Cardiff Bay

Cardiff Bay
Welsh: Bae Caerdydd
The Bay or Tiger Bay
Cardiff Bay
 Cardiff Bay shown within Cardiff
Principal areaCardiff
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post town CARDIFF
Postcode district CF10
Dialling code 029
EU Parliament Wales
Welsh AssemblyCardiff South & Penarth
Website Cardiff Harbour Authority Visit Cardiff Bay
List of places

Coordinates: 51°27′47″N 3°09′50″W / 51.463°N 3.164°W / 51.463; -3.164

Cardiff Bay (Welsh: Bae Caerdydd) is the area created by the Cardiff Barrage in South Cardiff, the capital of Wales. The regeneration of Cardiff Bay is now widely regarded as one of the most successful regeneration projects in the United Kingdom.[1] The Bay is supplied by two rivers (Taff and Ely) to form a 500-acre (2.0 km2) freshwater lake around the former dockland area south of the city centre. The Bay was formerly tidal, with access to the sea limited to a couple of hours each side of high water but now provides 24-hour access through three locks.[2]


For more details on this topic, see Tiger Bay.

Cardiff Bay played a major part in Cardiff’s development by being the means of exporting coal from the South Wales Valleys to the rest of the world, helping to power the industrial age. The coal mining industry helped fund the building of Cardiff into the Capital city of Wales and helped the Third Marquis of Bute, who owned the docks, become the richest man in the world at the time.

As Cardiff exports grew, so did its population; dockworkers and sailors from across the world settled in neighbourhoods close to the docks, known as Tiger Bay, and communities from up to 45 different nationalities, including Norwegian, Somali, Yemeni, Spanish, Italian, Caribbean and Irish helped create the unique multicultural character of the area.

After the Second World War most of the industry closed down and became derelict. But, in 1999, new life was injected into the area by the building of the Cardiff Bay Barrage, one of the most controversial building projects of the day but also one of the most successful.[3]


Cardiff Bay before the construction of the Cardiff Bay Barrage
For more details on this topic, see Cardiff Bay Development Corporation.

The Cardiff Bay Development Corporation (CBDC) was created in 1987 to stimulate the redevelopment of 1,100 hectares (2,700 acres) of derelict land.[4] The Development Corporation aimed to attract private capital by spending public money to improve the area. Despite opposition by environmentalists and wildlife organisations, the mudflats at the mouths of the River Taff and River Ely were inundated, with loss of habitat for wading birds. The Barrage has created several new habitats for freshwater species with the wetlands to the south of the Hamadryad Park.

When the Development Corporation was wound up in on 31 March 2000, it had achieved many of its objectives. The whole area was unrecognisable from ten years before. Much private land was now open to the public, particularly around the inner harbour and the north side of Roath basin. Work is progressing to complete a 13 kilometre walkway around the Bay and the Barrage has created a world-class environment. In addition, the development has enabled land in the city centre to be redeveloped for higher-value uses.[5]

Cardiff Bay in 2008

The development of "something like 1,250 apartments a year"[6] however might cause future problems. As at 2008 up to one third were not occupied. Critics such as Lorraine Barrett (AM Labour, Cardiff South and Penarth) say, the flat complexes will not help to build up a community and too little attention has been paid to develop affordable housing. With the recent falls in property values, sales in the area have become problematic. Therefore, landlords might be more willing to rent their places out to "people who may not be suited to that type of living."[7]

Connecting the Bay area to the centre of Cardiff was a primary goal when plans to develop the docklands were first mooted. Original plans included a grand boulevard (similar to where Lloyd George Avenue is located now) with high density commercial and residential units straddling both sides. This would have created significant demand for quality public transport provisions facilitating connections to the new Bay area but public transport was often of poor quality and, but there are now much improved connections through the Cardiff Bus BayCar service and rail service from Cardiff Queen Street to Cardiff Bay railway station.

On 30 January 2013 the award-winning planning consultant, Adrian Jones, stated that Cardiff Bay was a contender for the "worst example of waterside regeneration in Britain". Specifically noting that the Empire Pool was replaced with a "trashy leisure complex" and that "It is not principally the buildings – poor as most are, sadly they represent the current British regeneration standard. No, it is the lack of any coherent urban structure, of real streets and worthwhile public spaces. In other words, it is the dumb plan."[8]

Notable buildings

Pierhead Building (left) and Senedd (right)

St David's Hotel

The St David's Hotel and Spa is a 5-star luxury hotel with commanding views of the Bay and Penarth.[9] Built by Rocco Forte in 2000, the hotel was sold in 2007, to Principal-Haley hotels.

The Pierhead Building

The Pierhead was built in 1897 and designed by William Frame, who studied under William Burges[10] It was formerly the headquarters of the Bute Dock Company.

The Senedd

The Senedd is the National Assembly for Wales building which includes the debating chamber and committee rooms.

Wales Millennium Centre

The Wales Millennium Centre, seen from Roald Dahl Plass

The Wales Millennium Centre is home to the Welsh National Opera.

Norwegian Church

For more details on this topic, see Norwegian Church, Cardiff.

The Norwegian Church Arts Centre, is a rescued historic wooden church that was rebuilt in 1992 and operates as a registered self funded not for profit charity. It is managed by Cardiff Harbour Authority and is as a venue for small concerts, art exhibitions, conferences, meetings and celebrations.[11] When living in Cardiff as a child, the famous children's author Roald Dahl attended this church.

