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Aberystwyth - Overview

The name Aberystwyth (‘Mouth of the Ystwyth’) is a misnomer as this coastal town is situated on the Rheidol estuary. However, the origins of Aberystwyth lie in the Mesolithic settlements near the mouth of the Ystwyth, the Iron Age hillfort of Pen Dinas and the first phase of castle building at Tan-y-Castell.

The present site of the town dates from the foundation of the Edwardian castle and walled borough in 1277. In 1404, Owain Glyndŵr captured the castle and held it for four years. In subsequent centuries, it served as a Royal mint and a warehouse, before it was destroyed on Oliver Cromwell’s orders during the English Civil War.

The town prospered with the growth of herring fishing, and lead and silver mining in the adjacent mountain areas. With the rising popularity of sea side holidays towards the end of the eighteenth century, more and more tourists flocked to this comparatively remote town for the sea-bathing opportunities and picturesque scenery. After a long day of post coach travel on bumpy roads, weary travellers delighted in the scenery of Cardigan Bay. The arrival of the railway in the 1860’s completed the development of Aberystwyth into a seaside resort. Many of the seafront hotels first opened their doors in the nineteenth century, alongside the pier, funicular railway and assembly rooms.

In 1844, King Friedrich August II of Saxony and Carl Carus, his physician, arrived here late one night. After a long day’s journey from Brecon, they found their hotel of choice completely booked. So many tourists had arrived in Aberystwyth that summer that it took hours before they found new accommodation. The next morning, their breakfast was interrupted as a brass band and mariners’ choir gave them a rousing musical welcome.

For those travellers who did not partake of the sea bathing facilities, the area surrounding Aberystwyth was particularly interesting for its connection with picturesque tourism. Uvedale Price, a native of Aberystwyth and one of the founding fathers of the picturesque movement, designed the landscape gardens of the nearby Hafod estate. Most recently, the television programme Y Gwyll / Hinterland, filmed on locations in and around Aberystwyth, attracted a new generation of picturesque tourists to the town.

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