Cardiff Day trips: Discover Wales at its finest

Spring has sprung, so let me take you on a tour of the best Cardiff has to offer and make the most of the fresh air and cheap activities

Spring finally seems to have arrived so now is the time to put away those winter clothes, come out from hibernation and step into the fresh air.

A recent National Trust survey found people are turning to less costly simple pleasures such as spending time in beautiful places to get them through the gloom of the recession.  So here is a tour of the best places to visit in and around Cardiff.
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Start with Cardiff Castle, which is slap-bang in the middle of the city centre. Once a Roman fort, the site dates back to the end of the 50s AD, but the present building is relatively new.
The third Marquess of Bute and the architect William Burges transformed it in 1866 into a Welsh Victorian Camelot with themed rooms, including Mediterranean gardens and Italian and Arabian decoration.
It costs nothing to wander the grounds with its resident peacocks and climb the Norman keep, but a ticket to go inside is £8.95 for an adult and £6.35 for children.
Call 029 2087 8100 or email cardiffcastle@cardiff.gov.uk for more details.

Walking or cycling the Taff Trail is a more active way to spend the day and it is totally free. It stretches from Cardiff Bay to Brecon, so there are a choice of places to start.
A short walk from Cardiff Castle is Bute Park. From there, go north along the river, coming out at Hailey Park. Don’t forget to take a pair of binoculars because herons, swans and even cormorants are often on the river.
Continue past Llandaff Rowing club to Tongwynlais and onto Taffs Well for a vista of Castell Coch.  Check out the Cycle the Taff Trail website at www.tafftrail.org.uk for more routes and cycling tips.

Cardiff Castle

The Norman keep at Cardiff Castle

The third Marquess of Bute was the richest man in the world and once he had finished transforming Cardiff Castle, his next project was Castell Coch, also known as the fairy tale castle.

Set in hills, it has a moat and the rooms are elaborately decorated with paintings of Aesop’s fables. It can be reached by bike on the Taff Trail or by car on the A470. Entry is £3.60 for an adult and £3.20 for a concession.

A more peaceful walk is to the top of Gwaelod-y-Garth, a mountain which looks down on Cardiff, Methyr Tydfil and even Weston Super-Mare on a clear day. It was thought to be the inspiration for the film An English Man Who Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain, starring Hugh Grant. After a long days’ walk, pop into The Gwaelod Y Garth Inn, which has an excellent menu and some good ales.
Pentyrch and Taffs Well sit either side of the mountain, so it is a good idea to plan a route from one village to the other, unless you like walking in circles.

A more demanding day out can be spent at Adventure Cardiff, based at Channel View centre. It offers a host of watersports for all ages and abilities including sailing, canoeing, sea kayaking and even windsurfing in a 500-acre freshwater lake . A one-day course costs £55 and it caters for school trips too. Call 029 2035 3912 for more details or go to www.adventurecardiff.com.

Golfing requires skill more than stamina and can be played in clubs across Cardiff. The Vale Hotel Golf and Spa Resort, off junction 34 of the M4 is particularly worth visiting as it is home of the Welsh Professional Golfers Association and boasts two championship golf courses.
The Sunday Driver Golf Break, which includes one night accommodation, meals, use of the golf course and lesuire facilities, is on offer from £90. Call 01443 667800 or visit www.vale-hotel.com.

Long before Barry became Gavin-and-Stacey-land, it was famous for  Barry Island’s beach and pleasure park. It is worth a family visit, and on a warm day expect it to be packed with people relaxing on the sands, sitting in cafes or riding the log flume and pirate ship. It is only an inexpensive 20-minute train ride or bus journey away.

There are plenty of choices for a day out and they are the perfect way to relax and have a good time, so let’s hope Cardiff will have a spring awakening after the cold winter.

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