Cardigan is the historic gateway into Ceredigion from the south west. Cardigan's Welsh name is Aberteifi - the [town at]the mouth of the Teifi - which developed into a significant port, giving its name to Cardigan Bay, which extends north beyond Aberystwyth. Cardigan was the county town of the shire for many centuries, and today serves a wide area of south Ceredigion and north Pembrokeshire. Cardigan has a vibrant contemporary arts scene, with theatres and galleries and a host of colourful events, interesting shopping at markets and independent shops and a great choice of cafes, pubs and restaurants.
The first castle was built in the vicinity by the Normans in 1093. Over the next 150 years many battles were fought and control of Cardigan changed hands no less than 16 times. In 1171, Lord Rhys ap Guffydd built a stone castle, using the latest techniques. Its fortified walls are what we see today on the banks of the Teifi, overlooking the ancient bridge that was fought over and captured many times by Welsh Princes, Norman knights and English kings. To celebrate the completion of the castle, the Lord Rhys hosted the first recorded Eisteddfod at the castle- the uniquely Welsh competitive arts festival, and a tradition which still thrives locally and where Welsh people migrated to around the world.
Cardigan Castle reopend in 2015 after undergoing extensive restoration and now has an exhibition covering the castle's 900 years of history, gardens to explore, a children's adventure play area, giftshop, restaurant and accommodation, and a host of events and activities, including harp and Welsh lessons!
Cardigan - a historic market town and port
Henry VIII granted Cardigan its charter in 1543 and by the 18th century Cardigan was the most important seaport in southern Wales. It had a thriving herring and shipbuilding industry and its merchant fleet carried fish, slate, bricks, bark for tanning, corn and ale. The Guildhall and its Market were opened in 1860.
Cardigan was also a major embarkation point for migrants to the New World.
The town’s 'must see' events include Barley Saturday and the Creative Cardigan winter lantern parade. Barley Saturday is held in Cardigan on the last Saturday of April every year, celebrating traditional rural life with a parade of the area's finest horses and agricultural vehicles, whilst the lantern parade is the signal that Christmas is coming!
Also look out for when the Cardigan 'Cardigan' is on display - a giant knitted cardigan depicting the town's history in wool.
Barley Saturday parade (April) Cardigan's giant lantern parade (December)
Cardigan's creative arts scene
Culturally vibrant, Cardigan has a busy arts scene. Theatr Mwldan arts centre includes a cinema, gallery and café and presents a wide range of professional entertainment and arts events throughout the year. Nearby is the Small World Theatre, housed in a modern eco-building, where performances, puppet theatre, dances and events focused on sustainability are held.
The Cardigan Guildhall hosts regular dances, live music and concerts. Cardigan Castle is a beautiful venue for all kinds of events, including fairs, theatre and music performances, played in the elegant Georgian Castle House, or out on the castle's lawn.
Shopping for art, craft, food and drink in Cardigan
Cardigan's indoor market is in the historic Guildhall building in the centre of town. The market hall, which is on two levels, was originally the town meat and dairy marketplace. Today, the market is a busy shopping area with over 50 stalls run by independent local traders. The Guildhall Market is open Monday to Saturday.
The Corn Exchange gallery features a different artist or craft group each week from March to September. Cardigan Guildhall Market has a number of art and craft stalls and there are several galleries selling paintings, sculpture, textiles and jewellery in and around Cardigan town.
Cardigan's independent shops take pride in sourcing quality goods, interesting local crafts, inspired art and the freshest local food - bread, meat, fruit and vegetables as well as locally brewed beer and homemade cakes and sweets. You'll also find clothes, shoes, books, gifts, bikes, grocery, hardware...
Cardigan High Street Cardigan Guildhall market and gallery
Cardigan has a good choice of places to eat, from traditional cafe to pizza or barbecue, and an opportunity to dine like a prince at Cardigan Castle restaurant overlooking the river.
Every August, the Cardigan River and Food Festival celebrates the quality and diversity of local independent food producers from award winning cheese makers to butchers and bakers - over 70 food stalls with cookery demonstrations and entertainment for all.