Approximate distance: 3 miles
Walked 25th May 2012
Cardiff Council have responsibility for the footpath up to the far side of the Cardiff Bay Barrage. Their Coastal access Officer is Tricia Cottnam. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whilst I was more than happy to have finished yesterday’s walk when I did, the Premier Inn (Cardiff City South) is still a mile or so from the best bits of Cardiff. The next day I contemplated just heading for the station and getting the train back to Chepstow as my feet were still pretty tender. But it was a beautiful day and although my feet would have been glad to have rested, I was determined to press on. For the sake of avoiding giving you indigestion and to do justice to Cardiff’s attractions, I will do a post just for crossing Cardiff.
Re-joining the path at the exotic roundabout, you need to keep on the right hand side of the road. Basically keep going straight ahead (over a roundabout, under a flyover) until you reach the Novohotel Hotel. Turn left here down Schooner Way. Shortly afterwards you get a glimpse of East Bute Dock through the entrance to a block of apartments. There is nothing to stop you from walking through here. It brings you to the dock side; its vast rectangular sheet of water makes a pleasing contrast to the city centre environment.
This area of the city is called Atlantic Wharf.
Walk down the side of the dock, passing The Wharf Bars and Restaurant, with the Eben Haezer sailing barge moored opposite.
Crossing over a small bridge, take a look back at the restaurant and appreciate what a good conversion they have made of it.
Just by the bridge is the Holiday Inn Express. The path continues alongside the dock to the bottom, passing round the side of Cardiff County Hall. On the corner of the dock a wide brick path brings you into the County Hall car park.
At the roundabout opposite, turn right and follow Hemingway Road past the Atlantic Wharf Travelodge hotel. If you wanted a base for a night on the town this would have probably been your best value hotel to have chosen to stay in.
At the junction turn left at the traffic lights (the road signs are directing you to Cardiff Bay). And indeed it is only a few hundred yards away. A wide pedestrian way brings you to the Millennium Centre.
It is a stunning building, known locally as the Armadillo. The steel cladding has been treated with copper oxide to give the coppery look. Inscribed on the front, above the main entrance, are two lines, written by Welsh poet Gwyneth Lewis. The Welsh version is “Creu Gwir fel gwydr o ffwrnais awen”, which means “Creating truth like glass from the furnace of inspiration”. The English is “In These Stones Horizons Sing.” (I don’t know either). The lettering is formed by windows in the upstairs bar areas and are internally illuminated at night. The centre houses the national orchestra and opera, dance, theatre and literature companies, with a total of eight arts organisations in residence.
Opposite the centre is a 70 feet high stainless steel clad tower, with a constant stream of water running down its sides. This stands at the top of the Roald Dahl Plass, both designed by artist William Pye, in conjunction with Nicholas Hare Architects.
In my view, impressive though this giant water feature is, and much as I like his work, it rather clashes with the Millennium Centre’s architecture. The oval shaped Plass, with its surrounding pillars is used for concerts.
Followers of the TV series Torchwood will know that their headquarters is situated below the tower. One of the paving tiles in the square is a decoy which hides an “invisible lift” leading down to the base. It seems odd that the location of such a secretive organisation is so widely known. Anyway, it wasn’t open when I was there.
This area is almost too full of striking buildings – a bit like a modern day Florence! Just a little further on, to the left of a fairground carousel (which looks totally out of place), is the building of the National Assembly for Wales. But before having a quick look around that walk under the bridge and take a look at the wonderful expanse of Cardiff Bay.
Boat trips run from here and the area is buzzing with shops and restaurants.
Entrance to the National Assembly is free (though security controlled). The interior has a beautiful wooden mushroom which rises to become the ceiling which then spreads outside the building. Not to be missed.
The path goes in front of The National Assembly and heads for the Cardiff Bay Barrage along paths waymarked for the Penarth Marina and other attractions en route. You pass a replica Norwegian Seafarers Church, another reference to Roald Dahl, both of whose parents were Norwegian.
After the church you pass over a bridge and the blue and grey building of the Dr Who Experience (opened July 2012 – I want to go! ) is on the right. The path turns to run by a closed off lock, past the Cardiff Sailing Centre and heads straight for the barrage. Beyond a road to your left is the sea with proper waves! To the right a grass bank with a patch of quite nice planting goes down to the bay.
The barrage is an impressive piece of engineering. It was completed in 1999 and the impounding of the River Taff and River Ely created a 490-acre freshwater lake.
The funky, painted yellow stripes on the 3 lock gates are in fact a work of art entitled “3 Ellipses for 3 Locks” by the Swiss Artist Felice Varini and cost £25,000.
Immediately after the barrage you can see into Penrath Marina. Facing the barrage is the settlement of Penarth and an imposing but semi derelict building next to which is the not derelict Custom House, which is now home to El Puerto Restaurant. You might like to pop in for a bite.