The Dyfi Estuary, one of the pretty estuaries on Gwynedd’s Cardigan coast, is the natural border between Mid Wales and North Wales.
On the northern shore, terraces of pastel coloured houses cling to the hillside, a delightful setting for the picturesque seaside village of Aberdyfi (Aberdovey), a fine example of a Victorian seaside resort. The southern shore plays host to the Dyfi National Nature Reserve, a stopping off place for migrating wildfowl and wading birds, an ornithologist’s paradise.
The foothills of Snowdonia form a protective, crescent shape backdrop to the village, whilst the estuary offers a sheltered anchorage and a natural haven for small boats. The quay is a busy little place, as this is the starting point for participants in the Outward Bound scheme, being instructed in the art of sailing or canoeing. The Outward Bound scheme was established in Aberdovey in 1941, the first centre in a worldwide organisation and still going strong some 60 years later.
Close by, is a wide, sandy beach, backed by sand dunes, which stretches for several miles along the Cambrian coastline. The sand dunes offer some protection from prevailing winds for golfers on the Aberdovey Golf Club.
Mention is made, in historical documents, of a meeting held in 1216, by Llywelyn the Great, at Aberdyfi. The assembly was held with all the Welsh rulers to decide on land ownership. This is likely to have taken place at Aberdyfi Castle, a few miles east of Aberdyfi. Now known as Domen Las, (green mound), Aberdyfi Castle, was a Norman Motte built in 1156. Still visible, but on private land, the castle is now only a 20ft high grassy knoll.
For centuries, Aberdyfi was an isolated yet prosperous village, the sea and the river being its only link with the outside world. Aberdyfi folk became renowned as boat builders, their speciality being the shallow draught boats used for coastal trading. A maritime museum, housed in the tourist office by the quay, offers a glimpse into the past, with displays and memorabilia.
In 1808, a new road, now known confusingly as the Roman Road, was built along the estuary, bringing with it new trading opportunities. The railway followed the same route in the middle of the nineteenth century, bringing with it not only extra goods for transport around the world, but also affluent visitors keen to take to the waters. Aberdovey was recreated as the resort we see today.