A Holiday in Wales; Cardigan Bay, New Quay, Aberaeron, Llangrannog and Spotting Dolphins

Aberporth Dolphin
Aberporth Dolphin
show route and directions
A markerLlangrannog -
Llangrannog, Ceredigion SA44 6, UK
[get directions]

B markerNew Quay -
New Quay, Church St, New Quay, Ceredigion SA45 9NZ, UK
[get directions]

C markerCenarth -
Cenarth, Carmarthenshire, UK
[get directions]

We see our first Welsh dolphins!

There was silence as the engines stilled. Overhead gulls circled in a cloudless blue sky, and in the distance grey seals lay sunning their bulky bodies on the rocky seashore. The boat rocked gently in the water, and, scanning the ocean around us we waited in eager anticipation. Suddenly the silence was broken, ‘There it is! Look, there!' All eyes turned to follow the pointing finger. Sure enough a distinctive fin was cutting through the water along-side us, a dark shape visible beneath it. A moment later we heard a plop and a splash as the dolphin leapt up out of the water, and disappeared back beneath the waves, whilst we all sat mesmerised. This was soon followed by a second splash as another bottle nosed dolphin arrived to join in the fun. Soon the two beautiful creatures were treating us to a wonderful display, sunlight glinting on their backs, and their tails playfully smacking the water. Who would have thought it? All this excitement just off the coast of Wales, in Cardigan Bay!

Wales has long been a favourite holiday destination for us. We love the rugged scenery, sandy beaches, the mountains, the clean air, and the beautiful lilting Welsh voices. People moan about the unpredictable weather there, but we've always been reasonably lucky on that score. Our holiday in Cardigan Bay was no exception. Inspired by my daughter's love of dolphins, we booked a week in a cottage at Canllefaes, just outside Cardigan town. Although our boat trip from New Quay was a wonderful experience, the holiday was a great success on all fronts, including the weather, which was well-behaved for the entire week.

The Welsh bottlenosed dolphins are one of only two pods in Britain, and they provide a major tourist attraction for the region. If you're lucky, you don't even need to take a boat out to see them, as they're often to be seen frolicking quite close to the shore. Favourite places for sightings include New Quay harbour, and Cardigan Island Coastal Farm Park with it's fabulous cliff top walks. This year we saw dolphins just a little way off-shore in New Quay harbour, as we sat in the sun-shine eating a picnic lunch on the very last day of our holiday. They are bold and friendly creatures who do not seem at all perturbed by the many little vessels bobbing around close to the coastline. Apparently there are around 130 dolphins in residence in Cardigan Bay throughout the summer months, and there are regular boat trips from New Quay harbour for would-be spotters. including the regular dolphin survey trips that record sightings at their office behind the lifeboat station.

A reading from Under Milk Wood, by Dylan Thomas

Llareggub boat

Image courtesy of Wiki Commons
Image courtesy of Wiki Commons

New Quay, Dylan Thomas and Under Milk Wood

As magical as the dolphins may be, however, New Quay holds other attractions for me, for it is the prim Victorian terraces, cobblestone harbour, and the warren of steep, narrow streets that are so beautifully evoked in Dylan Thomas's play for voices, 'Under Milk Wood'.


'It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobblestones silent and the hunched, courters'-and-rabbits' wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboatbobbing sea.'


Dylan Thomas lived in the town with his wife and family throughout the latter part of the Second World War, and his cosmopolitan behaviour and poetic manner were not always well accepted in the close-knit community here. The eccentric local characters were richly mined for Dylan Thomas's masterpiece, 'Under Milk Wood', and the fictional town of ‘Llareggub' bears a striking resemblance to New Quay. Reverse the name ‘Llareggub' and you get an idea of Dylan Thomas's cheeky sense of humour! The Thomas's sojourn in New Quay came to an abrupt end in 1945 after some scandal involving a rumoured ménage a trois with the wife of an absent soldier ended in an unfortunate shooting incident. Fortunately there were no serious casualties, but the Thomas family moved on soon afterwards.

