Hot town, summer in the city! We’ve had a teaser of some banging summer weather recently, but, trouble is that it never lasts long enough! You know the Welsh weather just loves to keep us guessing, and that’s why you’ve got to have an action plan ready and waiting for when the hot weather strikes! Where to go, what to do? So here are my top ten spots in and around Cardiff to soak up the most of the sun (…when it puts in an appearance!) 🙂
1. Cardiff Bay
Where better to start this list than with Cardiff Bay? It’s hands down one of the best places to go when summer graces the city with its presence. If you’re up for a walk, park up near the Custom House in Penarth and walk across the barrage into the Bay, or take the bus or train from the city centre right into the heart of The Bay. There are plenty of places to grab a coffee or an ice cream or dine al fresco (I like Coffee Mania, The Deck and Signor Valentinos), and there’s always something going on during the summer – like the International Food and Drink Festival and the Cardiff Bay Beach.
There’s plenty to do down there in between ice-creams; there’s the Millenium Centre, The Red Dragon Centre (for movies and bowling), The Doctor Who Experience (although not for much longer!) and you can also take a speed boat out into the channel.
2. Roath Park
You can’t officially call yourself a Cardiff resident until you’ve taken a rowboat out onto Roath Park Lake and got the oars tangled in weeds and/or been chased around it by mental bread-hungry geese. As well as the walk around the lake, Roath Park’s mix of gardens and fields stretch all the way to Wellfield Road where you can find some of the best restaurants in Cardiff (Joe’s Ice Cream is a MUST when on Wellfield, and I love Chaiholics for Indian Street Food). Around the lake there’s also an ice cream stand as well as Terra Nova. Make sure you visit the stick insects and turtles inside the greenhouse while you’re there 🙂
3. The City Centre
When I lived in London I used to find summers in the city downright uncomfortable. Crowded parks, hot bricks and public transport… If you’ve ever been on a Southeastern train in July during rush hour then you’ll get it. But Cardiff city centre is actually a pretty pleasant place to be during the summer. The shopping is mostly outside along Queen Street or in the space and air conditioned St David’s Centre, and there are also sheltered arcades to explore off The Hayes (be sure to check out Science Cream in Castle Arcade for liquid nitrogen ice cream creations!). The best spots for summer dining are all along Mill Lane and the Brewery Quarter (including some of the best bars) or you can always buy a picnic and eat it on the green outside Cardiff Castle or on the green outside City Hall (or in Bute Park – see below) 🙂
4. Barry Island
In terms of beaches, you can’t go wrong with Barry Island. It’s had a bit of a makeover recently, and these days I’m down there most weekends when the sun is shining. The main beach is on Whitmore Bay, but if you’ve got dog be aware that they’re not allowed on the beach itself during the summer months (dogs are allowed on the beach at Jackson’s Bay, which is a short walk around the corner). Other than swimming and sunbathing, there’s the pleasure park (and the big wheel) and plenty of arcades to shed your coppers for prizes. There’s Marcos and Bay Five for coffees and light lunches, O’Sheas for Fish and Chips, and just off the Island is the amazing Hangfire Southern Kitchen.
5. Victoria Park
Between Canton, Llandaff and Ely there’s Victoria Park and Thompson Park, both lovely green spaces with ponds and children’s playgrounds. Victoria Park has a bowling green as well as Basketball and Tennis Courts, and during the summer Victoria Park opens up its Splashpad, a paddling pool for kids with jets and sprays and tunnels – the perfect place for a water fight!
Just around the corner from Cardiff Bay is Penarth, which used to be called the “Garden by the Sea” by Victorian tourist boffins, which is pretty accurate actually. As well as the old pier and promenade, there’s a lovely walk through Alexandra Park to the town centre, or through Windsor Gardens (which always has a lovely display of wild flowers in the summer) where you can join the Wales Coastal Path. In the summer, boat tours run daily from the end of the pier to North Devon.
There are plenty of places to eat and drink; on the pier there’s the Pier Cafe (for coffee, sandwiches and the biggest toasted tea cakes in Cardiff) and kiosks selling sweets and ice cream, and in Penarth town Centre there’s Waterloo Tea as well as the dog friendly Blue Pelican Cafe upstairs in The Hamptons.
7. Porthkerry Park
Porthkerry Park’s a new favourite of mine; tucked away off of a residential street and Barry is a huge park of fields and forests that stretches all the way down to the sea. As well as golf, there’s a cafe and a rocky beach and plenty of room to explore. The perfect place for a barbecue or picnic. 🙂
8. Bute Park & Pontcanna Fields
Wedged between Cardiff Castle and the River Taff, Bute Park is the largest green space in the city centre combined with Cooper’s Field. It’s what Hyde Park is to London and what Central Park is to New York. 🙂 From the park you can get a great view of the Victorian apartments in Cardiff Castle, join the Taff Trail (see below), take a boat to Cardiff Bay, hear the students at the Welsh College of Music and Drama practicing and follow a Woodland Explorer Trail from the Education Centre. If you follow the paths north you can cross the Taff at Blackweir and cross into Pontcanna Fields.
There are plenty of places to eat and drink nearby; in the park itself there’s the Summer House as well as Pettigrew Tea Rooms, but it’s also only a short walk to the pubs littered along Cathedral Road and the cool cafes and restaurants in Pontcanna.
Not far from Penarth is Cosmeston; another sprawling park with lakes, fields and woodland walks. Great for dog walkers and duck feeders! And just down the road there’s Swanbridge and Sully Island, which can only be reached when the tide is out! The Captain’s Wife is dog friendly and does a great Sunday Roast. 🙂
10. The Taff Trail
The Taff Trail is a cycle path that stretches for 55 miles, following the River Taff all the way to Brecon – not that you’d want to do the whole thing (phew!) but you can join it at various points in Cardiff. Following the Trail from the City Centre to the Bay is a popular route, as well as the route from Hailey Park near Whitchurch north to Castle Coch. You can find a trail map here.
Which are your favourite sunny spots in Cardiff?