Last weekend I blogged about our motorcycle adventures, which was the main aim of the holiday, but for half the week we left the bikes locked up at the cottage and ventured out by other means to take a look around the area.
Our first trip was to Aberystwyth, which was only about 6 miles away and had a reasonable bus route from a stop just a few yards from our rented cottage in Talybont.
The day started a little cloudy and overcast and our first impressions were not great. Disembarking from the bus at the station, the walk to the harbour at the far end of the bay took us through some uninspiring back streets. We by-passed the castle and eventually arrived out on the bay, where we passed a brightly coloured terrace of Victorian houses to arrive at the harbour.
This was clearly a working harbour and was quaint in its way, but there wasn’t a lot to see and the drab skies did little to endear it to us. We therefore retraced our steps back to the castle, which was much more impressive: there was no-one asking for an entrance fee, and there were no ropes, lines or reconstructions, it was just as it was, fallen into ruin and there for all to wander around.
We spent ages taking pictures and left in a much better frame of mind.
We walked along the promenade, overlooked by more grand, austere Victorian buildings, and past the pier, which had been turned into the standard tacky seaside amusement arcade. About half way along we stopped at PD’s Diner, a cafe right on the promenade; the sort of place that is usually nasty and expensive. PD’s Diner, however, was neither of these things – it was unexpectedly good quality and value. Also, for future reference, alongside was an extensive area of the prom set aside for motorcycle parking throughout the summer months.
By now the sun was out and it was beautiful and warm. Invigorated by coffee we ventured down onto the beach and spent a fair bit of time exploring some rock pools before heading back for a ride on the Funicular railway.
Unfortunately, the railway was closed for maintenance: typical! Undeterred we decided to walk up the cliff instead, which was very hot work. Luckily, at the top the cafe was open and, for the second time, we were pleasantly surprised by the cost and quality of the food on offer. They even had a real ale available, so I thought it would be rude not to give it a try.
We re-traced our steps, with everything looking better in the sun and by the end of the day we were definitely won over to the charms of Aberystwyth.
Vale of Rheidol Railway
We’d seen adverts for the Vale of Rheidol Railway in the cottage and a friend on FaceBook recommended it, so we thought we’d give it a go: a good way to see the scenery without being on the bikes.
Once again we bussed into Aberystwyth, from where it is a short walk to the station. Well, it is if you go through the main railway station rather than walking all the way around the outside like we did.
A few lessons from our experience:
- When you buy your ticket proceed straight to the train. We didn’t realise this and stopped for a coffee first, which meant that despite being the first to arrive we were pretty much last in the carriage with corresponding lack of seat choice.
- It probably isn’t worth upgrading to first class. We did and it was maybe a bit comfier, but a seat by the window is more important and all the carriages have windows.
- Sit on the left as you go out – that’s where all the scenery is.
- The views are better by bike
- Do it anyway: the smells, sound and feel of the old steam train is brilliant and very relaxing.
- Don’t take the next train back. There is a one hour turnaround, but this gives no time to do anything. Everyone makes a bee-line for the cafe, which is packed, so it will take an hour just to get a cup of tea. The walk to Devils Bridge Falls looked worth doing, but you definitely need more time for that – especially as you have to pay to visit. Take a later train and just relax and enjoy it.
Although we did take the next train back we did enjoy it – and it was much quieter going back so we had the best seats on the train. Some people had probably already worked out our lesson 6 for themselves, but a good number seemed to have a one way ticket and embarked on a coach from the Devil’s Bridge station.
Getting back early also meant more time to play on the beach again.
Borth is a small seaside village just 5 or 6 miles by road from Talybont. However, we decided that it would be a nice day for a walk, so we set off along the footpath not far from the cottage.
It was a very nice walk through woods and across fields. With a few notable exceptions the path was well signposted and easy to follow and the terrain is not too arduous if you are reasonably fit. Unfortunately we aren’t.
Nonetheless we enjoyed the walk: the weather was lovely, warm and sunny once again and the leisurely pace meant that we saw horses, sheep, cows and donkeys along the way, as well as almost stepping on a baby adder basking across the path in the sun.
Eventually the sea appeared on the horizon and we made our way down, across the railway tracks, into the town.
Once again, first impressions didn’t inspire. Borth looked a bit desolate with rows of Victorian terraces set back from the beach and nothing much to see.
First priority was to find a cafe – we were gasping. Luckily we came across a lovely place, the name of which I sadly can’t remember, but which not only did a great tea and bacon butty but also had an art gallery upstairs.
Thus refreshed we took a walk along the beach, which is famous for its submerged forest. At low tide tree stumps are revealed, which carbon dating suggest belonged to trees which died around 1500 BC. These are said to be part of a legendary ancient sunken kingdom known as Cantre’r Gwaelod, which is described as the Welsh Atlantis and has featured in folklore, literature and song.
As luck would have it, the tide was out when we arrived, and the great thing is you don’t have to work very hard to seek these legendary tree stumps out: they are right there on the beach.
We could have continued walking down the beach to Ynyslas, known for its wonderful sand dunes, but sadly we were worn out by now so we managed to find ourselves a very expensive taxi ride back to the cottage instead. We’ll leave that as something to look forward to on our next visit.