The town itself is not a traditional bucket-and-spade seaside town, although it's popular enough with surfers and day-trippers, and it has a full complement of beach shops, pubs and cafes. If, like me, you're a fan of Dylan Thomas, there's a Dylan Thomas walking tour available from the tourist centre which takes you to places the poet lived in and frequented.

The New Quay cliff path which inspired the poemQuite Early One Morning', offers a steep but rewarding walk around the bay, giving excellent views on a clear day, towards Cader Idris and Snowdonia in the north. Bird watchers regularly report sightings of stonechats, choughs, red kites and peregrine falcons along this path, and below the crumbling, treacherous cliff face, Atlantic grey seals can often be seen bobbing in the water, and occasionally dolphins leap and splash in the sunshine on summer days.


Llangrannog

image courtesy of Wiki Commons
image courtesy of Wiki Commons

Llangrannog beach at sunset

Image courtesy of Wiki Commons
Image courtesy of Wiki Commons

LLangrannog, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, goes for a paddle!

Cardigan has long had the royal seal of approval, so it comes as no surprise that the Prince of Wales has a holiday home here, not too far from beautiful Llangrannog. Delighted locals were treated to a very informal royal visit in June 2008 when Camilla, Duchess of Cormwall, accompanied by a female friend and two detective bodyguards, went for a paddle, followed by a bracing stroll across the headland (no doubt keeping a weather eye out for dolphins!) and finally enjoyed an ice-cream whilst sitting on a wall in the sunshine.

The Daily Mail reported the visit, and has a delightful photograph of the Duchess taken by a local lady, on the highlighted link.

A little round the coast at Georgian Aberaeron, and pretty Llangrannog

Pretty Aberaeron, seven miles up the coast from New Quay has a very different air about it, with it's large deep harbour surrounded by gaily painted Georgian houses. Of the two beaches here, the South Beach is the more pleasing, although on the whole we prefered those at nearby Llangrannog , Tresaith, and Penbryn, but the town has other attractions for the holiday maker. The Sea Aquarium at Quay Parade has a tide pool of local fish, plus displays of other marine oddities, and a photographic exhibition on old Aberaeron. You can book boat trips from here. A little out of the main town at Clos Pengarreg is a charmingly eccentric collection of craft shops housed in old converted farm buildings. Over all, Aberaeron, with it's many listed buildings and attractive architecture, is a lovely place to just potter about in on days when you don't want to be on the beach, or when the legendary Welsh weather takes a turn for the worst!

On days when the sun does shine, visitors could do worse than to head for any of the pretty sandy coves, along the coast here, and take out their buckets and spades for some traditional seaside fun. At the gorgeous village of Llangrannog we enjoyed a perfect day of fun and sunshine, paddling round the cove, exploring shallow caves in the cliffs, sketching the scenery, and strolling over the cliff top path to the next little bay. It was here we encountered the mad shoe-thief dog, who kept the children royally entertained with a game of chase involving the theft of one of my son's trainers. The dog either had no sense of smell, or was determined to have a game at any price! The shoe was eventually retrieved only when a lady arrived on the beach with an attractive looking bitch on a lead. The trainer was abruptly abandoned in a puddle, as cherchez-la-femme replaced catch-me-if-you -can!

Llangrannog is accessed by steep and winding narrow roads, and there is only limited parking available near the beach, so on busy days, do consider using the park and ride car park at the top of the village, which despite having a regular minibus shuttling back and forth, is actually only a pleasant ten minute stroll away from the seafront. The glorious sandy beach here is divided by a pretty brook which tumbles over stones and trickles towards the waves, providing the children with endless extra entertainment. It's a bit like a built-in water feature! When you tire of the beach, there's several cafes and pubs close at hand as well as a well-stocked beach store, and handy public conveniences.

Holidays- Village Girls at LLangrannog by Christopher Williams 1915

This painting can be found in the collection of the National Library of Wales. Image courtesy of Wiki Commons
This painting can be found in the collection of the National Library of Wales. Image courtesy of Wiki Commons

Accommodation, hotels, b&bs, self-catering holiday cottages and campsites

As you might expect in an area where tourism provides a substantial contribution to the local economy, there is indeed a plethora of holiday accommodation available. We stayed in a rented self-catering holiday cottage at Canllefaes that we found on the internet. We were really, really lucky in our choice, and couldn't fault our comfortable holiday home, one of a cluster of converted farm buildings sharing a lovely heated swimming pool. There are, however, any number of alternatives in the Cardigan Bay area, and the internet has a good selection advertised. The coastal towns of Cardigan, New Quay, Aberporth and Aberaeron amongst others all have a wide selection of hotels, guest houses, and Bed and Breakfast establishments. There are also caravan sites and camp-sites a-plenty.

