Cosmeston Lakes Country Park is a beautiful nature reserve / park on the outskirts of Penarth, about 15-20 minutes drive from Cardiff. It has a large free car park and is open all year. These very well maintained grounds include walks along wide paths around the two lakes, with a bridge over the center for a shorter walk. Several meandering walks branch off, through woodlands or fields into the surrounding areas.
Address: Cosmeston Lakes Country Park, Lavernock Road, Penarth, CF64 5UY
Telephone Enquiries (Visitor Centre): 029 2070 1678
There is a medium sized children’s playground, which is very well maintained and even in the busy summer, I never see any litter anywhere, which is very nice to see and then the main feature – the two lakes.
The lakes are a natural paradise, although it wasn’t always that way! This is not a natural lake at all, it is actually an old stone quarry – hence the very deep lake and strictly no swimming signs. After it was a quarry it was a landfill. Imagine that – this amazing reserve just filled to the brim with rubbish! In the 70s the council dedicated themselves to turning into a natural park instead and now it is a well established reserve for birds and wildlife, as well as a perfect (and completely free) day out for all ages.
The lake is a haven for water birds, including a special conservation area for nesting cormorants. They can often be seen on the outskirts of their area, sunning themselves on water posts next to seagulls. Several species of duck can be found here, along with swans, moorhens, coots, geese, greater and little grebe’s, herons and more. Even the occasional sighting of a Kingfisher. The woodlands are full of small birds and it’s quite common to see squirrels – especially stealing from the bird feeders!
It would be very easy to engage kids in nature by giving them a bird spotting leaflet and they’ll certainly have no problems finding birds to feed. Just make sure you take duck food with you, and don’t feed bread!
It usually takes us around 20-30 minutes to walk around half the lake, or 40-60 minutes (depending on stops to feed the birds and enjoy the scenery!) to do the full lake walk. We always take the dog and the stroller. The paths can be a little bumpy in some places but nothing problematic.
On site is a Medieval village for a bit of history as well. In 1978 when the park was being redesigned, excavations revealed a medieval community over 600 years old! An archeology project has worked hard to create an accurate representation using the historical foundations of what the village looked like back then. There’s even a little museum and it’s all free to visit, although you can pay for a guided tour or hire equipment for an audio tour. I didn’t go in on this visit and get photos
Great place for a Summer Party
There are BBQ areas with large BBQ equipment already set up. You need to buy a permit if you want to hold a BBQ here, but it includes exclusive access to that BBQ and the picnic tables around it. Permits start at £20 – which isn’t a bad price for a beautiful setting and a safe BBQ unit. Couple this with a walk around the park and a play in the children’s playground and this could make for a great summer event, birthday party or family get together.
Facilities & Cafe
There are plenty of facilities here. On top of the free car park, there is a toilet block at the entrance to the lake (baby changing facilities in men’s and women’s, disabled with a RADAR key), indoor toilets in the cafe (baby changing in the disabled toilet) and at the medieval village. There’s a small visitor centre that can give information about the surrounding area and maps and then there’s a medium sized cafe with both indoor and outdoor seating, serving breakfast and regular meals! The prices are excellent and everything is fresh and delicious that we’ve experienced so far.
Here’s a quick snap of a full cooked breakfast we enjoyed this week! £5.50 each for a hearty cooked breakfast + £2.30 for a pot of tea for two.
I’ve been walking around Cosmeston Lakes since I was a child – that’s 30 years of visiting this amazing park for free. I’ve walked here with my dog alone, with my husband, with my mum, I wheeled my grandmother around regularly in her wheelchair before she passed and now I have the joy of taking the baby. I’m looking forward to him growing up and enjoying this beautiful scenery as much as I have and connecting with nature in such a safe setting. If you’re in Cardiff or South Wales, you absolutely need to make this a regular day out. If it’s raining, bring some wellies!