Aberdovey: real Wales without the crowds

by DanielJones

Aberdovey is a great place for an activity-packed summer weekend of sun, sea and sand without the hordes

Situated between the hills of the Snowdonia National Park and Cardigan Bay, Aberdovey is the perfect seaside retreat for those in search of a classic British seaside holiday, without the tat. Though the small, Welsh village offers many charms for the flocks of tourists that return to this idyll each year, its main attraction is the beach. The sand is fine and golden, not pebbly and bruising, and the sea is mostly calm but with a fair swell that lends itself to jet skiing and kite surfing.

Fishing is the ever-present theme of the village. The small vessels bobbing gently with the tide are a welcome sight for all weary travellers who have made the long and winding journey to reach this prize. So too are the awe-struck faces of children who have just had their lines snagged by a greedy crab, which you can fish for on the jetty. This is the central hub of the village and is in use all year round, though this being mid-Wales, a few extra layers of clothing are occasionally needed as the coastal winds are as brisk as the conversations with the local fishermen.

The village covers only a small stretch of land hanging off the rocky cliffs but within the multicoloured facades of the rows of townhouses lie immeasurable opportunities for buying trinkets and knick-knacks. In the various shops you can purchase anything from sweet Welsh rock to silver hip-flasks, essential equipment for any fishing voyage.

Aberdovey’s array of cafes and pubs will definitely keep you and your appetites content. Recently I lunched at the Sunflower Café where an American customer audibly enjoyed her Welsh cakes. Bwtri Blasys specialises in cakes and jams (for the uninitiated you must try the bara brith, a type of tea loaf). If like me you have a sweet tooth then you will love The Fridge. It’s the latest addition to the seafront, serving crisp, warm waffles and local ice cream – not to be missed!

But what about the fish? This being a seaside village, it must have a fish and chip shop and it does so with the Bear of Amsterdam. The locally-caught haddock and cod are superbly moreish but be prepared to pay, for prices are in the £8 region. For those whose pockets are feeling the pinch lately try Walker’s for more moderate prices.

As for accommodation, Aberdovey is not found wanting. The Trefeddian Hotel is the largest hotel of the area and, having previously worked there, I can safely say it is of a very good standard. Delightfully peculiar to the village are the two boutique hotels of Llety Bodfor and the Penhelig Arms.

Llety Bodfor offers luxurious accommodation and stunning views, while the Penhelig Arms offers similar but with more modest prices. The ‘Pen’ also offers the finest dining in the area. For a quick drink, the Britannia Inn is best, with a balcony that offers stunning vistas across the estuary, perfect for watching that warm sun setting over the horizon with a cool drink by your side

To best appreciate Aberdovey there are two locations you must explore. Picnic Island via the Roman road at the far end of the village is the perfect location for a spontaneous picnic. The soft, limestone cliffs are fun to hop over while the still recognisable Roman road is there for the more cautious. For those who don’t like the idea of traversing the rocks, you can stay at the waterfront and relax on the memorial benches and indulge in some of Aberdovey’s history by having a friendly local resident and his dog regale you with the exploits of a German-speaking commando brigade that trained here during the 1940s.

Another hidden gem is the bandstand that sits atop the main street overlooking the whole village. To find it go to Copperhill Street and take a left into Prospect Place, walk up the track where there is a red ‘pathway closed’ sign and completely ignore it. Keep walking upwards for fantastic panoramic views of the entire Dyfi estuary.

All in all, Aberdovey is the perfect British seaside retreat. The best time for a visit is the end of August when the village holds its end of season lantern and fireworks extravaganza, a time when the whole community really comes together and shows what Aberdovey is really about: life and living.