I had to choose between an afternoon at Cardiff Bay or St. Fagan’s, during my recent trip to Cardiff, and I chose the bay area. Having taken the boat from Bute park to Cardiff Bay, I stepped onto the pier trying to decide which direction I should start my exploration. My eyes were drawn to the beautiful red building right in front of me. So, I started my exploration with a visit to the Pierhead.
I found that parts of the building was open to the public so I decided to explore it. On the ground floor, adjacent to the reception area, was a small gallery with posters and information on the background to the building and the post 1800 history of Cardiff. I learnt that the Pierhead had been built as offices for the Bute Docks company, during the peak of the coal trade in Cardiff in 1897. Soon after in 1905, Cardiff was granted city status.
My favourite corner of the building was the assistant dockmaster’s office, which had a great view of the bay and pier. There were two pieces in the former office that stood out – the grand post box and the table with the phones, which one could dial and listen to a recording by a current resident of the Bay area, about her or his favourite spots or memories of living in the area.
The Pierhead is now part of the National Assembly estate and is located next to the Senedd, or Parliament in English, also part of the estate.
Walking towards the Norwegian Church centre, I passed a statue and the clothing on the statue holding a torch made me go closer to read the plaque next to it. I found that the statue of Sri Chinmoy was a gift of the World Harmony Run organization (or the Sri Chinmoy Oneness) to Cardiff during its visit in 2012. The Peace Statue invites the onlooker to hold the torch and make a prayer for peace.
A few steps from the peace statue is the little Norwegian Church Arts Centre, which was founded in 1868 and was a haven for Scandinavian seamen, not only as a place of religion but also as a place to relax and read newspapers and magazines from home or write letters.
The building is open to the public and there is a coffee shop on the ground floor adjacent to the little chapel. This chapel was where the writer, Roald Dahl, was christened. On the first floor, there is an exhibition on the history of the church centre as well as its connection to Roald Dahl.
Walking back to the Pierhead and beyond, I came across the Roald Dahl Plass and the Water Tower. The public space is an oval shaped square surrounded by pillars with the water tower, at one end, which has a constant stream of water running down it.
Just across the square is the Millennium Centre, another iconic landmark of Cardiff, which is an arts centre with two theatres – the Donald Gordon theatre and the Weston Studio theatre. The Glanfa stage in the foyer, at the centre, hosts free performances during the day. The centre is also home to nine arts organizations.
While these six were the highlights of my afternoon visit to Cardiff Bay, there are other interesting places in its vicinity such as the Mermaid Quay shopping centre and the Doctor Who experience centre, for those familiar with the TV series. Fabulous Welsh Cakes at Mermaid Quay was highly recommended for their Welshcakes but having just finished a food tour with Welshcakes earlier that day, I decided to skip a visit to the shop.
Which of these Cardiff Bay highlights have you enjoyed or would like to visit?