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Visiting Llandaff, Cardiff, Wales, with its Cathedral and Close: architecture and history intensely felt

Updated on March 26, 2012
Flag of Wales
Flag of Wales | Source
Llandaff Cathedral
Llandaff Cathedral | Source
Ruins, at Llandaff
Ruins, at Llandaff | Source
1610 map of Llandaff
1610 map of Llandaff | Source

Stones surviving bombs and Medieval warriors

In Cardiff (Welsh: Caerdydd ), capital city of Wales (Welsh: Cymru ), the ancient suburb of Llandaff (Welsh: Llandaf ) harbours the impressive Cathedral (Welsh: Eglwys Gadeiriol ), surrounded as it is by the evocative ruins of a former bishop's palace and a castle. Choristers from the Cathedral School periodically cross the Close on their way to their singing tasks in the Cathedral.

In some ways, Llandaff's Cathedral is similar to various Anglican Cathedrals in England. Part of the difference being that it belongs to the Church in Wales (Welsh: Yr Eglwys yng Nghymru) rather than to the Church of England.

Centuries of damage

The current Cathedral building dates from the 12th century, but is on the location of an older church. The bishop's palace was ruined by troops of Owain Glyndŵr in the 15th century. Glyndŵr is sometimes seen as a role model for Welsh nationalists today, but, without analyzing this comparison, the destruction which his followers wrought at Llandaff is in any case not usually counted among one of their more positive achievement.

In World War Two, also, the Cathedral was badly affected by aerial bombing, and damage involved several years of repairs, but in 1960 HM The Queen attended a service to commemorate their completion.

However, in 2007, the Cathedral suffered damage by lightning, which proved to involve expensive assessment.

Llandaff: a city? or not?

Traditionally in this part of the world, if a place possesses a cathedral, then it is regarded as a city. Thus, at least informally, Llandaff has in the past been referred to as a city. Smallness of population is not necessarily seen as a bar to its civic status: another Cathedral in Wales is at St. David's, which is often referred to as a city, even though it is actually no bigger than a village.

But when Cardiff, within the boundaries of which Llandaff now comes, was chartered as a city, the absence of such a charter for Llandaff became increasingly obvious. But city or not, many large towns and even cities in their own right would doubtless be pleased to possess such splendid buildings as does Llandaff!

Also worth seeing

Cardiff has fine buildings, structures and cultural treasures too numerous to mention adequately here, but some of these include: Cathays Park (Welsh: Parc Cathays ), with its gardens, the National Museum Cardiff (Welsh: Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Caerdydd ), which contains the Prince of Wales's regalia, and the City Hall (Welsh: Neuadd y Ddinas ) with its Marble Hall containing statues of many noted historical personalities associated with Wales, including King Henry VII , Owain Glyndŵr, Dewi Sant/Saint David, Medieval Chronicler Gerald of Wales ( also known as Giraldus Cambrensis or Gerallt Gymro), Bible translator William Morgan , Medieval poet Dafydd ap Gwilym, and hymnwriter William Williams Pantycelyn. Cardiff's ancient castle is open to the public, and has been known to host deliberations of the United Kingdom Parliament's House of Commons' Welsh Affairs Committee.

Castell Coch , Tongwynlais (distance: 4.2 kilometres), a striking hillside castle, built in the 19th century on the site of Medieval fortifications.

Caerphilly (distance: 10 kilometres), has a 13th century castle, the largest in Wales.

St David's (distance: 163 kilometres), has an ancient cathedral situated near the westernmost point of Wales.

Tintern Abbey (Welsh: Abaty Tyndyrn ; distance: 61 kilometres), is a ruined, Medieval Abbey situated on banks of the Wye River (Welsh: Afon Gwy ).

Hay-on-Wye (Welsh: Y Gelli Gandryll ; distance: 90 kilometres) is a market town with a Medieval Castle, and many bookstores, to which industry the economy of the town is substantially devoted.


How to get there: Continental Airlines flies to London Heathrow Airport , from where car rental is available. London Heathrow is approximately 222 kilometres from Cardiff . There are fast railroad links between London and Cardiff. Please note that some facilities mentioned may be withdrawn without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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