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Cardigan is an ancient town located in West Wales. Cardigan is rich in history and includes some notable landmarks such as Cardigan Castle and St Dogmael’s Abbey.

It’s also well placed for getting out to explore the beautiful scenery, including, Poppit Sands beach, Tresaith waterfall, and a glorious section of the All Wales Coastal Path which you can walk towards Ceredigion or Pembrokeshire.

I recently visited Cardigan, and in this guide, I’ll share the best things to do (and some things not to do at the end!).

1. See a Real Castle at Castell Cilgerran

Although Cardigan town centre is home to a castle, this is more of a manor house with castle walls. Anyone wanting to experience a proper Welsh castle should take a trip to Castell Cilgerran just outside of Cardigan.

Here, you’ll find the ruins of an impressive 13th-century castle including towers you can climb and see out across the Teifi gorge with Coedmore manor in the background.

Castell Cilgerran is managed by CADW. The castle visitor centre is only open from Friday to Sunday over summer when you’ll need to pay the entrance fee to visit the castle (£5.80 for adults and £3.40 for children). I’d recommend visiting between Monday to Thursday when you can see the castle for free.

2. Visit the Ruins of St Dogmael’s Abbey

St Dogmael’s Abbey was founded in 1120 on the site of an earlier pre-Norman church. Although only the ruins remain, I really enjoyed wandering around and imagining the abbey at it’s prime.

The abbey is now in the care of CADW and is free to visit. There’s a small visitor centre, gift shop, and cafe housed in the abbey’s restored coach house. A modern twist on the ruins is the availability of the computer-generated reconstruction of the abbey at its 15th Century peak, so be sure to check this out whilst you’re there.

It’s also the perfect place to take your four-legged friends as they are welcome to enjoy this experience too, providing they are kept on leads.

3. Revel in the Beauty of Poppit Sands Beach

There is no shortage of stunning beaches near Cardigan, but my favourite has to be Poppit Sands. The beach is located a the start, or the end, of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, which takes you to Amroth in the South.

Poppit Sands has something for everyone with a beautiful sandy beach and dunes and access to some great walks nearby. This is a blue flag beach which means the water quality is great for swimming1 (source: Blue Flag) and lifeguards ensure you can enjoy the sea safely. The waves here are also decent for surfing, especially if you’re a beginner.

There’s also good parking availability and public toilets available, which makes the trip easier, especially for those with children.

Please note that dog restrictions apply to the western end of this beach between 1 May and 30 September. For more information, see my guide to visiting Poppit Sands here.

4. Spot a Waterfall at Tresaith

Yet another Blue Flag beach in the area can be found at Tresaith beach which is also conveniently located several miles outside of Cardigan.

The main attraction of Tresaith, and what sets it apart from other beaches is the waterfall that falls over the cliffs directly onto the beach and into the sea. This is most impressive during winter or after heavy rainfall when the water powers over the edge, during summer it’s more of a trickle but still fun to discover.

Being a relatively small beach, the main attractions include water-sport activities, taking a walk along the stunning shoreline, or letting the kids find some sea creatures in the rockpools. If you are in the mood for a pub lunch or a cold beer, the Ship Inn should be visited for its excellent range of food and drinks.

See my full guide on visiting Tresaith Beach to find out about where to park and for information about dog restrictions during summer.

5. Walk the Cilgerran Gorge Circular Trail

Keen hikers will be forever occupied in Cardigan and it’s surrounding areas with your choice of coastal walks, mountain walks, and even gorge walks such as this one down the Cilgerran Gorge.

The walk starts and ends at Dolbadau car park in Cilgerran and encompasses several of the other things in this article so you could include them all together. You’ll walk down the gorge, through the Welsh Wildlife Centre where you’ll also find the Heritage Canoes) and past Castell Cilgerran.

Although only medium in length, this is a strenuous route through the gorge so the 4-mile route will take around 3 hours without stops. Find out more about the trail here.

If you want an easier route, you could catch a bus up to Cilgerran Castle and walk back to Cardigan alongside the river, information about this route can be found here.

