*New* Vintage images of the Aberystwyth camera obscura from our collection were added to this page 7/2005.
Aberystwyth Camera Obscura, Constitution Hill, Aberystwyth, Wales
Our visit on Monday, May 29, 1996 (read update about improvements to the camera obscura)

The camera obscura building

The view of Aberystwyth harbor from the hill

The view down the cliff railway

A camera obscura was located at Aberystwyth Castle in about 1880 and rebuilt on Constitution Hill, above the harbor in around 1896. It had disappeared by the 1920s.The present camera obscura, opened in 1985, is located in a two-story octagonal tower near the site of the Victorian building.

We learned about the modern camera obscura at Aberystwyth on the Internet and were really excited about our first visit to Wales. Because of travel arrangements our time in Wales was very tight and there was no room for problems. Of course we had problems. We arrived in the late afternoon on one day, spent the night in a hotel, planned to spend the following day at the camera obscura, then take a late afternoon train to make connections for our flight the morning after to the Isle of Man. Because of the TT motorcycle races we had no flexibility in our plane schedule so it was important that everything happen with clockwork precision.

We arrived on an overcast but dry day and walked along the beach front to the ruined castle. We did not know the location of the camera obscura but planned to ask at our hotel. Walking back down the front away from the castle we looked up and there it was! Above a small, almost perpendicular railway high on the cliff top we could see the camera obscura building. At the Victorian station and ticket office for the cliff railway we learned the hour it began operation in the morning and were there well before starting time. The ride up the cliff was a bit scary but interesting as we were pulled up the steep incline to the top which we found covered in a thick mist. We had coffee in the lunch room at the top and waited for the mist to clear.

Time passed and things did not get much clearer so we paid our admission and went into the camera obscura and were allowed to turn on the lights so we could photograph the table and apparatus. The view on the table was of soft white fuzz. We thought we could see a little brighter area that might be sky but it could have been an illusion. We spent some time in the upper levels of the building which had observation decks (nothing to see except the inside of the clouds all around) and an exhibition on camera obscuras (much faded by time) and in talking to the very friendly young man in the gift shop. He suggested that we might go back down the cliff and have lunch in town and come back in the afternoon when the heavy mist had cleared. After checking the schedule of the train we found that we would have a very small window of opportunity to get back up, spend about 30 minutes in the camera obscura and get back down the hill to make it to the station for our train. We again were impressed by the helpfulness of the Welsh people when the man in the railway office offered to give us free passes for our return trip and call a taxi to meet us when we came back down. We had a nice lunch and returned to find that the mist was indeed gone and we could see the cliff top clearly.

Success, we thought, but no, when we returned we found the view on the table just as soft and misty as it had been. *Read update below* Why? The seal on the lens assembly was not good at that time and when the weather was very damp it got inside and condensation formed on the lens.We were told that someone was blowing on the lens with a hair dryer and hoped to clear it. We waited as long as we could but had to give up and go back down the incline railroad to catch our train. This was the greatest disappointment of the trip!

*Important Update* We later received an e-mail from the manager of the Aberystwyth camera obscura telling us that the lens had been repaired and the faded pictures in the exhibition have been replaced. This is welcome news and increases our eagerness to return to Wales for a visit. We liked Wales and the Welsh people we met very much and hope to go back to spend more time and see the view from the camera obscura on Constitution Hill.

A Postcard of the Aberystwyth Camera Obscura Our Collection

The postcard of the Aberystwyth beach on the right appears to be from the early years of the 20th century. The undated card has a divided back and the dress of the ladies on the beach suggest that period.

The view of Constitution Hill shows the same railway we took to the top and a camera obscura building in much the same position as the present location.

A magnified view of the hill top is shown below.

Magic Mirror of Life Home Page and Site Map

What is a camera obscura?

Why we created this site

Frequently Asked Questions about the Camera Obscura (please check this page before sending email questions)

Links and a Bibliography about the camera obscura

Map and illustrated diary of
our visits to
US camera obscuras

Map and illustrated diary of
our 1996 trip to
Great Britain camera obscuras

Images of camera obscuras from our collection.

Some Images from our collection
Trade Cards with Camera Obscuras
Lost UK Seaside Camera Obscuras
Other Lost UK Camera Obscuras
Lost US Seaside Camera Obscura
Lost US Park Camera Obscuras
Other Lost US Camera Obscuras
No, it's not a camera obscura

Portable and box camera obscuras from our collection.
Wooden Camera Obscuras
Metal Camera Obscuras
Camera Obscuras with the Lens at the Top
Cardboard Camera Obscuras
A French Artist's Camera with supplies
Vermeer's Camera, a 1934 teaching camera
Camera Obscura Publications

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Modified 7/2005