Anyone else feeling like they over-indulged over Christmas? Time to grab the wellies and the woollies and head out for a blast of fresh air at some of the best beauty spots of Cardiff and the surrounding areas. Here’s 25 places we love to visit, and all of them are free (although parking charges apply at some locations).
Open daily, 10am-4pm, September to March
The fairy and gnome woodland trail, and the wild piglet trail are great for families to explore (although bigger buggies and wheechairs may struggle at parts of the latter). There’s also a range of farm animals and an outdoor playground at this farm, which supports and educates vulnerable and disadvantaged young people, who care for the animals. Read our review here.
Since I first wrote this article, Amelia Trust Farm have introduced a nominal entrance fee to support their work. Prices are a reasonable £2 per adult, £1.50 per child, free for children under two, and £5 for a family ticket for up to two adults and three children). It’s still free weekdays during term-time.
Not just a summer destination, Barry Island is perfect for a family walk at this time of year. Walk along the seafront and run off some energy on the beach, scale the lettered climbing wall which spells out Barry Island / Ynys Y Barri, then stop for lunch in one of the cafes or chip shops. It’s easy to get to by bus or train from Cardiff. Most parking is pay and display. Read about our day out here.
A green oasis in the heart of the city centre, Bute Park is 56 hectares of grassland, wooded areas and the River Taff running alongside it. There are paths for scooting and cycling along, plenty of wildlife to spot, trees to climb, wooden carvings to admire, as well as a visitor centre and cafes. Read our review here.
Cardiff Bay Barrage
Perfect for scooters and bikes, the 1km barrage walk stretches from Cardiff Bay to Penarth. There’s a children’s pirate-themed play area, skate park plus educational information points which provide an insight into the history of the Bay, such as an account of Captain Scott’s journey to the Antarctic. Toilet facilities available. Read our review here.
The 247-acre local nature reserve of woodlands and fields used to be a limestone quarry. There’s a great playground area, boardwalks through the reeds and marshland, and a reconstructed medieval village. Entry to the park and village is free. Read our review of Cosmeston Lakes and Medieval Village here.
Dunraven Bay is a half-pebble, half-sand beach. It is nicely secluded, and at low tide there are rock pools for children to explore and fossils to hunt for. It can get really windy though, in which case, explore the walled gardens or walk along the coastal path and enjoy the scenery across the Bristol Channel. Check the tide times before you go as at high tide the beach disappears. Read our review here.
The woodlands around Castell Coch are a beautiful area to explore. A new sculpture trail opened in the summer of 2018, including wooden carvings of different creature who have lived in the forest during its history. The view at the end of the trail across the Garth is stunning. You can read about our visit here.
The area around the former Glamorganshire Canal is a haven for wildlife, with woodland, scrub, meadows, ponds and marshland. Species worth looking out for include mallards, moorhens, coots, kingfishers and dragonflies. You can also see the recently restored Melingriffith Waterpump. Read our review here. There are some lovely sculptures and murals and a natural playground around the visitor centre too which you can read about here.
Garwnant Visitor Centre, near Merthyr
Open daily, 9.30am-4pm. Entry is free but parking charges apply.
The animal puzzle trail at Garwnant is great for families. Children can spot carved animals on the buggy/wheelchair-friendly pathways, plus there’s an adventure playground and a café. There are further walking and biking trails. Read our review here.
Open daily, 9am-5pm. Car parking £3 per day for non-RSPB members.
The haven for wildlife is home to numerous bird species, which can be spotted all year round. Explore the low-slung rubber bridges that go directly through the reed-filled lagoons and on to the East Usk lighthouse and the edge of the estuary. The paths are buggy-friendly, plus there’s an outdoor children’s activity play area and visitor centre with café and toilet facilities. Read our review here.
Cefn Onn is a Grade II listed park in Lisvane, North Cardiff. It’s great place to explore, with woodland, streams, ponds and flowers and wildlife to spot. Most of it is buggy-friendly, although not all areas. Read our review here.
Over 300 acres of grassland, woodland and wetlands, spot the carved badger the reserve is famous for, go pond dipping and spot birds in the hideout. Parc Slip used to be a coal mine, and a beautiful carved statue pays tribute to the 112 men and boys killed in an underground explosion in 1892. Read our review here.
This 658-foot-long pier is great fun to walk along, and is one of only two surviving pleasure piers in South Wales, the other one being Mumbles. Built in 1894, the fully-restored art deco pier pavilion also houses a gallery, cinema, café and restaurant. You can also explore the beach, a combination of pebbles and sand. Read our review here.
A combination of beautiful woodland and meadows, which lead to a pebble beach and cliffs, the 220-acre Porthkerry is perfect for a winter walk. There’s a 12-hole pitch and putt golf course, a wooden adventure playground, plus a shop, café and toilets. Entry is free but you will have to pay for parking on Sundays and bank holiday Mondays. Read a review of our day out at Porthkerry here.
One of Cardiff’s most famous landmarks, Roath Park is perfect if you want a less muddy option! You can walk around the lake, feed the ducks and swans, slide down that amazing slide and play on the playground, and explore the nature gardens, where the paths are perfect for scooters. There’s toilet facilities, a cafe and an ice cream kiosk, plus roadside parking available.
Open daily, 10am-5pm (closed 1st January); parking charges apply, £5 correct change only
As well as more than 100 historical buildings from across Wales reconstructed on the site, including a Victorian school, the Rhyd-y-Car miners’ cottages and the new reconstructed iron age round houses, there are woods and farm land to explore. Cardiff Mummy Says is a blogger ambassador for St Fagans. You can read more of what to expect here.
Walk around the harp-shaped lake and feed the swans and ducks, skateboard in the Richard Taylor Memorial Skateboard Park, explore the Cold Knap pebble beach, walk up onto the headlands if you’re feeling active, or round the corner to the Old Harbour bay. It’s also worth checking out the Roman remains (what is thought to be a major public building from the late 3rd or early 4th century, with a layout of 22 rooms) and walking under the bridge to Romilly Park (pictured), where there’s a good-sized playground.
Most famous for its bluebells in May (as pictured), the Wenallt is 44 hectares of ancient woodland with all manner of flowers and trees to spot. The woods are home to some unusual bird species, such as buzzards and great spotted woodpeckers, as well as badgers and rabbits. On a clear day you can see right across the whole of Cardiff. The views are breath-taking. Read our review here.
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