In Llangrannog the proprieter of the fish and chip shop assured us that Cardigan Bay will soon be as popular as Cornwall. She may well be right!

Dolphins follow a boat launched from Llangrannog

 

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Our visit to a cheese factory at Caws Cenarth


On one of our sorties inland we came across a small,family cheese making business not too far from the beautiful county town of Cardigan. The tiny factory has a shop where we were able to sample the delicious cheeses, and a viewing area where we could watch the age old process of cheese-making first hand.

Welsh speaking Gwynfor and Thelma Adams have been farming for over 42 years at Cenarth, and the cheesemaking business was established in April 1987 as a response to the E.C milk quotas which had threatened the viability of the family farm. Thelma and Gwynfor led the revival of Welsh Farmhouse Caerffili and Caws Cenarth is now the oldest established producer of Welsh Farmhouse Caerffili.

Gwynfor remembers helping his mother to fill the large 40lb moulds as a small chid, and Thelma has fond memories of watching her mother turn the surplus milk from the two family cows into a wonderful white Caerffili cheese using very basic cheesemaking utensils. Drawing on these childhood memories they have brought those traditional skills up to date in their tiny factory. The Adams now have the benefit of modern steel equipment, but the cheese is still made by hand, in the time-honoured way and is even pressed in cast iron presses which are now over a hundred years old. Some of these presses still bear the names of local towns such as Carmarthen and Cardigan. The cows which provide the milk graze in the lush fields surrounding the factory, and all the cheeses are approved by the Soil Association.

The little shop has some treasured photos on the walls taken during a visit by The Prince of Wales, and there are also photos of the family's corgis, a traditional breed of Welsh dog favoured by Queen Elizabeth.

More dolphins, some great music, and fine views of beautiful Cardigan Bay

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Comments 49 comments

CJStone profile image

CJStone 7 years ago from Whitstable, UK

It's fantastic country round there isn't it? I've never seen a dolphin but would love to, and I adore Under Milk Wood. It was originally commissioned as a BBC radio play. Those were the days, hey Amanda? How classy.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

It is fantastic. Just as nice as Cornwall, but not as frantic. Dylan Thomas is a big favourite of mine. I always remember listening to Under Milk Wood at school. I have a vague recollection of Richard Burton narrating it, but it's a long time ago, and I might have imagined that?


BrianS profile image

BrianS 7 years ago from Castelnaudary, France

I was born and brought up 10 miles from the Welsh border and have always really liked Wales (especially as I also had a Welsh grandmother) I think a lot of people are unaware of the beauty of the coastline, so this hub will certainly help inform people how wonderful it is.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Thanks for your comments Brian. Wales certainly has some of the prettiest beaches in Britain, as well as wonderful hills and mountains, amazing castles, and great scenery. I hope more people wake up to how wonderful it is, especially as the credit crunch is encouraging more of us Brits to book holidays in the UK


Writer Rider 7 years ago

Interesting blog. My Welsh family comes from there, not Cardigan bay or Cardiganshire but from two farms in Gwynfe (if they're still there). I'd love to go there someday, I know my third cousins did. It's so interesting how much my family still knows about that side since we came to America in 1850.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Hi Writer Rider,

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you do get the chance to see Wales someday. It's a beautiful country, steeped in history, and there's so much to see and do.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 7 years ago from Australia

G'day Amanda, Wales sure does look a rugged but beautiful place, but some of those names are tongue twisters?

In our own Port Phillip Bay here in Victoria we have Dolphin watching and you can actually get suited up and go swimming with them. I have not but some friends have and it is an amazing feeling.

Very interesting Hub.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Hi Ag

It takes talent to get your tongue around those double 'L's!

