The county of Ceredigion in west Wales, encompassing most of the historic district of Cardiganshire, is a region teeming with history, having been inhabited since prehistoric times.
Indeed, Ceredigion is home to ancient hill forts and Bronze Age standing stones, as well as the relics of more recent centuries, when the region became a hub of Welsh agriculture and industry. For those eager to explore the county’s fascinating history, there are a whole host of heritage sites worth visiting, from the Amgueddfa Ceredigion Museum to the medieval Aberystwyth Castle.
Here are 10 of the best sites to visit in Ceredigion.
1. Cardigan Castle
The first version of this now-sprawling castle is thought to have arisen around the 11th century, signalling the beginning of a colourful and battle-strewn history. It’s been the home of Edward I and Catherine of Aragon, but these days is now a historical site open to visitors, many of whom come to enjoy its acclaimed restaurant Cegin 1176 (‘Kitchen 1176’ in English). The restaurant is named after the year of Wales’s first Eisteddfod, an annual festival of Welsh culture which first took place at Cardigan Castle and is still celebrated today.
In contrast to the castle’s appealingly ancient stone exterior, Cegin 1176 is a slick, modern eatery, with floor-to-ceiling glass panels that look out over parts of the grounds. Vegetables, fruits and herbs served in the restaurant are even grown in the castle garden.
2. Aberystwyth Castle
There has been a castle or fortification of some sort in Aberystwyth for nearly a millennium. The first in the area was founded in c. 1110, but it was probably razed and rebuilt by Llewelyn the Great in the early 13th century. The present structure was built by King Edward I in the late 13th century; it then witnessed centuries of conflict between English and Welsh forces.
Today, the castle is in ruin, having been slighted under Oliver Cromwell’s orders in 1649. The north tower gateway still stands, however, and makes for a dramatic spectacle just a stone’s throw from the coastline.
3. Llanerchaeron House
Situated near the town of Aberaeron, the Llanerchaeron Estate features a Georgian villa, farm buildings and a walled garden. The villa was designed by famed architect John Nash, renowned for Buckingham Palace and Brighton’s Royal Pavilion.
The house remains remarkably well preserved, offering visitors a window on the fashions and furnishings of its late 18th and 19th century inhabitants. The site is open to the public and features beautiful gardens, a visitor’s reception, a bookshop and a cafe.
4. Cardigan Guildhall
The Cardigan Guildhall and adjacent Market Hall were constructed in 1856 in the modern Gothic style, a novel and pioneering move for the time. They’re thought to be the first civic buildings in Britain to boast modern Gothic architecture. The clock tower wasn’t part of the original design, however, and was added later.
Today, the Cardigan Guildhall is a Grade II* listed monument featuring to an art gallery and public spaces for community events. Be sure to visit the market, which is home to some 50 different stands and shops.
5. Amgueddfa Ceredigion Museum
The Amgueddfa Ceredigion Museum in Aberystwyth is a heritage institution dedicated to preserving and sharing the county of Ceredigion’s heritage, culture and art. Housed in an Edwardian theatre, the museum opened in 1972 thanks to the efforts of the Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society.
Now overseen by Ceredigion County Council, the museum and its collections feature traditional Welsh furniture, local artworks and exhibits on the region’s architectural and agricultural heritage.
The term ‘Devil’s Bridge’ is used to refer to dozens of ancient bridges due to their unusual design and technological achievement which, folklore had it, could only be the work of the Devil himself. Amongst the most famous in the world is Devil’s Bridge in Ceredigion, Wales.
Made up of three bridges of differing ages built on top of one another, Devil’s Bridge and the nearby waterfalls attract thousands of tourists every year. The original bridge is thought to have been built in c. 1075-1200, the second in 1753 and the third in 1901.