Keen to visit all of the countries that compose the United Kingdom, I planned a weekend trip to Wales at the end of February with dreams of hunting castles and learning more about Welsh culture.
In the week leading up to the trip, I found myself exhausted from recent weekends spent travelling and decided nothing sounded better than waking up in London on a Sunday. So, I decided to prioritise my time in Wales and aim to see as much as possible in one day.
Fortunately, Cardiff is only a two hour, direct train ride from London. Four hours may seem like a lot of time to spend on a train in a single day, but when it’s a few in the early morning and a few in the evening (after being exhausted), the time really does fly by.
One day isn’t nearly enough time to get to know Wales- I’d love to do a return trip to hike Snowdonia National Park and drive along the coast to see small towns like Tenby. Cardiff was though, a great day trip from London to see two lovely castles and explore a new-to-me city.
5 Things to Do on One Day in Cardiff
Take the train 20 minutes to Caerphilly to see the oldest castle in Wales: My day began here, the train to/from Caerphilly from Cardiff Central or Queen Street is an easy trip. From the station, it’s a quick 10 minute walk to the castle.
The castle itself is fascination- it’s huge and surrounded by a deep moat. From the BBC-
Unlike the castles in Harlech and Caernarfon, Caerphilly Castle was not built by the master castle builder Edward I, but by the nobleman Gilbert ‘The Red’ de Clare, Lord of Glamorgan.
It was built to defend against Llywelyn ap Gruffydd (‘Llywelyn The Last’), the last Prince of a united Wales before the conquest of Edward I.
The castle was, and still is, huge. It was Britain’s first concentric castle, with a ring of shallow lakes surrounding it. It is one of the biggest fortresses in Europe, and the second largest in Britain, behind only Windsor Castle.
Walking the castle ruins was incredible. I spent a few hours roaming the perimeter, courtyard and admiring Welsh countryside views from the top of the retaining walls. Caerphilly was everything I imagined castles in the UK would be.
On my way back to the train, I popped in The Courtyard, a pub next to the castle with great views, for their lunch deal. A cheese toastie, chips and a pint for under £6? Score! If you’re in the mood for another pint, the King’s Arms is a cosy pub in the centre of Caerphilly.
Visit Cardiff Castle, right in the heart of the city: Built on ground that dates 50AD and reconstructed int he 1800s, the castle is almost fantasy-esque. Over time, it’s been a Roman Fort, Norman Castle, Victorian Gothic mansion and WWII bomb shelter. Roam the grounds, climb the keep and take a guided tour around the Castle Apartments- their interiors are stunning. If you visit in summer, bring a picnic- the castle grounds would be perfect for lounging in the sun.
Roam the city’s Victorian Arcades: Always a sucker for seemingly hidden passageways and tucked away shops, I was pleased to find so many arcades in central Cardiff. A few places to check out: Science cream (liquid nitrogen ice cream), Wally’s Delicatessen (food and drinks from around the world) and Uncommon Ground Coffee Co and Corner Coffee make a mean flat white.
Savour high tea at Barker Tea House: Located in one of the aforementioned arcades, I loved kicking back for a bit with an herbal blend and snacking on some delicious cakes and crumpets.
Check out some of Cardiff’s lively nightlife: I left on a 9 pm train back to London, so I didn’t even see the best part (I’m assuming), but popping in two pubs- The City Arms and Tiny Rebel (good craft beers) was an interesting exposure to pub culture in Wales.
I didn’t have a chance to see a rugby game, but the sport is the heartbeat of the city and a definite must do if you’re visiting for several days.
Have you ever visited Cardiff or another part of Wales?