Students traditionally love a night on the town but a day out can in fact, be a lot cheaper, healthier, and more memorable. Here are some ideas for days out in and around Cardiff which can be done for less than the cost of a night of clubbing. I’ll work on the basis that you’re a thrifty lot and that the average night out, pre-drinks and all, comes in at a generous £20.
The City Centre
Cardiff city centre is packed with history. The most obvious example of this is Cardiff Castle which brings together Roman, Norman and Victorian heritage in one stunning site. For a student price of just £9.50 you can explore all of this as you like, or you can include a 45 minute guided tour (which includes access to additional Castle apartments) as well for £12. This leaves some money leftover for lunch in the on-site café but if it’s a nice day its worth taking a picnic so you can enjoy taking in the castle grounds or the beautiful Bute Park which is right next to them. Alternatively, you can nip outside the castle walls to grab some food as the castle is conveniently located right in the centre of town.
Under five minutes walk up the road from Cardiff Student’s Union, before you get into town, is the Welsh National Museum. This is a gem which is all too easily ignored by most students. It houses one of the most impressive collections of impressionist art outside Paris (including several Monets) and it also has a cast of Rodin’s famous sclupture The Kiss. The museum is not just an art gallery though, it also contains some great exhibitions of natural history and geology which are more specific to Wales though it mostly leaves mining history to more specifically dedicated museums, such as Big Pit. The museum is free, leaving plenty of spare cash for you to make a donation and help keep this great attraction going. And if you haven’t had your fill or art from the museum, the breath-taking Edwardian architecture of City Hall is right next door. City Hall is open to the public most days and boasts its own collection of paintings and sculptures, mostly with a royal theme.
If museums aren’t your thing and you prefer the great outdoors, Roath Park is the way to go. Situated in a popular student area only a short walk from the university, this park is great for relaxing with a picnic and some friends on a hot day. It has a lake and an array of boats for hire with the most expensive being a double boat at £7.50 for an hour. At that price, you can afford to take a pretty extravagant picnic and some cheap wine!
Cardiff Bay is usually thought of as a long way away from the main student area in Cardiff; Cathays. However, it’s actually only about a 40 minute walk across town or, better still, a 15 minute train journey which costs only £2.90 for a return (without a 16-25 railcard). Once you’re there, you have enough activities available to you to fill weeks, never mind days!
Cardiff Ice Arena – home to the Cardiff Devils Ice Hockey team – offers reasonably priced ice skating which can be great fun for beginners and experts alike. At £7.40 for a session lasting 2 hours and 45 minutes on weekdays, you have enough time to fall in love with the sport, fall over numerous times, fall out of love with it and find a happy medium before gingerly and (in most cases) ungracefully leaving the ice. You’ll also have enough money left over to satisfy the appetite you worked up with all those pirouettes. If you become addicted to skating, weekend sessions are a little more expensive (£8.70) but last 5 hours. So even if you go on the weekend that’s a great day out for only £11.60 + a few quid for a burger and some chips at the rink.
If skating isn’t for you there are lots of interesting sights to see for free around Cardiff Bay, from the public ‘optical effect’ art of Felice Varini to the attempts of the beginners at the white water rafting centre. A good way to see them all is to follow in the footsteps of Derek the ‘Weatherman Walking’ by using his handy map. The best thing about this day out is that walking is, of course, free though you may want to get that £2.90 train ticket to save your legs after Derek’s 5 mile walk! This leaves you plenty of money leftover from the £20 budget to eat out at one of the Bay’s many restaurants to give you the energy you need for this trek.
Or perhaps you’re a Doctor Who fan? The Doctor Who experience offers everything you could hope for at around £15 per person. This comes in just under budget if you get the train to the Bay and take a packed lunch. However you may want to take a little extra if you’re going to find that ‘I’ve flown the TARDIS’ certificate in the gift shop irresistible!
The home of Stacey from Gavin and Stacey, Barry Island offers a nostalgic experience in its old-fashioned style of fun. With its amusement park and sandy beach it’s definitely worth the 40 minute train journey from Cathays (a return ticket costs £4.70 without a railcard). A fiver is enough for 7 tokens which will buy you two or three rides in the amusement park and there’s no entry fee. There’s a lot of fun to be had (and perhaps millions to be made!) in the numerous penny arcades which cash in on the association with the T.V. show through copious amounts of ‘Oh! What’s occurring?’ memorabilia. They certainly provide value for money; £2 changed for 2p coins can last over an hour of compulsive attempts to shuffle an aged lollipop or pointless key-ring into the collection tray. After tiring yourself out with these, head to the beach to soak up some Welsh sun and take your pick from the finest fish and chip shops in the land (much better priced than any in Cardiff). After you’ve spent a fiver on food, you should be left with just enough to treat yourself to a pint before catching a train back to Cardiff having had a great (but cheap!) day out.