If you’re the tallest, the smallest, if you beat them all, as any child of the 70’s can tell you, you are a Record Breaker. Constitution Hill, known as Consti to the locals, which looms over the northern end of Aberystwyth has not one but two record breakers.
There are two ways to get to the top of Constitution Hill, one is to walk up the serpentine path that snakes up the 430 foot cliff and the other is to take the world’s longest funicular electric cliff railway (Record Breaker Number One). When the railway opened in 1896 it was operated by a water balance system but a lack of naturally occurring water at the top of the hill made this a very expensive manner of propulsion. So in 1921 the the railway was converted to electricity.
As we trundled up the hill on an overcast blustery May morning it was hard to believe that Victorian travellers would find the 19th century equivalent of a theme park at the top. Back then a Bandstand, a Ballroom, tearooms, a switch back railway and a Camera Obscura awaited intrepid day trippers. Modern day visitors are greeted by three red roofed buildings and a Beacon built to mark the millennium. One of these promised bowling, but we resisted temptation and one other, not resisted, houses Y Consti Restaurant that serves good coffee and hot chocolate.
The third tops the hill and is an impressive two storey octagonal construction that houses the world’s largest Camera Obscura (Record Breaker Number Two) . This is not the same devise that Victorian visitors would have marvelled at, that was demolished in 1921 but instead rather a swanky 1985 version of it. The 14 inch lens and mirror system reflects an image of what’s happening in down-town Aberystwyth, in these days of digital cameras not be so amazing but the Junior CW’s enjoyed moving the camera around with the levers provided, following the movements of people, cars and passing gulls. Once you have tired of Aberystwyth’s reflected glory you can walk around the outdoor balcony taking in the real view, on a clear day you can see 26 mountain peaks unfortunately our day was far from clear (which did not prevent Mr CW’s claiming that, based on his student experiences in the town, “the sun always shines on Aberystwyth”).
Once back down in Aberystwyth we paid a visit to the university campus to see where Mr CW learnt so much about life, whilst there we called in at the excellent art centre and its too tempting shop. Now we have a reminder of our day on the Consti paintedby the talented Lizzie Spikes.
Whilst in Aberystwyth we stayed in the Plas Tudor apartment and very good it was too.