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Saturday 20 April 2024

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Cardiff Bay Rediscovered – Torchwood Tourism

Stunning Cadiff Bay today

Cardiff Bay’s redevelopment makes it the flagship of the Welsh capital

My memories of Cardiff were not that good. I had worked there briefly in the mid 1980s and it had not been a particularly happy time, largely down to my employer rather than the city but, you know how it goes – if a time spent in a place is a negative experience, you tend to associate those feelings with the place itself.

Being a self-confessed Dr Who and Torchwood fan (no, not the geeky type – I just appreciate the finer qualities of Russell T Davies’ art as a writer and producer of superb television programmes) my interest in the place was re-awakened, so I endeavoured to go back there, give Cardiff another chance and dispel all those nasty memories.

And am I glad I did – what a fantastic experience the Cardiff of today is, from vibrant, cosmopolitan bay to thriving, exciting city centre, the Welsh capital exudes enthusiasm and feels so alive and full of adventure.

I had been staying in Gloucester for a couple of nights, and was relieved to discover that Cardiff was much more accessible than I had remembered. An hour in the car and I was at the bay – famously known before a massive cash injection as Tiger Bay – and easily parked up (free on a Sunday). The first impressive landmark is the Norwegian Church, now sadly no longer a place of worship but a cafe and kind of exhibition hall. Built by Norwegian fishermen as a place of get-together and worship, the church also boasts the fact that Roald Dahl was baptised here.

This is actually Europe’s largest waterfront development, and it certainly feels like it. The chic, cosmopolitan feel, stunning modern architecture and beautifully developed marine area – complete with Wetlands and bird sanctuary – belies its UK location, and you could be forgiven for thinking you were in Bilbao, or somewhere of that ilk, which has also benefited greatly from extensive regeneration.

It’s hard to imagine the past, when Cardiff Docks as it was then called was the world’s largest coal exporting port. There’s now a fantastic balance of working port, high-end leisure complex and playground and area of incredible natural beauty.

The bay itself has been turned into a vast freshwater lake thanks to the introduction of a barrage. A number of boat tours operate from Mermaid Quay, which allow you to gain an understanding of the history and fauna of this exciting area. There’s also a convenient new water taxi service which operates throughout the year from the bay to the city centre and Penarth. If you take the organised boat trip (it’ll cost you just a fiver) it’s well worth getting out at Penarth and having a walk along the barrage. Enjoy a refreshing pint at the old Custom House, now a chic restaurant and wine bar, before catching the waterbus back to Mermaid Quay. The return boat on the hour takes you straight back, whereas the one at quarter past the hour will take you on the tour again, this time in reverse.

Cardiff Bay is also home to a number of attractions such as Techniquest Science Discovery Centre – ideal for all the family, Craft in the Bay, The Welsh Assembly at the Pierhead, Butetown History and Arts Centre, Goleulong 2000 Lightship, the previously mentioned Norwegian Church Arts Centre and the brand new Wales Millennium Centre, a stunning and international arts centre. The Atlantic Wharf Leisure Village provides further options for family entertainment.

The harbour at Cardiff Bay experiences one of the world’s greatest tidal ranges of up to 14m. This has meant that at low tide, it has been inaccessible for up to 14 hours a day. The new barrage has eliminated the effect of the tide, which has acted as an inhibitor to development, releasing the potential of the capital city’s greatest asset – its waterfront.

The construction of the barrage was one of the largest engineering projects in Europe. Completed in 1999, it has created a 500 acre freshwater lake with 8 miles of waterfront and it is already stimulating the future development of the bay as a tourist and leisure destination

The Cardiff Bay Development Corporation was set up in April 1987 to regenerate the 1,100 hectares of old derelict docklands of Cardiff and Penarth. It was part of the British Government’s Urban Development Programme to regenerate particularly deprived and run-down areas of British inner cities. In recent years, Cardiff has become home to a new generation Dr Who, and its spin-off series Torchwood, and BBC Wales can often be found filming in the city and its environs. In fact, Dr Who writer and producer Russell T Davies occupies one of the luxury apartments overlooking the waterfront, next to the five star St David’s Hotel and Spa.

The Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff – fictional home to Torchwood

If you plan to visit, you’ll find a great selection of places to stay (pretty much to suit your budget) and you certainly won’t be stuck for somewhere to eat or drink. But if you want to do the new Cardiff justice, make sure you go for at least a long weekend, or you haven’t a hope in hell of squeezing everything in.

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2 Responses to “Cardiff Bay Rediscovered – Torchwood Tourism”

  1. tony scott says:

    It looks like a very nice destination. Thanks for posting. If you have a chance, go visit the UK and learn more about Lake District and the Lake District weather on my website.

  2. Maria says:

    buna..sunt o mare fana a serialelor de televiziune din UK in special Dr.Who si Torchwood…le-am vizionat episod cu am pierdut niciunul!E nemaipomenit! Absolut briliant!..Ador toti actorii totusi in serialul Dr.Who imi pare atat de rau ca Rose a murit iar Doctorul s-a schimbat la fel si in Torchwood cand Owen si Tosh..oricum imi plac nespus de mult momentele “romantice” dintre Jack Harkness si Gwen Cooper;)..Va iubesc!Si tineti toto asa..Sunt cel mai mare fan al vostru:* drag Mary.:*

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