Craft in the Bay

Norwegian Church from the water

A refurbished Victorian dockside building houses Craft in the Bay, the home of the Makers Guild in Wales.


Techniquest is an educational science & discovery centre, which also includes a science theatre and planetarium.

Roald Dahl Plass

Mermaid Quay

Roald Dahl Plass is a large open amphitheatre style plaza frequently used as a venue for carnivals and festivals all year round.

Mermaid Quay

Mermaid Quay comprises a mix of restaurants, bars, cafés, shops and services located on the waterfront.

The Tube (Cardiff Bay Visitor Centre)

For more details on this topic, see Cardiff Bay Visitor Centre (The Tube).

Dismantled in 2010, this unique building "single-handedly put Cardiff on the architectural map",[12] housing exhibitions and visitor information.

Water-based attractions

Commercial and residential

Red Dragon Centre, Cardiff Bay

Appearances in the media

Roald Dahl Plass and the Wales Millennium Centre are often used in external shots of the Torchwood Hub in Doctor Who and Torchwood.

Cardiff Bay was used as the high-tech urban setting for the Doctor Who episode "Boom Town" and the show's spinoff, Torchwood, whose makers deliberately avoided stereotypical portrayals of Wales in order to portray Cardiff as the modern urban centre it is today. In Torchwood series, there is a giant secret base underneath the Bay, named "The Hub", from where the Torchwood team works. There is also a lift from the hub into the plaza with a perception filter making anyone who stands on the spot "not noticed". In the third series of Torchwood entitled "Children Of Earth", Cardiff Bay was the centre of a bomb explosion, destroying the Torchwood Hub and Cardiff Bay. [15] Roald Dahl Plass features prominently. The Doctor Who episode "The Runaway Bride" made use of office buildings in Cardiff Bay.[16]


Cardiff Bay railway station is northeast of Mermaid Quay and is served by shuttle services to Cardiff Queen Street railway station. Cardiff Bus operates the following services to the Bay:

The Bay lies off the A4232 before the Butetown tunnels and is linked to the city centre by Lloyd George Avenue and Bute Street.

The Pont y Werin pedestrian and cycle bridge opened in July 2010, completing a six and a half-mile circular route around Cardiff Bay and Penarth.

A cycle hire system, similar to those in other large cities, launched in September 2009, and includes 70 bikes and 35 hire points (initially 7) around the centre and the south of the city. The current stations are: Central Station; Cardiff Bay Station; County Hall; Cardiff Bay Visitors’ Centre; Churchill Way; City Hall and eastern Queen Street. It is necessary to register before using bike. The first half an hour is free after which a small hourly fee is payable.[17][18]

Panorama of the Cardiff Bay in April 2010
Panorama of the Cardiff Bay in April 2010
Side view of the Norwegian Church 
Cardiff Bay at night 
Wetlands walkway in Cardiff Bay 
Cardiff Bay Barrage Control Building 
Three Bascule Bridges, Cardiff Bay Barrage 
View of Cardiff barrage at sea 
Cardiff Bay Barrage lock in use 
Sculpture by Jonathan Williams depicting Captain Scott, outside the Norwegian Church 

See also


  1. Cardiff Bay Economic Development, Cardiff: Cardiff Council, April 2005, p. 8
  2. Cardiff Harbour Authority, Cardiff Bay Barrage, archived from the original on 10 May 2008, retrieved 28 April 2008
  3. "Report on Cardiff Bay". Archived from the original on 22 May 2011. Retrieved 2013-09-30.
  4. Cardiff Bay Economic Development, Cardiff: Cardiff Council, April 2005, p. 8
  5. Esys Consulting Ltd, Evaluation of Regeneration in Cardiff Bay. A report for the Welsh Assembly Government, December 2004
  6. BBC (8 June 2008), "'Slum of the future' fear for Bay", BBC News, BBC News Online, retrieved 8 June 2008
  7. The Politics Show, BBC 1 Wales, Sun 8 June 2008
  8. "Cardiff Bay 'worst example of waterside regeneration'". 30 January 2013. Retrieved 4 February 2013.
  9. "The St Davids Hotel and Spa". Retrieved 2013-09-30.
  10. BBC, Cardiff Bay – Pierhead, BBC, retrieved 28 April 2008
  11. "Home, Welcome, Croeso, Velkommen". Norwegian Church Cardiff. Retrieved 2013-09-30.
  12. Sturges, Fiona (3 October 1998). "The 50 BEST BUILDINGS OF THE NINETIES". The Independent. Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  13. "Cardiff's Coal Exchange saved in £40m hotel revamp". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  14. "The Mount Stuart, Cardiff Bay". Wetherspoons. Retrieved 14 May 2016.
  15. Price, Karen (19 October 2006). "Action, aliens – and it's filmed in Wales". Western Mail. Retrieved 4 November 2006.
  16. Wales South East, BBC (25 December 2006). "Doctor Who: The Runaway Bride". BBC Wales. Retrieved 24 October 2007.
  17. "Public bike hire scheme for city". BBC News. 22 September 2009. Retrieved 28 April 2010.
  18. "Smart bike system launch". Wales Online. 2009-09-22. Retrieved 2013-09-30.
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