Cardiff and the Vale’s 10 Best Summer Spots

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!

Around the Park there are plenty of places to eat or buy picnic food, like L’Creperie DeClaudie, The Park Deli and Pettigrew Bakeries.

6. Penarth

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.

9. Cosmeston

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?

Rainbow Run

Our Saturday shenanigans this week involved the beach, bacon, Barry Island and a lot of bright paint 🙂  We took Bungle down to Jackson Bay for his first swim and then stumbled on the Ty Hafan Rainbow Run when we walked around the corner to Whitmore Bay.  I’m so gutted I missed out – I saw the posters for it last year and told myself I’d definitely do it next time and then totally forgot about it!  Next year, eh?

I went down onto the beach to take a few pictures of the runners getting painted, then shuffled off to our favourite, Bay 5 Coffee for a hot chocolate and a bacon sandwich 🙂

How was your weekend?

Porthkerry Park

The weekend before last, we decided to take Bungle on a late night trip in the car for a cheeky KFC (for us not him, he’d just finished his Kibble, Tuna and Egg dinner).  He had his head out of the window the whole way there, through the drive through and back home, and seemed to be loving it… right up until Sunny caught a glimpse in the wing mirror of him throwing up down the side of the car (and probably onto the one behind…).  We didn’t really know how bad it was until we parked up, got out and surveyed the car’s brand new kibble, tuna and egg pebble-dashed back end.  So yeah, Bungle’s allowed out and about now, but taking him in the car is risky.  But, on Sunday the weather was so lovely that we decided to risk it  for a biscuit and drive him to Porthkerry Park in Barry.  🙂

I never realised how massive a place it is.  Tucked off a residential street; the park sprawls right down to the beach with walks splintering off through fields, across streams and into the woods.  It’s made for dogs (and people who love dog watching 🙂 ).  The perfect place to spend a Sunday with a picnic or a barbecue – and there’s so much space there that you’ll never feel cramped out.

We stopped in the cafe for lunch (which is totally dog-friendly) and Bungle made friends with Max the pug…

…And then snogged down a cup of dog friendly frozen yoghurt.

And he managed to keep it down on the drive back.  Phew!

Coity Castle

On one of those muddled, hazy days between Christmas and New Year – when you’ve forgotten your own name let alone what day it is – Sunny dragged me from my preferred spot on the sofa snoozing off Christmas to take me Coity Castle.

It’s a strange place; perched on the side of a hill in one of the suburbs of Bridgend, it’s surrounded by houses and so the crumbling battlements and towers stick out like a sore thumb. Honestly, I had no idea the place even existed – and since my medieval history is a bit pants I had no idea what I was looking at until I got home and fired up Google.  Originally built during the Norman Conquest of Wales by Sir Payn “the Demon” de Turberville – one of the legendary Twelve Knights of Glamorgan – the castle was actually still standing all the way up until the 17th century when it was finally abandoned.  (I’m sure once my Dad’s read this he’ll give me a whole essay full of Welsh History to add, but those are the bare bones of the story anyway)

You can walk across the old moat and around the ruins, peer through archways and start up stone staircases that lead to nowhere.  This time of year it’s eerily quiet except for the odd crow call – perfect for a spooky winter stroll.  🙂

I feel like I need to make a trip to all the other castles of the Twelve Knights of Glamorgan now – you know, complete the set! 

Boxing Day Walkies

I had originally been planning to velcro myself to the sofa on Boxing Day with a tub of roses balancing on my food baby, but after spending Christmas Day with my head in the oven stressing over turkey that I needed to get out!  It was frosty but fine, so we rounded up the troops and went for our usual walk from Jackson Bay to Barry Island beach.  It’s a favourite ours for spotting cute dogs and on Boxing Day there were plenty – it seemed like everyone was out for walkies!

For breakfast I mashed together all the left over Christmas veg, mixed it with fried bacon and onion and made Bubble and Squeak.  Kind of like a massive hash brown. 🙂

We skimmed stones in Jackson Bay and then walked over the cliffs to Whitmore Bay.  There were so many dogs out walking the beach – I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many in one place before!  They were all so excited to be out making friends and skittering across the sand chasing each other into the waves that they completely ignored us humans.  It was so much fun watching them race around 🙂

Had a cwtch with this little guy 🙂

Then we came home and ate the ham I’d prepared before we left – yum!