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Welsh: Aberdyfi
Aberdyfi (0).jpg
View of Aberdovey from Penhelig
Grid reference: SN615965
Location: 52°32’40"N, 4°2’40"W
Population: 1,282  (2001)
Post town: Aberdovey
Postcode: LL35
Dialling code: 01654
Local Government
Council: Gwynedd
Dwyfor Meirionnydd

Aberdovey is a village and parish on the north side of the estuary of the River Dovey in Merionethshire. Its name means "Mouth of the River Dovey".

The village was founded around the harbour and shipbuilding industry, but is now best known as a seaside resort with a high quality beach.[1][2] The town centre is on the river and seafront, around the original harbour, jetty and beach but it stretches back from the coast and up the steep hillside in the midst of typical Welsh coastal scenery of steep green hills and sheep farms. Penhelig, with its own railway station, is the eastern part of the town.

Aberdovey is a popular tourist attraction, with many returning holidaymakers, especially from the metropolitan areas of England, such as the Midlands, which is less than 100 miles to the east. A relatively large proportion of houses in the village are now holiday homes, resulting in high house prices. The town is located within the Snowdonia National Park.


Aberdovey waterfront
Aberdovey from across the river.

Local tradition suggests that the Romans established a track into Aberdovey as part of the military occupation of Wales around AD78.[3]

The strategic location in mid-Wales was the site of several conferences between north and south Wales princes in 540, 1140, and for the Council of Aberdovey in 1216. The hill in the centre of the village, Pen-y-Bryn, has been claimed to be the site of fortifications in the 1150s, which were soon destroyed.[3] The site of Aberdovey Castle however is usually said to be at the motte earthworks further up the river near Glandovey.[4]

In 1597, a Spanish ship, the Bear of Amsterdam, entered the Dovey estuary and was unable to leave for 10 days because of the wind. She could not be boarded as no suitable boats were available.[3]

In the 1700s, the village grew with the appearance of several of the inns still in current use (The Dovey Hotel, Britannia and Penhelig Arms). Copper was mined in the present Copperhill Street, and lead in Penhelig.

Aberdovey river on a cloudy day
Aberdovey, showing the harbour.

In the 1800s, Aberdovey was at its peak as a port. Major exports were slate and oak bark. Ship building was based in seven shipyards in Penhelig where 45 sailing ships were built between 1840 and 1880.[3]

The railway came to Aberdovey in 1863 built by the Aberystwyth and Welsh Coast Railway. The first train was ferried across the River Dovey, as the line to Dovey Junction and then Machynlleth was not completed until 1867. Due to public demand, this section had to use a long tunnel behind Aberdovey, and further major earthworks and tunnels were needed along the bank of the river. This line, which became part of the Cambrian Railways, and later the Great Western Railway, is particularly scenic.[5]

Aberdovey jetty in winter.

A jetty was built in 1887, with railway lines connecting it with the wharf and the main line. The Aberdovey & Waterford Steamship Company imported livestock from Ireland which were then taken further by the railway. Coal, limestone and timber were also imported.

Local coastal shipping links with Liverpool were strong, with many Aberdovey men sailing on international voyages from Liverpool. The S.S. Dora was one of the last ships trading between Aberdovey and Liverpool and was scuttled, with no loss of life, by a German submarine in 1917.[3]

There have been many chapels built in Aberdovey . These include the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist chapel, the English Presbyterian chapel, the Wesleyan Methodist chapel, and the Welsh Independent congregational chapel. The Anglican church is St Peter's, and Christ the King is the Catholic church.

The jetty and wharf continued in commercial use for coal until 1959. After prolonged negotiations, redevelopments from 1968–1971, including rebuilding the jetty, led to their present use mainly for recreational purposes.[3] Some local fishing still occurs.

The first ever Outward Bound centre was opened in Aberdovey in 1941.[6] Many of their activities involve the river, boats and jetty.

