Aberystwyth is one of those small coastal towns that inspires those writing about it to use words such as "picturesque", "nestled", even "charming" or, sometimes if they're an American visiting for the summer, "quaint".1 All of these adjectives are to some extent correct; Aber2 is a small Welsh town, nestled in Cardigan Bay, commanding spectacular and picturesque views across the Irish Sea where charming students and quaint locals welcome tourists with open arms.3 But there's much more to the town than looking pretty, it also has pubs, a cinema, bars, a library, clubs, a beach, off-licences, the largest camera obscurer on the planet, pubs, a twelfth century castle, and it even has a few places you can get a drink!
Location and Geography
Aberystwyth is found in roughly the centre of the west Wales coast in the county of Ceredigion, roughly one hundred miles as the crow flies from Birmingham. This translates to roughly a three hour train journey. Birmingham, incidentally is the nearest large population centre to the town and as such, some of the residents more used to city-dwelling often complain of isolation.
During the last Ice Age, vast glaciers slowly crept across Wales, cutting the great gorges and cliffs that today form the spectacular Cambrian Mountains which all but cut the town off from the rest of the country. These glaciers deposited the much sought after ancient resource of flint, and is possible that local wandering tribes would have traded this in pre Celtic times. The land around Aberystwyth therefore is a rugged mix of quarries, cliffs, mountains, hills, streams, rivers and the ubiquitous patchwork of farmland. Driving to Aberystwyth along the mountain roads is quite spectacular and it can be difficult to keep your eyes on the road when surrounded by such a beautiful landscape. The town itself is built on a marginally flatter area of land that slopes down into the sea, this means that in some areas there can be as much as a hundred yards or more of straight flat road, though this is somewhat unusual. It is sometimes said by the locals that in Aberystwyth you can go uphill to get somewhere and uphill to get back.
The weather in this part of Wales is very very damp. In fact, at Plynlymon a little way in land, it rains two out of every three days making it the rainiest place in the country. Due to being on the west coast, facing the prevailing wind Aberystwyth tends to get the worst of any weather that hits Great Britain, and can be the scene of some spectacular storms. As an example, the flat I currently live in is on the second floor4 of a building on the sea front, about thirty metres from the sea itself. In spite of being considerably above sea level, it is not uncommon for the spray and even pebbles thrown up by the waves to batter themselves against my window. In my opinion, however, this is one of the best things about the town, the power of the sea is awesome, not to mention invigorating. Nothing wakes you up more than salty sea spray on your face first thing in the morning. Despite the blustery gales that regularly hit the wind-tunnels of the main streets, the sea means that the town is considerably warmer than the surroundings. When the rest o f the country shivers under a blanket of snow, the residents of Aber merely trudge through puddles remarking that the white-blanked hills are looking beautiful.
Aberystywth boasts two main beaches, North and South. North beach is directly in front of the town centre, (though due to a rather counter-intuitive one-way system can be tricky to drive to) and is largely rough sand and pebbles, it backs onto Constitution Hill, a steep, but easily scalable cliff that offers some of the best views of the surrounding area. South beach is sandier and a popular site for tourists in the summer. The sea itself is always very cold, but this doesn't deter people from swimming in the summer, and students swimming in winter. A word of warning though, there can be extremely strong currents and the depth increases very suddenly, meaning that swimming in rough weather, at night, or whilst under the influence is strongly discouraged.5
Aberystwyth is situated at Longitude -4.081 Latitude 52.413
Ancient history, Myths and Legends
Aberystwyth has a truly ancient past, there is evidence of tin mining at Plynlymon, fifteen kilometres east , taking place as far back as 1800 BC. However, nearer to Aber itself, if I lean out of my window and look south, down the beach, past the castle there is the large grassy expanse of Pen Dinas hill, unremarkable in its surroundings, but beautiful nonetheless. On closer inspection however, the slopes are in fact divided by several long mounds of earth; evidence of an ancient iron age hill fort, one of the largest in Wales, built sometime between around 500 BC. It is suspected by archaeologists that during this time, there was a large chiefdom here, stretching from Bow Street in the north, Goginan in the east and Llaninar in the south, a total area of around a hundred and thirty square kilometres (fifty square miles). It is suspected that the fort was not built by the natives of the area, but by invaders, possibly from Ireland or much further along the coast. However, the history of this period is largely unknown, there being of course no written records of the time, though there is archaeological evidence of the fort being abandoned at around the first century AD . The only other information we do have is that there may have been a Roman presence here during the reign of Maximilian (286-305 AD) since a coin baring his head was found on the site.
