The town lies on the northern side of the Teifi estuary point with Pembrokeshire to the south; it has a population of 4,200 and is an important regional centre. The castle was built in 1093 after the Normans had conquered the area; they were subsequently defeated and in 1176 the castle was the site of the first National Eisteddfod. Work to restore the site and develop it into a centre for the community with a heritage centre and open air concert area is currently in progress. In the C18th and early C19th century, Cardigan was a busy seaport with over 300 ships and an important shipbuilding industry.
However, the Teifi silted up and by the early 1900s the port was largely inactive. The Teifi Valley is a Special Area of Conservation whilst, seaward, lies the Cardigan Bay Special Area of Conservation. Ceredigion's Heritage Coast stretches northward from the Teifi Estuary with the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park extending to the south.
Cardigan's Theatr Mwldan offers a cinema, arts and entertainment as well as excellent indoor sports and leisure facilities. Cardigan Island Coastal Farm Park is located near to Cardigan and visitors can enjoy beautiful scenery, an island nature reserve, dramatic cliffs and maritime flowers. Farm animals include a donkey, pigs, sheep, goats, rare breed cattle, Shetland ponies, Welsh mountain ponies, rabbits, guinea pigs plus some from further afield, such as a wallaby, Vietnamese pigs, emus, rhea and a llama.
The village of St Dogmael's is just south of Cardigan and contains the remains of an Abbey, founded around 1115 for Tironian monks and there are extensive remains dating from the twelfth to sixteenth centuries. A visitor centre, with exhibitions, cafe and shop is next to the Abbey. Close by is Y Felin, one of the last working water mills in Wales producing traditional stone ground flour.
Guided tours of this restored mill are available and the mill shop includes a large selection of flours and local produce. The very popular Poppit Sands are to the north of St Dogmael's on the Teifi estuary and the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path starts from here. South-east of Cardigan is the village of Cilgerran with a striking castle. In 1223 it was captured by the Earl of Pembroke, who rebuilt the castle in its present form; although largely in ruins, two substantial towers remain. The castle sits on a rocky promontory above the River Teifi and has inspired many artists, including Turner.
The castle is a National Trust property, looked after by Cadw and special events are often held here. The Welsh Wildlife Centre is also at Cilgerran and stands within the Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve on the banks of the River Teifi. The stunning building is constructed largely of wood and glass and has panoramic views over the Teifi, Cardigan and woodland.
The Centre contains an informative interactive indoor display of local natural and social history about the River Teifi and Cilgerran and interactive screens with live camera feed from off the Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve. Also on site is a shop with a wide range of wildlife related gifts and books and craft producers from the local counties showcase some of the best art and craft produced in the area. The Center has a cafe plus an adventure playground with lots of play equipment.