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The Welsh National Coracle Centre

Deep amongst the beautiful Carmarthenshire countryside, approximately 10 miles East of Cardigan and neighbouring Cenarth’s famous ‘Salmon Leap Falls’ lies the National Coracle Centre. This small and quirky place of interest stores pockets of fascinating facts and stories about the World’s oldest form of water transport, dating back to the early Bronze Age (perhaps as far as the Ice Age) that is known as the Coracle.

Granted, ‘coracle’ is not the most commonly used word in our ‘modes of water transport’ glossary, so what exactly is it and what is it for? A coracle is a small, keel-less boat traditionally made from a basketwork frame and covered with animal hide to create a waterproof exterior. Coracles are still used as working boats worldwide in countries such as Vietnam,India,TibetandNorth America. The modern coracle is made from sawn or hand-clefted laths and covered with canvas or synthetic fabric which is then waterproofed. You may be surprised to know that coracles are also used for net fishing in West Wales today and the large sea-going version (the Curragh) is still in use around the West coast ofIreland. Net fishing by coracle inWalesis now restricted to the three rivers of Teifi, Towy and Taf and is a sight to see if you’re visiting Pembrokeshire for a short break or a long weekend. The art of net fishing involves two coracles with a net pulled between, the coracles and the net drift along with the current, catching salmon or sewin along the way. A typical coracle weighs between 25-40 pounds and can be carried around on the shoulder. This enables fishermen to walk to their chosen point of the river (traditional fishermen have walked up to 10 miles) and drift back down.

For an up close view of traditional coracles, learn how they are made and perhaps even sample one, The National Coracle Centre welcomes visitors from Easter through September to engage with the exhibits and share in the character building stories from paddlers and makers from around the world. Visitors can take a short guided tour (approx. 30mins) around the centre and also visit the 17th Century Mill within the same grounds, which houses the original grinding gear and stone that was once used to prepare the flour. Their tea rooms offer delicious homemade grub and there’s a shop selling informative books and DVDs about the coracle, scale models and a small selection of local rural crafts.

The Centre also has educational value for schools, families and local organisations. Courses are tailored to cover subjects such as the Food Chain, Rivers & Natural History, Geography, Maths and Science. As a member of The Coracle Society, they’re also actively involved in supporting the continuance of local fishing through regattas, agricultural shows and annual events such as the Carmarthen River Festival. This lively celebration involves two days of family fun and river entertainment including coracle taster sessions, demonstrations of modern modes of water transport such as the lifeboat, long boat and water skiing, the River Towy Coracle Race and a final raft race to wrap up the various activities of the whacky water weekend.

The National Coracle Centre and its tranquil surroundings with views of the Salmon Leap Falls provides an interactive and interesting day out for individuals, couples and families who appreciate the importance of West Wales culture. If you are visiting the county and have a few hours to spare, add an important part of Cenarth history to your bow.