The football team won the Welsh Amateur Cup Competition in 1934.[7]

The first Aberdovey lifeboat was bought in 1837. Run by the RNLI since 1853, it has taken part in many rescues, sadly sometimes with loss of life of crew members. The current lifeboat, an Atlantic 75, is housed in the boathouse by the jetty and is launched using a lifeboat tractor. Currently it is averaging about 25 emergency launches each year.[8]


Road access to Aberdovey is by the A493, with Tywyn four miles to the north and Machynlleth 11 miles to the east. Aberdovey is on the Cambrian Coast railway line. The village of Aberdovey has two railway stations, Aberdovey and Penhelig. Local bus services connect with Tywyn, where a connection can be made for Dolgellau, and to Machynlleth, where connections are available to Aberystwyth.

A ferry used to operate across the Dovey river to Ynyslas. The last ferryman was Ellis Williams.[9]

Aberdovey and The Dovey valley from Ynyslas Sand Dunes, April 2011


Popular recreational activities focus on the beach and watersports, such as windsurfing, kitesurfing, fishing, crabbing, sailing, and canoeing on the estuary.[2]

The Dovey Yacht Club has a prominent position on the river front of the village. It was founded in 1949 and helped develop the popularity of the GP14 dinghy class.[10] It organises races for dinghies throughout the season on the estuary of the River Dovey.

The Aberdovey Golf Club, founded in 1892, is a famous 18 hole links course located near the railway station. It is world renowned, having been described frequently and lyrically in the press by Bernard Darwin, the famed golf writer, who was a notable member of the club. In 1895, it was the location of the first Welsh Golfing Union Championship. Current members include Ian Woosnam and Peter Baker.[11]

Located by the Aberdovey Golf Club is Aberdovey Football club boasting one of the best football pitches within Mid-Wales.

The Aberdovey Rowing Club rows in the Dovey Estuary and Cardigan Bay and takes part in races all round the coast of Wales and internationally. They row 24’ long Celtic longboats, with four rowers (each with one oar) and a cox. They have three of these traditional Welsh boats with fixed seats and use these for races in Wales.[12]

The Aberdovey Literary Institute, founded in 1882, is situated on the river front. The deeds of 1923 state it was established in perpetuity as "a non-sectarian, non-political place of recreation, education and social intercourse including ... reading rooms, writing rooms, library, billiard rooms, concert rooms ..."

Neuadd Dyfi is a community hall, conference centre and theatre owned by the village for village activities. It caters for a range of local organisations and events.

The bells of St Peter's Church can play Clychau Aberdyfi
A bell installed beneath the pier rings at high tide

Cultural References

The Bells of Aberdovey

Aberdovey is closely linked to the legend of the submerged lost kingdom of Cantre'r Gwaelod (the Lowland Hundred) beneath Cardigan Bay, and bells which, it is said, can be heard ringing beneath the water at the beach. The Bells of Aberdovey is a well-known song referring to this legend. This song first appeared in the English opera Liberty Hall in 1785, written by Charles Dibdin, and is not thought to be a traditional folk-song as Welsh words were written by John Ceiriog Hughes, during the 19th century.

The legend and the song have inspired local cultural projects involving bells.

A new chime of bells was installed in September 1936 in the tower of St Peter's Church, which overlooks Aberdovey harbour. The ten bells, tuned in the key of A flat, were specifically designed to allow the playing of The Bells of Aberdovey and are played from a mechanical carillon inside the church.[13]

In 2010 an art installation was commissioned from sculptor Marcus Vergette as a homage to The Bells of Aberdovey. The work is a bronze time-and-tide bell suspended beneath Aberdovey pier which is rung by the action of water at high tide. It was installed in July 2011 and is one of several such bells around the United Kingdom.[14][15]

The novel, Megan's Game by Tony Drury, published in 2012, contains many references to Aberdovey, surrounding areas and the legend of The Bells of Aberdovey.[16]

