As we continue our mini series, helping ease us back into life after lockdown, OUR SOUTH WALES takes us to Penarth.
Anyone who has visited the town will know it’s all about the sea, sand, food, shopping and the historic pier. If you live in the town however, life is much more than that. Penarth is a close-knit community, like most other places, but you really can’t talk about Penarth and not mention the money word. It is actually the wealthiest seaside resort in the Cardiff Urban Area, and the second largest town in the Vale of Glamorgan, next only to Barry.
It’s a place full of charm, character and little surprises. There are quaint parks where you least expect them. Look down to the ground and you’ll see you are probably walking along the Wales Coast Path. There’s shopping of all kinds, and as for food and drink, that is certainly there in abundance.
If you’re planning a day trip to Penarth, and we recommend you do, it’s nice to know a little of the town’s history and where it fits in with the rest of Wales, because there was a long period when it was English, at least its owners were.
The Pier is of course a focal point with its art gallery, café and cinema. But step away from the front and you’ll discover parks, lovely independent shops and a tree-lined centre which makes it feel like you are somewhere very special, which indeed you are.
And it was the pier where we dropped our cameras. If you are planning a day trip, we reckon that’s exactly where you’ll be heading, so let’s show you it now.
The town is absolutely steeped in history, something you immediately sense as you drive toward the pier. If ever there is a car journey which requires a little ‘house spotting’ it’s the one through Penarth.
By all accounts human inhabitation can be traced back around 5000 years.
When you look out to sea, across the channel, you can clearly see onto Bristol, and the links with that city are far more than visual. From the 12th century Penarth was effectively owned by the canons of St Augustine in Bristol. Ownership later transferred to the dean and chapter of Bristol Cathedral.
It all gets a little complicated from here on in, and that’s not what we want to do here. Needless to say the lands were eventually bought by the Earls of Plymouth of St. Fagans Castle.
There isn’t really a large family house in Penarth (although there are lots of large family homes). Because the surrounding land was owned by religious institutions, there was no need for a large family house, unlike other Welsh towns. The oldest building in the area is a Tudor mansion, owned by the Herbert family, on the hillside at Cogan Pill.
Penarth is only 4 miles from Cardiff city centre on the north shore of the Severn Estuary at the southern end of Cardiff Bay.
The Victorians loved a Penarth holiday because of its “Garden by the Sea” feel. Back in the day it was packed with visitors from the Midlands and the West Country as well as day trippers from the South Wales valleys, mostly arriving by train.
Although not as many of us holiday in the town as we once did, the good old-fashioned, traditional seafront, continues to be a holiday destination of choice for many.
There is so much more to see, all within a relatively short walk from the pier. They have a great scheme running called SHOP PENARTH. We’ve become accustomed to saving a few pennies post lockdown and this is a good way to do just that.
Shop Penarth brings you special offers, discounts and promotions from a wealth of local independent businesses. Everything from food and drink to fashion, groceries and gifts to professional services and from health and beauty to homewares and travel.
The scheme began 10 years ago now in support of the local economy. It was there to encourage loyalty among customers and to help keep Penarth’s shopping areas alive and attractive. Most importantly, the scheme also helps cut carbon emissions because people are not using their cars to shop out of town.
You simply pick up your Shop Penarth card at any participating retailer, It costs just £2.00, and lasts for life. If you’d like more details, and see who is part of the scheme, just go here. SHOP
PENARTH PIER PAVILION – The Penarth Pier Pavilion is a fully restored art deco building and is very much an iconic symbol of the local area. Over the years it’s been a ballroom, night club, and a gymnastics centre. Now, it’s a multi-functional space which can be enjoyed by the entire community.
When the world is back to some sort of normality they stage exhibitions, live music and theatre, cinema screenings, and a café serving locally sourced food and drink that can be enjoyed with a sea view. The building is also available for hire for personal and corporate functions, and as a stunning wedding venue. PAVILION
MASONIC HALL – We can’t mention weddings without a nod to the towns Masonic Hall. As locations go, it’s pretty much perfect for events like this. It’s right in the heart of Penarth, and is an excellent venue for that special occasion – from Weddings, to Ladies Nights, Birthday Parties for all ages, Company Promotional Launches, Community Meetings, and many more varied uses, and is often used by TV Companies as a film location for period drama. If you are in the market for somewhere special, give them a look. HALL
PENARTH WOMEN’S TRAIL – This booklet celebrates the many Penarth women who have achieved great things during their lives. It takes you on a tour of the town while recording their significant contributions to public life. If you’d like to download the trail booklet to your device, you can do that here. TRAIL
WALES COAST PATH – The path is actually the first of its kind in the world. Its 870 miles of global beauty and diversity which follows the whole coastline of Wales from Queensferry in the North to Chepstow in the south, including the Isle of Anglesey in the North West. Penarth is a small, but perfect part of the path. To find out more, head here. COAST
PENARTH MARINA – You can grab a water taxi from the marina, or just walk or cycle, it really is worth a visit. Sadly, The Deck restaurant, which had only just reopened following lockdown, suffered a terrible fire a few weeks ago. They are still closed but we understand they are working hard to reopen. THE DECK
COSMESTON LAKES & COUNTRY PARK – Cosmeston is one of those places that has your camera working at full throttle. It’s well over 100 hectares of land and water, some areas are designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest protecting the rare and diverse plant and animal species. Cosmeston Lakes Country Park is a haven for local wildlife and should be on your ‘must see’ list. LAKES
COSMESTON MEDIEVAL VILLAGE – The village is also another great day out. It’s within the boundaries of Cosmeston Lakes Country Park, and is one of the Vale of Glamorgan’s leading tourist attractions. The Village is set in the year 1350, a turbulent period in the history of the Welsh and English. The kids will absolutely love it. MEDIEVAL
Penarth is definitely worth a visit at any time of year. Whether you drive, public transport, water or walk, you’ll pretty much find something for everyone. When our team chatted to visitors, it was overwhelmingly the food and view which was the attraction on a sunny day. Chips, bench and sea view seemed to do it for most.
Finally, we asked our team to grab a couple of ‘unusual’ snaps on the pier, once again, they did us proud.
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