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Why is Cardigan Bay famous?

a small boat in a body of water

Cardigan Bay (Welsh: Bae Ceredigion) is a large inlet of the Irish Sea, indenting the west coast of Wales between Bardsey Island, Gwynedd in the north, and Strumble Head, Pembrokeshire at its southern end. It is the largest bay in Wales.[1]Cardigan Bay is best known for being the home of the bottlenose dolphins. Cardigan Bay is home to the UK’s largest population of dolphins.

There are many opportunities to spot the dolphins when walking the coastal path, walking along the pier or taking a trip out on a dolphin spotting boat trip.

Cardigan Bay is a rich marine environment full of wildlife. Cardigan Bay is named after Cardigan or its county, Cardiganshire, whose latter shire curves around much of the southern stretch of the bay.

Cardigan Bay has numerous beaches, and marine life. Much of the coast surrounding the bay is fertile farmland, dotted with towns and seaside resorts such as Fishguard, New Quay, Aberaeron, Llanon, Aberystwyth, Borth, Aberdyfi, Tywyn, Barmouth, Porthmadog, Criccieth and Pwllheli on the Cambrian Coast. Smaller coastal villages include Cwmtydu, Nanternis and Llangrannog.

Major rivers flowing into the bay include the Glaslyn, Mawddach, Dysynni, Dyfi, Rheidol, Ystwyth, Aeron and Teifi


Until the early 20th century, Cardigan Bay supported a strong maritime industry. Cardigan is located at the mouth of the River Teifi; hence the Welsh name, Aberteifi (Mouth of the Teifi). At the turn of the 19th century, the heyday of the port, it was a more important port than Cardiff. At this time more than 300 ships were registered at Cardigan—seven times as many as Cardiff, and three times as many as Swansea.[2]

The central and northern areas of the bay are the location of the legendary Cantre’r Gwaelod, the drowned “Lowland Hundred” or “Hundred under the Sea”. During the winter storms of 2014, parts of the lost ancient forest of Borth, which 4,500 years ago stretched on the boggy land to Ynyslas, reappeared on the shoreline in the form of preserved exposed tree stumps. Due to climate change and rising sea levels, the forest was buried under layers of peat, sand and saltwater.[3]

Nature and tourism

The Cardigan Bay Special Area of Conservation was set up to preserve the natural wildlife in the area, both in the sea and on the surrounding foreshore.

From the Ceredigion Coast Path it is often possible to observe the Bay’s “Big Three” species of harbour porpoise, grey seals,[4] and bottlenose dolphins, of which the bay has the largest population in the UK.[5] Other mammals, such as minke whales, Risso’s dolphins and common dolphins, together with many species of seabirds, such as puffin, and sharks, including basking sharks, can also be seen.

Since the late 1990s and early 2000s, the bay has been invaded by spider crabs.[6] Not a seafood normally consumed by British people, since 2010 the local fishermen have supplied the Michelin-starred restaurants of Raymond Blanc.[7]

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