From 1893 Henry Oakley created these labyrinthine paths which twist around above and below ground. James Pulham & Son constructed the man-made dark mysterious grottoes, interspersed with caverns into which natural light filters allowing water lilies, fuchsias and begonias to flourish. After WW11 the gardens were neglected, to the extent that the grottoes were earthed up. More recently they have been re-discovered and renovated.
There are ponds, a fountain, a bog garden with an Indian bean tree and giant rhubarb. Magnificent pine trees are dotted about, formal flower beds and fairy signs for children to seek out.
They sell a small selection of plants next to the friendly cafe where our sandwiches were made for us. A lovely day out in an extraordinary setting.
The Taff Trail is a 55 mile route that starts in bustling Cardiff Bay and ends in the lovely market town of Brecon. It is unique in offering a series of accessible varied rides lasting from a few hours to a whole day. For example, you could do a short ride to Castell Coch a fairytale folly castle or a longer trip to the Bunch of Grapes pub near Pontypridd which serves great food and real ales. Serious cyclists might consider carrying panniers and staying overnight in Brecon. Accomodation options range from a basic tent to a luxury hotel! Don't have a bike? They can be easily hired from Pedal Power, who cater for all ages and abilities.
Castle Hill, Tongwynlais, Cardiff CF15 7JS
+44(0)29 2081 0101
Google map: bit.ly/HjwddT
Ynysyngharad Road, Pontypridd, CF37 4DA
Google map: bit.ly/H0cQY9
Off Dogo Street, Cardiff, CF11 9JJ
+44(0) 7775 616411
Google map: bit.ly/GZLVJ6
This restaurant is simply excellent. It serves pure vegetarian Asian food (no fish or eggs are used in the cooking) at affordable prices. The menu has over 100 dishes so you can really keep going back again and again trying something new each time. If you like tofu, paneer and dahl (to name just a few of their ingredients used) you'll love coming to this restaurant. As well as Indian dishes they also serve oriental dishes which are noodle based. My favourite dish is Masala Dosa, a huge pancake of spiced potato which also arrives with a spicy soup and cooling coconut chutney on the side. It tastes just as good as in the bustling cafes of India I remember so fondly. An added bonus is that although they don't have a drink licence you can take your own alcohol into the restaurant. Not to be missed!
This castle can easily be seen emerging from the trees on a hillside beside the M4 (junction 32). It has a fairytale appearance even when passing at speed, but entering the castle takes this feeling of enchantment further. Unlike most castles this one is relatively modern (although built on ancient foundations) and is the result of money and Victorian imagination taken to the extreme. It was built as an elaborate holiday retreat for the 3rd marquess of Bute at the end of the 19th century. Its walls are beautifully decorated with intricate paintings of many things, including Aesop's Fables in one room. The furniture and decor is wonderfully over the top and bizarre. There is also Caerphilly Castle 5 minuites drive away, with all the splendor of a decayed ancient castle but Castell Coch brings history to life in a fantastically refreshing way to adults and children alike. It is reasonably priced and also has a lovely, if small, tea room.
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