The Welsh capital has become one of the UK’s most visited cities, says Kevin McIndoe.
It’s a well-known fact that the Welsh are pretty good at singing.
And now they are on the verge of dancing to a different tune; one that means a bright new future.
The UK’s political troubles (that’s Brexit; for those of you who don’t know) have instilled a confidence in this Celtic country that it hasn’t had for decades.
In fact, a recent poll revealed 41 per cent of Welsh people would vote for independence from the UK and would seek to plough their own furrow as a member of the EU family of nations.
And this week, as the Rugby World Cup rolls on in Japan, Wales will take its place among 19 other nations ensuring that its red dragon flag will be among the most prominent.
Wales boasts breathtaking scenery; magnificent historical castles, manors and forts; wondrously spectacular beaches and majestic mountains.
But it can also offer up its capital city, Cardiff, as a candidate for a city break.
It’s not a big city (in fact it is the UK’s 11th largest) but as they say, good things come in small packages.
Cardiff missed a chance for global exposure when the Welsh Assembly inexplicably passed up the chance to be chosen as a location shoot for the James Bond film ‘Spectre’, and the ‘Dr Who’ experience dedicated to the travails of the Time Lord has also since closed.
Never mind, the proximity of this vibrant city to wonderful outdoor spaces, such as the breathtaking Brecon Beacons National Park or the captivating Gower Peninsula means a trip here is going to tick all your traveller’s boxes.
You also shouldn’t leave without tasting some of that traditional Welsh cuisine: that’s Welsh rarebit (a very elaborate and tasty version of cheese on toast), or cawl (a sumptuous broth not unlike Irish stew).
This is a small country but one with a proud, hospitable populace (most of whom can sing).
My favourite place- Cardiff Bay is just the ideal place to chill out in. In fact, TripAdvisor voted it the fourth most popular tourist attraction in the UK, thanks to its wealth of places to eat, drink, shop and enjoy attractions like Techiquest. This interactive science centre is where your kids can really let themselves go. The waterfront area, or Mermaid Quay, is the perfect place to go for lunch afterwards. The Red Dragon Centre is one of the most attractive (and clean) malls I’ve ever been to, too. The Welsh Millennium Centre is a perfect home to showcase how the legacy left by Welsh talents such as Dylan Thomas, Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey, Bryn Terfel, Richard Burton and Anthony Hopkins is being continued.
Highlights- Cardiff Castle is one of the best attractions in the whole of the UK. Located loftily in the middle of the city between the shopping area and the verdant Bute Park, it’s open seven days a week. It’s really like stepping back in time and meandering through a medieval odyssey of make-believe. You can almost imagine King Arthur, Merlin et al doing business or preparing for battle against some foreign (or English) invader. It’s unmissable.
Lowlights- Wales can be wet. At any time of year so ensure you take the right gear.
Souvenirs- A good place to visit is the Indoor Market. It’s an eclectic array of stalls offering anything from local artefacts or fabrics to classic vinyl records. Cardiff also has a few classic Victorian arcades where you can buy jewellery and bric-a-brac. Then of course, you there’s Jacob’s Antiques, next door to the main railway station.
Getting there- Oman Air flies to London’s Heathrow Airport. If hiring a car, it is about a 2hr 30min drive. If going by train, it means a two-hour trip from London’s Paddington station. Why not spend a night in London and travel down the next day? Perfect.
Where to stay- All the world’s best hotels have a presence here, so check out Expedia, Booking.com, Kayak and TripAdvisor for the best deals. Cardiff is a compact, walkable city so wherever you book should not be far from the hub of the city.
1. Inspect myriad art treasures at the National Museum & Art Gallery.
2. Join the hipsters, go all arty and relax at the Chapter Arts Centre.
3. Go gorge walking on a trip to the magnificent Brecon Beacons.
4. Take the kids to the town of Camerthen, believed to be Merlin’s birthplace.
5. Visit the Principality Stadium, and revel in the rugby legend tour.