- Length: just over five miles in total
- Terrain: very narrow country roads, so caution needed
This car trip or bike route starts at Cenarth, a gem of a village with a beautiful bridge over the river Teifi. Invariably, someone from a family group will climb into one of the carefully crafted holes (included so at so reduce weight and increase the strength of the bridge) to pose – or, of course, take a selfie. But just exploring the waterside paths and picnic area is adventure enough for most of us. The lure of the river, the picturesque setting – it’s no wonder that tourists have been coming here for a very long time.
Cenarth is one of the places where fishing from a coracle is permitted, by special licence. The traditional coracle is a small boat, light enough to be carried on a fisherman’s back and once to be seen hanging outside almost every cottager’s home. Wander around the Cenarth and you’ll spot several coracles – on the pub, outside the tearoom, to say nothing of The National Coracle Centre itself. Set in the grounds of a 17th-century watermill, and beside the beautiful Cenarth Falls, the Centre offers all kinds of information about this ancient form of boat, and includes a display of coracles from around the world as well as some interesting equipment once used for poaching!
Historically, the design of a coracle changed from region to region and even river to river, or family to family, enabling fishermen to negotiate different local currents and conditions. The Teifi coracle has a distinctive shape and a flat bottom to cope with fast flowing water. Great skill is needed to work the boat using a single paddle. The expertise of gifted coraclemen and women can be witnessed in the annual coracle races held downstream at Cilgerran every August. Anyone can have a go!
West Wales coracle-caught sewin (sea trout) is a particular local delicacy fished in this age-old way. The fish are more subtle in flavour than salmon but have similar, though paler, pink flesh. At their different spawning times, salmon and sewin can be seen leaping the falls as they make their dramatic journeys upriver from the sea.
The English word coracle has its origin in the Welsh cwrwgl. Coracles have a long history and were mentioned by the Romans in their writing on the ancient Britons. They appear in early Welsh literature, such as in the tales of The Mabinogion, and were described by Gerallt Gymro (Gerald of Wales) in his account of his journey through the principality in 1188.
Time to decide: Caws Cenarth or getting Muddy and Messy?
This is where various family members might opt for something different. For active visitors, Cenarth Adventure Centre at Allt y Gelli offers all kinds of outdoor war game activities including paintball and laser combat. It’s an adventure in the woods for competitive types with lots of energy to spare. (Maybe you could drop them off and arrange to collect them, victorious or defeated, on the way back?) Anyway, it’s the first turning right out of Cenarth on the Newcastle Emlyn road.
For a more leisurely visit, continue on the very narrow roads to Glyneithinog farm, to see cheese being made – and to sample some. Since 1987 Thelma Adams and her family have been creating wonderful cheeses known generically as Caws Cenarth. Perl Las (Blue Pearl) and Perl Wen (White Pearl) are just two of their distinctive and sought-after products. They’re open every day except Sunday, with viewing of the cheesemaking several times a week.
The narrow road continues from Glyneithinog out onto the B4332, so do take care. A mile before you get back to Cenarth, there’s a very peaceful area of woodland, managed by Natural Resources Wales. Allt Ceiliog means ‘Cockerel’s Hill’ – though we’ve never seen a cockerel there – but the official sign just says ‘Cenarth’. You can park and then wander up to a secluded picnic spot, maybe to tackle that cheese and listen to the birdsong (which in unlikely to be a ‘cock-a-doodle-do’). If you decide to walk in the woods, best to take the middle path (maybe as in life!). The lower path is very muddy and the top path very overgrown. Good place for foraging: blackberries in August and nuts soon afterwards.
The road back into Cenarth comes in by the Teifi at Ffynnon Llawddog, the Well of St Llawddog, another fine place to stop and gaze at the waters. When we get a good bit of rain (we do, occasionally, yes) it’s a mesmerising spot.