Cardigan is the second largest town in Ceredigion, a beautiful, unspoilt holiday destination in West Wales. With a fantastic choice of stunning beaches, outstanding natural beauty, and magnificent historic buildings, we found some brilliant things to do near Cardigan.
So whether you are looking for holiday inspiration or ideas for day trips near Cardigan, we have it all covered. Our suggestions are all family-friendly, tried and tested suggestions for days out with kids in Cardigan.
Read on for the ultimate visitor guide and all the very best things to do near Cardigan in West Wales.
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See the sights in Cardigan
Of course, if you’re in West Wales, you should allow time to sightsee in Ceredigion’s second-largest town, Cardigan. It is a small market town which stands on the River Teifi and borders the neighbouring county of Pembrokeshire.
At the bottom of the High Street, overlooking the river is the newly restored Cardigan Castle. Although little remains of the original Norman fortress, you can explore the medieval walls, visit the stunning Regency-style gardens, and learn the story behind the castle’s gigantic chair.
Afterwards go inside the Georgian Mansion to learn the castle’s history and hear tales of the ghosts who roam the rooms. You can even book an overnight stay in Cardigan Castle, but watch out at night!
Following your visit to the castle head up the High Street, where you’ll find a selection of shops and cafés. Half-way up is the historic Guildhall, which now serves as a marketplace with craft and food stalls.
Relax on the beach at Poppit Sands
If you’re lucky with the weather, one of the best things to do near Cardigan is head to the beach.
The closest beach to Cardigan town is the popular Poppit Sands, a vast open beach on the Pembrokeshire side of the Teifi estuary. It is a Blue Flag bathing beach, with lifeguards in the summer months. As its cute name suggests, Poppit Sands is a sandy beach, backed by sand dunes.
With so much sand and such a lot of space, Poppit Sands beach is ideal for games. Alternatively, children can explore the rock pools at either end of the beach.
Facilities at Poppit Sands beach include a café, toilets and two nearby pubs overlooking the estuary. The postcode for Poppit Sands beach is SA43 3LN.
Discover the ruins of St Dogmael Abbey
On the way to Poppit Sands, make a quick visit to St Dogmaels Abbey. The ruins here today are of the Benedictine Abbey founded in 1120, on the site of an earlier pre-Norman church.
Admission to the abbey is free and signage around the ruins helps visitors imagine how it used to look. In front of the abbey, the former Coach House is now a visitor centre and museum, showcasing artefacts found on the site. There’s also a café, serving homemade food.
A small church, St Thomas the Martyr, is now on the site of the former abbey. It was built with materials from the abbey and has an interesting graveyard, with a Sagranus stone and headstones all lined up in a row.
St Dogmaels village also has a picturesque mill and duckpond in front of the abbey. There is a pay and display car park about 5 minutes from the grounds.
Enjoy a day at New Quay
With three sandy beaches and a pretty harbour, New Quay is one of the best seaside towns to visit near Cardigan. It is also one of the best locations for spotting dolphins in Ceredigion. A dolphin population of more than 250 bottlenose dolphins live off the Welsh coast and spotting them is definitely one of the best things to do near Cardigan.
Dolphin Spotting Boat Trips sail from New Quay and run 1hr, 1.5 hr and 2 hr guided dolphin and wildlife trips. This family-run business has been operating from New Quay harbour for almost 70 years. They can accommodate up to 60 passengers on their larger vessels. Alternatively, take a trip on their impressive new catamaran, the “Dreamcatcher”, which only carries 12 people and can also be chartered for a special trip.
You can learn more about the wildlife and local area from the enthusiastic crews on a fun, educational trip that’s suitable for all ages. You can even take your dog free of charge!
In addition to enjoying the amazing wildlife, the data collected on your trip will help the Sea Watch Foundation. This charity monitors numbers to develop a deeper understanding of the Cardigan Bay dolphins .
Click here New Quay Boat Trips to find out more and book online.
Or, if you prefer to stay on dry land, you could follow the Dylan Thomas Trail around town. Keep an eye out for some of the places that inspired New Quay’s most famous resident poet, Dylan Thomas.
Step back in time at Cilgerran Castle
For some history and heritage near Cardigan, Cilgerran Castle has an impressive 13th century fortress overlooking the Teifi Gorge. Although only the ruins remain, the children loved looking at the giant round towers, the lime kiln and running where the moat once ran.
