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Gwbert Ceredigion.jpg
The shore by Coronation Drive, Gwbert
Grid reference: SN175465
Location: 52°6’36"N, 4°41’2"W
Post town: Cardigan
Postcode: SA43
Dialling code: 01239
Local Government
Council: Ceredigion

Gwbert, also known as Gwbert-on-Sea, is a small cliff top coastal hamlet at the most southerly coastal point of Cardiganshire, on the eastern shore of the Teifi estuary, from where there are views westwards over Cardigan Bay, and south-westwards to Poppit Sands and the headland of Cemaes Head, in neighbouring Pembrokeshire. It is most easily reached by the B4548 road from the county town, Cardigan, 3 miles away.

Gwbert as seen today essentially dates back only as far as the early 20th century, the most prominent buildings being the extensive Cliff Hotel and the smaller Gwbert Hotel. The village has an interesting history as a failed would-be resort, but despite its lack of facilities it is a popular holiday venue, being within easy reach of the Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire coastlines, both rich in scenery and wildlife.

Gwbert has no shop, church or school. The nearest churches are at Y Ferwig a mile and a half away and the nearest shops and schools are in Cardigan.

The Ceredigion Coast Path, a 60-mile long-distance footpath, and part of the Wales Coast Path, passes through Gwbert, making a marked detour inland north of the Cliff Hotel to avoid a dangerous cliff path.


Before the area was populated at the end of the 19th century, it was often called "The Gwbert". The name Gwbert is thought to derive from a dedication to St Cubert,[1] suggesting that a chapel may have existed here at one time. Gwbert, a wandering saint, is said to have landed here and sheltered in a cave: he among a group of five saints honoured in church dedications near the mouth of the river Teifi, and also in churches lying in close proximity to each other in mid-Cornwall, and then again in neighbouring churches in Brittany:[2] Cwbert, Petroc, Briog, Carantoc and Mawgan.

The name "Pant-y-Gilbert" appears on maps of 1697, and both this and "Gwbert" had been used by 1748. The spelling "Goobert" appears on an 1838 map.[3]

The Coastguard lookout centre at Gwbert. With Poppit Sands seen in the distance
Gwbert from Cemaes Head, across the estuary

Promotion of the 'watering hole'

In the 1880s the small inn at Gwbert was known as the "Gwbert Watering Hole".[4] The proposal that Gwbert should be a major seaside resort "to challenge Brighton and Scarborough"[5] was first made in 1886, following the opening of the Whitland and Cardigan Railway to nearby Cardigan, a line which was taken over that same year by the Great Western Railway. In 1888 the local Corporation met regarding the leases of the new proposed Villa residences, and in 1889 The Cardigan & Tivyside Advertiser was reporting on "Cardigan's 'New Brighton'", with Mr C.E.D. Morgan-Richardson, a Cardigan solicitor and businessman, named to head a company to develop the old Gwbert Inn property [6] through the purchase of 96 acres of land, and with capital of £20,000. In addition to the considerable development of the Gwbert Inn, a row of villa boarding houses were to be built along what became Evelyn's Terrace.[4] (Morgan-Richardson was later to become mayor of Cardigan.)[7]

In July 1889 the local paper wrote of Gwbert : "Surrounded on two sides by the sea, its rocky boundaries are fringed by golden sands, conveniently approached, abounding with charming nooks for the privacy of bathing without machines, while the magnificent scenery of the opposite, or Pembrokeshire coast, including its bold rocky headlands, glistening sands, snug homesteads &c., form a picture not easily rivalled."[8] There was even talk of the construction of a landing jetty.

Journalist Ebenezer Rees, writing in 1894, referred to Gwbert as "Cardigan's famous and favourite watering place" [7]

In 1897 a new road to Gwbert was built to open up the area;[6] this road initially ran from the Cliff Hotel to Patch (where Cardigan Boating Club is located) but it was many years before it reached its original intended destination, namely Nant-y-Ferwig Bridge.[4] In construction of the new road, parts of the old road ceased to be used, though it can still be traced. Some eleven of the Carn Meini (Preseli Hills) stones have now been utilised as gateposts on the eastern side of the old road, three south of the Gwbert road, and eight to the north. Seven others can be seen straddling a lane leading to Stepside Farm.[9]

Kelly's Directory of South Wales (1895) stated : "Gwbert, a small place on the coast in this parish, on the east side of the estuary of the Teifi, is now rising into favour as a watering place." The adjacent Cardigan & Tivyside Golf Club opened in this year.

