Cardiff Central Station - Castell Coch - Craig yr Allt - Caerphilly

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Cardiff Central Station - Tongwynlais - Castell Coch - Craig yr Allt - Caerphilly Mountain - Caerphilly

From a walker's perspective, Cardiff possesses two distinct virtues. The first is a green ribbon of parkland extending into the heart of the Welsh capital along the River Taff. The second is an enviable network of local railway lines connecting Cardiff and its environs with the Valleys to the north. Combined, these two virtues are the perfect recipe for creating attractive and hassle-free linear walks.

The current route begins from Cardiff Central Station, from where we quickly join the Taff Trail as it heads north out of the city. After passing the iconic Millennium Stadium, we enter attractive parkland, safeguarded from industrial development in the nineteenth century by the Marquess of Bute. A tarmac cycle path is not every walker's trail of choice, but grassy riverbanks provide a pleasant refuge from the hard surface and whiz of passing bikes.

In the city's northern suburbs we part company with the Taff Trail, diverting onto the towpath of the Glamorganshire Canal. Built between 1790 and 1798, the canal was an ambitious project to enable the iron industries of Merthyr Tydfil to transport finished iron 40km (25 miles) down Taff Vale to Cardiff Docks. Today, only limited traces of the canal remain, most of its former route being covered by the A470 trunk road. The section followed, between the Melingriffith Water Pump and Tongwynlais, is the only one to have been retained in water. The canal here runs through an attractive area of mixed woodland and marshland and is part of a designated local nature reserve.

After briefly rejoining the Taff Trail below the M4, we continue onto a pleasant footpath alongside the River Taff. Heading through Tongwynlais (pub and shop), we follow a road out of the village to Castell Coch ('red castle'). This fairy-tale castle, perched dramatically on a wooded prominence overlooking Tongwynlais and the Taff Gorge, was the brainchild of Victorian architect William Burges. Although Burges's structure is built on medieval foundations and he was careful to follow plans for the original castle where known, Castell Coch's most striking features are the product of his imagination: the variation in the height of the towers, for instance and the steeply pitched angle of their roofs. Working under the patronage of the Marquess of Bute, Burgess managed to create both a splendid example of nineteenth-century Gothic Revival architecture and every child's fantasy of a fairy-tale castle.

Continuing onwards, we climb steeply through woodland along a gravel path, part of the Taff Trail's high-level route. This then descends to a level path along what was once a branch of the Barry Railway. We continue for a further 1.5km to where an open area provides a splendid view across Taff Vale towards Garth Hill, inspiration for the film 'The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain'. This section of the Taff Trail is thankfully much quieter than the busy path through Cardiff.

After so much level walking, the climb up Craig yr Allt along the Glamorgan Ridgeway Walk may come as something of a shock. Fortunately, zigzags take much of the pain out of the ascent. Although only 273 metres above sea level, the ridge summit provides spectacular views across South Wales's industrial landscape. The craggy ridgeline has a surprisingly wild appearance and would not feel out of place in the Brecon Beacons.

Lanes and fields take us from Craig yr Allt to the last climb of the day, across Caerphilly Common. From the summit there is a splendid bird's-eye view of Caerphilly Castle, which dominates the town below. Among British castles, Caerphilly is second only to Windsor in size; its south-eastern tower also has a more pronounced lean than the Tower of Pisa.

A popular walking area, Caerphilly Common is crisscrossed with paths (almost all unsigned), but there should be no great difficulty in finding the correct route off the mountain. Pleasant paths lead down to Caerphilly Golf Club and a road into town. The train station and car park can be found on the right-hand side at the bottom of the hill.

Wales - South Wales - Cardiff - Countryside

Features

Birds, Cafe, Castle, Flowers, Great Views, Hills or Fells, Industrial Archaeology, Pub, Public Transport, River, Toilets, Wildlife, Woodland

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