A small Welsh harbour resort with a fabulous beach, Aberdovey is one of Snowdonia’s most inspiring towns. Words Lesley Gillilan
On the southern edge of Snowdonia National Park, Aberdovey (or Aberdyfi) is a mid-Wales gem, smaller and less well known than most of its neighbours, but full of character and much loved by those who make its acquaintance.
With Aberystwyth to the south and Barmouth to the north, the pretty seaside village sits against a backdrop of green – but sometimes snowy – mountains which plunge down to the Dyfi Estuary. Tall Victorian terraces sit on the seafront gazing across the water at Ynyslas National Nature Reserve. There’s a harbour with a history (the ancient port used to trade in oak, slate, coal and limestone) and the beach is epic: four miles of sand stretching all the way from the estuary to Tywyn on Cardigan Bay.
The area has a reputation for attracting writers and artists, many of the latter inspired by the beauty of the Aberdovey landscapes: sailing boats on silvery waters, sand dunes and brightly coloured houses. There are quirky corners, too: a campsite on a working boatyard at Smugglers Cove offers glamping in a converted Scottish fishing boat; Dai’s Shed sells seafood straight from the sea.
Bellinda Hutchinson Smith of estate agents Strutt & Parker is charmed by Aberdovey. It’s not the easiest place to get to, she admits, but there’s enough here to attract downsizers and families, and most come for the quality of life and the views. ‘This is a year-round destination – much more than just a holiday place – with a vibrant community, sailing and foodie culture,’ she says. ‘For a fraction of the cost of, say, south Devon, Aberdovey offers the kind of lifestyle everyone dreams of.’
WHERE TO BUY
For sea views, go for the waterside houses on or just off Terrace Road (Cliff Road, for example, or Bath Place). Church Street behind is both higher and quieter, and there are lovely houses up on Gwelfor Road, where streets melt into Snowdonia foothills. But you can’t go wrong in Aberdovey: many of its streets have views or glimpses of water, and it’s too small to have rough edges. A cheaper alternative is Tywyn – three miles north – which offers affordable detached houses (particularly on Pier Road).
Prices in Aberdovey are generally lower than the national average, but higher than much of Wales. Large detached houses with estuary views sell for between £600-£800,000. Expect to pay around £350-£500,000 for roomy bungalows or Victorian townhouses; three-bedroom cottages or apartments go for under £250,000. A teeny two-bedroom fisherman’s cottage in the centre is offered at £170,000. Rentals are rare, thanks to a buoyant market in holiday letting.
With Snowdonia on the doorstep and the Dyfi Estuary lapping at your feet, this is a brilliant place for an active, outdoor life. On the water, go sailing, kayaking, fishing and sail-boarding. In the mountains, hike the Cader Idris ridge or climb to the summit of Aran Fawddwy. There is an 18-hole championship golf course nearby and in summer you can take a steam train on the narrow-gauge Talyllyn Railway from Tywyn Wharf to the river gorge at Nant Gwernol. For good food, try the waterfront Penhelig Arms (sabrain.com), fish and fresh produce at Seabreeze (seabreeze-aberdovey.co.uk), or the Coast Deli (coastdelidining.co.uk, a member of Slow Food Cymru).
There are three local stations: Tywyn, Aberdovey and Penhelig, all on the Cambrian Coast Line which runs between Machynlleth and Pwllheli. London by train takes around five and a half hours, changing at Machynlleth (20 minutes from Aberdovey) and again at Birmingham (2 hours, 40 minutes). The drive to Aberystwyth takes half an hour. The nearest international airport is Liverpool’s John Lennon (104 miles north).
The nearest secondary is Ysgol Uwchradd in Tywyn, a bi-lingual, co-ed school for 11-16-year-olds, rated Adequate by Estyn. Older pupils usually travel to schools in Aberystwyth.
This is an ideal destination for escapists and nature lovers, but Aberdovey is a long way from a city (Liverpool, the nearest, is over two hours away). Like most of Gwynedd, it’s predominately Welsh-speaking, a particular issue for school-age children. Shopping is not a strong point, and the nearest big supermarket is in Aberystwyth.
Neighbouring Tywyn lacks the Victorian charm of Aberdovey, but although it’s very close, house prices there are significantly cheaper (a large, detached house can be bought for around £350,000) and it has better facilities: the vintage Magic Lantern cinema, a leisure centre, schools and a community hospital. A row of smart new townhouses were recently
built on the seafront and sales were brisk.
PAY A VISIT
Erw Gwenllian (01743 792226, premiercottages.co.uk).
Set in elevated gardens overlooking Aberdovey, this family-sized holiday home has gob-smacking views across meadows of Welsh farmland to the Dyfi Estuary and Cardigan Bay. High-spec contemporary interiors feature a light and lofty, open-plan kitchen and lounge, four bedrooms and two bathrooms. Sofas sit around a cosy log burner and there are sea views from nearly every room. From £805 a week, or £484.50 for a three-night weekend.
CAN YOU AFFORD IT?
Average house prices NOVEMBER 2017
Source: Zoopla (zoopla.co.uk).