Aberystwyth, commonly and locally known as ‘Aber’, sits right on the Ceredigion coastline on the west coast of Wales. On the seafront you’ll find the oldest pier in Wales and at the north end of the promenade you’ll spot Constitution Hill. The view from the top of the hill, on a crisp sunny day, is worth the 430-foot climb. However, it’s not just the famous landmarks of Aberystwyth that make this little coastal town so special.
I was born and raised in Penrhyncoch and Bow Street, just on the outskirts of Aberystwyth. In fact, my parents still live in the same house I grew up in. Looking back, particularly since I now live in South Wales near Cardiff, I feel very lucky to have grown up in that area. You have the best of both worlds, the beautiful coastline on one side, and the Ceredigion countryside all around you. As a child it was like a giant playground – beaches, swimming, rock pools, a cliff railway, woodlands, the castle. I loved it. And my kids love it when we go back to visit family.
I don't think it’s surprising the area is popular with tourists. It has an old-school, coastal town nostalgia that I think lots of people find really appealing.
I travel across the UK quite a lot because of my stand-up comedy. Sometimes I feel like I live on the road. However, driving back home for the Christmas holidays is something that I cherish, not only because I get to see my family and friends, but also because I get to revisit the places I enjoyed as a child, and still enjoy as an adult.
My main hobby is horse riding. It’s my form of mindfulness, and so heading to Rheidol Riding Centre is essential. I first started riding there over 20 years ago and I still have fond memories of the place.
I find riding horses to be particularly therapeutic for me. There’s something special about heading out on horseback into the rolling hills that surround the town. I find it so calming. I feel like I can take a step back from everything and just be at one with the horse and my environment.
It certainly helps when the countryside is as glorious as it is around Rheidol Riding Centre. Especially at this time of year, when winter is in full swing, and you can see your breath as you ride underneath the almost bare trees. It’s my favourite.
After a long ride, I’d then head to Ynyslas, a beach and nature reserve to the north of Aberystwyth, with my dog to stretch both my legs and his. It has to be my favourite beach of anywhere in the whole world. You can drive right up onto the sand and when I’m there, I’m always totally overwhelmed with the beauty of Ynyslas and its surrounding landscape – it’s something I’ll never tire of, even though I’ve been coming here since I was a child.
I like to stand on the beach and look out across the estuary to the seaside village of Aberdyfi. Make sure to look right as well and you’ll see the rolling hills in the background disappearing down the valley. Even on a grey winter’s day, Ynyslas’ magnificence still shines through.
During the winter months, the beach and nature reserve are almost always deserted. I think I like it best at this time of year when there’s no one here, it’s just so peaceful and serene. Having said that though, even in the height of summer when the school holidays are in full swing and Aberystwyth takes on a whole new character, Ynyslas never feels overcrowded. It’s a special place.
In the last 10 years or so, the food scene in Aberystwyth has truly exploded – we’re now seriously spoilt for choice. There's everything from locally sourced Rattray’s Ceredigion burgers at Byrgyr to pizza, pasta and grills with a Welsh twist at Baravin. So, after a day riding, or a long walk along the rugged coastline, Aberystwyth isn’t short of delicious places to warm up – one of my absolute favourites being the shop and restaurant, Medina. Tucked away down one of the streets away from the seafront, the food is second to none. I always feel like I’ve eaten really well when I go there – it has an amazing range of fresh, organic and homemade dishes, alongside the most decadent selections of cakes and sweet treats. When you visit, you must try the Chicken Shawarma and courgette fries. They’re my treats of choice.
I like to shop and eat locally whenever I can, so the fact Medina is run independently by a local woman, of the same name, is another reason why it is one of my favoured eateries in the area. As well as a restaurant, Medina also doubles up as a shop which is stocked with Welsh produce with regional provenance, everything from gin and fresh vegetables from local producers, to honey and wine.
If you fancy trying some local Welsh wine, I've heard the sparkling wine from Llaethliw Vineyard, which is about 30 minutes or so down the road from here is really good, but there are many others to choose from.
I’m biased of course but there’s something special about Aberystwyth. I may not live there anymore but my heart remains, and it makes going home all the more special.