6. Visit a Grotto Made From Local Shells at Cilwendeg Hermitage

One of the more unusual things to do near Cardigan is to visit Cilwendeg Hermitage, better known as the shell grotto. This is a former chapel on the Cilwendeg estate that has been rebuilt and decorated entirely in native sea shells, minerals, and coloured glass.

If you are passing by on a Thursday (it’s only open one day per week), I recommend popping in, although it’s not worth a trip especially. The hermitage is free to visit, although I recommend that you leave a small donation to help maintain the property (cash only).

7. Spot Dolphins With A Bay To Remember

Cardigan Bay is home to a resident population of dolphins, porpoises, and seals. The dolphins come quite close to shore and can often be seen from beaches and clifftops in the area.

But the best way to see them is by taking a dolphin-spotting trip with A Bay To Remember which depart from The Moorings near st Dogmaels just outside of Cardigan.

You’ll board a RIB boat and head out to see with a knowledgeable guide. On my trip, we encountered a family of dolphins less than 10 minutes into the trip and they came super close to the boat as you can see in the photo here.

We also visited caves and saw other wildlife including seals and birds. I can highly recommend this trip, it’s very family friendly although you cannot take dogs on the RIB boat.

8. Explore the Nature Trails at the Welsh Wildlife Centre

The Welsh Wildlife Centre is a large nature reserve managed by the Wildlife Trust that’s got several great walking trails. There’s a visitor centre and cafe which are open 10am-4pm from Wednesday to Sunday, however, you can visit and explore the trails any time of day.

This is a great family-friendly activity with several trails of different difficulty including one that is pram and wheelchair-friendly. Kids can also take part in a scavenger hunt on the way around with a pack that can be purchased for £1 at the visitor centre. Dogs are also welcome but must be kept on a lead and are not allowed indoors.

If you want to see more nature, take one of the longer trails such as the gorge trail. These terms to be less busy so there is less noise to scare the wildlife away. I’d recommend taking binoculars if you have some.

The trails are totally free, however, parking is fixed at £4 or free for Wildlife Trust members. The visitor centre also run occasional activities for kids such as a minibeast safari or craft workshops which are £4 per child.

9. Tour the River Teifi in a Heritage Canoe

Heritage Canoes

Also located at the Welsh Wildlife Trust, you’ll find Cardigan Heritage Canoes. On a tour with them, you’ll make your way down the Teifi Gorge in a traditional open canoe past wildlife habitats and ancient woodlands. Kingfishers, dragonflies, and salmon are among some of the wildlife you can expect to see.

This small group guided tour lasts for two hours and can accommodate 2 to 3 people per canoe. It’s perfectly suitable for all abilities and anyone aged 3 upwards. However, be aware that the minimum booking size is two people as you cannot use these canoes by yourself.

To find out more and book your trip, visit their booking page here.

10. See the Giant Cardigan at Stiwdio 3

Stiwdio 3 is a community space on the high street that comprises a cute little cafe, small makers studio where local crafters can work, and a small shop that sells some of the items they make including gifts, cards, and wrapping paper.

The makers also run craft classes and workshops, this includes everything from screen printing to upholstering. You can view the full schedule and book classes here. The cafe is open from 10am Monday to Saturday. They have a main menu which is served until 3pm then cakes and light bites until 4pm.

At Stiwdio 3, you’ll also find the Cardigan cardigan. No, that’s not a spelling mistake. There really is a giant knitted cardigan on display. It took an army of 200 volunteers over 8 months to make the 5m wide garment which details the history of the town2 (source: BBC).

Fun Fact: The garment known as a cardigan is not linked to the Welsh town of Cardigan. It is named after the knitted wool waistcoat worn by British Army Generals in the 19th century, most notable James Brudenell who was the 7th Earl of Cardigan (a title in the English peerage).

11. Feed Alpacas at Cardigan Island Coastal Farm Park

Located 3 miles outside of Cardigan in Gwbert is Cardigan Island coastal farm park, a unique farm come tourist attraction that’s an excellent day out for all ages.

