You may have spied that I recently ventured west to Bath for a Great British city ‘wellness break’, and through my escapades around that wonderful place, I wondered what lay further beyond, more westward still in the British Isles… this weekend, as a guest of the charming team at Visit Wales, I discovered precisely that. On a bank holiday city break to Cardiff, the capital city of Wales, I hiked the beautiful Taff Trail and toured the Millennium ‘Principality’ Stadium ahead of the UEFA Champions League final in June ! Here’s what I discovered…
Getting there was a breeze. I hopped on a flyer out of Paddington, just rested my eyes for a second (2 hours!), and the next thing, I was in Cardiff. This city of 350k people is the engine of Wales and has ancient roots in a Celtic past. In fact, their own Bretonic-Celtic language bears some similarities to Scandinavian ones, thanks to the old Norse commonalities. However, to the untrained ear, it basically sounds like Elvish!
THE TAFF TRAIL
Shortly after arriving I ventured up to Radyr on the outskirts of Cardiff and joined the 7.4km path back to Cardiff Bay where I was staying at The St. David’s Hotel. Whilst the weather was on the verge of rain, the raw beauty of this stretch of Welsh countryside remained undimmed in its natural, verdant splendour.
The trail is so called because it runs parallel to the eponymous River Taff, which flows out into the Bristol Channel. It passes some pretty special sites as you meander along, the likes of Llandaff Cathedral and Cardiff University etc. It’s worth noting that I only took a section of the trail to task, and that there’s a route running all the way up past Merthyr Tydfil to Brecon, should you wish. That’s far hillier and an altogether longer commitment, but with stunning views from altitude.
Along the way, I must have encountered 25 dogs being walked (some of which took quite an affinity to me), 50 runners (none of whom took an affinity to me thankfully) and 75 cyclists powering out the route.
Upon my return, I took some time to appreciate the most successful urban regeneration program in the UK, Cardiff Bay. There I refuelled before heading back to the hotel for a full body massage in their Marine Spa, and an early night of restorative sleep!
First thing the next morning I dispatched to the Principality Stadium, home of the Welsh Rugby Union, which was formerly known as the Millennium Stadium (so called for obvious reasons). This is a seriously beautiful piece of sporting architecture and an imposing one at that. Capable of holding 74,500 passionate souls, it has a retractable roof with 800k tonnes of steel which takes 20 minutes to open (and costs just £5.00 in electricity each time they do it!)
Here they’re regrowing the ‘Desso’ grass, which is 3% artificial fibre, and 97% real grass – that combination enables the saving of millions in operating costs each year for accommodating non-pitch-oriented events, the likes of pop concerts (e.g. Biebs 30th June / Coldplay 11th July!)
It’s a site steeped in rich sporting history, much of which I discovered through a seriously passionate guide. Many significant Rugby and Football fixtures have unfolded here over the years, especially between 2000-2007 (whilst Wembley was being made match-fit), culminating in the UEFA Champions League final on June 3rd.
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