You’ll find three larger-than-life willow sculptures in the grounds, which represent the powerful princes and princess who lived there hundreds of years ago.
Although small, the grounds are beautiful, and you’ll have stunning views over the valley. It doesn’t take long to visit, but you could extend your day out with a trip to the nearby Welsh Wildlife Centre in Cilgerran.
Read here for a full guide on a visit to Cilgerran Castle.
Follow a trail at the Welsh Wildlife Centre
For wildlife enthusiasts one of the best things to do near Cardigan is a trip to the Welsh Wildlife Centre. This nature reserve is on the outskirts of Cilgerran, just four miles from Cardigan.
We found four main walking trails at the Wildlife Centre. There are two short easy-access trails near the car park or two longer trails.
The Visitor Centre has a stunning glass café, toilets, and gift shop which overlooks the Teifi Marshes. You’ll also find a picnic area and playground.
Admission to the Welsh Wildlife Centre is free, but parking is £3 for all day (unless you are a member). The postcode for the Welsh Wildlife Centre is SA43 2TB.
Click here for our full guide to the Welsh Wildlife Centre.
Take a wildlife watching boat trip from Gwbert
Another popular departure point for spotting wildlife near Cardigan is Gwbert. We booked a boat trip with A Bay to Remember, which certainly was a memorable trip. It’s amazing fun to to spot the wildlife in its natural habitat
Although you’re not guaranteed to see dolphins, you will certainly see lots of sea birds, caves and possibly Atlantic grey seals or Harbour Porpoises.
Cardigan Bay one of the last remaining havens for dolphins in the UK. Although you can see the dolphins all year round, you have a better chance between May and September.
If you’re lucky, you can also see them from the headland along the Ceredigion coast.
Visit Mwnt & Mwnt y Foel
Not only does Mwnt have one of the best beaches in the UK, but it is another of the best places to spot dolphins and seals. Next to the car park is a rocky, conical hill, Foel y Mwnt. This hill provides an excellent vantage point for panoramic views and spotting wildlife.
The walk around Foel y Mwnt is about 1km. It will take you past the gorgeous, white-washed chapel, Eglwys y Grog (The Church of the Holy Cross).
After a visit to the hill, we headed down the steps to the beach. Mwnt beach is a picturesque, sheltered cove with golden sand. Although there are no lifeguards, the sea is fantastic for kids, and the gentle waves are ideal for body boarders.
Click here for our full guide to Mwnt Beach
Hike the Ceredigion Coastal Path
Ceredigion has a fantastic, scenic coastline, which is perfect for families who love hiking. Cardigan is the start point for the long-distance Ceredigion Coast Path, which runs for sixty miles to Ynyslas, near Aberystwyth. It is part of the Wales Coast path and offers fantastic walking opportunities for all levels of walker.
The coastal path is broken down into seven achievable sections, but you can dip in and out as you fancy.
We walked one section from Mwnt towards Gwbert, which is a steep ascent to the cliff tops.
For an easier route, walk from Aberporth to Tresaith, where you’ll the spectacular waterfall splashing down onto the beach. This section of the coastal path is about one mile and has access paths for a lot of the route.
At Tresaith stop for a pint with a sea view at The Ship Inn or continue to the next beach Penbryn Beach, a sheltered National Trust beach.
Discover a cave at Llangrannog Beach
Llangrannog has two of the best beaches on the Ceredigion coast, though you may need to wait for the tide to go out to access the hidden Cilborth Beach.
The main beach at Llangrannog is a beautiful, sheltered cove and is perfect for families. Kids will love the caves on each side of the beach and the rocks which they can climb on.
The village has plenty of facilities, with several pubs and cafés on the beach front.
Parking is restricted in the village and can be an issue. However, there is a free car park within a 10-minute walk. It is a steep uphill climb on the return, but they do also provide a shuttle service to the beach.
Admire the coloured houses at Aberaeron
If you venture further along the coast, you can visit the gorgeous town of Aberaeron.
With its many rows of colourful painted houses, Aberaeron really is one of the prettiest towns in Ceredigion. The Georgian town centres around the harbour, where you can see rows of elegant houses on either side.
Head to The Hive for delicious honey-flavoured ice cream or into town for a choice of more restaurants and independent shops.
