Mood of the Mwnt

kalyani prasher | Updated on January 24, 2018

Not so blue: Barely an hour from Mwnt, the coastal town of Aberaeron was also in the grip of Hurricane Gonzalo. - Kalyani Prasher

The Welsh coast and its imagined faeries are at their charming best when the skies darken

I met Perfect Timing for the first time in Wales, when we drove out of thick green (and still) forests to its beautiful coast in County Ceredigion on the very night that Hurricane Gonzalo came crashing into it at 110kmph. Of course we had carefully chosen a hotel closest to the harbour for those perfect views that were now obscured by evil lashes of rain and ominously whirling wind. All rather exciting. Especially when we were on a driving holiday, and visions of our car rising up from the ground in rapid circular motions came to mind. Under these circumstances, I did what any brave person would do — rushed to the bar and ordered three rounds of Penderyn’s peaty malt.

At the bar, I discover the hammering that nature was subjecting us to was Gonzalo’s dying cry. By morning, all would be calm again — we wouldn’t be slapped around by the wind after all. Oh well, there goes the adventure I had built up in my head.

With some 5,000 citizens, Cardigan is the second largest town in Ceredigion, which gives you an idea of how small all the towns in the county are. The name Cardigan has nothing to do with winter wear, I was quite disappointed to learn, but is merely an anglicised version of the county’s name. All disappointment ends at the name though — the pretty little town sits by the Teifi river, its charming high-street dotted with small boutiques, making for a rather fairytale arrangement.

Any moment I expect tiny people to trot out with their tiny shopping bags carrying magical potions. To add to this picture is a 12th-century Norman castle under restoration, with ruinous parts from where, behind a fallen old tree branch, you can glimpse the Teifi and imagine you are in quite another century. Once it is fully restored and open, Cardigan Castle will become a major attraction in Mid Wales, as it will be the hub of Welsh history, culture and language and will also have an event space, a stylish restaurant and rooms for people to stay.

Located right at the border of Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire, which has the best coastal scenery and the top beaches of Wales, Cardigan is where the Ceredigion Coastal Path begins — the popular 100km long-distance trail that runs along the stunning Welsh coast.

Nearby is another lovely place, St Dogmaels, or St Dogs as it is called by the locals, a village by the sea, which has a row of colourful beach houses, the very picture of wealth and elegance. On the beach here, you may find more dogs running about than people, though once again that has little to do with the name and more to do with the retired population’s love for canines.

All the loveliness in the world though, cannot match what I see next. Mwnt Beach in Ceredigion has been voted one of ‘Europe’s top 10 loveliest hidden beaches’ in the Daily Mail, and for once you tend to believe the paper.

With a Green Coast Award, given to the more secluded beaches in the UK, Mwnt is a steep hill that rises above the Cardigan Bay, the beach protected by the mountains that surrounds it on three sides. From my vantage point on the hill, I’m greeted by a sight I might never forget: almost closeted, hidden between the mountains, a little strip of silvery beach. You can climb up the hill for an even higher view of the bay and the coast, or climb right down to the water. I decided to do both. As I climbed higher, the wind grew stronger and I quietly thanked Gonzalo for leaving us alone.

From the top of my current world, I could see Cardigan Bay endlessly stretching towards Ireland, a sheet of blue. Down below, the blue met the brown of Mwnt beach and, strangely, turned the sand into silver.

Across the hillside, a forgotten white church, nothing more than a small hut, has been watching these scenes since the 6th century. The church, standing in the middle of nowhere, is a fine example of ‘chapels of ease’ that were built in the medieval times for people who could not access a bigger parish easily.

Somehow, its silent white presence lends a ghostly touch to the setting rather than a godly one. In fact, Mwnt is where one would expect to meet faeries and other exciting and generally avoidable creatures from the other world. I climb down the dale without any such excitement, however, and leave Mwnt with a promise to return. Perhaps next time my timing will be better.

(Kalyani Prasher is a Delhi-based freelance writer)

Published on January 09, 2015

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