A trip to Wales – Cardiff, Tintern, Usk, Cardiff Bay and Castell Coch

On the road…

‘Scuse the lack of updates – but we’ve been shuffling about the countryside a tad recently.

On Tuesday, we headed up to lovely, lovely Wales, arriving in Cardiff with time to catch a few bevies in the mellow-but-friendly Pantmawr pub, north Cardiff.

The next day we jumped in the motor with a car full of kids and explored the beautiful Wye Valley, stopping off at the Wordsworth-inspiring remains of Tintern Abbey before grabbing coffee at the old railway station at Tintern.

Tintern railway station
Tintern old railway station, Wye Valley

There’s something a little odd about driving to a disused station to admire the view, but I guess that just shows how daft it was to close the line in the first place – if they’d kept it open, it would be become a tourist magnet and kept a load of stinky, noisy traffic of the road.

Anyway, we continued our exploration of the valley with a pub lunch at Redbrook, a once bustling port and ironworks on the Wye.

After taking a stroll around the town, we drove to the flower-laden town of Usk, a small Welsh village that has won many ‘Britain in Bloom’ competitions and clearly wishes to keep on winning them.

The evening was a disappointment: we walked down to the Pendragon pub in Thornhill – a large, modern pub utterly bereft of atmosphere and people. The Brains ale tasted fine and went down a treat mind, so maybe it’s unfair to judge the place on a wet Wednesday night.

Cardiff Bay
Looking across Cardiff Bay

Thursday we took the full family junior contingent down to Cardiff Bay for some button pushing, lever yanking, capstan turning fun at TechnoQuest, a large interactive science facility for kids.

Naturally, there seemed to be more adults than kids ‘testing’ the various games of skill and science, but it kept most of the kids happy for most of the time (the youngest teenager declared everything ‘boring’ – only after he’d be playing with it for 20 minutes, of course).


Cardiff Bay (aka Cardiff Docks/Bute Town/Tiger bay in the 1980s)

Cardiff Bay continues to develop apace, with new restaurants, bars and shops opening up at a rate of knots. I barely recognise it from the muddy wastelands of my youth.

In the evening, we got quietly drunk in the Butchers Arms in Rhiwbina, an old haunt of mine from years ago which still feels like an authentic pub.

Castell Coch
Castell Coch

Friday, we checked out the fabulous opulence of Castell Coch, a fairytale redbrick castle jutting out of a wooded hillside in north Cardiff.

The indulgence of the Victorian zillionaire Lord Bute (who was reckoned to be the richest man on the world at the time), this Gothic fantasy is well worth a visit – and I can’t recommend their cafe enough. Their hand cooked Welsh cakes were a triumph!

After a delightful walk around Fforest Fawr, we hit the bright lights of Cardiff city centre, grabbing a coffee and cake in Morgan Arcade (Lordy, it’s sounding like all we did was drink and fill our faces!)

Cardiff vs Plymouth
Cardiff vs Plymouth

Of course the big event of the week was Cardiff’s home game against Plymouth- my first match of the season!

Suitably lubricated after a snifter or two at the Romilly Arms, we skipped down Sloper Road, confident of a handsome home win.

Sadly, City let us down again. They put in a dreadful performance against a truly average Plymouth who used ever dirty, low-down, steeenkin’ trick in the book to hang on to their 1-0 lead.

Much drinks were needed in the Pantmawr afterwards to remove all memory of the game – although my throat remained horrendously sore after 90 minutes of effin’ and blinding at my useless team/dodgy ref/manager/weather conditions etc etc…