Cardiff in Covid: Walking the Boundaries


Trail photos

Photo ofCardiff in Covid: Walking the Boundaries Photo ofCardiff in Covid: Walking the Boundaries Photo ofCardiff in Covid: Walking the Boundaries


Trail stats

58.08 mi
Elevation gain
3,432 ft
Technical difficulty
Elevation loss
3,432 ft
Max elevation
1,019 ft
Min elevation
5 ft
Trail type
21 days 6 hours 28 minutes
October 28, 2020
October 2020
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near Butetown, Wales (United Kingdom)

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Trail photos

Photo ofCardiff in Covid: Walking the Boundaries Photo ofCardiff in Covid: Walking the Boundaries Photo ofCardiff in Covid: Walking the Boundaries

Itinerary description

A few weeks ago Cardiff was placed into lockdown to contain the Covid 19 pandemic, its inhabitants were not allowed to leave the city (which is also a county). Not knowing where the city officially ended, and not being allowed to legally exercise beyond it, I decided to walk around the boundary, circumnavigating Cardiff. This track records four days of walking, one day each week, following "rights of way" within, but as close as possible to the boundary marked on the OS map. However, before I had finished the rules had changed yet again. All of Wales has now been placed in a "Firebreak" or "Circuit Breaker". Walking is allowed but only if you start and finish from your own home. Having started I decided to finish my boundary walk.
As my route was controlled by what appeared to be a very arbitrary county line, it does not aim to pass through any particularly scenic landmarks, however, I incidentally visited some attractive areas and parks I had not previously realised existed. Inevitably there was also some walking along roads in suburban estates, but less than one might have thought. I started by walking around Cardiff Bay, walking across the barrage between the sea and the enclosed lake. Crossing the sea locks I accidentally entered a sliver of Penarth, which lies in the county of the Vale of Glamorgan. Returning quickly into legality I followed the Cardiff boundary up the wooded banks of the River Ely on the Ely trail ( Crossing the river at the nearest bridge at Cowbridge road, I then doubled back on myself to reach Trelai Park. After a few streets of housing I climbed up the wooded side of a hillfort, a major archaeological site, unsigned and unvisited and surrounded by housing. Within the embankments lay the ruins of St Mary's church.
After more housing I walked over rough ground on a barely visible path to re-cross the Ely River and the main railway line from Cardiff to points west. St Fagans Castle and the folk museum was closed due to the coronavirus but I walked through the beech trees and fields behind it, where once a major battle of the English Civil War was fought. After more cow filled fields I went under the M4 motorway on a small road to join the busier A4119 by the small St Elteyrn's church. At this point the boundary of Cardiff bulges out into the countryside, why I do not know. As I headed north on a quieter road, the map indicated a dolmen, a prehistoric burial site in someone's garden although I failed to find it.
Turning east through woods and the remains of quarrying, the route led up to the open grassland of the Garth mountain. A tumulus on the top causes the summit to just exceed 1000 ft, which in my childhood meant we were able to call it a mountain. It lies just within the boundary of Cardiff. Following the steep slopes down from the mountain into the village of Gwaelod-y-Garth I crossed the River Taff into Tongwynlais, then climbed up into woodland by Castell Coch (closed due to Covid). Following the ridge, by Three Bears Cave, for a short distance I was retracing the steps I had walked on the Cambrian Way a few months earlier. Coming down the ridge at Thornhill I then followed its lower slopes across farmland on footpaths and small roads, before climbing up again to gain extensive views across Cardiff to Penarth, although the visibility on the day I walked it was poor. Finding my way through the houses at Tai-mawr was a bit problematic (the unsignposted public footpath crosses someone's neatly mowed lawn). After crossing the grounds of another house and following various small roads I crossed another hillfort at Graig Llyn.
Reaching Cardiff Gate Service Station by the M4 marked the end of the rural section, beyond it I walked through newly built and older housing reaching the St Mellon's Golf Course, where my route turned south by one of the many business parks around Cardiff. Hendre Park and its lake was a place I had not visited before, it lies in the flatlands surrounding the River Severn estuary. Reed lined drainage channels called "reens" are a feature of the area dating back to Roman times. After some rough ground I crossed the main railway line into South Wales, recently electrified, and made my way to the coast. There I followed the flood defence embankment back west following the Wales Coast Path. Cows were grazing on the salt marsh on the seaward side the embankment, while there were initially fields on the landward side, followed by the remains of a rubbish tip, now being landscaped. I continued on the Wales Coast Path to Cardiff Bay, following a recent diversion, through the streets of Tremorfa, completing my walk around the boundary of Cardiff, city and county.

