Constitution Hill is one of the iconic features of Aberystwyth, no one visiting Aberystwyth should leave without walking up or using the Cliff Railway. Located at the north side of the seafront, Constitution Hill dominates the landscape, providing a degree of shelter from the wind, not available when walking along the south side of the promenade past Old College and Aberystwyth Castle.
Friday afternoon on arriving in Aberystwyth and being the first of my friends to arrive, I took the opportunity to explore Aberystwyth, starting with the Castle, Old College, the town and the sea front, I then decided to walk up Constitution Hill. Given that it only takes five minutes, I thought it a worthwhile endeavour.
The Cliff Railway
The Constitution Hill Cliff Railway was opened to the public in 1896, as part of an early type of theme park for Victorian tourists, on and around Constitution Hill. This “theme park” consisted of the Cliff Railway, arcades and a restaurant at the foot of Constitution Hill and the Camera Obscura and a park at the summit. The Camera Obscura is still open today, subject to an entry fee.
The Cliff Railway is a funicular (cable railway); a cable attached to two trams, one at the top, one at the bottom counterbalancing each other, allowing the trams to travel up/down a steep hill. The Cliff Railway in Aberystwyth was originally powered by a water balance system, until the move to electricity in 1921.
I have been on two other cliff railways; Bridgnorth in Shropshire has one connecting the High and Low towns together, the Bridgnorth Cliff Railway boasts the steepest incline. The second is the water funicular Cliff Railway connecting Lynton and Lynmouth in Devon.
On reaching the top, and struggling to open the door… there was a button to press on the inside and a handle to turn on the outside (most confusing), we explored the top of Constitution Hill and the many marvellous views it offered.
Atop of Constitution Hill is the Consti Restaurant, a children’s playroom and the obscura camera & gift shop. I have a recollection of purchasing an excessively overpriced alcoholic beverage from the bar in the restaurant one sunny summers day after having had lunch and wine with a friend.
Whilst the others were partaking in the joys that an ice cream provides, I had a wander around and took the following photographs.
The Beacon at the top of Constitution Hill, was not, as someone suggested an addition made in celebration of the London Olympics being held over the summer. It was erected for the Millennium festivities on December 31st 1999 where one thousand three hundred beacons across the country were lit to provide “a universal, relevant focus symbolic of our history, our hope for the future and the Christian significance of the year 2000”. The metal bit does appear to have had a good clean according to other photos I have seen of the beacon.
If you were to follow the Coastal Path you could be able to walk to Clarach Bay, a small camping and caravanning park and further on to Borth, a village well-known for Ynyslas beach at end of the Borth road. A little way down the coastal path is a stile, crossing this into the neighbouring field will allow you to walk to Clarach Bay through a delightful wooded area of tall tree’s with many large pine cones. I have many a time taken a walk through there, on a warm Aberystwythian day. Sadly I chose not to wander that far away from the rest of the party, choosing to return to the group before departing Aberystwyth.
I will have to go back to Aberystwyth again soon to wander, photograph and write about more of the interesting places that make up Aber; the old Georgian Assembly Rooms in Laura Place, the School of Art Building, the National Library of Wales and of course the wooded area on the other side of Constitution Hill.
Perhaps I ought to just move back there!
At the request of Kate, I have been compelled to add the following, which I had forgotten to mention earlier.
After I rejoined the rest of the group at the picnic tables, Kate saw on the sea a coast guard boat move toward a yacht. Being an intolerably curious [nosey] person, she said she wished she had a pair of binoculars, thankfully I had my National Trust pair in my bag, resulting in Kate saying “You have one of everything in that bag”. Looking through the binoculars at the two boats, Kate noticed something else in the sea that she could not clearly make out. “Is it a whale or a boat; the age old question… it is utterly philosophical”. It was a small boat of course, I’ve never seen a whale with orange skin.