Visiting Aberystwyth Castle, Aberystwyth, Wales: striking, 13th century ruins overlooking Cardigan Bay
Besieged by armed forces and winds
This fine looking Welsh castle, dating from the 13th century, is still imposing, although ruined. Although a significant amount of the original structure of Aberystwyth Castle (Welsh: Castell Aberystwyth) has not survived, enough of its ancient walls remain to give historically interested visitors an idea of just how striking it must once have looked.
Parts of the Castle which have survived include the North Tower Gateway, which, given its proximity to the seafront, still offers an impressive silhouette against the background of Cardigan Bay (Welsh: Bae Ceredigion), from where winds have buffeted the structure's stonework for centuries. Originally the Castle was diamond shaped, and covered an extensive area. The Castle was one of many built in Wales by English King Edward I (see picture, below, right)(2).
Interestingly, a previous castle — subsequently destroyed — existed at a location about one and a half kilometres from the existing one; built by Gilbert de Clare, it changed hands between English and Welsh forces a number of times.
The current Aberystwyth Castle was besieged in 1294/95. In the English Civil War of the 17th century, the Castle served as a Royalist stronghold.
Even by the beginning of the 14th century, a town was forming in the vicinity of the Castle. It is evident that, as the Castle ceased to have military significance, so it increased in value to the local townsfolk as a highly convenient quarry from which to help themselves with building materials, as Lise Hull has written (3)! The town of Aberystwyth eventually became an important centre, and in 1872 a University College was founded nearby: the main photo which I have supplied (right, above) shows part of the Old College behind the ruins of the Castle.
Aberystwyth is located in the Welsh county of Ceredigion, the Anglicized form Cardigan having been formerly used widely in English.
If, as is not unusual in Wales, the day that you visit Aberystwyth Castle is rainy, and if the adjacent sea is being tossed by the wind, perhaps you will gain an inkling of the bleak and gaunt environment of this Castle as it must have seemed many centuries ago
March 7, 2014
(1) Lise Hull cites a figure of 4300 pounds as the cost of the building in the 13th century; see: http://www.castlewales.com/aberystw.html
(2) Some of Edward I's more well known castles in Wales include those at Harlech, Conwy and Caernarfon.
(3) See link at Note (1).
Also worth seeing
In Aberystwyth itself, the Old College of Aberystwyth University is located a short distance north of the Castle ruins; also at Aberystwyth is the National Library of Wales housed in an elegant building overlooking the town; the 105 kilometre Ceredigion Coast Path (Welsh: Llwybr Arfordir Ceredigion) passes through the town.
How to get there: United Airlines flies to London Heathrow Airport , from where car rental is available. London Heathrow is 360 kilometres from Aberystwyth. A rail service exists between London Euston and Aberystwyth, with a change at Birmingham. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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