KIM JONES is known to readers as a regular contributor of local and not so local bike rides.
This month however, Kim had a different hat on as he travelled up the coast to ABERAERON to meet Glyn and Menna Heulyn, cycling enthusiasts and owners of the HARBOURMASTER HOTEL
Most of us will have passed through Aberaeron, either on our way to Aber or perhaps heading further north for the hills and rivers of North Wales. It’s hard to miss, this bustling seaside village with its row of brightly coloured houses. These are now a famously attractive feature but back in the early 60s a certain Mrs Sewell caused uproar locally when she decided to paint her house in a shockingly bright colour. Initially the people of the village were up in arms, ‘what’s this?!’ However they were soon won over and now on a grey wet winter’s day, they are a joy to see and certainly add to the appeal of the village.
Personally it’s always struck me as a typical ‘kiss-me-quick ’ tourist spot selling buckets and spades, but I couldn’t have been more wrong when I took the time to visit. Find somewhere to park and take the time to walk around the harbour; cafés and pubs are numerous. If it’s your thing then there is a wonderful fish and chip shop claiming to sell the best chips in Wales.
Wandering around the harbour I bumped into a rather large Newfoundland dog who didn’t seem averse to having his ears scratched. His name escapes me now but he’s a friendly chap with an incredibly docile nature. Nestled in the corner of the harbour close to the sea wall is the Harbourmaster Hotel. Built in 1811 and extensively refurbished in 2001 this boutique hotel is own-ed and run by Glyn and Menna Heulyn, who together with their staff have created a stylish hotel and restaurant that both have a great welcoming feel to them. On a glorious sunny Saturday afternoon the bar (situated in an old adjacent warehouse which is now part of the hotel) had a great buzz to it with an almost Mediterranean ambience. Dai Morgan, the general manager is an absolute star and a great font of knowledge for all things local.
Aberaeron is a relatively young coastal settlement dating back to the early 19th century and throughout the 1800s it supported a thriving shipbuilding industry which continued for over 100 years. The Harbourmaster has alluded to this by naming all of the elegant rooms within its Grade II listed building, after ships that were built and then sailed out from the harbour. The rooms have all been thoughtfully designed and tastefully decorated; ours came with a wonderful wet room. Whilst we have come to expect tea and coffee making facilities in our rooms, they are not usually of this high standard and the addition of a mini bar is welcome. In an age where hotel chains are the norm it is a joy to stay somewhere where one can appreciate the thought and effort that has been employed to create both a comfortable and relaxing environment in which to stay.
I’m no restaurant critic but the food was absolutely superb, hats off to Ludo the chef. The food is locally sourced and offers a 2 or 3 course menu, both on offer for a very reasonable price. I had a generous portion of sea bass together with potatoes, samphire, cockles and a roast chicken vinaigrette which was exquisite. Whilst you would expect to see various forms of seafood available, the menu is varied enough to satisfy the most discerning of palates, the lamb chops coming highly recommended. Service as you’d expect is top notch without the usual keenness to clear your table and the staff are all Welsh speaking. If you’d prefer a busier atmosphere, the bar menu is varied and there is an extensive wine list available.
Menna and Glyn are both keen cyclists and have put some routes together starting and finishing at the hotel. There are 3 road rides, 16, 30 and 40 miles in length; have a word with Dai and he will give you a gpx file of these routes or loan you an Os map if you’d prefer. Aberaeron is perfectly situated to experience some great cycle touring on quiet country roads, whether you fancy an epic with some stiff climbs or just a quiet cycle to the wonderful Cae Hir gardens and tearooms. These routes are wonderful to ride and are a great way of seeing the area in and around Aberaeron. If cycling is not your thing, then the coast path literally runs past the hotel with Newquay to the south and Llanon to the north both being a short walk away and Aberystwyth is only a 20 minute drive away by car.
There’s also a wonderfully scenic mountain bike route (there are two bikes available free of charge from the hotel, again just ask Dai) which is a flat out and back to Llanerchaeron and though only 6 miles in total it is an absolute joy. Following the old railway line which runs alongside the Afon Aeron where much has been done to improve access to the river for fishing, you follow a good unsurfaced path before joining the road for a mile or so before heading back. At the turn around point is the National Trust café situated on the periphery of an ancient woodland where there is also cycle hire available from Pureride.
Now, I think it’s fair to say that if you are going through a mid-life crisis or have uncertainties concerning your present employment, don’t speak to Si who runs Pureride (note to self……). He has a great attitude to life and offers a wide range of cycles (including trailers and tag-alongs) to hire for all the family. Situated at the top end of the car park, Si is happy to share his knowledge of where to cycle in the area and has some great musings on life in general, buy him a coffee and enjoy some great conversation.
Whilst the main attraction of Llanerchaeron is the 18th Century house and its estate, the woodland which has been granted PAW status (Preserved Ancient Woodland) is a great place to explore both on foot and on a mountain bike – keep an eye out for the 250 year old beech. Here there is wildlife in abundance and lots of things to occupy a young family, the narrow paths are great fun to run around and there’s plenty of opportunities for river dipping.
My initial impression of Aberaeron couldn’t have been more wrong, stop a while and look past the tourist shops and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what’s on offer. If you want somewhere to stay or simply a glass of wine and some nibbles, then I heartily recommend a visit to The Harbourmaster.
Tel: 01545 570755 Web: www.harbour-master.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org