A perfect day: sunshine, trains running smoothly, sea, sand, fish ‘n’ chips and a fair. The three of us, from Swindon, Bath and Pontypridd enjoyed Barry Island. Our train unloaded lots of daytrippers at the station and we trooped off down to the promenade at Whitmore Bay.
First stop was at the Bay5 cafe overlooking the sand, with views beyond latest beach fashions over to England where the coastal towns were easy to pick out on a clear, sparkly day. Another customer told us that the boat was probably carrying wood – maybe to Bristol, I imagined.
Barry Island is actually a peninsular, the island having been joined to Barry in the late 19th century. When I visited in the 1990s, the Butlins holiday camp had closed and looked desolate. The site is now housing on one of the headlands which shield Whitmore Bay and there are plenty of open spaces in which to amble or climb onto rocks after a stroll barefoot in the sand.
We went west over to Friar’s Point where there is a fabulous house which intrigued us. Some bits looked a bit unkempt though the roof was good and when an upstairs window opened, we knew it was occupied. We thought we might get yelled at.
This is a CADW Grade II listed building on the British Listed Buildings website, where there is a description and history to 1991. It was built by one of the Crawshays, who owned Barry (as they did other parts of South Wales like Cyfarthfa in Merthyr, and the tin works in Trefforest). It has had several remodellings since the 19th century, and then got a more racy history recently, of which we found out more after walking round. The house and grounds are now fenced firmly against the public.
Carrying on round the island, we came to the old harbour, with a long pier and Porthkerry Park ahead of us on the mainland. The old harbour is silted up.
We walked over through a wooded path and came to the main gate to Friars Point House, where a chat gave us more information about why the gatehouse looked a bit tatty, and the current owner who has claimed a lord of the manor status (outlined in the local newspaper) and rights over parts of the coast.
Apparently, he acquired over 60 Lordships of the Manor. This is very different from the owners in the early 20th century who gifted the land on the seafront to the urban district council – the council’s response in curving seawall and generous public shelters gives Barry island a distinctive feel. Another article outlines this.
We lunched on Boofy’s fish and chips, which lived up to their reputation.
That set us up for an exploration of the other headland, where we found plenty of samphire (very tasty too) and gazed out to sea.
It was time to turn away from the sea and into the funfair. Which ride should we go on?
None of us fancied anything stomach-churning, so after a photo-opp we settled for the ghost train, which made me laugh.
We just caught the train – thanks station folk – which linked up perfectly with the Swindon and Bath ones at Cardiff, and took me home.