A charming little market town and the County town of Ceredigion, Cardigan is one of the best preserved urban communities in the three counties.
The local authorities have retained the best features, such as the old Guildhall and the medieval castle and quays.
One of Cardigan’s claims to fame is that a garment named after the 7th Earl of Cardigan, Lieutenant General James Thomas Brudenell, is still carrying the town’s name all over the world. The Earl used to wear a knitted waistcoat which became known as a cardigan and it has since been associated with this Victorian army officer famed for leading the charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War. He had a distinguished military career with many ups and downs, but he faced some criticism after Balaclava when he returned unscathed from the famous charge in which 107 of his men died.
Cardigan is the administrative centre of the County of Ceredigion but it is not the biggest town, for the population of Aberystwyth 35 miles to the north is boosted by the number of students at the University of Wales there. The town has a small hospital, a college, a modern arts centre with a two-screen cinema, a flourishing theatre and good shopping facilities, many shops specialising in locally produced quality foods and crafts.
Its imposing 19th century Guildhall dominates the main street and has been recently refurbished to a high standard, as also have its town centre shops and business premises during an enterprising co-ordinated programme of works carried out between 2006 and 2008. This included the restoration of the character of many of the old shop facades which give the town such a distinctive ambiance. The historic quayside has also been rebuilt with a new civic area and landing stage. The town’s Welsh name is Aberteifi, meaning the mouth of the Teifi, which river passes through towards the village of Sr Dogmaels downstream on the Pembrokeshire shore, flowing into the sea across the bar between Poppit Sands and Gwbert.
Motorists driving into the town from the south are faced by the medieval castle, built by Robert Monthgomery in 1093 after the Norman conquest of Ceredigion, and recently subjected to an extensive restoration programme.
The port’s history is interesting, Cardigan having a flourishing herring fishery and a large merchant fleet of some 314 ships by the 18th century when the town boasted the status of the most important seaport in South Wales. The number and tonnage of ships was seven times more than Cardiff and three times as many as Swansea. Exports included, salmon, herring, corn and ale, bark for tanning and people - for many emigrants sailed from left Cardigan for the United States in the 18th century. Imports included coal, building materials, manufactured goods and oranges and there was a brisk shipbuilding industry, a brickworks, foundry, rope and sailmaking enterprises. Tradesmen and craftsmen were also numerous.
Visitors hear the Welsh language spoken in the streets and a highlight of the year is Barley Saturday when magnificent horses are paraded through the streets in an annual pageant celebrating the countryside.