Seaside university town with more birds than people.

Welcome to the seaside town of Aberystwyth in Wales. Or as the locals say, Aber. And I too will call it Aber because typing out the whole name is difficult and my laptop always says I spelt it wrong.
Aber is a mix of a seaside resort and a university town. Let’s take a look around. This is the view from the apartment we rented. Not bad at all.
The town of Aber was officially founded in 1277 but artifacts from the area show human presence in this town from at least 10,000 years ago.
Not surprisingly, being a seaside town, the major industry was fishing and transportation. Fishermen would catch herring, cod and pollock. The harbor was used to move lead zinc and slate. At it’s peak, this harbor was one of the busiest in Wales. However, the arrival of the railway in Wales made the port less important and activity dwindled. In the 1990’s the harbor was converted into a recreational marina instead.
Aber was originally ruled by powerful land owning families and all education was done through religious institutions. The towns people of Aber were very much non-conformists and thought that education should be independent from religion.
The towns people decided they would open an independent university. In 1867, people from all over Wales made donations to help open the very first national university in Wales. They bought the Castle in Aber and converted it to a university. When it first opened, it had 3 instructors and 26 students, all male. Females were not allowed to attend until 10 years after opening. The ruins of the castle can be seen here with the portion that survived in the background (covered in scaffolding for repair).
The university was close to the train station so that students from all across Wales could come to study. Today, these row houses are mostly student accommodations.
Also in Aber is the very first all Welsh language based school. It was started to help preserve the Welsh language. In honor of that tradition, what is the Welsh spelling of the name of this town?
It would be Lle i ddysgu. Obviously.
In the winter in Aberysthwth, the local birds put on a show each evening that attracts people to the seaside. They would gather near the beach each night to watch roughly 50,000 starlings fly in huge pulsing formations for about an hour before returning to their nests.
Fun fact, a flock of starlings, as seen here, is called a Murmuration.
Although people line up along the main road each night to watch the starlings fly in formation, the best plan is to grab a beer from the pub on the pier and watch the birds from there.
If watching birds fly isn’t your thing, there is also the cliff railroad in Aber. Opened in 1896 the cliff railway will take you to the top of a hill overlooking Aber. Another great example of the Welsh language as well. Maybe I should sign up for that Welsh school?
There are two railway cars attached to each other with a cable to take you up the cliff. As one goes up, the other goes down. When the railway was first built, the car at the top had tanks below it that were pumped full of water until it was heavy enough to pull the bottom car up. When it reached the bottom, the tanks were drained and the process was repeated.
Today, the railway is powered by electric motors. When the downhill car is loaded up with more people than the uphill car, the motor that moves the railway actually turns into a generator and will pump power back into the local electrical grid. Neat.
At the top of the railway there is a pub, where you can get a delicious beverage and soak in the views of Aberysthwth and the Welsh coastline.
And of course, you know what that means. Traditional Summit selfie! With that done, it is time to generate some electricity, head down the cliff and on to the next spot!


Daphne Nairn · April 12, 2024 at 4:36 pm

Nice to see pics. of Aber. My first job on graduating was here at what was then a Univ. College of Wales.

Teditor · April 12, 2024 at 5:30 pm

Another very interesting geography lesson!

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