As with most of the British Isles, not much is known of the time between the Romans leaving and Alfred the Great, a period of around four hundred years and so we pass into the time of legend. It is in this time that King Arthur is supposed to have lived, reigning over his Kingdoms (for he was a High King) that stretched from Cornwall in the south up to the Humber, or beyond even to the borders of Scotland. There is a rich association of Arthur with Wales, and it is said that Cardigan Bay, overlooked now by Aberystwyth, was once a land of fertile meadows, stretching some hundreds of miles, almost to Ireland and this land was part of Arthur's Kingdom. The story of Cantref y Gwaelod, the Lowland Hundred, is that it was a prosperous area, boasting some sixteen cities, each with a magnificent church. However, in the reign of the last King, Gwyddno Garanhir, who's basket is one of the Thirteen Treasures of Britain, Seithenyn the Keeper of the Flood Gates and son of the King himself, was a drunkard. On one night, having drunk more heavily than usual, he forgot to close the gates at high tide and the waters of the Irish Sea flooded in. Awoken by the panicked ringing of church bells from the cities nearest the breach, the inhabitants fled into the mountains of Cambria and Snowdonia. It is said, as it is always said of these events, that when on a Sunday morning, when the Irish sea is calm, a careful listener will still hear the bells ringing out from beneath the waters.
The only certainty of this time however, is that in 516 a monastery was built in the nearby town of Llambardarn by St. Pader. Over the next four hundred years, the monastery became rich and in 989, Norse pirates sailed up the Rheidol and attacked the abbey, stripping it of its contents and killing the abbot. The monastery and church stood for another hundred years until, in the fighting for control between the Normans and the Welsh, it was destroyed in 1106.
The Normans, the English and the Welsh
1066 was the last time England was invaded successfully. The Normans ultimately had little trouble subduing the Anglo-Saxons who by that time occupied most of the territory south of Hadrian's Wall and East of Offer's Dyke, but had much more considerable problems with the Celtic kingdoms of Cornwall, Scotland and Wales. In 1109, Henry I made it his mission to subdue the Welsh and bring them under the control of his lords. In order to achieve this, he ordered the Welsh Prince Cadwgan ab Bleddyn of Cardiganshire to accept his sovereignty. The Welshman refused and in retaliation the King presented Cardiganshire to Gilbert de Strongbow on the condition that he subdue Cadwgan. In order to assert his control, de Strongbow laid the foundations for what was to become Aberystwyth Castle, at the mouth of the river Ystwyth. It is from this fortification that the town derives its name.6
The Welsh however, were not so easily conquered. In 1130 the castle was stormed by Gryffud ap Rhys, Owen Gwynedd and his brother Cadwalader who burnt it down, drove the Normans out of the area and then rebuilt and occupied it. There followed several years of disputes between these rebels and in 1142 the castle was burnt down again, but remained in control of the Welsh. In 1158 the English (as they now were) under Henry II invaded again and built a new castle known as Aber-Rheidol on an unknown site. It did not last long and in 1164 it was burnt down by Lord Rhys of the Welsh. The first mention of a town of Aberystwyth comes in 1196 when due to an inheritance dispute, Maelgwn and Gwenwynwyn, Prince of Powys, the son of Owen Cyfeiliawc invaded and captured both the castle and the town that had grown up around it. In 1197 the English once again invaded and Owen handed the castle to them and placed himself into their captivity, regaining the castle and town on his release in 1198.
