Exploring Wales: Aberaeron, Ceredigion

Aberaeron, West WalesThere are many, many reasons to visit Wales. 

The countryside is abundant. The coastline is beautiful. The people are warm. The food is delicious. And as we discovered on a recent trip, The Harbourmaster in Aberaeron manages to combine all four into one very attractive package.

Eager for a break from the clatter and jumble of the city, we headed to the altogether quieter and more sedate surroundings of west Wales. We hopped in the Mini, packed almost nothing - save for the interesting company of an old and trusted companion - and drove in pursuit of adventure.

A beautiful village thick with history, Aberaeron is the sort of village which wastes no time in making a lasting impression. 

Charmingly wonky streets are lined with pretty Georgian houses. The hills behind the village, which roll in true Welsh fashion up-and-away from the town, create a beautiful and tremendously green natural amphitheatre. A gorgeous harbour, busy with boats and people completes the picture-book scene. 

We had been recommended The Harbourmaster by a friend. Notorious for her exacting standards, we had high hopes for our stay, given the glowing reference she had given it. As it turns out, we were quite right to expect something memorable. 

The phrase 'boutique hotel' can imply a certain pretension, a stuffiness, an air of detached cool. Not at The Harbourmaster, however.

Here, it means simply a collection of stylishly-appointed rooms, thoroughly good, incredibly fresh and avowedly local food and drink, and a buzzy, friendly atmosphere. We loved it.

We gorged ourselves on seafood, caught within spitting distance of where we ate it. We drank potent local ale, egged on and walked through the tasting notes by a knowledgeable staff member who was, in her words, as local as the food. 

We walked the effects of both off during a brisk loop around this beautiful little place, then tumbled back into our beds, happy.

The following morning, we took another gentle stroll around the Wales Coast Path. It took us along beautiful windswept open beaches, across craggy near-coast countryside, and through scenery so identifiably Welsh, we half-expected to stroll past Ryan Giggs or Sir Anthony Hopkins, out for the morning for a bracing stroll around their native land.

We didn't. Or at least, if we did, we didn't notice them. Perhaps it was for the best, anyway - that local ale was really very potent. We might not have been the finest conversationalists that particular morning.

At the end of our stay, we were left with the same feeling we always have, on a trip out west: when it comes to unspoiled and ruggedly beautiful parts of the world, there are few areas that match Wales. And in Wales, there can be few more wonderful villages than Aberaeron

Do yourself a favour, and head out west soon.