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Thinking of visiting Wales some time? Check out these wonderful places in Cardiff, the capital city of Wales!
Sometimes, travel takes you to unexpected places! While the United Kingdom is one of my favorite places to explore, a visit to Wales was something that I had never imagined in my wildest of dreams! A country, without the same fame of England or Scotland, so less travelled. A place, with no ‘signature attraction’, thus lesser known.
A mystery surrounds unfamiliar places, making them more exciting to explore. After travelling to Cardiff, the Welsh capital last year, I discovered some wonderful places in and around this city; in a country, known for its medieval castles, distinctive Welsh language, stunning architecture and more.
If you are planning a visit to Cardiff, and don’t know exactly what to expect; here is a look back at my trip, for some top picks/ recommendations.
(Welcome to Wales in Welsh)
This is the first of the many signs that you will see on the M4 motorway to Wales. As you reach Cardiff, don’t get startled, if you hear some high-pitched shrieking. It is just the seagulls! You should soon get used to their sometimes eerie cries, especially closer to bedtime or just as you wake up and set off to see this splendid city.
With its classic and elegant Victorian layout and atmosphere; Roath Park, is one of Cardiff’s most popular parks. It is full of historic and horticultural interest with the Scott Memorial Lighthouse on the lake, being one of Cardiff’s iconic images. It has a conservatory, with unusual species of plants and trees, a magnificent rose garden with rows of benches; all this, set against a beautiful backdrop of lawns and conifers.
The rose bed next to the Conservatory
A leisurely walk along the promenade, will take you to the rose garden with its well kept flowerbeds.
Bed of sunflowers along a path
Going uphill and downhill, amongst and/ around pine trees, oak trees and ornamental trees, admiring their glorious colours during autumn, standing by the gurgling rivulets and waterfalls, with time standing still; will leave you refreshed.
Along the way, you will ‘meet’ some astonishing and adorable varieties of pet dogs – sauntering happily, ‘playing ball’. The many people, jogging/running even in freezing weather conditions, will leave you gazing in awe.
A panoramic view of the lake
The lake is a haven for birds! Seagulls, swans, ducks, mallards, geese, cormorants – soaring in the skies, speeding overhead, paddling over/ under the water, waddling on the pathways and sometimes, some cocky ones, even swooping down on your food!
On bright, sunny days, the park is buzzing with life and the place to be – for a picnic, lazing by the lake or simply perching on one of the many benches and watching the world go by.
There are rowing/ pedal boats available on the lakeside for hire. Adjacent to the lake is a wishing well and right opposite the lake is a large outdoor children’s playground.
The children’s playground
At an ice-cream van very close by, you can treat yourself to creamy ice cream cones (the clotted cream flavor is my personal favorite) eat/drink in the cafe (hot chocolate a must-have in winters). A kiosk opposite there also serves refreshments. Toilet facilities are available within the park. With recreation areas like sports pitches for football, baseball, rugby, change rooms, a high quality bowling green and even tennis courts; Roath park is one of the nicest parks, I have seen. A must see place while visiting Wales
The dockland area in Cardiff has been developed and transformed into a spectacular waterfront called Cardiff Bay. You mustn’t miss it while visiting Wales! It has a chic, cosmopolitan atmosphere, stunning architecture and sculptures. It is packed with people, shops, funky bars, pubs, cafes, eateries and restaurants with sea views.
It is a lovely and a lively place to eat, have a coffee, relax, go for a stroll, take a boat trip in a water taxi, or just ‘people watch’. If you are lucky you might see a rainbow (even a double rainbow) adding to the beauty of the bay.
Cardiff Bay has a child-friendly sandy beach with deck chairs to relax in. There are fun-fair rides for kids – like a colourful carousel, a roller coaster, the water walking balls which allows kids to get inside a giant inflatable ball – walk, run, skip, jump, roll and float on water and amusements like the laughing mirrors providing good laughs even for adults.
With many cultural shows and annual events to enjoy, attractions like the Iconic Millennium Centre, the Techniquest Science Discovery Centre (ideal for all the family), the Norwegian Church Arts Centre and many more close-by; Cardiff’s most vibrant and captivating waterfront attraction is not to be missed.
In the the middle of Cardiff’s busy City Centre – a place full of traffic, eateries, shopping arcades and shoppers, in the most unlikeliest of places you can imagine, you will find Cardiff’s ‘historic heart’ and the leading heritage attraction of Wales – the medieval Cardiff Castle.
The Clock Tower there is one of the most familiar landmarks in Cardiff. You can walk around the castle, sit on the lawns, take pictures or choose to take the castle tour and discover its wartime history, admire unusual architecture – a fusion of neo-Gothic and medieval style, visit the spectacular castle apartments and rooms, wartime shelters and also enjoy panoramic views of the city from the top.
Barry is a beautiful town, located in the Vale of Glamorgan. If you are looking for a fun day out at the sea, closer to Cardiff, then Barry beach it is! When the sun is out, this place can get boisterous– with sunbathers, swimmers, kids splashing and frolicking around, building sandcastles, families having rollicking picnic lunches, enjoying activities like beach volleyball, sailing, windsurfing, sea-kayaking.