Whilst at the farm you can spend some time walking around enjoying the epic views, or grab a bag of animal feed from the shop and feed the animals as you go. Expect to see alpacas, guinea pigs, ponies, rabbits, and more. Kids can play farm-themed football games and build things in the construction zone. https://cardiganisland.com/food-drink/ 

As the farm is located on the coast it welcomes visitors daily from 10am-6pm between April and November. The entry cost is very reasonable, with adult tickets costing £4.90 and children £3.90.

12. Pamper Yourself at the Cliff Hotel and Spa

Cliff Hotel

Also located in Gwbert is the Cliff Hotel and Spa which has to be visited when in the area. Stay in one of the 76 en-suite bedrooms, dine out in the restaurant, relax and pamper yourself in the spa, or play on their very own 9 hole golf course.

When not busy enjoying the hotel’s activities, use it as a base to explore other parts of Cardigan, including the section of the all Wales coastal path. In the evenings, sit and relax whilst taking in the epic views of Poppit Sands and Cardigan Island, as the sun sets in the background.

13. Take a Scenic Boat Trip With Dai Crabs

Dai Crabs Boats

If the idea of rowing down the Teifi in a canoe didn’t tickle your tastebuds, you can swap out the paddles for an engine with Dai Crabs Boats. You’ll journey onboard the Diana Ellen, on old crab and lobster fishing vessel that has been restored by a local craftsman.

On this one-hour evening tour, you’ll go from the jetty near the castle in Cardigan town, down to the mouth of the estuary in Gwbert. You’ll learn about the history of the once-thriving fishing and ship-building industries in Cardigan, plus you’ll get some great photo opps along the way.

The cost is £15 for adults and £5 for children. Typically there is only around 1 or 2 trips per week and it depends on the tide conditions which impact the river so you’ll need to call up or email to find out more and book. All of the contact details are on Dai’s website here.

14. Try Footgolf at Trenewydd Farm

Located approximately 10 minutes outside of Cardigan is Trenewydd Farm, which has a footgolf course available for just £5 per person. But, what is foot gold I hear you ask? Well, it’s exactly what the name says, it’s a golf course but you have to kick a football into the holes rather than using clubs and a golf ball.

The 9-hole course at Trenewydd Farm is nicely situated and is not too long at 772 meters, making it an activity that can be enjoyed by the whole family. Trenewydd Farm also offers accommodation and is an excellent choice if you’re looking for somewhere to stay close to Cardigan3 (source: Trip Advisor).

15. Enjoy Baked Goods From Crwst

With two locations in Cardigan (one in the town centre and another at Poppit Sands) is Crwst, a family-run cafe and bakery that makes THE MOST INCREIBLE baked goods as well as all-day brekkies, brunches, and delicious coffee.

Not only is the food great (trust me, the cinnamon roll you see above is the best I’ve ever had), but they also try to be sustainable where possible which is something I really like. This includes using locally sourced flour, meat and vegetables, coffee beans that are roasted locally using renewable energy, and they donate to reforestation projects4 (source: Crwst).

A fun fact about Crwst is that they have delivered doughnuts to the Welsh football team!

If you’re planning a visit, please note that the town centre cafe is only open between 10 am – 4 pm whereas the Poppit Sands venue is open 10am-6pm daily.

Related Question

Is Cardigan Castle Worth Visiting?

No, Cardigan Castle is not worth visiting. Aside from the walls, which are best viewed from the outside, the original castle is no longer there. Instead, there is now a manor house which was built in the 19th century and some displays. Although these displays are interesting, they are not worth the steep entrance fee. If you want to visit a castle, I recommend taking a trip to Castell Cilgerran just outside of Cardigan, this is free and far more impressive.

Of course, we should still support these historic buildings, so a good way you can contribute is by visiting the castle’s restaurant called 1176 where you can enjoy a delicious lunch, afternoon tea, or dinner at reasonable prices. You can enter the restaurant from the outside, without going through the castle.

Kieren is the founder and editor-in-chief of Wales Guidebook. Originally from rural Mid-Wales, he has lived all over the country from Cardiff to Wrexham. A true Welshman, Kieren created this site to share his passion for Wales and help others discover this beautiful country.