Constitution Hill – Aberystwyth, Wales - Atlas Obscura

Constitution Hill

A 19th-century funicular railway shuttles visitors up this surprising sea cliff to one of the world's largest camera obscuras.  


The 778-foot-long Aberystwyth Cliff Railway has been transporting holidaymakers 430 feet above the pounding surf to enjoy spectacular views for more than a century. Over the years, the number and range of additional attractions on the spectacular seaside hilltop have kept growing.

The funicular cliff railway dates to 1896 and was at the time the United Kingdom’s longest. It has two balanced carriages connected together by a cable. It was originally hauled up the precipitous incline by water balancing, but was electrified in 1921.

In 1985, the owners of this beloved electric cliff railway took the unusual step of complementing the clifftop café at the summit of the hill with a very retro tourist attraction: a camera obscura.

Very popular before the advent of cinema, camera obscuras are darkened, windowless structures with a rotating mirror on their roof. The mirrors project a moving image of the outside world through a lens onto a concave surface at the center of a room, much like a giant pinhole camera.

Aberystwyth’s original camera obscura, close to the town’s ruined castle, closed in the 1920s. The 14-inch lens of its 1980s successor is one of the largest of any camera obscura, and its elevated position provides visitors with an enviable panorama across the small resort and university town and the crashing waves of Cardigan Bay beyond.

The Hill is managed by a charitable organization and has been recently been complemented by a small but perfectly formed 10 pin bowling alley at its summit, just in case the rickety ride, views, windswept café, and ’80s reimagining of a Victorian marvel alone were not enough to tempt visitors to ascend this modest hill.

Know Before You Go

Constitution Hill dominates Aberystwyth's North Beach, so it's hard to miss. The Hill can, of course, be ascended on foot, but for the most rattly Victorian fun, head for the lower railway station on Cliff Terrace. See the railway's website for its hours, which vary seasonally. 

There is limited parking at the bottom end of the lift, and on the promenade, which gets very busy at peak times. Long stay parking is available past the castle at the other end of the bay.

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