As well as an incredible castle Cardiff has no less than eight elegant Victorian and Edwardian shopping arcades – my view that we couldn’t leave without visiting at least one was not shared by Husband and Son, but I put my foot down. Literally across the road from the castle gates we stumbled upon Castle Arcade, a labyrinth of delightful shops, stalls and cafes. All wrought iron and ornate, much to Son’s delight these were not the usual “boring” (his words) shops, their offerings far more quirky, unusual and interesting. Browsing was done and in the end it was Son who had to be dragged away when I was all shopped out.
Not just quirky shops, this arcade had a plethora of great looking eating establishments. Hunger rearing its head, we just opted for the first one we came to, no issue at all with that. We feasted on tomato and basil soup, served with a hunk of rustic bread in an enamel pan – presentation as well as taste got top marks. A pat of homemade butter on the side – it doesn’t get much better than that.
Shopping and eating complete, we ventured back towards the castle. Having spotted the clock tower on the way in to the castle we decided to take a closer look from the outside. It is ornate, colourful and fairytale like. The turrets and towers on this side of the castle are all from the 19th century, but this beauty of a tower dominates it all. William Burgess, that eccentric architect who let his Gothic creativity loose on the interior was allowed to take charge of the outside too. This and the quirky animal wall – a collection of stone animals along the perimeter wall – are thanks to him.
Our day finished with a stroll around Bute Park – the green heart of the city and a real oasis of quiet. This was once part of the castle estate, but like the castle was given by the Bute family to the people of Cardiff. Canny sorts those Butes, they didn’t give the estate to the “city” of Cardiff, they gave it to the “people.” It’s all about the words, this meant that everyone who lives in Cardiff has free access to the castle and the council or powers that be will never be able to sell off any of the park land or allow building to take place there. Clever!
The park is beautiful – flanked by the River Taff, Sophia Gardens and the castle it is so peaceful and hard to imagine you’re right in the middle of a big city. We watched the water taxis on their way to and from Cardiff Bay and then just strolled. Plenty of space – it is 56 hectares or as Son preferred 75 football pitches in size, one of the largest urban parks in Wales.
Shady paths with colourful flowers, we found some strange stone formations which apparently commemorated an Eisteddfod.
The path is a mix of historic landscapes, woodland, arboretum and a river – the perfect spot to chill out in the middle of the busy city. The perfect end to our great day in Cardiff.