In The Rivers of Great Britain (1897) Charles Edwardes wrote : "If you wish to see Teifi, or Tivy, quite to its end, it is worth while to go north another three miles, to Gwbert-on-the-Sea, a distinctly primitive and pleasing watering-place, facing Kemmaes Head, with the mile and a half of Teifi's mouth (at its widest) intervening."

In Walks and Wanderings in County Cardigan (1902) E.R.H.Turner described Gwbert as "a spot on the coast marked by a hotel and a few villas, but sufficiently near to Cardigan to be a favourite pleasure resort." The article continued : "It stands at the mouth of the Teivi estuary on the top of the most romantic cliffs and coves. There are many nooks for bathing, but the possibilities of the place are by no means developed. A new road has been formed across the dunes and along the Teivi shore back to Cardigan town, and possesses the advantage of charming views of the Pembrokeshire hills and cliffs."

The following year the local newspaper reported on the progress of Gwbert as a residential centre, reporting again in 1906 on the "bright look to the development of the resort". In 1910 it carried an article entitled "Gwbert on Sea, where is it and what is it?"[6]

The Encyclopædia Britannica of 1911 also acknowledged the growth : "In modern times several small watering-places have sprung up on the coast, notably at Borth, New Quay, Tresaith, Aberporth and Gwbert."

Growth, whilst clearly recognised, was limited, and The English Illustrated Magazine (vol 39, 1908) wrote "Amongst these [places worthy of attention] may be mentioned Gwbert-on-Sea — where satisfactory bathing is to be obtained. Perched on the brown cliffs which domionate the dancing waves, the little village has, up till now, almost remained undiscovered."

Despite, however, the developers' ambitious plans for growth, along with much publicity and promotion in journals and books of the period, a lack of appropriate accommodation and a dearth of facilities meant that relatively little came about, and Gwbert never grew to be anything larger than a very minor resort.

In 1911 Gwbert held grand pre-Coronation festivities for King George V.[6]

The Cliff Hotel

Central to the Gwbert development plan was the extension to the old Gwbert Inn, opened in July 1890 by Mrs Evelyn Morgan-Richardson, wife of the developer.[3] As a present for performing this ceremony she was presented with a "massive silver key" supplied by a Cardigan jeweller.[10] The status of the inn was raised to that of a hotel, at this time being known as the Gwbert Hotel. A promotional book, published by the Great Western Railway in 1907,[11] declared "The Gwbert Hotel, the only one, is situate in its own grounds of 101 acres on the lofty cliffs by the mouth of the river Teifi, facing the Atlantic. An ideal spot for those who seek complete rest, bracing air, and country life with all its glorious advantages." However, in May 1906 the hotel was totally destroyed by fire.[6]

After rebuilding and considerable extension it re-opened in April 1909 as the new Cliff Hotel [6] (the name "Gwbert Hotel" being later used by another hotel), and the golf links was set out to additionally attract visitors. (The Cardigan and Tivyside Golf Club on the adjacent burrows had "died a natural death" by this time, through lack of patronage.)[12] Early publicity postcards from the hotel proclaimed : "The Bishop of Bangor writes of Gwbert - This is one of the most charming spots I ever visited."

The Cliff Hotel was sold to new owners in April 1913,[6] and more recently it has again been extended and refurbished with the addition of more rooms and a new spa and leisure complex.


Around the coast at Gwbert is a great variety of sea-life, birds, butterflies and wild flowers.

