Barley Saturday - part 1 - Horses
Barley Saturday - part 2 - Autos
Cardigan is located on the River Teifi [or Tivy], just around a long, sheltered bend in the river from the wide estuary at Gwbert.
Image: Cardigan on the River Teifi
The River Teifi is one of the best salmon and sewin [sea trout in English] rivers in Wales and flows into Cardigan Bay, part of the Irish Sea.
The Tivy enters the sea at Poppit between the scenic headlands at Gwbert, on the north-eastern side and Cemaes Head on the south-western side which is in Pembrokeshire.
It is a truly breath-takingly beautiful estuary!
The 40 acre nature reserve of Cardigan Island sits just 300 yards off the coast near the little the sea-side resort of Gwbert.
On the headland opposite the island is the highly popular tourist attraction known as Cardigan Island Coastal Farm Park [see www.cardiganisland.com].
Seals and Dolphins at Cardigan Island Farm Park
A colony of Atlantic Grey Seals breed in the many caves below the cliffs of the farm park and can be viewed most days with inquisitive heads peering out of the water, or lazing on the exposed rocks at low tide.
Cardigan Bay's wonderful bottlenose dolphins can also be seen here quite regularly, as they leap high
out of the water, in search of a tasty lunch of salmon or sewin. They come closer to the shore in calm
Even rare choughs, those attractive red-legged, orange-beaked, members of the crow family, can be seen at Cardigan Island Coastal Farm Park, searching for grubs in the springy turf. Their distinctive "chow" call and undulating flight helps you distinguish them from more mundane crows and rooks.
There are also numerous friendly farm animals, plus more exotic colleagues, like Bruce and Sheila the wallabies and Llinos the Llama, to amuse the children at the farm park.
In 2004, a very large, stylish, visitor centre was opened, with cafe facilities and a Welsh Craft shop. This also provides much needed shelter in inclement weather.
There are wonderful panoramic views of Cardigan Island, Cemaes Head and the Teifi Estuary from the large patio, where parents can relax as they keep an eye on their children playing in the sand-pit or on the out-door adventure play-ground.
The town of Cardigan is 3 miles from the farm park and has a population of around 4000.
Cardigan was formerly an important port until the turn of the 20th century.
Its demise as a port was caused by the severe silting of the estuary in the late 1800s, combined with the disappearance of sailing ships in favour of larger steam ships and the arrival of the railways.
Until the advent of the railways, most commodities had to be shipped into Cardigan, since Ceredigion is surrounded by the
Cambrian Mountains to the north and east and the Preseli Mountains to the south,
making land crossings quite difficult using horse-drawn vehicles.
The most popular current route into Cardigan from South Wales is via the A484 from Carmarthen, taking the short-cutting B4333 at Conwil Elfed , then rejoining the A484 through the picturesque Teifi Valley [or Dyffryn Teifi] from Newcastle Emlyn.
The A487 coast road links Cardigan with Fishguard and Haverfordwest to the south-west, in Pembrokeshire and with Aberaeron and Aberystwyth in Ceredigion, to the north-east. The A487 then goes on to Bangor in North Wales to link up with A55 to Holyhead and Ireland.
Another important road-link from Pembrokeshire and West Carmarthenshire in the south, is the A478 from Narberth and the popular resort of Tenby, South Pembrokeshire, passing through the Welsh language strong-hold of Crymych in the Preseli Hills.
The gentle, rounded Preseli Hills are wonderfully pictureseque, with their ancient historic land-marks, such as the cromlech of Pentre Ifan and numerous other standing stones. It was from the Preseli Hills that the famous blue stones of Stonehenge were taken millennia ago.
The method of transporting
such large heavy stones from Pembrokeshire to Salisbury Plain is a mystery that taxes historians
to this day.
Cardigan is a truly historic market town. Its castle, on a hill overlooking the ancient
bridge across the Teifi, was neglected in recent years because it was in private
ownership for decades. Now it is back in public hands and great steps are being taken
by enthusiastic volunteers to create improvements and to make it a focal point for tourism in the
The castle was built in the 12th century by Lord Rhys, or Arglwydd Rhys, as he was known in Welsh.
