Just across the border, Penarth Quays sits behind the impressive barrage, built 17 years ago to create Cardiff Bay – an area of open water ideal for events, recreation and wildlife.
Cardiff Bay is now recognised as being one of the UK’s most successful regeneration programmes, creating a 500 acre freshwater lake, fed by the Rivers Taff and Ely, in the former dockland area. The barrage gives vessels 24 hour access, through three locks, opening this whole area up and bringing new life and prosperity to Tiger Bay.
For those of us who like to stretch our legs after a long passage at sea the 13km walkway around the Bay is recommended with the Pont y Werin bascule bridge enabling cyclists and walkers to cross the Ely and complete the circuit that takes in Penarth, with its famous pier. It was a very popular resort in Victorian times with wide views over the Bristol Channel and beyond.
The 340 berth Penarth Quays is run by Quay Marinas, with manager Stuart Jones keeping a cheerful hand on the tiller here. It is a sheltered haven for yachtsmen with the joys of Cardiff just over the bay.
There are boat parking meters at Mermaid Quay, if you want to pop over for shopping and a spot of lunch.
SPOT OF LUNCH
Site facilities are good for a hungry girl who has just driven over the Severn Bridge, so I trot off happily to choose my lunch spot.
Diverting temporarily for a peep at the hypnotic barrage, I check out The Custom House, an impressive building looking over the barrage and out to sea, but decide this is not for me this time. So I walk along the quayside, admiring the colourful gardens and bods tweaking their rigs ahead of the weekend.
Pier 64 is an iconic wood clad building hanging over the marina. The superb deck area is glazed to keep off the wind and strengthened to take a crowd of 300 plus. This is more like it. There is a cosmopolitan feel inside, a bit sparkly, cocktails being shaken, but friendly and offering all berth holders and visiting yachts a 10 per cent discount.
I go for a quick lunch of chicken satay and it is spot on. The succulent chicken gently spiced on a bed of roast peppers, carrots and sliced beans, the scatter of peanut nibs on top adding the crunch. Washed down with lime and soda I am ready to continue my whistle stop tour of Penarth and hike up the steep hill into town.
SPOILT FOR CHOICE
Penarth is probably best known for its Pier. The planting is lovely here and the views wide and open over the Bristol Channel, north to Cardiff and across the Bristol Channel to Weston Super-Mare and beyond.
Along the esplanade is the recently opened James Sommerin, a top rated restaurant with rooms above. Renowned for his fascinating tasting menus, this is a special place for dinner as prices start at £60 for six courses and matching wine for another £40.
I am told the food is very good. It was quiet when I visited and, dare I say, a little sterile? When I asked the marina if they had tried it out Stuart said he went there for a special birthday party and the food was exceptional, with service to match.
So heading back into town I spot Bar 44, owned by two brothers, with three Spanish bars in their chain: one in Cardiff, another in Cowbridge and this one in Penarth, which is a favourite of the marina team.
I like the look of the long polished bar, list of tapas, Spanish gin and tonic specials and a flight of sherries. It has a lovely atmosphere and the Iberica ham looks the business at the back of the bar. The little garden is bathed in afternoon sunshine.
I will return later, but there is still time to check out the best butcher, baker and fruit and veg stall in town, before heading back to the marina for afternoon tea at Compass Café, run by Marcus and Craig and open every day for some classic breakfasts, served until 4pm. They are very popular with berth holders, cyclists and walkers, as well as all the workers at Penarth Quays.
They use local where they can, bread from Brutons, Welsh tea from the Tea Birds and speciality cup cakes from the Cup and Cake Bakery just over the Bay. They are working on a new afternoon tea menu and I will be back to try it. A cheerful, bright café that knows its customers well.
There is so much to do here in Penarth, and with Cardiff and its Dr Who Experience and International Sports Centre over the way, I am planning a longer visit next time.
The hike (and bike – Nat Cycle Network Route 8)
There is a great choice of traffic free trails around Cardiff Bay, taking in as much history, shopping, wildlife and nourishment as you wish. Starting at six miles but you can extend easily to nine and beyond.
Guest little red book: ex pro Cardiff Blues prop Gary Powell
Pub – The Pilot – best pint of Peroni and ham, egg & chips
Coffee#1 – owned by Cardiff based brewers Brains, so almost local here
Butcher – David Lush – minted lamb chops and chipolatas
Baker – Brutons, 106 Glebe Street
Fruit & Veg – Windsor Fruit Store, in pretty Arcade off Windsor Street
Afternoon tea – Hamptons, Ludlow Lane – served from 3pm for £11.99 pp, call to book so they can get cooking (029 2070 5391)