Notable people associated with Aberdovey

  • John Corbett (1817–1901), industrialist, philanthropist and Liberal Party politician.
  • James Atkin, Baron Atkin of Aberdovey (1867–1944), Barrister and Judge
  • Oliver Onions (1873–1961), Novelist
  • Berta Ruck (1878–1978), Romantic novelist
  • Hywel Rhys (1893–1970), Lay preacher and Liberal Party councillor.
  • Stan Hugill (1906–1992), Musician and artist, lived in Aberdovey, and worked at the Outward Bound centre from 1950 to 1975[17]
  • Dr Thomas Tibbott Davies FRCS (1916–2007)[18]
  • Christopher Riche Evans (1931–1979), psychologist, computer scientist, and author
  • Sir John T. Houghton, co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change lives in Aberdovey.[19]
  • Kenneth O. Morgan, Baron Morgan of Aberdovey, Historian and author
  • Sir Simon Jenkins, Journalist, editor, author, chairman of the National Trust[20]
  • Robert Plant, wrote the Led Zeppelin classic, "Stairway to Heaven" at nearby Bron-Yr-Aur cottage
  • Tom Cave, rally driver[21]
  • Marguerite Florence Laura Jarvis]] (1886-1964) writer of romantic novels under many names (including Countess Barcynska), was the author of the novel "Miss Venus of Aberdovey", lived for a while at Panteidal Lodge. Her novel The Pleasure Garden (1925) was the début film of director Alfred Hitchcock.


  1. "Aberdyfi.org". http://aberdyfi.org/. Retrieved 23 April 2011. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Aberdyfi.com". http://aberdyfi.com/. Retrieved 23 April 2011. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Lewis, Hugh (1997). Aberdyfi: a chronicle through the centuries. Aberdovey: Author. 
  4. "Aberdyfi Motte". Archived from the original on 14 May 2011. http://web.archive.org/web/20110514070927/http://www.castlewales.com/aberdyfi.html. Retrieved 24 April 2011. 
  5. Christiansen, Rex & Miller, R.W. The Cambrian Railways, Vol. 1 David & Charles (1967)
  6. Outward Bound International (2004). Birth of Outward Bound. Retrieved December 9, 2007.
  7. "FAW Welsh Trophy - over 100 years of history". http://blogs.dailypost.co.uk/northwalesfootball/2010/10/-this-saturday-the-last.html. Retrieved 23 April 2011. 
  8. "Aberdovey Lifeboat". http://www.aberdoveylifeboat.org.uk/. Retrieved 24 April 2011. 
  9. "The Williams Family Tree". http://williamsfamilytree.co.uk/tree. Retrieved 24 April 2011. 
  10. "Dovey Yacht Club". http://www.doveyyachtclub.org.uk/news/gallery/. Retrieved 24 April 2011. 
  11. "Aberdovey Golf Club". Archived from the original on 30 April 2011. http://web.archive.org/web/20110430232121/http://www.aberdoveygolf.co.uk/. Retrieved 24 April 2011. 
  12. "Aberdyfi Rowing Club". http://www.aberdyfirowingclub.com. Retrieved 24 April 2011. 
  13. "About us". St Peter's Church website. http://ten-wolde.net/stpeters/page2.html. Retrieved 3 January 2012. 
  14. "New bell rings as the tide rises in Aberdyfi, Gwynedd". BBC News. 12 July 2011. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-14131599. Retrieved 3 January 2012. 
  15. "Time and Tide Bell". Marcus Vergette official website. http://www.marcusvergette.co.uk/bell.htm. Retrieved 3 January 2012. 
  16. http://www.tonydrury.com/
  17. Stan Hugill
  18. The Royal Society of Medicine Wall of Honour
  19. John T. Houghton
  20. http://www.penguincatalogue.co.uk/lo/press/title.html?titleId=5374&catalogueId=220
  21. http://tomcaveracing.com/Tom_Cave_Racing/Tom_Cave.html

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Aberdovey)