before catching the train along the valley to Borth.
I managed a quick look around the Parliament House, which is full of meeting rooms, and stopped at one of the bookshops to buy myself a historical Welsh novel.
Not far out of Machynlleth the train crossed the border into Ceredigion. Alighting from the train at Borth I was confronted by the brightest painted street of houses I’ve seen so far.
Borth was pretty much one long street next to a shingle beach, merged with Upper Borth on the rising cliff at the end of the beach.
Upon leaving the town I was on a beautiful cliff top path following the ups and downs. Waves of heavy rain were interspersed with lighter drizzle and the poor weather seemed to be keeping the wildlife quiet. There were some seagulls enjoying riding the updrafts and I was lucky enough to see a pair of Choughs. The path was muddy and slippery but manageable with my walking poles. Yet again they proved their value by keeping me upright.
Just North of Aberystwyth is Clarach Bay; apart from a couple of brick houses it’s a village of static caravans next to a lovely beach.
From here I could see Aberystwyth’s Castle ruins and memorial poking out between the cliffs.
Aberystwyth is bounded by two coastal hills: Constitution Hill to the North and Pendinas Fort to the South. I climbed Constitution Hill, the site of Aberystwyth’s Camera Obscura (which apparently has the largest camera obscura lens in the world). From the top of the hill I was afforded a great view of Aberystwyth on a gloomy, grey day. There are a few grand buildings on the sea front and of course the Castle and memorial.
I walked down the steep hill next to the cliff railway (not running today) and found myself at the Northern end of the 1.5 mile long promenade. According to local tradition one should “kick the bar” after walking the length of the promenade.
Aberystwyth has been referred to as the ‘Brighton of Wales’ since at least 1797, and it did remind me of Brighton. It came to prominence as a mid-Wales seaside resort in the 19th Century with a pleasure garden, assembly rooms, a pavilion, a pier, theatres, concert halls, a cliff railway and even a bathhouse containing heated sea water!
Aberystwyth is also a university town and has a long educational history. The National University of Wales was opened in the former Castle Hotel in 1872; it had 3 staff and 26 male students. Women were admitted from 1884.
In the pouring rain I checked into my low grade B&B, dumped my rucksack and headed straight out. I spent an hour or so mooching around the Ceredigion Museum. There was an incredible moment when the wind suddenly picked up and swept violently onshore carrying an incredibly heavy burst of rain. It was such a loud and violent act that I headed straight for the nearest window to see what was happening.
Today was the day of Aberystwyth’s Christmas lights switch-on. And the weather was terrible. I headed into the town centre to watch the festivities and it was a sorry sight. At 5pm the party was meant to be in full swing but the pouring rain meant the stalls didn’t have many customers and the choirs on the stage didn’t have many spectators.
The big Christmas tree was being violently blown about and anything not tied down was soon flying about (including part of the stage covering). Fortunately, although the wind was getting stronger, the rain did eventually die off about 5 minutes before the lantern parade. I partook of the free mulled wine and mince pies on offer and watched the children file past with their lanterns, accompanied by the Aberystwyth Brass Band.
The Mayor switched the lights on (they didn’t know I was going to be in town) and then everyone (who could speak the local language) sang a few carols in Welsh.
It had been a good day but the weather was deteriorating rapidly. I was supposed to be meeting up with Greg from my local pub to walk the next couple of days but unless the forecast was to change it was likely to be too dangerous to walk the exposed coastline safely.