Cardigan, on the estuary of the River Teifi Picture credit: Encounter Walking Holidays

CARDIGAN, West Wales, is the gateway to the Teifi Valley and the Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire Coastal Paths.

The ancient town sits on the estuary of the River Teifi at the base of Cardigan Bay. Its unspoilt townscape and rich heritage provide a nostalgic backdrop to a thriving culture of arts and crafts, events and music festivals and is a good base from which to discover Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire.

No wonder, then, that Cardigan made the shortlist for The Sunday Times‘ Best Places to Live in the UK 2020 and earned praise for its ‘winning high street and a DIY ethos; this arty, crafty estuary town has it all sewn up’.

Cardigan was also recently highly commended in the Great British High Street Awards 2018, where it just missed out on top honours in the ‘Rising Star’ category.

According to The Sunday Times: “Happiness comes hand-stitched in this rugged little harbour town on the Teifi estuary. Though not the full Machynlleth, it has always been a magnet for people seeking a rural route off the 9-5 treadmill.

“The beautifully restored castle is officially the top attraction, but we love the unshowy celebrations of country life, from the pony parade at the annual Barley Saturday fair in April to the River and Food Festival in August.

“The energy put into arts and crafts lasts all year, with low-key creativity on display in every colourful corner. The Crafters Cwtch, an enthusiastic showcase for more than 70 local makers, is the place to pick up a jar of chutney, pottery or knitted novelties.”

Local Councillor, Clive Davies, agreed: “”We as Cardis can rightly have a pride in our clever little market town,” he said. “Once again, Cardigan has been highly thought of in the context of a great place to live. We have so many positives as a town and locations.

“For the tourist, we are a coastal town within minutes of award-winning beaches and marine wildlife, our landmark award-winning castle and the wildlife park.

“The town itself is a mix of small independents which all know and work with each other for the gain of the town overall.

“Also, the food and drink – a wide variety of award-winning venues and food offers such as El Salsa, Crwst and Bara Menyn to name a few.”

The Sunday Times supplement assessed a wide range of factors, from employment, schools and broadband speed to culture, community spirit and local shops, in order to compile the definitive top locations to live.

It says of Cardigan: “This tidal town on the River Teifi seemed to shake itself into a renewed sense of life when its 900 year-old castle reopened in 2015 after a £12m makeover. The tidy-up extends to the remodelled waterfront and the pretty — and useful — high street, where there’s a daily market (closed on Sunday) in the arched cellar of the Guildhall.

“The busiest [property] buyers of late have been early retirees and lifestyle-shifters with the ability to work from home. 

“New restaurants have flocked to Cardigan like seagulls following the trawler and you can feed the mind as well as the body; there’s a thriving arts centre with a three-screen cinema, a public library and a stellar bookshop, Bookends.

“Why we love it: The coast that now offers the most.”

Cardigan is an ancient settlement dating back to the year 1110 and by Elizabethan times had grown into one of the most important ports in Wales, exporting woollen cloth.

These days the main trade in this harbour town is tourism and, with an idyllic waterside location on the River Teifi before it flows into Cardigan Bay, it’s not difficult to see the attraction.

One Welsh journalist, Jude Rogers, outlining things to do in Cardigan for the Visit Wales website, enthused: “It’s one of Wales’s most historic towns, but also home to lots of lively, modern marvels.

“Cardigan has everything: ancient history, modern comforts, beautiful landscapes, and the sea just in reach. Its spirit is part old-fashioned Welsh market town, part hippy, arty enclave, and both sides sing to each other in perfect chapel-pew harmony.”

Heading her list was Cardigan Castle, a Norman fortress reborn after its restoration, where an exhibition exploring the 900 years of history is narrated by Welsh Emmy-winning actor Matthew Rhys and Cardigan’s status as the birthplace of the Eisteddfod is celebrated with an exhibition of its remarkable story.

Also highlighted were Pizzatipi, serving hand-made woodfired pizzas, Stiwdio 3 gallery shop and café buzzing with workshops throughout the week, an interesting selection of vintage and antique shops, Cardigan Guildhall Market with its array of stalls and homely Welsh businesses, Theatr Mwldan arts complex, The Welsh Wildlife Centre and Bara Menyn Bakehouse.

Just a few minutes west of Cardigan lies St Dogmaels, where the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path begins and the magnificent ruined St Dogmael’s Abbey sits alongside it. A little further on you can find the Blue Flag beaches of Poppit Sands.

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