The thriving market town of Cardigan sits on the banks of the River Teifi estuary in the county of Ceredigion in West Wales. Across the River Teifi to the south lies the county of Pembrokeshire, whilst down-stream to the north-west the Teifi feeds into the Irish Sea in Cardigan Bay. This charming town retains much of its heritage and character, featuring castle ruins, narrow streets and Victorian shop frontages, whilst still providing the services expected of a modern town.
Highlights of Cardigan's rich heritage include the ruins of Cardigan castle which stand on the banks of the River Teifi close to the town centre. Interestingly, the first of Cardigan's castles was believed to have been built as a Norman motte and bailey settlement around 1093 at the far end of the Teifi estuary, known as Castle Pool. A second timber frame castle was later constructed by the Norman nobleman, Gilbert de Clare, in 1100 at the site of the current ruins. This castle was then transformed into a stone castle by Rhys ap Gruffydd, Prince of South Wales, around 1136. It was here that the first national Eisteddfod of Wales was held in 1176.
Following a series of invasions by the Normans and Welsh Princes, the Cardigan castle was reconstructed and fortified in 1240 with the addition of a new keep and town wall. The castle was then later attacked in 1645 during the English Civil War and left in ruins. Whilst the interior is currently closed to the public, the remains of the exterior wall, south-east tower, and pill box can be clearly seen from the riverside at Bridge Street and the Strand.
Cardigan's maritime history dates back to medieval times when it became an important trading centre for the import of fish and export of farm produce and slate to Ireland and western Britain. From the 17th to early 19th century Cardigan was one of Wale's most important ports, boasting a thriving ship building industry, prosperous trading centre, and major port for emigration to Canada and the United States. By the end of the 19th century the success of Cardigan's port ran into decline, following the advent of rail transportation and steam ships, coupled with the silting of the river Teifi.
Cardigan is also home to the national shrine of the Catholic Church in Wales, 'Our Lady of Cardigan'. According to legend, a statue of the Virgin Mary holding a burning candle was found on the banks of the river Teifi. The statue was believed to rest at St Mary's church from 1158 until 1538, when the shrine was destroyed during the English Reformation. In 1952 a replica statue was carved and later recast in bronze. This statue can currently been seen at Our Lady of the Taper Church, built especially to provide a permanent home for the shrine.
Visitors to Cardigan can enjoy the excellent range of shops, entertainment and leisure facilities on offer. Cardigan's indoor market is housed in the gothic style Guildhall, located in the centre of the town. The upper market food hall offers a range of locally produced breads, meats, and dairy products as well and fresh fruit and vegetables, whilst the lower market offers a variety stalls selling home wares, clothing, pet supplies, flowers, and arts and crafts. The Guildhall is also home to the Corn Exchange Gallery which runs a calendar of arts and crafts exhibitions for visitors to enjoy.
The carefully preserved High Street also offers visitors an eclectic mix of traditional and contemporary shops to explore as well as an excellent selection of cafés and pubs to relax in. The town centre also provides a choice of high-street banks, chemists, and a post office. The main supermarkets are located on the outskirts of the town centre on Quay Street and on Aberystwyth Road.
For a taste of culture, the Theatr Mwldan has an exciting programme of live productions including theatre, opera, music, dance, documentary, and comedy. The theatre is also home to the Tourist Information Centre and Cardigan's cinema which features the latest film releases including 3D showings.
Cardigan Swimming Pool and Leisure Complex provide a 25m pool, small toddler pool, solarium, and fitness suite equipped with cardiovascular equipment and free weights. The memorial hall caters for badminton, table tennis, martial arts, indoor hockey, indoor football, short tennis, dancing and roller skating. Badminton and exercises classes are also run at the Teifi Leisure centre.
Parking in Cardigan is available in the pay and display car parks located at Fairfield, Greenfield Square, Bath House Road, and Quay Street.
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