Living in Cardiff is really, really wonderful. It’s the capital city and is buzzing with things to do, places to visit and there is always something interesting going on. People are super friendly, there are great places to eat and drink, lovely parks and the beautiful Cardiff Bay to lounge around in the sunshine. And what’s more, you’re never too far from the countryside.
If, like me, you’re a country bumpkin at heart, escaping the city every now and again is essential. I love the hustle and bustle of city life but sometimes it can get overwhelming, and a day in the countryside brings a sense of calm and peace. Luckily in Cardiff you can easily access the mountains or the sea, and there are so many treasures in the neighbouring Vale of Glamorgan that I didn’t know of before I moved to the capital.
The Vale is a mainly rural county, but is a stone’s throw away from Cardiff. It’s got a little bit of everything, from the colourful beach huts on Barry Island (where hit sitcom Gavin and Stacey was filmed) to the dramatic Glamorganshire Heritage Coast. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I regularly head to some of the spots below on days or evenings out and, I’m sure you will have seen from photos, just how beautiful they are. Of course, there are so many places that I am yet to visit but these below are my favourites.
This little market town provides the perfect escape from city life. It’s considered one of Wales’ most fashionable places and hosts an array of independent shops, boutiques and eateries. My mam and I love visiting there and walking along the streets and hidden alleyways, grabbing a drink and a cake in the coffee shop gardens and treating ourselves to a little shopping (I love the shop Stwff-Stuff for treats and trinkets!). There are great antique centres and fab art and craft workshops, particularly in the Old Wool Barn Centre, too. The Bear Hotel is also on my list for grabbing a Sunday lunch at too, it looks incredible!
Another place that is not to be missed, and situated right in the town centre, are the Cowbridge Psychic Gardens. The plants there were found in Britain before 1800 and they all have medicinal properties. We have visited in the spring when the blossom is in full bloom and also in the summer, when the gardens are an array of beautiful colour. It’s a lovely place to just walk around and to take in the sights and smells of the seasons.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned Penarth in some of my other posts, but this seaside town is just a stone’s throw from Cardiff and you can easily walk there along the barrage from Cardiff Bay, or you could catch the water taxi right from Bute Park in the city centre if you fancied a different way of travelling through the city (I’ve done it before and it’s pretty fun!). It’s nicknamed the “garden by the sea” and is famous for its beautiful Victorian pier and pretty parks. In fact, in the Victorian era it was the seaside resort of choice and many of its buildings still hint to the past today.
We love heading to Penarth and grabbing some sausage and chips from Plassey Fish Bar, then taking them to Penarth Head to eat and take in views of the Severn Estuary and across the waters to Devon. No trip is complete without a walk along the Pier, which features the Waterloo Tea Rooms and even has a gallery and cinema, and if you’re fancying dessert, grab an ice cream from Mario’s on the Pier Pavilion. In the town centre you’ll find some lovely independents and charity shops, as well as fabulous restaurants and coffee shops.
This charming little town was the most important early Christian settlement in Wales founded by St Illtud in 500 AD, and its narrow roads and colourful cottages provide the perfect place for a weekend wander. However, we love an evening drive to Llantwit Major for a walk along the beach and coastal path. It’s so peaceful and as you walk along you’ll discover secret coves, rolling farmland and pretty woodland. I really love it and always feel grateful to have this little gem right on our doorstep.
Southerndown / Dunraven Bay
This glorious beach is one of my favourite places on the planet. Dunraven Bay, also known as Southerndown because of its nearby village, is a remote haven that is popular with locals and tourists alike. It forms part of the Glamorgan Heritage Coast and from here you can easily walk along the Wales Coastal Path, to other amazing beaches like Ogmore-by-Sea or to lesser-known spots like the stunning lighthouse at Nash Point.
Some of my happiest days out have been walking this stretch of coastline. Southerndown is also a great surf spot and has a rich history as there is evidence that the site has been occupied since the Iron Ages. A short walk from the carpark you will find the remains of Dunraven Castle, and it’s also a good place to fossil hunt. In my opinion, it is one of the best places to take in the sunset too.
Cosmeston Lakes Country Park
This beautiful spot is 100 hectares large and a haven for wildlife. From Norman times the ownership of the country park has been connected with that of Cardiff Castle and for over 80 years (1886 – 1970) it was used as a quarry. I actually didn’t know a lot about its history until I started researching for this blog post, but interestingly many of the towns that rapidly grew in South Wales because of the coal mining industry used Cosmeston’s limestone to make cement.
Following its quarry years it sadly became a landfill site, but it is now an important site for conservation after a government white paper in 1966 recommended the establishment of publicly accessible country parks close to large towns and cities. It opened in 1978 and is still being improved and looked after today. Now it has beautiful lakes and wildflower meadows, and you can slowly wander around or take a picnic. It’s the ideal place for a dog walk too!
Have you visited any of these places? Where are your favourites?