After completion, Lord Rhys held a competitive festival of singers, bards and musicians at the
castle in 1176. This is recognised as the first ever Welsh Eisteddfod. The tradition of
Eisteddfodau is still maintained in villages and towns all over Wales, with a peripatetic National Eisteddfod
being held somewhere in Wales, on the first week of August each year.
To win the "National" is regarded as a very important achievement in Welsh cultural life .....and rightly so!!
In 1976, the National Eisteddfod was held in Cardigan to celebrate the former's 800th anniversary. This was a tremendous success, held in the driest, hottest summer for decades!! There was no shortage of dust!
Cardigan Eisteddfod, a semi-national eisteddfod, known in Welsh as "Gwyl Fawr Aberteifi", in Welsh, is held in Cardigan Leisure Centre every July. Contestants come from all over Wales, as well as other parts of the British Isles, very often.
A major focal point for the Arts in Cardigan is Theatr Mwldan or Mwldan Theatre.
Hundreds of artistes from all over the world appear at this marvellous, state-of-art, recently refurbished and expanded theatre. There is a fantastic variety of music, acting and films on show at Theatr Mwldan.
Acts appear from as far afield as Quebec, Peru and Japan. Of course, productions by the local Opera Teifi and Cardigan Theatre groups are also especially popular.
This is one of the best theatres in Wales and a hive of activity! It is outstanding for a small town of only 4000 population.
Cardigan is in the process of receiving a tremendous facelift at the moment, with shops, offices and housing being refurbished in a sensitive, historic style, pleasing to the eye. Anyone who has not revisited Cardigan during the last few years will be pleasantly surprised at the improvements.
The area alongside the quays on the River Teifi , in front of the castle, has recently been improved and more work is in on-going.
Another ancient focal point for the town is Cardigan Indoor Market, which has quite a variety of stall-holders, selling all sorts of products. This historic building, which started life as the town's school, is located at the Guildhall in the middle of town.
With the Town Clock perched high above it, it is an unmistakable land-mark making it easy to find, even from a distance.
A day out, unique to Cardigan, is Barley Saturday. This is the last Saturday in April, when farmers and their workers traditionally took a day off to enjoy themselves after the sowing of Spring Barley was completed. This was always an important crop locally because the land and climate around Cardigan suited the crop. It was grown for both brewing and animal feed. I suspect the former use was deemed more important than the latter!!
Horses and ponies from all over the country are run through the streets of Cardigan on Barley Saturday or Dydd Sadwrn Barlus, as it is known in Welsh. There is nothing more impressive than a proud, shining Welsh Cob strutting its stuff through the main street with the handler running along-side, keeping it under tight control.
A fine display of vintage cars, old tractors and other forms of farm machinery, also take part in the street parade, which is highly popular! Thousands throng the pavements.
In late July/Early August, each year, Cardigan Agricultural Show is held in fields on the Fishguard road, on the outskirts of town. This is a wonderful one-day agricultural show, with an abundance of animals, machinery and various other attractions on display.
Also, in July, there is a boating Regatta held on the estuary at Patch , below the Teifi Boating Club, on the Gwbert/Cardigan road. There is also a beach here to keep the children happy.
Cardigan Medieval Day is another event that takes place during this summer month. In August, there is the popular River and Food Festival held on the quays below Cardigan Bridge, in front of the ancient castle. This event is growing, year by year.
With the tranquil, verdant Teifi Valley meeting the superb, rugged, coast-line of Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire, just outside the town, it makes Cardigan an ideal centre for exploring a wide, very picturesque holiday area.
The beautiful beaches and sandy coves of Poppit Sands, Gwbert, Aberporth, Tresaith, Penbryn, Newport and Mwnt surround the town and are all within easy reach, west and east, along the coast.
Mwnt, with its old 14th Century Church perched on the cliff-top above a sandy beach and below a
peaked hill, is especially charming and pretty.
So why not plan your next holiday to Cardigan, West Wales? You will love the natural beauty and tranquility of the area!