The next century saw the cycle of building castles and burning them to the ground continue until in 1277 the third castle of Llambardarn was built. It is this castle that remains of the site in ruins today and it was from here that Aberystwyth was brought finally under English control. Edward I stayed there for six days in 1284 and in 1287 the castle withstood a powerful assault by the Welsh Prince Rhys ap Maredudd. At this time the houses surrounding the castle were given the name Ville de Llambardarn and walls and ditches were dug around it for protection. In 1294-5, angry at being made to partially finance the King's wars in France, the Welsh surrounded the castle and laid siege, it was broken however, when supplies were shipped from the port of Bristol and loaded from the Castle's seaward side.
The Town of Aberystwyth
By 1298 the village of Aberystwyth had one hundred and eleven smallholdings, this grew to one hundred and forty four by 1311. In 1307 the King incorporated Aberystwyth as a Town and allowed further defenses to be built. Over time further charters were granted, allowing traders to make use of the town (on payment of the somewhat extortionate sum of twenty shillings). Over the next few years, Aberystwyth became a stable, even vibrant town. The reason for this was that unlike the northern walled settlements where the Welsh were excluded, Aberystwyth allowed Welshmen in to supplement its growth and income, making up more than a third of the town's population.
By the mid fourteenth century however, the town was struck by the Black Death which had swept its way across Europe for a decade. Aberystwyth population dropped by half. By 1380 however, the worst was past and a "Grand Jury of the Town, Liberty and Borough of Aberystwyth" was established. This body was a precursor of and in fact later became the town council, fulfilling many of the same civic functions.
Despite this period of relative peace, the Welsh were still unhappy at being ruled by the English. In 1400, lead by Owain Glyndewr, they rose up and declared themselves independent. Towns such as Aberystwyth were plunged into turmoil and in 1401 Glyndewr attacked, attempting to storm the castle. Inside its walls the people of the town watched as it was burned to the ground by Owain's men. But he failed to breach the castle walls. Undeterred he retuned in 1403 and with the support of the French succeeded in laying siege, taking the castle the following year, shortly after calling a parliament at nearby Machynlleth and declaring himself Prince of Wales.
The rebellion appearing successful, 1405 saw French troops landing in Wales to fight the English. A treaty between Glyndewr and France was signed at Aberystwyth castle and helped to drive back the English two years later when they laid siege with their new weapon – the cannon. It was, however, to be the last time the Welsh controlled the castle, in 1408 Prince Henry, (later Henry V) captured it and the rebellion ended.
The next hundred years saw a rebuilding of the town, now universally known by Aberystwyth after the castle. During this time, markets and trade flourished, aided by the increased use of the port. In 1530, the town council built a mill and directed that the profits should go to maintaining the port and the bridge.7 In 1537, the town won the right to elect members to the House of Commons, a right previously only held by the county-town of Cardigan some way up the coast.8 This prosperity however lead to the castle becoming a ruin, its stones used to build new houses and stables. Though in 1561 there was still lead on its roof, this did not last much longer.
The castle's last stand came with the English Civil War in which it was garrisoned first by Royalists and then taken in 1646 by Parliamentarians lead in part by Aberystwyth's MP John Vaughn of Traescoed. In 1649, the Castle was blown up, leaving only ruins. The reasons for this are somewhat unclear and it is possible that it was an accidental explosion caused by gunpowder, stored there to be used in the nearby silver mines.
After The Restoration Aberystwyth suffered a decline. Described by one visitor as "miserable" and another as "ill-built," it seems a lethargy had come over its inhabitants. The market however, was still celebrated, though it was noted that it could have been much better had the inhabitants been more industrious.
Trade, Mining, Tourism and Prosperity
The Eighteenth century saw an end to Aberystwyth's post-restoration decline, this is perhapse most easily illustrated by the fact that in 1700 there was only one ship registered with the town's port and in 1800 there were 99. This increase in trade was due in great part to Britain's emergence as the world's greatest power, even controlling at this time many colonies in the Americas. The eighteenth century also saw the powerful Pryce family rise to prominence with the one of their members elected to parliament in 1741, and again at every election until 1868!