There is a beach at Aberaeron, but it is mostly rocky until the tide goes out.
Visit a National Trust mansion
One of the most famous attractions near Aberaeron is the National Trust mansion, Llanerchaeron. This 18th century Georgian house is a Grade-1 listed property with a walled garden, farmyard, woodland, and ornamental lake.
For a picturesque walk, follow the Riverside trail from Aberaeron Pier along the River Aeron to Llanerchaeron. This flat route is about 2.5 miles, and you can return on the old railway line.
Chase waterfalls at Ffynone
Nature lovers mustn’t miss a trip to the Ffynone Waterfalls in Abercych. To get to this natural beauty spot, it’s a leisurely walk of about fifteen minutes along the Dulas River.
The stunning waterfall is in Pembrokeshire but is only seven miles from Cardigan. It has a shallow pool area where you can paddle or try some open-water swimming. For adventurous families with older children, you can scramble up the muddy path behind the waterfall to extend your walk. This will lead through stunning ancient woodland and past more spectacular mini falls.
The postcode for the car park at Ffynone Waterfall is SA37 0HQ.
Click here for our full guide to Ffynone Waterfall.
Meet the animals at Cardigan Island Coastal Farm Park
For animal lovers, one of the best things to do near Cardigan is visit the Cardigan Island Coastal Farm Park. Set in a farm opposite Cardigan Island, the park has a collection of animals, which children can pet and feed. They have the usual farm animals, such as goats, pigs and ponies and some more unusual ones like llamas.
A cliff top walk at the farm will take you to great viewpoints for seeing seals or dolphins.
As well as animals, children can enjoy the large outdoor play area, with swings, sand pit and climbing equipment. Or they can have fun inside with giant Lego or Connect 4 in the construction zone. The farm also has a Visitor Centre, with a café.
The postcode for the Cardigan Island Coastal Farm Park is SA43 1PR.
Spot leaping salmon at Cenarth Falls
Another spectacular natural beauty spot near Cardigan is the waterfall at Cenarth Falls. This cascade of waterfalls can be seen from the 17th century road bridge in the little village of Cenarth.
There is a car park directly next to the falls. From here you can take a woodland stroll on the boardwalks besides the River Teifi. You’ll see the old mill on the opposite side of the falls and if you’re lucky you might spot a kingfisher or salmon leaping up the river.
The village of Cenarth has several gift shops, a café and pub. You could combine your visit with a trip to the nearby town of Newcastle Emlyn.
Visit the spot of Wales' last dragon at Newcastle Emlyn
Newcastle Emlyn is a small quirky town, with a rich, exciting history. It was famously the place where Wales’ last dragon was slain. Start your visit with a trip to its main attraction, the 13th century castle.
Children will enjoy exploring the castle ruins and sitting in the wooden egg, representing the birth of the new dragon. Afterwards, take a short riverside walk following the story boards recounting the town’s history.
In Newcastle Emlyn town, you’ll find some brightly painted buildings, an antique centre, and galleries. Leave some time to enjoy some homemade cake in Harrison’s Café.
Read more: Exploring Cenarth Falls and Newcastle Emlyn
Practical information for your stay near Cardigan Bay
Where is Cardigan and how do you get there?
Cardigan is in the county of Ceredigion in West Wales. It is on the tidal point of the River Teifi, where Ceredigion meets Pembrokeshire.
You can get to Cardigan on the A487. This road runs up the Ceredigion coast, making it very easy to visit nearby beaches and attractions.
Cardigan is about 200 miles east of London and takes about 4 hours by car.
Accommodation in Ceredigion
We stayed in Aberporth, which is 6 miles from Cardigan. It has a lovely sandy beach and is in a good central position for exploring the Ceredigion area.
You’ll find plenty of self-catering holiday homes near Cardigan, plus a choice of guest houses, hotels and lodges. You’ll find a good choice on Booking.com or AirBnB.
Walking near Cardigan Bay
There’s plenty of amazing walks near Cardigan Bay, including the Welsh Coastal Path, which has stunning scenery.
If you are planning to do lots of walking in the area, 40 Coast & Country Walks has some good ideas. Alternatively, if you are going off the beaten track, it’s worth investing in an Ordnance Survey map of the Cardigan area.
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