Cardiff’s parks and green spaces make this one of the greenest cities in the UK. How does walking in the great outdoors make you feel? Peaceful? Blissful? Reflective? For many of us, with little else to leave the house for beyond a daily walk, lockdown brought a new appreciation of nature and what it means for our well-being, and the health benefits of immersing ourselves in greenspace are not to be sniffed at.
There is something seriously wholesome about a trip to Roath Park; think Mary Poppins taking the Banks children for their walk after luncheon.
The park is centred around the 30 acre lake, with Victorian-style gardens and paths, lawns and wild wooded areas. Hiring a boat and getting out on the lake is one of those iconic Cardiff memories you need to do at least once while you’re here. Miles of gravel paths make Roath Park popular with runners, and at the Penylan Road end, the Roath Recreation Ground is a huge playing field, the home of Welsh baseball, with basketball courts and football and rugby pitches, and is a mecca for sunseekers once the summer comes around.
On foot/by bike: If you are a Cardiff Met student, it’s right on your doorstep, just walk out of the Cyncoed campus and head down Cefn-Coed Road. If you live towards the Cathays campus, go along Richmond Road then turn up Mackintosh Place all the way to the top. Turn right down Morlais St and when you get to the end, the park will be right in front of you.
By bus: If you are coming from the city centre, the 58 will drop you at the
Penylan Library stop, right at the end of the Recreation Ground, and for the lake, you need the 28.
All roads lead to Bute Park, the green, beating heart at the centre of the city.
There is nowhere else like Bute Park for that feeling of the great outdoors just a few minutes walk from your front door. Several of the trees in the arboretum are the tallest or widest of their species in the UK; perfect for sheltering under in a sudden downpour. Miles of footpaths and cycle tracks lead you along the river and under the trees, with plenty of space to meet up for a picnic, play a game of football or just sit and read a book.
In normal times – 2021, we’re looking hopefully at you here – Coopers Fields, the wide, flat space immediately behind the castle is home to various festivals and outdoors events through the summer, as well as a belter of a firework display in November. Caffeine seekers should head to the Secret Garden Café – follow the signs to the Education Centre, the café’s just next door – for a takeaway coffee to sip as you walk, or grab a seat if you can and enjoy the walled garden setting and a delicious salad box for lunch.
It’s immediately behind the castle, you really can’t miss it. Access it from North Rd, next to the Royal Welsh College of M&D, or use the entrance on Castle St, next to the Pettigrew Tea Rooms.
If your parents are National Trust member-types, this might be one to save for when they visit; there’s free parking on site if you do. Insole Court is a gothic Victorian mansion, with a mix of formal gardens and wilder woodland areas perfect for picnics or a weekend stroll. When you’ve explored the grounds, it’s worth going into the house for a look round –the exhibition is ticketed, but there’s plenty to see for free–and the second hand bookshop in the butler’s pantry is worth a rummage if you are someone who likes to have a paperback with them at all time.
The Potting Shed Café is open Monday to Saturday, currently takeaway only, but there are lots of large outdoor tables where you can enjoy their homemade, ethically produced food, often made from the produce grown on site in the community garden.
On foot/by bike: Access is available from the North Gate on Fairwater Road (main entrance), the South Gate on Vaughan Avenue and the East Gate on Insole Gardens. Bike parking is near the Dairy or in front of the mansion.
By bus: The nearest bus that operates between Cardiff city centre and Insole Court is the 66 (Cardiff Bus). Get off on Fairwater Road at Rookwood Close, walk back 150m to the North gate.
If you are from Wales, you will definitely have been here on a school trip, but don’t let that put you off. This is an open air museum covering around 100 acres of parkland. The museum records the history of Wales, and more than 40 historical buildings have been dismantled from all across Wales and rebuilt on the site, so you can visit farmhouses, a terrace of iron workers cottages, churches and a Victorian school. Dr Who fans will recognise several of the buildings that have been used as locations. Pick up a map at the entrance and hit the footpaths: you’ll see horses, pigs, cows and sheep near the rural buildings, and for a Jane
Austen moment head up the hill past the ornamental fishpond for the more formal gardens surrounding the manor house.
By bus: From Cardiff city centre, the Easyway 32A stops in the main car park of the Museum.