More details in my blog

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PictographMine Altitude 0 ft
Photo of3 Bears Cave Photo of3 Bears Cave

3 Bears Cave

This is an old iron mine with three tunnels visible behind the railings.

PictographProvisioning Altitude 164 ft

Cardiff Gate Retail Park

Shops, coffee shop and bus stops nearby

PictographWaypoint Altitude 0 ft
Photo ofCardiff Bay Barrage and locks Photo ofCardiff Bay Barrage and locks Photo ofCardiff Bay Barrage and locks

Cardiff Bay Barrage and locks

The barrage, built in the 1990's changed Cardiff Bay from a tidal estuary, with extensive mud flats at low tide, into a freshwater lake. It also provides a pleasant walking and cycling route, free of vehicles, across the bay to Penarth.

PictographTrain stop Altitude 31 ft

Cardiff Bay Train Station

A place to start or finish a day's walking with regular trains to Cardiff Queens Street Station

PictographProvisioning Altitude 176 ft

Cardiff Gate Service Station

A place to stop for a cup of coffee and a muffin.

PictographCastle Altitude 352 ft
Photo ofCastell Coch

Castell Coch

Castle Coch (Red Castle) is a neo Gothic, Victorian fantasy built on the ruins of a Norman castle by the Marquess of Bute, who made his money from the docks around Cardiff Bay, that at one time supplied coal to the world. Used as a backdrop in many films.

PictographProvisioning Altitude 56 ft

Mr Coffi Coffee shop

Place for a coffee and cake close to Fairwater village green, where there are also shops and a pub. Long ago this was the centre of a small village, but by the 1930's the city had swallowed it up.

Dolmen or burial chamber

This neolithic burial chamber is somewhere in the garden of someone's house. I failed to find it!

PictographTrain stop Altitude 108 ft

Fairwater Railway Station

Station nearest the city boundary to catch a train home or start your walk.

Photo ofGraig Llyn Hiillfort

Graig Llyn Hiillfort

A possible iron age hill fort, the banks and ditches are visible although quite subtle.

PictographLake Altitude 27 ft
Photo ofHendre Lake Park Photo ofHendre Lake Park Photo ofHendre Lake Park

Hendre Lake Park

A lake set in the coastal plain with swans, ducks and fishermen. Around it are water filled channels called "reens", lined with reeds.

Norwegian Church Arts Centre

Formerly a church used by Norwegian sailors, it is now an Arts Centre hosting exhibitions of paintings, and a cafe.

PictographReligious site Altitude 162 ft
Photo ofSaint Ellteyrn's Church Photo ofSaint Ellteyrn's Church

Saint Ellteyrn's Church

A small 19th century church and graveyard

PictographMonument Altitude 36 ft


The Welsh Assembly meets here in a glass fronted building overlooking Cardiff Bay. The leader of the Welsh Assembly at the time opposed the scheme, but the bay is a lot prettier than mud flats surrounded by the remains of dockyards.

PictographMuseum Altitude 98 ft

St Fagans Folk Museum

St Fagan's folk museum, officially called the "St. Fagans National Museum of History" is a collection of old buildings, ranging from a castle to humble dwellings from different ages. Well worth a visit, currently closed due to the pandemic.

Photo ofCaerau Hillfort and St Mary's Church Photo ofCaerau Hillfort and St Mary's Church Photo ofCaerau Hillfort and St Mary's Church

Caerau Hillfort and St Mary's Church

The iron age Caerau hillfort is hidden by trees from the surrounding housing estate. It consists of a series of banks, in the middle of which are the ruins of St Mary's church.

PictographWaypoint Altitude 459 ft
Photo ofTai-mawr


I found it difficult to find where the public footpath went through this group of houses. It seems to go across a neatly cut lawn between two of the white buildings.

PictographSummit Altitude 1,007 ft
Photo ofThe Garth Photo ofThe Garth Photo ofThe Garth

The Garth

A locally well known mountain at just exceeding 1000 feet due to the tumulus (burial mound) on the top. When I walked by it was in the cloud as you can see from the photographs.

PictographPark Altitude 29 ft
Photo ofTrelai Park

Trelai Park

Flat area of grass with games pitches and trees around the edge. Popular with dog walkers, there are schools nearby.

PictographPanorama Altitude 830 ft
Photo ofViews over Cardiff Photo ofViews over Cardiff

Views over Cardiff

On a clear day the ridge offers some excellent views across Cardiff to Penarth. Despite the number of houses, the trees of the city make it appear less populated than it really is.

PictographTrain stop Altitude 130 ft

Whitchurch Train Station

A place to catch a train back into the city centre or to start your walk.


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