Tag Archives: Cardiff

Tea For Two in Cardiff

Traditional Tea Rooms in the Heart of the City

Finally someone in the refreshment business is prepared to StarBuck the coffee trend. The Pettigrew Tea Rooms are, instead of being a pale pastiche of an Italian coffee house produced on a Seattle drawing board, a traditional British tea room.

David Le Masurier has taken the bold decision to open this marvellous venture in the wonderfully iconic old West Lodge at the entrance to Bute Park. This 177-year-old building has seen many uses over recent years, rented out and more recently used as a canteen for the parks grounds staff but now has been reborn as a classic afternoon retreat.

Along with the tea rooms development of this part of Bute Park there is also a gift shop that provides a home to a collection of old Victorian press clay floor tiles that were originally used to mark out the foundations of the old Blackfriars Monastery site,whose ruins you can also visit in the park.

The tearooms are a perfect jump back in time to a gentler age, sipping proper loose tea; that has been brewed in a teapot and strained, out of elegant porcelain cups. You also have the luxury of dropping your sugar cubes into your chosen brew with tongs while an extra pot of water allows you the opportunity for a second or third cup, should you so desire. Show me a coffee house capable of providing such elegance.

In keeping with the traditional motif, as well as a good selection of teas, you can also nibble on some delicious homemade cakes and scones, or toasted teacakes and crumpets dripping with butter.  But it’s not just the cakes you can sample as they also have a very good selection of light lunches for you to enjoy.

The tearooms offer the weary shopper an idyllic spot to catch their breath or an excellent place to take tea before boarding the nearby river taxi to Cardiff Bay. Bute Park itself is a gorgeous piece of city centre greenery and well worth a walk around. No matter for what reason you find yourself at Canton Bridge you are guaranteed to have your thirst quenched and taste buds tickled at the Pettigrew Tea Rooms. Forget your double decafe, frothy macciato frappuccino lite, this is drinking in complete style and elegance.

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Cardiff Bay’s Outdoor Art Gallery

One of the aims of Cardiff Bay’s development was to create a vast open-air art gallery of public sculpture. The idea was to have modern, accessible images that would inspire and engage with visitors to the area. This they have achieved and so much more as the bay and surrounding area are full of imaginative and thought provoking sculptures for anyone touring the foreshore to admire.

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The artworks come in a variety of materials from ceramic tile, wrought iron, stone, cast bronze and wood and ranges for the largest building to the smallest bench. There are also fabulous exhibition spaces too such as the Crafts in the Bay gallery and the Old Norwegian Church and the futuristic, Millennium Arts Centre, which also provides areas for the occasional show.

People, Places and Work

People Like Us

The works celebrate Cardiff’s people, famous contributors and the stories that made Cardiff great. There are statues to the multicultural heritage of the Docks, memorials to the sailors and Scott of the Antarctic as well as a tribute to Ivor Novello and local hero, Captain Ernest Willows who pioneered balloon flight.

Sculptural Buildings

There are illustrations to poems, strange optical illusions and plenty of ships and sails. Many of the buildings around the bay have a sculptural quality to them as well. Many demonstrate a nautical feel, the waves of the Atlantic Wharf Entertainment Centre, the Atradius building shaped like a ships prow or the sails on top of the St David’s Hotel.

Millennium Arts Centre

One of the most sculptural buildings is the Millennium Arts Centre, with its slate sides echoing the cliffs of South Wales and the quarries in the north. The golden copper façade is inscribed with tall, towering letters over the entrance.

Waterside Statues 

The most popular sculpture can be found at Mermaid Quay, “People like Us” explores the diverse, multicultural nature of old Cardiff Docks and has a couple with their dog standing looking out over the fresh water lagoon as if posing for a family photograph.

Knot

Other groups of people remembered in bronze around the bay are the original Celts with a large Torc necklace by Harvey Hood at Roald Dahl’s Plass, the Miners represented in John Clench’s piece “From Pit to Port” in Britannia Park and the work of the Dockers is celebrated with Andrew Row’s 2000 sculpture “Rope Knot” in car park behind Techniquest and “Ship in a Bottle” by Melissa Gibbs at the end of Windsor Esplanade.