There is a lifeguard tower, first aid post, beach shops, cafes, drinking water, shower and toilet facilities. Nearby, is the pleasure park, which has fairground rides and amusement for children. I had a great time on the beach, on a day when the weather was a peculiar mix- bright, sunny, cold with an extraordinarily wild wind, all at the same time!
If you love castles and history,then the place to head is the picturesque town of Caerphilly (less than half hours from Cardiff).
This medieval castle, set against a backdrop of moats and islands, is one of the mightiest and formidable fortresses in Wales. It has been dubbed ‘the Welsh tower of Pisa’ probably because part of it is caving in. It is surrounded by two lakes and it is only when you come closer, that the size of the castle really become evident.
The outer parts of the castle, right up to the main entry gate is free to view. To see the interiors of the castle, you will need to buy a ticket at the counter.
If you love the feel of old places and the ‘secrets’ they hold, you will enjoy walking along ancient corridors, through doors and little rooms with arrow slit windows.
Climbing up the castle steps can get a bit daunting (make sure you wear good footwear) as they are narrow and a bit winding (there is a railing though) with people coming up and down at the same time. Once you reach all the way up to the top of the tower, the breeze and the amazing views miles away, make it worth the climb.
Later, you can relax on the lawns,enjoy a packed picnic lunch; with the ancient ruins all around and watch the Welsh flag flying from the mast. If you are a cheese lover, do not leave without buying the celebrated Caerphilly cheese.
Pedal Power is a unique charity in Cardiff which aims to encourage and help people, to take to cycling, irrespective of their age, ability or needs.
What strikes you about this place is you see plenty of people- both children and adults with special needs, disabilities and impairments who have come along with their carers, family members; and what is so special about Pedal Power is that they ensure that no one feels isolated. For that,they have a whole range of specially adapted and designed bikes.
It is a beautiful and touching experience to see people with disabilities enjoy cycling along with everyone else in a happy, serene atmosphere. The cycling tracks start off alongside a caravan site, taking you uphill and downhill, past lush green lawns and towards a tranquil riverside.
One of the cycling tracks
There have a whole range of bikes to hire- the two wheel bikes, kids bikes, child seat bikes, the two-seater buggy for seating two kids at a time, trail and large size ones if you are taller/ heavier, electric assist ones, the tomcat trike for children with physical and mental disabilities, Draisin Recumbent designed for people with disabilities, Trike that can take a wheelchair, and plenty more, that I had never imagined.
Pedal Power is a rewarding and an eye opening experience.It leaves you wondering; how wonderful it would be, to have a place like it in India.
Fruit picking in England/ Wales, is a pleasurable outdoor activity. Amidst rolling countryside and fresh air, are many family friendly farms where you get to handpick seasonal fruit/vegetables.
The apple orchard
In the village of Coedkernew, between Cardiff and Newport, is one such farm – Berry Hill. With striking surroundings like haystacks and tractors, you can wander through its orchards and pluck crunchy, juicy red and green apples; all in peace and calmness, away from the crowd.
There is a farm shop, which sells homemade relishes, pickles, jams, locally sourced cheese, meat, fresh ice creams, deserts and a whole lot of other goodies. Fruit picking is indeed an amazing and enjoyable experience.
Green apples galore
Set in a rural setting between Cardiff and Newport (very close to Berry hill ) this animal farm offers an opportunity to meet, pet and feed farm animals in a safe and enjoyable way. The moment you enter, you are welcomed by the loud sounds of bleating goats and lambs, which can be funny and startling!
A billy goat on the right
The petting area offers an unforgettable experience to hold and pet animals like guinea pigs and rabbits in a calming and therapeutic environment. There is a designated hand wash area to wash hands, before and after you touch the animals.
A guinea pig and a rabbit petting session
Further up, you can hand feed barn animals like horses, ponies, sheep, goats, lambs, a rooster, ducks, geese and even a donkey. Don’t forget to meet the piglets at the pigsty!
Barn horses waiting to be fed
Barn horses,sheep,lambs and a donkey being hand fed
Ram sheep, a rooster, a goose and a Shetland pony
With pony rides, electric go karts, toy tractors for the kids, and then a cafe to relax in. I had such a fabulous time here with my family and the farm animals.
The parting picture
Fun, cheer, laughs and adventures; if you make an effort, there is no dearth of excitement in any place in this world and Cardiff, certainly, did not disappoint! Here is a ‘souvenir picture’ that I clicked, of the city’s magnificent architecture at City Centre.
Just a day before I left the city, I went to Roath Park for a walk. Along the way, I heard the familiar screeching sound overhead. It was a seagull. Was it wailing to say goodbye or, was it pleading with me, for another visit?
P.S. Don’t forget to try the famous traditional Welsh cakes. They are delicious!
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Images credit: the author.
Header image source: By Million Moments (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
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