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.
If you visit Cardiff in Wales then Cardiff Castle is an excellent attraction.
Allow several hours to walk around and it is a decent sized castle.
It is right on the edge of the city centre and very easy to get to.
There are not many cities where you would recommend the centre of local government as a place to while away an hour or two, but Cardiff is one of them. This area, less than a mile from the hustle and bustle of the Queen Street shops, has an air of calm dignity about it as befits the site of the very moving war memorial, with its fountains and quiet places to sit. It's very different from the buzz of the Bay.
Cardiff's Civic Centre has some of the most beautiful Portland stone buildings in Britain, classic architectural delights, and not at all besmirched by the sooty signs of the area's industrial past I had expected when I came here to university twenty years ago! It's also home to the National Museum of Wales (free admission, of course), a museum befitting its title and thus all things Cambrian, but also hosting some terrific travelling exhibtions from time to time - the Dinosaurs still linger in my memory two decades after I saw them.
Even though it's also next to the main buildings of Cardiff University, this is an area ideal for a lunchtime picnic or stroll - but if you prefer, there are a couple of excellent pubs such as "The Woody" [ properly, The Woodville, if I recall rightly] on Woodville Road and within staggering distance of Cathays Halt station with a fine selection of real ales.
Boulevard de Nantes, Cathays (pronounced Kataze), Cardiff. Nearest station, Cathays, Park Road (next to university union: services to Cardiff Central and the valleys).
A romantic, fairytale castle just outside Cardiff. Rebuilt from a medieval ruin, its gothic interior is crammed with ornate murals, lavish gilding and elaborate wood carvings.
If you like this over-the-top style, you might also want to visit Cardiff Castle in the centre of the city. Both were designed by William Burges.
On the A470 at Tongwynlais, about five miles north-west of Cardiff.
A lovely park with a huge lake to feed the ducks or hire a boat. There’s a great playground for children, lovely rose gardens and an impressive greenhouse. Also in the park is a memorial lighthouse dedicated to Captain Scott, the South Pole explorer, who set sail on his final, ill-fated voyage from Cardiff.
My favourite green space in Cardiff is a section of the old Glamorgan canal, which was used to transport coal down from the valleys out to the Cardiff docks. You begin by walking along the canal, through a green tunnel of trees, alive with wildlife. Halfway along you can fork off left to Forest Farm, or to the right, where you cross a lock, climb up a steep hill and look back down at the canal through the canopy of beech trees. It’s a very peaceful place and there’s so much wildlife to see at all times of the year.
It's a brilliant free outdoor museum 10 minutes west of the centre showing how Welsh people lived, worked and spent their spare time through the ages. Set in 100 acres of beautiful parkland in the grounds of St Fagans castle, a 16th-century manor house, over 30 buildings have been painstakingly moved from various parts of Wales and reassembled brick by brick. Native farm animals roam the fields and farmyards, and there’s a working flour mill and blacksmith. There are also some great old-fashioned shops including a baker’s and a sweet shop. The village of St Fagans itself is worth a look, with pretty thatched-roof cottages, a picturesque cricket ground and decent pub.
The best place to watch the world go by is down at Cardiff Bay, which has witnessed so much pass by itself. Originally the site of the docks which exported Welsh coal worldwide, by the 1980s Tiger Bay was a mass of derelict land and abandoned buildings. The regeneration began with the controversial barrage which flooded the bay, and now the area houses a cinema complex, restaurants, piers, clubs, bars, museums, designer apartment complexes, the Welsh assembly and the Wales Millennium Centre, the home of Welsh opera and seven other arts and culture organisations. The coffee shops and bars which now line the water’s edge at Mermaid Quay are the perfect place to watch it all come alive - by day or night.
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