West Wales and Cardigan Island are a lovely area for a restful week-end break.
The rugged coastline of Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire is absolutely stunning.
There are sandy beaches and sheltered coves all along this wonderful coast. Even though the Pembrokeshire coast is a National Park and very attractive, none of it can be said to be more beautiful than Cardigan Island and the Teifi Estuary. It is a superbly scenic location...... with the Pembrokeshire National Park within view, just across the estuary!
By the way, the Teifi is the Welsh version
of the river's name. The
anglicised spelling, Tivy, is also commonly used. To confuse things further, it is occasionally seen written as Teivy, particularly on old documents.
The island and Cardigan Island Coastal Farm Park are very close to the little sea-side resort of Gwbert [sometimes called Gwbert-on-Sea ], which has two good hotels and one or two guest houses. Gwbert is a golfer's paradise, with the excellent 18-hole Cardigan Golf Course located here, overlooking one of the best views in Britain.
The interesting, historic market town of Cardigan is only 3 miles south of Gwbert. It was here, at Cardigan Castle, that the first Eisteddfod, or Welsh language festival of music and poetry, was held by Lord Rhys in 1176.
Apart from the outstanding views, the main attraction of Cardigan Island is the abundant wildlife. Various sea-birds , such as guillemots, razorbills, cormorants, shags, fulmars and a variety of sea-gulls ,all nest on the island. Since it is a nature reserve, public access to the island is not permitted. It would disturb nesting birds. However, the various birds can be viewed clearly from Cardigan Island Coastal Farm Park, just across the sound, on the mainland.
From the cliffs of the farm park, the main attraction of the area, the resident colony of Atlantic Grey Seals , can be viewed in the wild. They inhabit the many caves that are below the farm park and on Cardigan Island. They are clearly seen swimming lazily around the rocks or "bottling" [sleeping vertically with their noses out of the sea] in sheltered water. At low tide, in warm weather, they bask on the flat platform rock called Carreg Lydan [Welsh for "Broad Rock"], between the island and the farm park. Much of the time, they just poke their heads out of the water and stare back at the visitors.
In the Autumn, they give birth to their beautiful snow-white fluffy pups in the rocky coves or in one of the many caves. September and October are the best months to view seal pups.
The Grey Seals provide the main tourist attraction here, viewed from the safely-fenced cliff-tops of Cardigan Island Coastal Farm Park. You would be very unlucky not to spot a seal here! The vast majority of visitors certainly see them. Some people spend hours just watching them.
The other big attraction around Cardigan Island is the bottlenosed dolphins of Cardigan Bay. The area around the island is one of their favourite hunting grounds, since they regularly chase salmon and sewin, or sea-trout, from Spring through to the Autumn, in these waters, as the fish head for the Teifi estuary. Salmon migrate here to spawn from their feeding grounds, south of Greenland.
It's a great thrill to see a bottlenosed dolphin leap high out of the water, as it pursues a fish! Dolphins can also be seen moving languidly up and down the coast as they patrol for food.
Rare choughs, attractive members
of the crow family, with curved
orange beaks and red legs, can also be viewed at the farm park, searching for grubs in the short grass and flying acrobatically over the cliffs, making their distinctive call.
On May 17th 2005, I was also lucky to spot a magnificent, graceful red kite, over the farm park, with its distinctive "V"- shaped tail, for the very first time in my life. Kites were very rare twenty years ago, but they are now thriving.
Buzzards, peregrine falcons, kestrels, sparrow-hawks and skylarks are a regular sight here, although quite rare in some other parts of the country. There is even a flock of wild Soay sheep on Cardigan Island, that can be seen from the farm park!
Why not come and see all this varied wild-life, in stunning scenery, for yourself? Don't forget the binoculars for an even better view!!