A few weeks ago I found myself in an unusual situation – I was in Cardiff with a couple of hours to myself. So I did something I’ve been meaning to do for a while and treated myself to a morning being a tourist in historical Llandaff.
P.S. Don’t forget to read all the way to the bottom of the post so you don’t miss my TOP TIPS for getting the most out of your visit to Llandaff! These are insider tips from a Welsh history lover who wants to give YOU all the local knowledge so you can really enjoy your visit.
Historical Llandaff is now part of Cardiff, the capital city of Wales – but it has a long and interesting history all of its own. A lot of that history is centered around its impressive cathedral. Because it was the seat of the Bishop of Llandaff historically Llandaff was known informally as a city, and it is still sometimes affectionally called the City of Llandaff.
Cardiff saw rapid expansion in the 19th Century and was a global centre of trade during the Industrial Revolution. Llandaff was gradually absorbed into this growing city. It also had a reputation for being one of the nicer and greener parts of the city, so attracted many wealthy new industrialists who built impressive houses which still stand today.
But the best way to learn more about historical Llandaff is through its places. Read on to discover which ones you can explore today!
Historical Llandaff – Llandaff Cathedral
Llandaff is most famous for its beautiful cathedral, hidden in a peaceful hollow just of the High Street.
The building you see today was begun in 1107 on the site of a 6th century monastic church. It has seen substantial alterations, especially after the cathedral was badly bombed during WWII. It was largely rebuilt and reopened in 1957, but the west front of the cathedral is original. Its widely recognised as some of the best medieval architecture in Wales.
The interior is naturally spectacular – an interesting mix of historic and modern architecture. Norman and Early Gothic architecture compete with huge concrete arches, complete with an aluminium statue of Christ In Majesty by Jacob Epstein.
Adding to this interesting fusion, we find dashes of Pre-Raphaelite brilliance, including a triptych by Rosetti. These works of art are juxtaposed with a nearby tomb to St Teilo and the Welch Regiment Memorial Chapel amongst other things. It shouldn’t work, but somehow it does.
Top Tip – If you are thinking of visiting Llandaff Cathedral, do double check opening times. The cathedral is regularly used by a nearby private school, so it may not be open when you expect it to be.
Historical Llandaff – Llandaff Bishops Palace
Next door to the cathedral is the old Llandaff Bishops Palace.
Originally built as a small medieval fortress, the palace is now largely ruined, but the gatehouse is still impressive. A lovely spot to sit with a takeaway coffee and just soak in the history.
Historical Llandaff – Insole Court
Insole Court is a bit of a hidden gem. All the locals love visiting this historic house and its garden, but it hasn’t quite made the tourist radar yet.
Insole Court is a Victorian Gothic mansion built in the 1850s for industrialist James Harvey Insole. Unsurprisingly for the area, Insole made his money in coal. He spent it on extending his modest home into what you see today. The architectural style is an obvious tribute to the nearby Cardiff Castle and its lavish Victorian Gothic interiors courtesy of William Burges.
Insole Court is only a five minute walk away from Llandaff Cathedral and the Bishops Palace. Entry to the grounds is free, but entry to the exhibition in the house is £5. There is also a great little café and shop on site, as well as studios and facilities for the wider community.
This is very much a community-driven heritage site. Insole Court was only renewed and restored after thirty years of community campaigning, so all donations are greatly appreciated.
Top Tips For Visiting Historical Llandaff
- Parking – there is free but limited parking right by the cathedral. However, you can also park for two hours in the pay and display car park free of charge (you just need to get a ticket). Bargain!
- Timing – As Llandaff is fairly compact, you could probably visit all sites in one morning/afternoon
- Eating – Llandaff has lots of great places to eat. If you have a sweet tooth like me, then you have to check out the new La Creme Patisserie. For a light lunch, I recommend Deli Bach near the car park, which is crammed full of Welsh produce. If a pub lunch is more your thing, Brains-owned The Maltsers is a solid bet. If you’re looking to splash the cash and have a real treat, then you need to try either Italian-inspired Porro or The Heathcock.
I hope you enjoyed my travel guide to historical Llandaff as much as I enjoyed exploring it! If you are thinking of visiting soon, let us know in the comments below.
P.S. Liked this post? Looking for more historical places in Wales to explore? Then check out my new Welsh History Travel Guide.