Founded in 1093 and positioned between the sea and the entrance to the Teifi valley, Cardigan was an important port and centre of trade from the Middle Ages right up to the 19 th century. Along with export of local stone (slate from Cilgerran), farm produce, and other local goods, and the import of coal limestone and timber, the town had an important ship building trade, and by the early 19 th century over 300 ships were registered here. Ship building was focused at Netpool, a few hundred metres down stream from the five arched slate bridge that spans the Teifi below Cardigan castle. Together with ship construction, several other related industries such as lime-burning, rope making, and iron founding, which were also present here, employing over 1,000 men.
Although its importance as a port diminished in the 19th century, it is now a flourishing centre for tourism and the local economy, and a good base for enjoying the last stretches of the Teifi River and the Cardigan Bay coastline. The town currently has a population of around 4000 people, and there are plenty of cafes, pubs, and shops to enjoy during a stroll through the town centre, which has several buildings of historical interest.
Amongst these the castle, which is undergoing major renovation work, now has grounds open to the public and good views of the river below from the imposing South East Tower. First built on its present site in 1110, the castle changed hands several times in its history. The remains that are visible today are largely from the 13 th century stone castle, which was later to have a mansion built in its grounds after it ceased to be of military import in the 17 th century.
The Guildhall (built 1858-60) with its impressive vaulted ceilings, now houses an indoor market, and is an interesting building to look around. It is also possible to see the site of the old county gaol, designed in 1793 by the famous architect John Nash, who designed some of the important country houses in west Wales during his career (including the now National Trust property at Llanerchaeron).
On the Aberystwyth Road heading out of Cardigan to the north is Our Lady of the Taper Catholic Shrine, a site of pilgrimage containing a statue of the Virgin Mary. The current statue’s predecessor, which was lost or destroyed in the reformation, drew pilgrims in significant numbers during the middle ages. (visit www.ourladyofthetaper.org.uk for more history of the shrine).
An exhibition on Cardigan’s history is housed in an 18 th century former warehouse – now Cardigan Heritage Centre – on the South side of the bridge. The centre, which also has a café and shop, is maintained largely through the efforts of voluntary workers and is open 10am – 5pm daily in the season (out of season opening varies).
Access for the disabled: good.
(Tel. 01239 614 404)
A guide to the historical buildings of Cardigan which can be followed as a heritage trail around the town, costs £1 and can be obtained from the tourist information office in Theatr Mwldan (see below)
Close to the centre of Cardigan Theatr Mwldan is a focus point for art and creative activities in the area. It offers regular cinema screenings and live performance, a gallery, café and bar, as well as evening and day classes that include dance, yoga, painting, drawing, and more.
The centre was opened in 1987, and since then has received grants of £7 million for the Theatr Mwldan Development Project, which was completed in 2004. It now houses two theatre auditoria, a rehearsal studio, a visual exhibition space, and catering facilities, while its new multi-media centre, Creative Mwldan Creadigidol, is situated on an adjacent site in newly renovated former farm buildings. Theatr Mwldan is wheelchair accessible.
For listings and bookings of forthcoming events visit
Getting to Theatr Mwldan: Take a left turn at the north end of the High Street/Pendre. The Theatre building is visible on the right 50m down the hill (see map).
For more general information about Cardigan see:
1) For town walking there is the heritage trail which should take around an hour. Information and maps available from tourist office.
2) There is a well developed network of longer walking paths accessible from Cardigan. As well as paths up the Teifi, there are routes that lead to the coast: both to the north of the estuary (to Foel y Mwnt) and to the south of the estuary (to Cemaes head).
The best guide to walking around Cardigan is the Walking the Teifi Estuary booklet, available free of charge from the tourist information office. Detailed descriptions of walks can also be down loaded from:
OS Maps: Explorer 198 (Cardigan and New Quay); Explorer OL35 ( North Pembrokeshire)
Cardigan grid ref.: SN1746
Buses: X50 (Cardigan to Aberystwyth), 412 (Cardigan to Haverfordwest), 460 (Cardigan – Cardigan).
Parking: Pay and display car parks behind Guild Hall, and at the bottom of Quay St next to the river. From the latter the beautifully decaying wreck of a wooden ship is visible in the muddy riverbank opposite.
Shops, pubs, cafes, theatre, tourist information, exhibitions, toilets.