Silver had been mined in Wales for hundreds of years and in 1744 Llywernog mine was dug near Aberystwyth bringing in huge amounts of capital to the town. The subsequent mining boom lead to four iron foundries being established manufacturing the tools of the trade and the landed gentry of the town further increased their fortunes by charging the owners for water rights so that they could utilise waterwheel technology. However, many people resented this sudden growth of income, in 1757 it was said that Cardiganshire was "richest country... ever... with the fewest people of ingenuity and talent." Nevertheless , Aberystwyth continued its growth, gaining its own bank in 1762 and becoming a post town in 1769. In 1773 a customs house was built at the harbour allowing for even more trading to take place and leading to an Act of Parliament in 1780 granting permission for the town to improve its port.
In 1779 a spring was discovered in the east of the town and entrepreneurial locals began selling its water as a health-tonic, boasting of its high Chalybeate or Iron Salts content. This marked the beginning of Aberystywth's reputation as a health giving town and thus the start of its profitable tourist trade. This saw a marked increase when the Napoleonic Wars began in the 1790s, forcing British tourists to remain on their own island when they needed a break, exploring the hitherto unrecognised beaches of the land.
The growth continued into the nineteenth century and in 1801 Aberystwyth's first pier was built to protect the shipping, it was soon washed away but it represented the considerable way the town had come over the previous hundred years. In 1822, work began on the promenade in front of the seafront Marine Terrace, it would not be completed for fifty years and partially destroyed in a storm early the next century. In 1831 with the towns population having soared past 4000 work was began on a theatre. In 1835 the town corporation was disbanded and an elected counsel formed. It was also in this year that it was made illegal to remove stones from the castle. In 1838 Aberystwyth Infirmary and Cardigan General Hospital was opened, funded by donations it provided healthcare for the people of the town. In 1839 Aberystwyth became one of the first towns in the country to have gas lighting installed. On a less pleasant note, in 1840, where the car park to Bronglais hospital now stands, a workhouse that could house 200 inmates was opened by the Aberystwyth Poor Law Union.
By 1850 there were 213 ships registered with Aberystwyth harbour, trade was booming, and in 1854 a group met in London to discuss the possibility of setting up a non-sectarian University of Wales, this meeting ultimately lead to the establishment of the University of Wales College, Aberystwyth.
In 1860, the population of the town had risen to 7000 and the following year work was begun on a railway link between Aberystwyth and Machynlleth which is still used today. However, the opening of the railway in 1864 saw the beginning of the end of sea-based trading and the port began to lose money. The loss of revenue was not badly felt by most people however as the railway enabled tourists to come from all over the country, leading in fact to an increase in growth. In 1865, the Royal Pier opened on the seafront and in 1867 a second railway from Carmarthen -via- Lampeter to Aberystwyth was opened, not to be closed for 97 years.
To the Modern Day
On October 5, 1872 the University was opened with 26 students. Funded for its first ten years through donations this establishment was considered the town's greatest achievement. The day of its opening was declared a public holiday, banners were flown in the streets and there were celebrations across the town. The institution began admitting women in 1834 and became incorporated by Royal Charter in 1889. This lead to the 1893 formation of the federated University of Wales, combining the colleges of Aberystwyth, Bangor and Cardiff. In 1894 the University built Alexandra Hall, a large residence for the female students. I mention this because it's where I sitting at the moment. The University closed the hall in the 1980s, but reopened it (having gutted the insides) in 2004 to all students.
The town's native population continued to grow over the twentieth century, mostly coming from the ever increasing influx of students to what was becoming a prestigious institution. Tourists flooded into the town every summer, enticed by the newly built Cliff Railway, one of the largest in the world, and by Aberystywth's growing numbers of hotels and cafés. An advert from 1901 boasted that Aberystwyth had "more ozone than on any other part of the British Coasts," and claimed that the town had 313 days of sunshine a year, a statement that seems somewhat questionable. Nevertheless it is certainly true that over five years the council spent half a million pounds, an astonishing sum then, on renovating the public attractions of the town.