Seamen’s Memorial

Lost at Sea

The more poignant work is the touching memorial created by Brian Fell to the sailors of the Merchant Navy who lost their lives crossing the Atlantic Ocean during the Second World War. This wonderfully tender piece features a face at peace that morphs into the hull of a ship as you walk around it.

Swiss artist Felice Varini has created a mind boggling optical illusion on the Cardiff Bay Barrage. Taken in isolation they just look like meaningless yellow marks, as if the council’s road workers had gone off on one. However, when viewed from a particular point the marks converge into a massive series of concentric circles that engulf the barrage.

Artistic Poems

Drift of Curlews

Poetic interpretations can be found in the more playful and functional works of Gwen Heeney using Dylan Thomas’s poem “Ballard of the long legged bait” they take the form of benches scattered around Britannia Park and beside Roath Basin. “Cargoes” by Brian Fell is a series of 22 plaques on the walls of the Mermaid Quay that take inspiration from John Masefield’s work on Cardiff Docks.

Trawler Weather Vane

The whole bay area is awash with sculptures both great and small, from the large, mirrored pillar in front of the Millennium Arts Centre to the delicate Willow’s clock tower at Mermaid Quay or the decorative weather vane on top of Woods Brasserie. As you take a leisurely stroll around the rejuvenated bay, keep your eyes open and discover the wonderful, outdoor art gallery that covers all corners of Cardiff Bay’s environs and it will take you on an adventure of your very own.

Sculpture Around Mermaid Quay


Follow the link to an interactive map of Cardiff Bay, with details of the sculptures location, artist, date and a description.

If you would like to find out more about exciting day trips and tours around Cardiff or the Welsh countryside or the many other memorable festivals, please contact Travelling Content for more information.

Five Nature Trails in the City

Cardiff is a great place for walking and outdoor exploration; even right up into the town centre itself. The course of the river and the Taff Trail, which stretches from Cardiff Bay, 60 Km north to Brecon, provide some gorgeous Welsh scenery to walk around and its numerous parks, gardens and nature reserves are a joy to stroll through. So for nature enthusiasts, spending time in the capital where can you go to get a spot of fresh air?

Cardiff Bay Trail

Cardiff Bay Trail – Since its rejuvenation the bay has been steadily growing as a destination for walking. When the Ponte Werin People’s Bridge was opened last year it completed a circuit that circumnavigates the fresh water lagoon of Cardiff Bay. Over its 5.5 miles of track you can follow the shoreline, walk through the old docks area and take in the Nature Reserve at Windsor Esplanade, explore the Sports village and marvel at the wonder of the barrage itself. If you don’t feel quite up to the full circuit there are regular river buses along the route that could cut your journey in half and still leave you feeling like you’ve explored this historic area of Cardiff.

Bute Park – Situated behind Cardiff Castle forms a marvellous gentrified country walk in the heart of the city. The trail has footpaths that criss-cross the landscape and traverse the playing fields, then you can meander through the riverside woodland which gives you a peaceful journey along the River Taff, across Blackwier, past the football pitches on Pontcanna Fields to the County Cricket Ground at Sophia Gardens. This is a surprisingly tranquil stroll considering you are in the middle of a busy city.

Wenallt Hills – Looking north from Cardiff you will see the majestic hills of the Wenallt framing the skyline, stretching from Tongwnlais with its beautiful Germanic looking Castell Coch right the way over to the suburbs of Newport. The hills are an area of unspoilt natural beauty that have been preserved and left in tact for people to enjoy. A walk here covers ancient forests, pastures and rugged scrubland. It has steep challenging runs and easy flat sections, a destination for walkers of all abilities. And from its peaks you have unsurpassed views across Cardiff, the Severn estuary to the Somerset Levels.

Glamorganshire Canal Nature Reserve – Below the Coryton roundabout on the M4, just off the A470, you will find this mile long stretch of the old abandoned Glamorganshire Canal that once linked the city to Merthyr and the Rhondda valley. This area of natural wetland has long been the perfect city habitat for many birds, animals and plant life native to the area.  There are plenty of hides and trails for visitors to view the wild life and take stock of  this natural setting in the city landscape. Along with the remnants of the canal is a section of the old coal tramway and the pastoral pleasure of Forest Farm Country Park, all nestled neatly along the banks of the River Taff.

