Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Cardiff Taff Trail Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 14.9 km (9.3 miles), terrain: flat, one small hill, gain 54 meters

Cardiff, the capital of Wales, has a lot going for it, and one of the best things is its riverside parks along both sides of the River Taff. The Taff Trail extends right from Cardiff Bay, through the city, and then further north through 55 miles of scenic Welsh countryside.

This route follows part of that, heading through parkland on the north side of town. It's mainly pretty and quiet, but it still passes by a lot of great sights. We'll even start out making a small loop through the town center to see some of the most interesting stuff there before we head off along the river.
Bute Park trail
Cardiff was just a village until the coal mines were developed nearby, 200 years ago. Cardiff Bay then became the main port for exporting the coal to Britain and the world. So most of the town grew up in the industrial age, which you can see in its town center: it doesn't have much medieval character.

That said, Cardiff has one ancient gem right downtown: Cardiff Castle. This old fort goes back to the Roman days, and was restored during the Victorian era with fanciful towers and a palace, a fascinating sight from any angle.
Cardiff Castle sunset
And next to the castle, parkland was laid out towards the nearby River Taff, landscaped by Capability Brown. Bute Park gives the town a wonderful green heart.

So, let's get out and about and start discovering more of this great town!

NOTE: When I ran this one, a downpour hit, and I ended up soaked to the bone. I hope you have more luck!

Let's start out at the most interesting sight in town: the main gate at the castle, along -- you guessed it -- Castle Street. Before starting the run, you can walk into the gate to glimpse the insides, with its inner keep (tower on a mound) in the middle, and the palatial living quarters off to the left side. To go further, though, you need to pay.
The castle keep, built by the Normans
So now, turn east to run a quick loop through a scenic part of the town center. Run straight eastwards into Queen Street, which is a pedestrian shopping street, the main shopping area in town.

We'll just run three blocks through this lively but car-free street until you get to Park Place, a little side-street on the left, across from the Next department store.
Queen Street
Turn left onto Park Place and run the couple of blocks until you get to the zebra stripes at the busy street called Boulevard de Nantes. Nantes is the capital of Wales' Celtic cousin, Brittany, in France.

Now run straight across the park towards those grand buildings to the north: this is the government quarter, full of impressive, monumental city-, national-, and museum-buildings.
Cardiff City Hall
The Welsh National Museum is straight ahead and the huge Cardiff City Hall is next to it on the left, with the Crown Court building further to the left.

Keep running northwards along Museum Avenue, and you'll come to a green gardens on the left side and Cardiff University to the right, at the one-kilometer mark. Just run north through Alexandra Gardens, past war memorials, until it ends at the Welsh Government Buildings.

Now turn left and head west along College Road towards the sculpted, modern building in the distancew. Cross the busy street, North Road, and turn right to run to the north end of that rounded, modernistic building, the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.
Bute Park: high road and low road...
As soon as you get past the building, turn left to enter Bute Park. You'll immediately cross a little canal that feeds the castle moat, where you can turn right and head north through the parkland ahead.

There are a few parallel paths that you could take: a narrow one raised up along the canal dike and a wide, paved one down to the west of it. This route follows the main path.
Keep left to stay near the river
When you come to some athletic fields, the trail forks, at the 2-kilometer mark. Stay to the left to be closer to the River Taff, hidden in the woods off to the left.

The trail then heads completely into the woods, with a stand of gigantic sequoias, and then comes to the riverside at Blackweir (a dam with a pedestrian bridge behind it).

Now just keep running northwards.
Blackweir on the River Taff
You leave Hume Park at a gate at a beautiful lodge at the 3-kilometer mark, and the parkland gets narrower and just hugs the river.

At the 4-kilometer mark, you'll go under the bridge for Western Avenue,

You'll then come to a second weir and scenic islands at the 5-kilometer mark.

The path then goes under another bridge (Llandaff Bridge) at Bridge Road, then heads past more athletic fields to the right.

At the north end of the athletic fields, the trail curves to the right and then splits: keep to the left-hand trail to remain near the river, and continue running northwards.
Along the trail
You'll run past some open fields. Then both the river and the trail turn eastwards at an electric transmission tower. The high-tension lines follow the trail for short time, as the trail comes to a train line, which crosses the river.

This railroad bridge is basically our turn-around point: we'll cross it and return along the other side of the Taff.

But first, it's interesting to take a short northern extension under the railroad bridge and then along the right side of a little stream next to the Taff.

Run along this quiet, natural section for just a couple of minutes to the 7-kilometer mark, and you'll come to an example of early Industrial Age engineering: the Melingriffith Water Pump. Built in the 1790s, it used a water wheel to power two pistons that lifted water up to a canal used to move coal towards Cardiff Bay. The pump was in service until the late 1920s.
Melingriffith water pump
It's hard to believe it, but this pump was once right in the middle of an industrial landscape of riverside mills and factories. Now everything here looks like undisturbed, virgin woods.

Now, we'll head back to town. So turn around and run the short stretch back to the railroad bridge. Now go up the steps and cross the bridge, and take the other steps back down to the riverbank.
The railroad bridge: cross and then take the steps down to the other side
Now just turn south, heading under the bridge, to follow this western bank south, back to town.

At first, it's a bit isolated out here, but soon joins a quiet road,  Radyr Court Road directly along the river. You're heading southeast.

Traffic increases after Llandaff Bridge merges, at the 9-kilometer mark.

The street then joins into Cardiff Road at a little roundabout, and the street starts going uphill (the only hill of the run!), with houses to your left.

In just a block, leave busy Cardiff Road to continue straight on Bridge Street, still running uphill.
Cathedral Green
The street takes you right into the Cathedral Green, a beautiful square overlooking the cathedral, which was built outside of town. Take a look downhill at the cathedral, past the ruins of an old tower.

Continue running a block southeast to the ruins of the Bishop's Palace, with its gardens out back.
Ruins of the Bishop's Palace
Now, turn left and head downhill, past the back side of the cathedral, where the trail turns right to stay along the cemetery at the 10-kilometer mark.

There is a pedestrian crossing over busy Western Avenue, then you enter more parkland, for the rest of the run.

Keep running southeast. This first section of parkland is called Llandaff Fields, with a few cricket fields.

After passing the first cricket field, turn left to follow a paved path to the playground, at the 11-kilometer mark.

At the playground, turn left to leave this park and connect into the next park at the river, Pontcanna Fields. The trail runs into a tree-lined promenade in front of the cricket fields beyond. We want to get back to the river on the other side.
The promenade
So now, turn right onto the promenade, but then take the first turn to your left to cross the fields and get to the river.

You'll come back to the river at Blackweir, which we saw earlier, at the 12-kilometer mark.

But we'll stay on this side of the river this time, continuing southwards.

You'll run past the National Cricket Centre, then pass the Cardiff Bowling Club. When you come to the next pedestrian bridge (painted red and white) at about the 13.5-kilometer mark, cross it back into Bute Park, the gardens next to Cardiff Castle. We're almost back at the start.
The stone circle
Now just stay near the river, pass the site of the old Blackfriars Abbey and then the Gorsedd Stone Circle. The circle isn't ancient, it was built to celebrate the National Eisteddfod Welsh cultural festival held here in town.

You can take one of the paths that go right up to the castle walls, if you'd like a closer look at this amazing structure and all its towers.
Castle towers
When you exit the park at West Lodge Gate, just turn left to head the few hundred meters along the Animal Wall on Castle Street, back to the Castle entrance.

If you liked that, you might want to try the Taff Trail in the other direction, heading south to Cardiff Bay on your next run!

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