I nearly went swimming with dolphins with my husband in New Zealand a few years back. I was all kitted up in my cozzie and flippers, but when I looked over the side and saw how far we were from land, and how deep the water was, my courage failed me. He went in though, and was pleased he did.


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

Hi Amanda - fantastic hub, so detailed! I love Wales, but your hub's got new places and ideas in it, so a mix of the old and the want-to-go-now.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Hi London Girl,

If you do go, I recommend Canllefaes as a base. (the link is high-lighted somewhere in the text above) It's an old farmhouse with a cluster of holiday cottages around a heated swimming pool. The owners have a large family of their own, and are very geared up for children.

We're planning another Welsh holiday ourselves this year. We mostly go to Anglesey and Snowdonia, but I've a fancy to try the Gower Peninsula this time.


Writer Rider 7 years ago

Amanda, how would those L's be pronounced in Wales? Do you know how Howell is pronounced?


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Howell is pronounced as it is spelt, as it's only a double'l' at the beginning, or as part of a group of three consonants that has a strange sound. In the word 'Canllefaes' the pronunciation would be more like Kan-Kleff-iss. I'm not Welsh so i can only give you an approximation. it's a very tricky language!


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

"Amanda, how would those L's be pronounced in Wales?"

It's hard to write down, but take, say, the name "Llewelyn". The "Ll" is pronounced kind of Huh-luh run together very fast.


Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 7 years ago from West Virginia

What a wonderful hub! Thanks for a glimpse of my ancestor homeland! It is beautiful. Reading all the various land and weather things, I have come to fnd out that I also live in that kind of area where the weather is unpredictable. So while I am not right there in Wales, I am in the same kind of country side that is there.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Hi London Girl,

I guess that's not a bad way of describing it, but it takes a lot of practice, and the Welsh can spot a novice a mile off!


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Hi Lady G.

So Wales is the land of your ancestors, and a very beautiful and rugged land it is too. You should come and check it out someday. Not only is the countryside wonderful to look at, but it is also very historic with lots of castles and stone circles and so on.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

London Girl, I just remembered that you mentioned that your Dad was Welsh on another hub. (Did I get that right?) so you're well-qualified to comment on those double 'l's!


Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 7 years ago from West Virginia

You can see it on My Genealogy site. It tells of the area that my ancestors are from. http://hubpages.com/hub/My-LEWIS-Genealogy


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

Yes, my Dad's family was from Angelsey and Denbeighshire. So north Wales all the way. My Dad's the type of tall, very fair-skinned and freckly Celt.


Writer Rider 7 years ago

LG-

How is Howell pronounced? The alphabet is pronounced differently in English than in wells, though, granted, Howell is an anglicized version of the name which was orginally spelt Hywel. I'm asking because it sounds terrible in regular English but I'm sure it sounds wonderful in Welsh.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Hi Lady G.

I just had a quick look at your Lewis hub, and I can see that your family are from the Taff Valley. I don't know that part of Wales as we mainly visit the mountains or the coast, but next time we're up that way I shall look out for Merthyr Tydfil and say hallo for you.


Writer Rider 7 years ago

LondonGirl, "The alphabet is pronounced differently in English than in wells"-I meant "welsh," opps.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Hi London Girl,

We once had a wonderful holiday on Anglesey (Ynys Mon?) in a cottage with views of the Menai Straits towards Snowdon. I loved every minute of it. We visited Beaumaris and climbed the Marqis's column and went to that place with the very long name. It was great! I should write another hub! Perhaps I will!


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Writer Rider, I know that London Girl is more likely to give an accurate answer than I am, but I suspect that Howell would be pronounced How-ell with the emphasis on the second syllable and the 'l's clearly pronounced. So not too much different than in English, the only difference being a variation in regional accent. But I'm quite prepared to be proven wrong!!


Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 7 years ago from West Virginia

Thanks Amanda. I don't know anythiong about the geography of Wales. I have never been there. That would be on my to do list before I leave this life.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Lady G

The pound is trading at such a favourable rate for you guys at present, you could do worse than come now! (LOL!) Seriously though, I do hope you get to visit. I'm sure you'll love it.