In 1907 a charter was granted by Edward VII for the National Library of Wales to be built in Aberystwyth. This is a high honour; as one of the UK's copyright libraries, it would be entitled to one copy of every book published. For the university, this would be a resource rivalled only by the Bodleian in Oxford, the British Library in London and the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh. In 1909 the first volumes and resources were moved the Assembly Rooms as a temporary home until the palatial purpose-built library was finished.
Ever since the last ice age ended, Aberystywth's coast has been a rough one. In December, 1910, a storm threw up waves of incredible size which slammed themselves against the promenade, almost destroying its north end which needed to be rebuilt. This was not the last such storm to hit the town.
In 1914 the First World War broke out and just like men across the country, Aberystywth's population hurried to join up, over eight hundred of which were students. In 1919, after the war ended, the council commissioned a memorial to the hundreds of townsmen who were killed. Designed by the Italian architect Mario Rutelli, the memorial stands at the head of the castle and consists of a hexagonal base topped with a column on to of which is a sculpture of a dove representing peace which together measure eighty feet high. A woman stands at the front of the column, looking out to sea like a figurehead on a ship9. Facing west, either silhouetted or bathed in sunlight at the end of an evening, it is a spectacular monument. Unusually, it's unveiling ceremony which took place in 1923 can be viewed on the internet, here: http://www.gtj.org.uk/en/filmitems/29134.
The nineteen twenties and thirties brought with them further storms and floods, together with a significant drop in the town's population, down from 11,000 in 1920 to 9,000 in 1930. This is seen as the start of the decline in the town's major tourist trade, and the beginning of its establishment primarily as a university town. Nevertheless, Aberystwyth was still on the map, David Lloyd George visited in 1930 and in 1937 George VI arrived to open the half-completed National Library building on Penglais Hill. The following year a storm so massive that it is referred to as "the Great Storm" took place. Raging for five days the storm demolished two hundred feet of the promenade under Victoria Terrace, wearing the beach right back to the houses. The promenade was rebuilt and rocks were shipped in and placed along the beach to act as a storm-break.
The nineteen-forties were a turbulent time for most of the world, but Aberystwyth, being an isolated town in the far reaches of Wales, was largely unscathed. Nevertheless, it did not remain untouched. Rationing lead to the Great Alexandra Hall Food Scandal of 1942 in which the students became convinced that the Warden was stealing their food in order to entertain American airmen from the base near Aberaeron. On a more serious note however, the town formed a battery which stood to guard the east coast until it was clear an invasion was not going to happen, thereafter they travelled to Egypt and Europe, seeing action and sadly, losing some of their men. Their names have been added to the war memorial.
After the war, Aberystywth's tourism never really recovered and it began to devote itself to attracting students. In 1955 the National Library was finally finished and the Queen visited the town to officially open it. The 1960s saw the university grow exponentially, the Penglais Campus opening on the hill above the library, thanks to the donation of land from a former student late in the previous decade. The physical sciences building opened in 1962 and even featured on a threepenny stamp in 1971.
In 1963 Aberystwyth became the scene of the first protest by the newly formed Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (Welsh Language Society ), a pressure group that's work over the next decades would see a huge resurgence in the country's national language, up to more than 20% today. In Aberystwyth, where the group is based, it is very common for public literature to be provided in both Welsh and English, the university making it a mandatory requirement for its societies and clubs.
