Although small, the pretty village of Cenarth in West Wales is a popular tourist attraction because of its spectacular series of waterfalls and salmon-leap. Cenarth Falls is a natural beauty spot with a glorious low-rise cascade and ancient watermill. It’s close to Newcastle Emlyn, the legendary resting place of Wales’ last dragon.
Leaping fish, a gushing waterfall and a heroic dragon sounded like the perfect ingredients for a family day out. So, we set off to discover the natural force that is Cenarth Falls and explore the charming town of Newcastle Emlyn.
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We started our family visit at Cenarth Falls. This mighty waterfall is in the centre of Cenarth village, just below the 17th century road bridge.
Parking is available in the car park adjacent to Cenarth Bridge, for a daily charge of £2.50. From the car park it is a short walk to see the magnificent Cenarth Falls.
A riverside walk at Cenarth Falls
Although you can actually see Cenarth Falls from the car park, you’ll enjoy it far more with a riverside walk. Boardwalks follow a scenic waterside trail beside the river for about a mile. For the most part there’s a handrail. Unfortunately the planks have snapped in places, so may not be accessible for all.
At the end of the boardwalk, you can retrace your steps or continue along the track away from the river. This extended route takes you on a picturesque walk under a tunnel of trees.
Standing on the opposite riverbank to the car park is a charming historic mill and waterwheel. Built in the 17th century, this flour mill was still in use until after World War II. The present Cenarth Mill was built near the site of the original mill, which was once owned by King Edward I.
The National Coracle Centre
To learn something about Cenarth’s history and heritage, cross the bridge to visit the National Coracle Centre. For those who don’t know, a coracle is a one-person boat made from willow and animal skin. Fishermen have used them for thousands of years and Cenarth was once a famous coracle fishing village.
This museum and workshop showcase a unique collection of coracles from around the world. You can discover the history of the traditional fishing boat and its users.
The village of Cenarth straddles the River Teifi and the two sides are joined by the impressive Cenarth Bridge. They built it in the 18th century to replace the original river crossing.
The bridge is distinctive because of its unique hole design. The concept of the holes was part of a clever design by William Edwards and his son to reduce the weight of the span, whilst retaining the bridge’s strength.
However, today the holes of Cenarth Bridge are also a popular climbing area for kids. It’s also perfect for a photo opportunity, especially if you want to recreate the opening shot of a Bond film!
Cenarth Bridge also provides an excellent viewpoint for pedestrians looking at the falls. As you walk over the bridge to the other side of the village you’ll get excellent views over the waterfall.
Salmon at Cenarth Falls
For nature enthusiasts, the best time to visit Cenarth Falls is in autumn. This is when the salmon and sea trout leap their way up the River Teifi to spawn. It’s a spectacular natural phenomenon, that attracts visitors to Cenarth from all over the world.
However, we were there in summer, which was a pleasant time to visit and not too busy.
Accommodation near Cenarth Falls
If you want to stay near Cenarth Falls, there are several cosy cabins in the Penlan Holiday Village.
We stayed in nearby seaside town of Aberporth, which is about 8 miles away. See below for accommodation in Aberporth.
Other things to do at Cenarth Falls
Of course, no trip to a new village is complete without a peek in the souvenir shops. Cenarth has a couple of gift shops, some cosy tearooms and two pubs. We headed for the White Hart Inn pub, where we sat in the courtyard outside. It’s a family-friendly pub, serving pub food and real ale.
Alternatively, head down to the other side of the bridge and explore this riverside area. It’s a shallow section of the river, which is great for paddling or stone skimming!
You’ll find some public toilets next to the church here.
A visit to Newcastle Emlyn
For more local history and heritage, including legends of Welsh kings and dragons, we headed over to explore nearby Newcastle Emlyn. It is only 3 miles from Cenarth by car and takes less than 10 minutes to drive. You can park for free by the castle.
Newcastle Emlyn is a small, historic town, located in a hairpin bend of the River Teifi. Its main attraction is its 13th century castle and its biggest claim to fame is that they slain the last dragon in Wales here! How could we resist?
Newcastle Emlyn Castle
The castle at Newcastle Emlyn sits on a peninsula of land surrounded on three sides by the River Teifi. It has a long and turbulent history, often providing the battlefield for feuding English and Welsh lords. It is unusual that the locals built the castle, rather than occupying armies.
Today, there’s not much left of the castle to look at, as Newcastle Emlyn Castle has been in ruins since the civil war in the 1640s. However, it is still an impressive building and worth a visit. Another bonus is that admission to Newcastle Emlyn Castle is free and it’s in a beautiful location.
After a visit to the castle, you can follow a short riverside walk round the perimeters of the peninsula. Story boards along the way relay the history of the castle and the demise of the last dragon. You can also learn about the efforts of villagers to resurrect the dragon. A wooden egg on the hill represents the rebirth.
Other things to do in Newcastle Emlyn
From the castle it’s only a few minutes’ walk to the town centre. Newcastle Emlyn is a quirky, market town with a plenty of character. On the way, you’ll pass the old market square, which has a prominent position in the centre of town.
The town hall with its ornate clock tower and market buildings are now listed buildings. The building is home to the town museum, where you’ll find a collection of historic photographs and information about the town’s history. It also houses Newcastle Emlyn’s very own playhouse, the Attic Theatre.
In the town centre at Newcastle Emlyn, you’ll find some brightly painted buildings, an antique centre, and galleries. It offers a handful of cafés or you can pick up some sweet treats in Cardigan Bay Brownies.
We can personally recommend the homemade cake in Harrison’s Café. Perfect for a boost on a rainy day! They also serve full English breakfasts and a Sunday roast.
Accommodation in Newcastle Emlyn
There’s a good choice of self-catering accommodation in Newcastle Emlyn, including cottages, lodges, and cabins. See below for details on Booking.com
However, if you fancy something more quirky, what about a vintage Airstream Bus. Click here for prices. Or, if you are looking for group accommodation in Newcastle Emlyn, try the Wales Luxury River House.
A map of Cenarth Falls & Newcastle Emlyn
Cenarth Falls and Newcastle Emlyn are on the borders of Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion, and Carmarthenshire, in West Wales.
You can get to both by road on the A484 from Cardigan. The nearest train station is Carmarthen, which is 16 miles away.
Other things to do near Cenarth
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