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

"Howell" in standard English would be one syllable, usually, "howl". In Welsh, two syllables, pretty much equal stress on both. The rising and falling intonation is essential, though, and can't be typed!


Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India

Amanda - how wonderfully you describe the place - guess it takes an artist to paint a picture in words!

You can almost hear those names rolling off - romantically almost - a Welsh tongue :)


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Hi Shalini,

You must be an artist too judging by your beautiful descriptions!

The Welsh names do have a lovely sing-songy lilt to them, and I always think that the Welsh tongue itself is like the sound of a merry stream bubbling and splashing through rocks in a valley!


Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India

There you go Amanda - not just an artist but a musician too :) '...a merry stream bubbling and splashing through rocks in a valley' is sooo apt - and most of them take their time with their words like they have all the time in the world, don't they?


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

THey certainly do, but that's all part of their charm Did you know BTW that Dylan Thomas was not a Welsh speaker? I find that fascinating because you can hear the Welshness (is that a word?) in his poetry. I wonder if not actually speaking Welsh, yet hearing it spoken around him, inspired his use of words?


Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India

Really Amanda? Somehow you would think he would be - his poetry has that lilting Welsh cadence to it! Maybe, like you said, it was all around him!


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

He came from the South of Wales where English was the common tongue, but he moved around a good deal as an adult, and despite English attempts to discourage it's use, Welsh remained interchangeable with English in more rural areas.


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

My rural northern Welsh ancestors (Denbeighshire, Angelsey) were Welsh speakers first, and English speakers second. But I think that's a lot more common in the north than in the south, as Amanda says.


Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India

I wish I can do Wales properly someday - did a quick trip to Cardiff from London years ago - just loved the wonderful lilt in everyone's voices!


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Cardiff is a good start, but further North the scenery is more rugged, and there are some fabulous castles. It just seems to get more Welsh in the North! We've been to Snowdonia quite a lot because my husband is keen on hill walking and climbing, and it's a great place to visit. I hope you get there one day.


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

Have you been to Caernarfon?


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Many times. The castle is great, and the old town is beautiful. We always park opposite Pretoria Terrace on the seafront and walk in past the city walls. There's a real sense of being in an ancient place.


BristolBoy profile image

BristolBoy 7 years ago from Bristol

This reminds me of the holidays we used to have in Wales. Used to go to an amazing beach called Mwnt. I liked it so much I think I might write a hub on it when I have time.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

We love Wales and have had a lot of holidays there, mainly in North Wales around Snowdonia, as my husband is very keen on climbing and hill-walking. I shall watch out for your hub on Mwnt!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

I very much enjoyed this page. I once drove around Wales in a rental car with no reservations (lodging or otherwise) for a week and had a great time there. I wanted to see from whence came my ancestors.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Wales is a beautiful country with a lot of history. My husband's family has some Welsh connections a few generations back, and it was his love of the mountains in Snowdonia that first introduced me to Wales as a holiday destination. The weather there can be famously unpredictable, but it's still a great place to visit. I'm glad you enjoyed your trip.


PureCelt 7 years ago

It always amazes me that the very people that have pillaged, raped and destroyed my country with their commercial and industrial averice are the same nation that praises its beauty. The Wales you so admire is the result of 100's of years of industrial,national and bigoted assault.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

PureCelt. Wales is a beautiful country and one I've always been delighted to visit. Tourism is now the mainstay of the economy in many parts of Wales, and the welcome is accordingly, very cordial.


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 7 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

Nice description of a beautiful area where I have a family cottage and was brought up. I have written many hubs on Wales, check them out!


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Hi Gypsy Willow, We're off to Wales again in a few weeks time. I'll check out your hubs before I go!


Kim Garcia 7 years ago

I would love to visit wales someday. I've never had the opportunity, but hopefully one day as it looks like a beautiful place steeped in history and natural wonder. Peace ~ Kim


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK Author

Hi Kim, I hope you get to visit Wales one day, as it's a magical place with plenty to do and see. I never get tired of it.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 6 years ago from UK Author

Thank you for visiting lext123. This is one of my favourite areas of the UK, and has a lot to offer the holiday-maker.

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