Continued modernisation throughout the last three decades saw the town bring itself up to date, the old tourist attractions largely done away with, student entertainments took over. Where once the public baths had stood, a new cinema was built in 1975, the Commodore, complete with a downstairs bar and an auditorium seating hundreds. Bars and pubs, before largely only open in the summer, found business could be done all year round. The pier, long since dilapidated, was bought by the Don Leisure Group and underwent a £250,00 refurbishment, gaining a nightclub, a restaurant, a wine bar and a snooker hall. The eighties were also a time of very unusual weather. The town was hit by snowfall in 1982, closing many businesses. This was followed up by an earthquake measuring 5.4 on the Richter Scale in 1984, a hurricane in 1987 and another earthquake in 1990. Over the next decade, the town blossomed into what it it is today, the bars and clubs finding their place, the students very much central to the town's atmosphere and the future looking bright.
I came to this town for the first time two years ago in order to visit the university. As far as first impressions go, the scenery is immediately overwhelming. The ocean, bright blue or slate grey, meeting the pebbled beach and the stark cliff faces of Constitution hill, the sheer beauty of the place is incredible. Still, before that, as soon as you get off the train, there is an indication of what sort of a town this is. The first thing you see as you disembark is a pub, the Yr Hen Orsaf Wetherspoons Free House.
Aber has an astonishing number of pubs, bars and off-licences; the total is usually given as fifty-ish, but in fact, taking into account the student bars, the Tory Club and a few other lesser-known places, the total is somewhere in the high sixties. This proliferation of drinking establishments has had two effects, first, it makes Aber one of a few towns in the country with a good claim to the title of "Most Drinking Establishments Per Square Mile" and secondly, the students of the university are more likely to turn into alcoholics than at any other university in the UK. They are also more likely to marry someone they meet here, but the two facts are probably unrelated.
Surprisingly perhaps, despite being a town of students and alcoholics, Aberystwyth only has two clubs, both of which, not to put too fine a point on it, are a bit crap. Pier Pressure is an expensive sticky-floored establishment on Royal Pier. Open every night of the week it is known for being expensive and playing only the worst mix of trance, house, dance and r&b music. As a rule of thumb is that Sundays to Wednesdays are dead, Thursday and Friday are student nights, and Saturday is for locals. The other club, Yokos, used to be extremely high-class, or rather it expected the usually scruffy students to obey its dress-code. It has since garnered a reputation for sleaze, not helped by the fact that briefly experimented with male and female strippers on most nights. Normally I'm not one to complain about nudity, especially when the entry price is cheap, but something about nudity in Yokos' atmosphere which once again is sticky-floored and expensive puts me off.10
Consequently, the Aber's night-life is centred around the pubs. There are some truly fantastic establishments here, ranging from Wetherspoons for cheap food and half-decent Ale, to Scholars' for a rustic atmosphere, comfortable sofas and pretty barmaids, to Rummers, an old stone boathouse with live music, excellent beer and a raucous,
smoky atmosphere. Further exploration yields more prizes in the form of rare beers, unusual cocktails, and places where they only speak welsh. A word about the latter, there are some pubs which are there for the locals. Some of them are tolerant to students and tourists, but some would rather they were left alone. It can be quite embarrassing to be addressed by the barman in Welsh and find you are unable to answer.
Enough of the night-life, the days in Aber can also be spent in the pubs, but if the weather isn't too awful, this is a waste. Constitution hill at the north of the town is a one hundred metre high cliff-edged rock with a worn track leading up it. Unlike many cliff-paths this is not fenced in and it is possible to fall straight over the edge onto the rocks below, so if you climb it, do be careful. I do not advise ascending it at night, it is somewhat unnerving to know how high up you are and what lies just a few feet away but not be able to see where the ground ends. That said, on a clear night, despite the cold, looking out across the lights of the towns in the distance, or just up at the sky, can be a wonderful experience. The best time to go, however, is at sunset on a cloudless day. Facing due west, here are some of the most incredible and magical sunsets in the world, fading from pink, to red, finally disappearing in a hue of green, leaving a spectrum of colours in the sky.
Another of the town's attractions are the castle ruins. Of the original building only a few walls and one tower remain, but it is enough to convey the awesome structure that once stood there. Open to the public at all hours and lit at night, the castle is a relaxing and inspiring place to spend time. It should be noted, however, that being such an ancient construction, the castle is unstable and whilst it recently underwent a structural strengthening, you still enter at your own risk.