Roath Park – This is a 130-acre, classic Victorian park on the eastern suburbs of Cardiff, laid out in 1894 it has four distinctly different green spaces. The southern edge holds “The Rec” playing fields, this is followed by a formal garden, glass house conservatory and arboretum. The main feature of the park is the large lake with its lighthouse memorial to Captain Scott and the crew of the Terra Nova, which set sail on its fateful voyage from Cardiff Docks. The area to the north of the lake has been left unspoilt as a natural woodland habitat. The park still has an elegant feel to it and has a traditional café, paddleboats and rowing boats for visitors to enjoy during the summer months.

Map showing the locations of the Parks in Cardiff

If you would like to find out more about exciting day trips and tours around Cardiff or the Welsh  countryside or the many other memorable festivals, please contact Travelling Content for more information.

Out and About at Cardiff’s Mardi Gras

Well you’ve worn a feather boa in Rio, caught beads in New Orleans and dressed with a papier-mâché head in Sydney so what LGBT Festivals worthy of note are left? Well one of the most lively and unlikely of destinations is Cardiff in South Wales. Despite having the reputation of rugby, mining and choir singing it has a vibrant and active gay and lesbian scene.

Every year on the first weekend in September, more than 40,000 LGBT revellers descend on the city for a weekend of glittering entertainment with fun and raunchy cabaret. The main party area is the massive expanse of Bute Park behind the gorgeous old Victorian Castle. Here there are marquees, stalls and stages a plenty where people perform and dance the night away.

There are also a number of gay friendly venues throughout the city that are hosting events ranging from theatrical groups, performance and sedate tea dances. There will be a selection of films on show at the Chapter Arts cinema. You are bound to have a weekend swamped with impersonations of Shirley Bassey and Lliza with two “LL’s”, this being Wales and all.

This year you missed the comparing excellence of Fanny Dazzle, Bella Endez and Kitty and Marcia. There were performances from Cardiff based group Fine Line and an exhibition of Urban Freestyle Display on their BMX bikes. As this is Wales you’d have to see the Gay Men’s Chorus and Madis Gras wouldn’t be the same without emo disco, this year provided by Bright Light was a must.

So if you are wondering where to be out, about and proud next year, put September in your calendar for a weekend of top quality free entertainment.

Great Days Out – Romantic Castle Coch near Cardiff

Castell Coch – Red Castle 

Castle Coch, Cardiff

Location:- One mile north of Cardiff’s boundary in the village of Tongwynlais.

An exciting family day trip can be had at the majestic Castle Coch, surrounded by dense woodlands, full of trails, paths and adventure. This fairytale fortress peaks out above the tree line and offers a tantalising view of the past.

The Beautiful Gothic, nineteenth century, revivalist castle just outside Cardiff on the hillside above Tongwynlais is a marvellous example of Victorian romanticism and splendour. The castle is based on the ruined foundations of a former Welsh Lords Keep that was built to protect and defend the wide valley opening of the River Taff.

Drawbridge

By the time of the 13th century the site had been claimed by the De Clare family but with the construction of the much larger Caerphilly Castle, 5 miles north. It soon fell into disuse and ruin and historians in the 16th century were already describing it as being in a ruinous state.

The 3rd Marquis of Bute, Cardiff’s 19th landowner, decided to clear the site and recreate a representation of the original fortifications, as they would have appeared in their heyday. The architect, William Burges however took some liberties with the design by the addition of fluted roofs on the towers, of which there is little evidence of in Britain but felt it added to the overall look of the project. Lord Bute is reputed to have only slept at Castle Coch on four occasions saying he found the apartments cold, damp and uncomfortable.

Castle Interior

The small castle is a wonderfully romantic vision of a building that probably never really existed but it serves as a great example of constructional abilities of the early castle designers. The interior applied decorations provide a marvellous exhibition of the art of stencilling and are well worth the visit. There are also spectacular views down across Cardiff towards Penarth Head and the Somerset countryside beyond the Severn estuary. The surrounding woodland Fforest Fawr on Caerphilly Mountain also presents nicely laid out parkland with well sign posted walks, cycle paths and picnic sites to enjoy.

Aerial View

Anyone looking for a fairytale wedding venue can hire this castle for the occasion. Its size however does restrict the numbers attending, as it can only accommodate small parties.

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