12 Apr Cycling the Taff Trail from Cardiff to Castle Coch
Let me tell you about some of the easiest 16 miles I’ve ever ridden.
Just outside Cardiff sits the Castle Coch, a small castle with impressive interior design. Running directly from Cardiff City Center to Castle Coch is the Taff Trail (Taith Taf in Welsh) — an amazingly flat, perfectly paved path that follows the River Taff.
You can cycle the Taff Trail from Cardiff to Castle Coch on a lazy morning or afternoon, even if you suck at cycling. I promise.
I picked up a bike from NosDa hostel (located on the Taff Trail, directly across the river from Principality Stadium) and pointed my new blue-and-orange steed north. I blinked about four times and had ridden a mile, dodging runners, strollers, dogs, and toddlers. I barely even remember pedaling!
It took a about 90 minutes for me to ride the full 8 miles to Tongwynlais, the small town surrounding the castle, but it only took that long because I was stopping to take a photos in excess. It was so serene. Plus the weather was amazing and sunny and I just wanted to soak it all in. Sunshine is kinda rare in these parts! After two days of hard-core networking and introductions and learning at Traverse 16, I was relieved to be back on a bike, riding around to my heart’s content!
The most difficult cycling stretch was the quarter-mile up to the castle entrance, which is a legit hill but not the worst one you’ve seen. However, once at the castle grounds the grade is steep enough up to the castle that I just walked it. I only had five gears to work with, and I of course stopped at the bottom to take a photo so my momentum was gone! I was happy I climbed it though, because there was a legit bike rack at the top! (Plus it meant I got to ride down when I left :D)
The castle is fascinating. It’s basically a love child of John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, the 3rd marquess of Bute, and the architect-designer William Burges. The former had tons of money; the latter a genius for design. Since both money and artistry were unlimited, the interior design of the castle is, frankly, stunning. I’m not exaggerating when I say this might be my favorite castle ceiling ever. And I’ve seen a lot of castle ceilings.
Admission to the castle is just £6, and that includes a really easy-to-use audio guide. It thought it was very worthwhile, and a super easy day trip outside of Cardiff.
The ride back was just as pleasant, and had the added bonus of discovering a brand-new, cyclist-oriented cafe at the bottom of the hill from the castle! Plan2Ride has bike storage, accessories for sale, and a great cuppa brewed by the barista/owner. When I arrived the place was packed with hardcore cyclists and tourists alike (the bikes on the rack made me drool a little). The staff were friendly and a tiny table in the sunshine suited me just fine. Wish I could’ve stayed longer and I’ll definitely plan to stop in next time I’m in Cardiff.
Then off again, back to Cardiff. I was prepared for the ride back to be more difficult, assuming the trail must have been slightly downhill or the wind was at my back or something on the ride out to make it so easy. But no dice. The opposite direction was still ridiculously easy to pedal. Clouds were rolling in and the wind was picking up, so I hustled and made it back to Cardiff in just under an hour.
If and when I’m in Cardiff again, I’m going to make a point to ride even further on the Taff Trail. It stretches 55 miles which easily doable in a day (especially if it’s that flat the whole way). Plus it sounds like there are cute restaurants and another castle — the second biggest in the UK, Castle Caerphilly — just over a hill or two. And with lots of regional trains on schedule, it’d be and easy ride back if I were to do some scientific research into the nearby pubs.
BONUS! I’m making a video to complement this blog post. Sign up for my email list to be the first to see it.
Thanks much to Traverse, Visit Wales, and NosDa for the opportunity to cycle around on Sunday as part of Traverse 16!