As for shops and other facilities, Aber's isolation becomes an asset. Unlike many towns of its size, Aberystwyth has had to provide for itself.11 There are three supermarkets within walking distance of the town centre, an electronics super-shop a little further away and all the usual high-street chains providing everything one could one. A favourite street of mine is Pier Street, it contains cofee shops, cafés, a bookshop, an electronics shop, a collector's boutique, a specialist shoe-shop, clothes shops, a geek shop and a sex shop. There are two cinemas in Aberystwyth, the main one is the Commodore is a rather run-down looking but popular one-screen place that has a reputation of showing the newest films a month or so after they go on general release. The second is the Arts Centre cinema which is a far more modern affair, still only one screen, but it shows more unusual and art house films, as well as animé and specialist genres. The Arts Centre itself is an excellent venue that often hosts big-name comedians and politicians, it contains a theatre, a bar, a gallery and a bookshop and is located on the university's Penglais campus.
Aberystywth is an excellent town for book-lovers. The university's library is home to more than a million volumes and the National Library more than five million. This means that for every person in the town there are three hundred books!
Education is perhaps Aber's most prominent feature. It has primary and secondary schools for the local population and the University of Wales, Aberystwyth for students from across the world. The university was is home to the oldest International Politics department in the world and is regarded as the mother institution of the University of Wales. Famous alumni have included Prince Charles and Neil Hamilton.12 Making up more than a third of the population, the students form a very close-nit community; it is very difficult to do anything heinous and not find that the everyone knows about it the next day. The locals and students get on well by and large, though the local paper likes to moan about noise and occasional pranks.
Serious crime in Aberystwyth is largely unknown, though it does happen. In the time I have been here two people were stabbed to death just yards from where I lived and there are rumours that there are drug-smugglers operating through the marina. Naturally being a student town there are a lot of minor drugs around, though it is rarely commented on. Homelessness is a slight issue, with some unfortunate people sleeping rough along the main street. The police tend to be tolerant and pleasant, tending to take a relaxed attitude to students, provided they do not get too out of hand. The fire department is exceptionally tolerant of the frequent false alarms generated by someone burning toast in a student residence. There is one hospital on Penglais hill with a speedy accident and emergency department, though they do tend to be a little unsympathetic to alcohol poisoning on drunken injuries.
Overall, Aberystwyth is a stunningly beautiful town with a rich history. Its student population has lead the town to be described as young at heart. It is a wonderful place to live.
Nothing whatsoever to do with Brevity Quest 2006
1Only Americans use "quaint." Honestly. Well, ok, the Brits do too, but usually only when they're complaining about Americans, which is a national pastime. No we're not insecure, how dare you suggest such a thing.
2Even when you've worked out how to pronounce the bloody place, it's a pain in the proverbial having to say it every time. Therefore the majority of the locals, especially the English students refer to the town almost exclusively as "Aber."
3Ok, So I lied about that last bit.
4That's the third floor to most Earthlings.
5Of course I haven't done all three at once. Anyone who claims otherwise is lying. And we certainly weren't naked.
6Aberystwyth literally means "mouth of the river Ystwyth."
7The people of the town had to pay a toll to the crown to use the mill, this was a controversial matter and came to a head in a trial in 1573 where the crown successfully prooved its rights to the building. From then on, it was known as "Our Lady's Mill" after Elizabeth I.
8This caused some problems in 1601 when Cardigan and Aberystwyth voted for different people, this happened again in 1603!
9The woman is bare-chested. This has lead the students to nickname her The Floozie with the Boobies and she is rumoured to have the largest breasts in Wales.
10What exactly is making it sticky...?
11This lack of connections has meant that historically the locals had to make do with what they could find, and lead to the expression "Cardi," a resident of Cardiganshire, meaning skinflint or miser.
12Though we don't like to talk about him too much if we can help it.