In another of the ‘Our South Wales’ series, we find ourselves in Barry Island, a place with very fond memories for so many people over the years. Today you may only know it from the TV series Gavin and Stacey, but Barry Island has a history, both on and off screen, long before even Doris was a little girl.

Barry Island really does have it all. Beaches, entertainment, shops, beautiful scenery and of course, the best fish and chips you’ll find this side of the channel.

We spent the day putting this feature together, in point of fact the team here at SOUTH WALES LIFE spend many days there, we love it. We set a challenge to our photographers to come up with some slightly different images for us, we think you’ll like them.

First of all, it’s not Barry’s Island, it doesn’t belong to a bloke by that name, as Pam (Gavin & Stacey) would have us believe – or maybe she is actually right.

Incidentally, if you do want to follow the entire Gavin and Stacey trail, we have a special feature right here. TRAIL

The Island does derive its name from a person. Saint Baruc was around in the 6th century, and it’s him who lends his name to the town. Baruc (Welsh: Barrwg; also known as Barruc, Barrog or Barry) was a disciple of Saint Cadoc. The story goes that Baruc forgot to bring Cadoc’s reading matter with him on a journey from the island of Flat Holm. Cadoc sent him back and Baruc drowned in the Bristol Channel on the return journey.

He was buried on Barry Island and the ruins of a chapel dedicated to him can still be seen in Friars Road. His feast day incidentally is 27th September. So in a round about way, Pam was right, it is actually Barry’s Island.

The peninsula was an island until the 1880s when it was linked to the mainland as the town of Barry expanded. This was partly due to the opening of Barry Docks by the Barry Railway Company. Established by David Davies, the docks now link up the gap which used to isolate Barry Island.

History lesson over, for now, let’s give you a look at the island as it is today. Of course we all head for the places we know, love and have seen on our TV’s, but just a short walk from the arcades gets you to two of the most stunning bays, which are generally quieter than Whitmore Bay which is directly in front of the amusements.

There’s a lot of redevelopment going on too, which you’ll see in our film, along with some very familiar places.

We always suggest that you broaden your horizons when visiting the Island. Within minutes it opens up way beyond what we see on TV. If you’re looking out to sea you have Jackson’s Bay to your left and Watch House Bay, and the stunning Friars Point to your right. If you’re after a bracing walk and want to get away from the crowds for a while, a walk over to Friars Point is highly recommended.

Although Barry Island used to be home to a Butlins Holiday Camp, it is now known more for its beach and Barry Island Pleasure Park. Butlins was the place to visit back in the day. Tens of thousand of holidaymakers would saturate the town for their annual break. The economy was thriving and, more importantly, everyone who arrived in Barry had a fantastic time.

We always think you get a feel for a place from its old postcards, and Barry and Butlins had some absolute corkers.

And if you want an indication of just how many people came to Butlins back then, these should give you an idea.

While we are great believers in looking back on our heritage, Barry Island is all about the present and future.

Most of the action is around the Whitmore Bay area, which attracts, surfers, kayakers, and those who enjoy a bit of beach sport. And what we love most is once you’ve claimed your spot on the sand, everything is close by. There’s the pleasure park, which has amusement arcades and more than 50 rides and other attractions (entry is free and tickets for the rides can be bought from ticket stalls). There’s the Quasar Centre, Pirate Adventure Golf, gift shops, pubs, restaurants, cafes and plenty of places to sit and watch the world go by.

But don’t for one minute think Barry is all about the Island, the town has so much on offer if you’re planning more time there. There are of course plenty of places to stay, ranging from hotels, B&Bs, guest houses, caravan parks, the list really is endless.

The shopping is great too. They are big believers in the ‘Shop Local’ philosophy, something we would always support. In fact in October they are bringing back what they call Fiver Fest.

By all accounts it was a huge success in February so it’s coming back from 10th to 24th October. All local businesses in Barry can take part and celebrate the fantastic small businesses and shops, many run by families or individuals, but ALL contributing massively to the economy of the UK and the wellbeing of the town. To find out more about the scheme, go here. FIVER FEST

And if you’d like to do your shopping local in Barry, go here. SHOPPING

High Street

Although this feature is all about Barry Island, there is more to see around town, here’s a few pointers…..

And here’s a couple of our features to look at……

This week saw the arrival of Stephen Mulhern and an ITV film crew who were filming an episode of In For A Penny. Stephen and crew took to the Whitmore Bay promenade, much to the delight of the socially-distanced crowd.

Finally, the town have so many regular events happening throughout the year, and now lockdown is easing we expect to see the very active programme begin again. Keep an eye on our magazine for regular details. And a big thank you to the locals, and visitors for making us feel so welcome, as usual, we had a fantastic day.

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