Bottlenose dolphins and porpoises can often be seen swimming in the bay, as can grey seals from the neighbouring Cardigan Island colony.[13] Cardigan Bay has a resident population of over 100 bottlenose dolphins (some estimates exceed 200), which are most frequently seen off southern Cardiganshire between Gwbert and Aberaeron.[14] (This is Europe's largest resident population of bottlenose dolphins, the UK's only other one being in the Moray Firth, Scotland.[15])

Seals also live in the network of caves below Gwbert's Cardigan Island Coastal Farm Park, where they can often be seen basking on the rocks, notably on Carreg Lydan (Wide Rock).[16]

In recent years visiting basking sharks, sun fish, and even killer whales, minke whales and humpback whales have been spotted.[17] In September 1979 a 24-foot whale was found washed up dead at the foot of the rocks by Clunyrynys Farm, Gwbert. On inspection of the carcass, a scientific officer found a rare 15-spined sea stickleback feeding on it.[18]

Choughs live in holes in the cliffs, and the coast at Gwbert is also home to gannet, razorbill, guillemot, Manx shearwater, black-headed gull and fulmar. On the land other frequently spotted birds are birds of prey such as red kite, buzzard, peregrine falcon, kestrels and sparrowhawks. Skylarks are also a regular sight.[16]

At low tide a variety of wading birds can be seen in the estuary.

During the summer months of July to September many dozens of Canada geese can daily be seen heading northwards over Gwbert towards the Dovey estuary marshes, returning each evening. These feral geese reside in the Teifi estuary and valley up as far as Newcastle Emlyn.[19] They also graze on Cardigan Island, and the pond at Gwbert's Cardigan Island Farm Park also attracts geese (the farm has 3 tame geese) where, on some days, there will be a flock of over 100 Canada geese.[20] Wild shelducks, teal, and mallard also nest at the farm.

Boat trips to see the wildlife off the Gwbert coast run from the Teifi Boating Club jetty at Gwbert, as well as from Poppit Sands, and Cardigan.

Historical remains

Craig y Gwbert, on the cliff edge near the Cliff Hotel, comprises the remains of a well-defended coastal promontory Iron Age fort, but no associated field systems have been found. It is only accessible by a narrow neck of land, and defended by a substantial earthen bank, measuring 8 feet in height and 131 feet in length.[21] The entrance is a small gap through this bank. Today there are remains of lime pits within this area, together with a Grade 2 listed lime kiln,[22] and the Cliff Hotel's 9-hole golf course makes use of the promontory. An aerial view of Craig y Gwbert, can be seen here [1].


Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Gwbert)


  1. Cardiganshire County History: From the earliest times to the coming of the Normans, by Ieuan Gwynedd Jones, J. L. Davies, D. P. Kirby, Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society, Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments in Wales, 1994
  2. Ceredigion : Journal of the Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society - Vol. 2, nos. 1-4 - 1952-1955
  3. 3.0 3.1 The place-names of Cardiganshire, Volume 1 (2004) by Iwan Wmffre
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Gwbert Watering Hole's early links with golf (part 1)" - newspaper article Retrieved 28 September 2011
  5. Cliff Hotel website Retrieved 28 September 2011
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 Ceridigion County Council - library resources Retrieved 28 September 2011
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Antiquarian Notes", from The Cardigan and Tivy-side Advertiser, 1894 Retrieved 28 September 2011
  8. "Sale of the Gwbert property" - Cardigan & Tivy Side Advertiser, July 12, 1889 Retrieved 28 September 2011
  9. Antiquity, Volumes 29-30, by Osbert Guy Stanhope Crawford, Antiquity Publications, 1955
  10. "Opening of the new hotel" - The Cardigan and Tivy-side Advertiser, 1890 Retrieved 28 September 2011
  11. South Wales: The Country of Castles, Great Western Railway Co., 1907
  12. "Cardigan golfing venture lands in the rough" - newspaper article Retrieved 28 September 2011
  13. Fishing in Wales Retrieved 28 September 2011
  14. Dolphin Care UK Retrieved 28 September 2011
  15. Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society
  16. 16.0 16.1 Retrieved 28 September 2011
  17. "A Bay to Remember" - sightings Retrieved 28 September 2011
  18. "Whale Study lands rare stickleback" - Western Mail, 29.9.1979 Retrieved 28 September 2011
  19. Birdwatching and the Teifi valley Retrieved 28 September 2011
  20. Birds; buzzards, falcons, gulls, terns, geese and ducks Retrieved 21 April 2013
  21. Royal Commission on Ancient & Historical Monuments Retrieved 28 September 2011
  22. British listed buildings Retrieved 28 September 2011
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