Take a trip to Cardiff and the South Coast!
Published: Thursday 23rd Oct 2014
Written by: Ginnie James
I don’t get down to Cardiff and its coastal area very often these days so I persuaded a good friend of mine to write about how she spent her time there recently. Thanks very much Chris! I don’t know about anyone else, but after reading this I have a real hankering to re-visit our wonderful capital!
City, coast, country and culture. Or ‘How to spend a couple of days in South Wales when you’re visiting family’!
I spent last weekend down in south-east Wales, my husband’s home patch and a land of great contrasts. We could have just stayed in and around his family home but decided to take a bit of time to ourselves and headed for Cardiff, the exciting and cosmopolitan capital of Wales. Cardiff itself is a great commercial centre with lots of beautiful Edwardian shopping arcades and huge stores like John Lewis. But a short walk away from all that, and with an inquisitive 4 year old in tow, we headed for the museum, in fact the National Museum of Wales in the city’s Civic Centre with pretty Cathays Park to the rear.
There’s always something interesting on at the Museum and, as well as regular workshops and treasure trails, the current family-friendly offering is I Spy… Nature. This is a hands-on exhibition allowing you to try your hand at observing and recording nature, getting up close and personal looking at lots of different natural history objects under the microscope. Find out how Victorian naturalists sketched the natural world or how modern technology allows scientists to image objects in 3-D. Young visitors can find out what sort of explorer they are – and then get all dressed up in the appropriate outfit and go round the gallery in character. Much enjoyed by my young explorer!
Stepping out into a very pleasant afternoon, we headed for Bute Park, easily accessed on foot via a subway that comes out by one of the park’s entrances behind Cardiff Castle. This extensive park in the heart of the city really is ‘bute-iful’ (oh dear!) and boasts a significant arboretum, stunning planting, an education centre, abundant wildlife and – importantly for us – lots of natural play features for youngsters. Oh, and several cafes too! The parkland runs alongside the River Taff, there are self-led walking trails and it’s also popular for cyclists. Bute Park has a fascinating history, from an area used for agriculture and cottage industries 1000 years ago to its donation (along with the castle) to the people of Cardiff by the fifth Marquess of Bute in 1947. Don’t miss it when you visit the city.
The following day was bright and sunny and we fancied a short trip to the seaside. The Glamorgan Heritage Coast lies to the west of Cardiff (perfect for ‘valleys’ visitors!) and boasts wonderful sandy beaches at the likes of Porthcawl and Ogmore. Not to mention stunning geology and dramatic rocks and cliffs backed by lovely rolling countryside. To find out all about the area and what it has to offer, go to the Visitor Centre at Dunraven Bay, Southerndown. For a taste of the other-worldly, your kids (and no doubt you too!) will be fascinated by Merthyr Mawr sand dunes. These are one of the most amazing landscapes in Britain - honestly, it’s like a desert in South Wales! The biggest sand dune in Europe is the Big Dipper and next time we go, we’ll make sure we have a sledge with us. So, a brilliant weekend was had by all (and we made it back in time for tea at Auntie Ada’s!).