Bute Park is an extensive parkland stretching 2.8 km (1.7 miles) northwards from the heart of the city along the eastern bank of Taff. Originally the pleasure ground of Cardiff Castle, the park now contains one of the finest tree collections in a public park in the UK.
The layout of the Cardiff Castle pleasure grounds was executed by Andrew Pettigrew, Head Gardener to the third Marquess of Bute, between 1873 and 1903. Pettigrew was brought to Cardiff from another Bute property, Dumfries House in Scotland, to work with William Burges, who was responsible for the remodeling of Cardiff Castle in all its Victorian gothic splendor. Cardiff’s famous Animal Wall, inspired by Burges, now forms the southern boundary of the park.
Pettigrew was an instinctive gardener; there are no records or plans of his work, but his style was understated and extensive, in contrast to the high gothic architecture of the castle. Expansive lawns, carefully grouped trees, and bold shrub borders created a setting designed to show the castle off to the best effect.
In 1947, following the death of the fourth Marquess of Bute, both the Castle and Pleasure Grounds were gifted to Cardiff Corporation. At the same time, the Corporation purchased further lands from the estate to create the extent of the park that is seen today – 59 ha in total (146 acres) and the site was given the name Bute Park. Part of the new acquisition was the Blackweir sports ground, which continues to be in use today.
In the second half of the 20th century, the then Director of Parks, Bill Nelmes, began developing the park as an Arboretum collection, which has been added to over the years and now contains over 2,500 named trees. In addition, there are expanses of semi-natural woodland that provide a habitat for a wide range of birds and mammals, including several species of bats.
In 2007, the site received £3.1 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund towards a total project costing £5.6 million to restore and conserve the park for the future. Research into the site has revealed that site has a complex history, closely associated with the development of Cardiff over the last 1,000 years.
As well as the arboretum collection, features in the park include a magnificent herbaceous border, a collection of carved tree sculptures, the site of the 13th-century Blackfriars friary, the dock feeder canal, (which still supplies water for Cardiff Docks), and an expansive landscape which belies the park’s location next to the Millennium Stadium and a stone’s throw from Cardiff’s main shopping center.
The park hosts an extensive events program throughout the year, including the RHS Spring Flower Show in April, Cardiff Mardi Gras, and the annual firework display, ‘Sparks in the Park,’ in November. Details of the whole program can be found on the Council’s website. A water bus service operates from the park to Cardiff Bay.
Bute Park Education Centre is located within the park, set behind a garden wall, and plays on the concept of a ‘secret garden.’ The center is accessed through a large, beautifully carved oak door designed by local woodcarvers to tell the story of the park, providing a venue for exhibitions, training, and educational events, including school visits.
Refreshments are available from various kiosks in the park, serving a range of homemade light meals and snacks, using local and fair trade produce and high-quality coffee and specialty teas.
- Address: Castle Street, Cathays, Cardiff
Postcode: CF10 3EA
- Tel number: (029) 2068 4000
Web Address: www.cardiff.gov.uk/parks
- Opening Hours: Bute Park is open from 7.30 a.m. to around 30 minutes before the nationally published sunset time for Cardiff.
- Admission Charges: Free admission
Parking Charges: Car parking is available at Sophia Gardens and North Road car parks (charges apply). Coach parking is available at Sophia Gardens.
- Group information: Toilets on site Coaches by arrangement, contact Parks and Sports Service for more information.
Accessibility information: Good level access throughout the site – wheelchair accessible.