Walking the coastline offers many glimpses of Ceredigion’s heritage. Lime kilns were built at every cove and many of these still remain today.
Lime was important for neutralising the acidic soils of the region thus improving fertility. Limestone was bought in by boat and processed close to shore. Farmers would journey from far inland to obtain this precious resource.
The remains of mediaeval fish traps which were built by the monks of Strata Florida can still be seen at low tide between Aberarth and Llanon.
The sea has exerted a great influence on Ceredigion. Its coastal communities were once thriving centres for shipbuilding and shipping. Lime and fuel were common imports, serving the agricultural hinterland. Cardigan Bay was also an important Herring fishery – this activity continuing from local harbours until the First World War.
The impressive Iron Age hill fort at nearby Pendinas, Aberystwyth (topped by the more recent Wellington monument) dates back to about 600BC. This area has revealed much earlier inhabitants – hunter gathers settled on the lower slopes of Pendinas and used part of the beach as a flint factory.
Aberystwyth harbour was a centre for shipbuilding and for the export of lead ore from the many metal mines in north Ceredigion. A walk along Aberystwyth’s sea front reveal many facets of the town’s history, its castle built by Edward I, the development of its University and the Victorian resort.
Another castle can be found at Cardigan, a short distance from the coast on the Teifi Estuary. Rhys ap Gruffydd, ruler of Deheaubarth (west Wales) built a stone castle here in 1171 at the site of an earlier Norman fortification. He also held the first Eisteddfod at Cardigan in 1176. Cardigan was once the most important port in Wales. In the 18th century many Cardiganshire people emigrated from the port in the ‘Albion’ and other ships to make a new life in the Americas.
Aberaeron has more recent origins. Once a small fishing village, in the early 19th century an Act of Parliament was passed for the building of a harbour and the laying out of the town. John Nash may have influenced its plan. Today, Aberaeron’s colourful terraces draw visitors from far afield.
New Quay owes its development of the construction of the harbour in the 1830s. Dylan Thomas lived at nearby Llanina Point in 1944-45. New Quay may have been the inspiration for ‘Under Milk Wood’.
Llanon is named after St Non, who was probably a nun in a local Celtic monastery, her son St. David reputedly being born in Llanon in about 500AD. The ‘Slangs’, between the village and the sea, have changed little over the centuries – they are a reminder of the open field system of farming once practiced here. Local tradition recalls that these narrow strips of land were given to fishermen by St. David.