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BUTE PARK & ARBORETUM
Just a short walk from Cardiff Castle and the city centre is Bute Park, an extensive area of mature parkland, flanked by the River Taff, Sophia Gardens, Pontcanna Fields and the castle. Few other places can boast such a spacious green area in the heart of their city.
Situated as they are, side by side, it is perhaps no surprise that Cardiff Castle and Bute Park share a common history. Cardiff’s Grade 1 listed ‘green lung’ is now a much loved public park but was once the Castle’s private pleasure garden, created for the third Marquess of Bute.
Both Castle and park have played significant roles in the development of the city through Roman and medieval times, the industrial revolution, and up until the modern city we know today. The land now known as Bute Park was originally used for industry, agriculture and religion. Unpleasant odours from these activities, some in close proximity to the castle’s domestic buildings, were known to trouble the occupants.
During the 1800s, the 2nd Marquess began acquiring leases on land to the north and west of the Castle, clearing the offending buildings and eventually enclosing the area to create the castle grounds. From 1873, the southern section was laid out by gardener, Andrew Pettigrew for the Bute family as Cardiff Castle’s private pleasure grounds.
Today the Castle is connected to Bute Park via the North Gate bridge and ‘Lady Bute’s Bridge’. It is believed that Lady Maria North, first wife of the Second Marquess of Bute, specifically asked for this bridge to be built when a former medieval mill-leat was converted to form the dock feeder canal during the 1830s.
There was once another bridge, now lost, that directly connected the Castle to the park on its western side. This huge wooden pedestrian bridge crossed another former mill stream, from the base of the Bute Tower. Known as the ‘Swiss Bridge’, it was turreted, painted red and had an ornate tiled roof. After falling into disrepair, it was moved to another location before sadly being demolished in the 1960s.
In 1947, after the death of the 4th Marquess, the Castle and its adjacent parklands were given as a gift to the city of Cardiff. A stipulation of this arrangement was that the castle grounds and Sophia Gardens, on the west side of the river Taff, were to be maintained as public parklands.
Today Bute Park boasts a wealth of historic and wildlife interest to explore and enjoy, it attracts over one million visitors every year. Within its 130 acres you will find a walled nursery, champion tree collection, a visitor centre, several cafés, sculpture trail and much more.
The park also plays a huge role in the city’s events calendar, highlights include hosting music festivals, charity walks and runs, a seasonal firework display and a beautiful Christmas light trail.
VISIT BUTE PARK & ARBORETUM
If you're planning a trip to Cardiff Castle, think about paying a visit to Bute Park as well. Just a short walk from the Castle's main entrance, Bute Park is a Green Flag site and CADW Grade 1 listed, truly the green heart of the city.