Everything you need to know about Roath Park Lake, Cardiff

Roath Park is Cardiff’s most popular park, easily accessible from the city centre. When you visit it I’m sure you’ll see why it’s so popular! The central focus of Roath Park, Cardiff is the 30 acre man-made lake, with both row and pedal boats available to hire. Life jackets are provided for children, and there’s also a small pedal section just for the little ones. On the lake you’ll find a whole array of water birds and in the spring and summer, babies will be everywhere. Half of the lake is roped off for conservation, so you shouldn’t need to worry about disturbing any important nesting sites. The Scott Memorial Lighthouse on the lake is an iconic Cardiff landmark that you might be familiar with, so make sure you get a snap of it and tag #roathparklake on Instagram!

Opened in 1894, this is a Victorian park that still maintains an air of elegance and tranquility, even at the busiest times. With diverse habitats, you’ll find an array of wildlife and flowers as well as twelve champion trees. Champion trees are trees which are the biggest and best of their species in the UK and awarded by the Tree Register of the British Isles. Each of the twelve different species of tree has a marker, and this could make for a fun family activity to find them all! The park is so large that it never feels like it’s that busy, although the playground itself does get quite packed.

Roath Park Opening Hours

The main park is gated and opens at 7:30am every morning. As with most of Cardiff’s council maintained park, closing time is 30 minutes before sunset, so varies based on the time of year. As long as you have full light, you’ll be fine, and there is always a sign on the gates telling you when it will be closing.

A large amount of the lake is ungated and can be walked any time of day and the recreation grounds are also open 24 hours a day.

Boating on Roath Park Lake

One of the biggest attractions of Roath Park is the boating lake which is now managed by Parkwood Outdoors and available between April (opens for the Easter Holidays) and November. The boating opening hours are published on their website so do check before traveling if you specifically want to head out on a boat. There are both rowboats (4 or 6 seater) and pedal boats available, and children must wear a life jacket which is provided. I highly recommend everyone enjoy a traditional Victorian rowboat at some point in their summer – it’s so beautiful and calm, but pedalos are also ideal for those who are worried about rowing, or for getting the kids involved.

The prices as of April 2019 were:

4 seater rowboat – £7 for 30 minutes, £12 for one hour.
6 seater rowboat – £9.50 for 30 minutes, £18 for one hour.
4 person pedalo – £7 for 30 minutes, £12 for one hour.

They also sell duck food at Roath Park Lake boating kiosk and I’d highly recommend taking a bag out with you.

Roath Park Playground

There is a large playground centrally located in the park, just south of the lake. It has several extremely large slides as well as smaller ones and adventure equipment, climbing frames and swings. In nice weather or school holidays and weekends there are usually extra activities here such as a bouncy castle or putt putt golf. There are loads of benches inside and outside the park for parents to sit and watch and it’s all very clean and well maintained.

Roath Park Botanic Garden / Conservatory

This council run greenhouse is a tiny little paradise that lots of people don’t know about. For just £2.10 (adults), £1.05 (concessions – children over 5, students and over 60s) and free for under 5s, you can spend as much time as you want inside. It has a beautiful tropical koi pond (fish food available to buy!) which is also home to terrapins, and a pair of Asian ducks who are very tame! There are a couple of benches inside to sit and relax, and then hundreds of tropical plants.

You can also buy duck food here which is suitable for all of the wildlife at the lake, as feeding ducks bread is very bad.

I would say that for parents of babies and toddlers visiting Roath Park Lake Conservatory, do note that there is not a rail or fence around the pond, so if you have a rather adventurous toddler like me, you’ll want to keep a very close eye on them. The pond is very shallow, but no one wants a soaking wet toddler for the rest of the day! Most of the path is doable with a pushchair if needed, but there is a section with steps over the top that isn’t. You can leave the pushchair in the entrance foyer though if you want to walk around.

Food & Toilet Facilities at Roath Park Lake

In addition to the boathouse, there are three toilet blocks including disabled facilities accessed by RADAR key. There are baby changing facilities, but they are very basic and not always cleanest in my opinion, as outside toilet blocks usually are. There is a cafe called Terra Nova which serves both hot food (£6+) and sandwiches (£4+) which looks out onto the waterfront, and an ice cream and drinks kiosk, so you should be set for food and drink. Terra Nova also has the nicest baby change facilities available. There are plenty of places to eat a picnic too, but be warned, if the geese see you, you will be hounded!

Terra Nova is Dog Friendly, so if you’re bringing your furry family friend along, he can even go in the cafe, with water bowls and dog treats available.

Roath Park Recreation Ground

Another mile south of the main park there are bowls, tennis, basketball and large pitches for baseball, football and rugby which together makes up Roath Park Recreation Ground – or more simply known to locals, just the Rec. This is the home of Welsh baseball and it also has another children’s playground and also has Penylan Library and Community Centre in the very south.

In addition to the parking information for Roath Park Lake provided below, Penylan Library has a 52 space car park which is free of charge for 2 hours, 50p for three and £1 for four – so very reasonably priced. The postcode for this car park is CF23 5EE. If looking for parking for the main areas of Roath Park keep reading, as this is quite a long walk for the lake itself.

Penylan Library is worth a quick mention as it has free wifi, public computers, a family friendly gym and more. It is closed on sundays.

Roath Park Car Parking

There is no dedicated parking, but on street parking is free around the entire gardens on Lake Road West and Lake Road East. We go regularly and have never failed to find a parking spot within 5 minutes walk, even in the summer. I find that the easiest parking is available near the conservatory at the end of the park, as people tend to park up by the lake. Our route is stopping at the conservatory, walking through the gardens, hitting the playground, going around the lake, stopping at the cafe or ice cream kiosk and then back down through the gardens to the car. This route takes the whole park and is a solid half day out!

Roath Park Public Transport – Bus and Train

You can see all the bus routes in Cardiff using the Cardiff Bus Website. Buses stop on the east side of the lake, on Lake Road East, including the 28, 28A, 28B, M1. On the south side you are also a few minutes walk away from Ninian Road, which services the 65, 65A and 615. Use the above website to plan your journey.

The closest train station, which is about 5 minutes walk from the north side of the lake (making it about a 20-25 minute walk from the Conservatory) is Heath High Level and Heath Low Level. If you only want to visit the Conservatory and playground, then the bus routes are significantly closer – but the train is an option for the lake, and only three stops from Cardiff Central.

I hope this answers any questions you might have about Roath Park and encourages you to head there! Whether you’re going with a baby, toddler, children, teens, parents, grandparents, on a date or just out for a stroll by yourself, I really think it’s a beautiful gem and one of the best free outside places in Cardiff!

Any questions about Roath Park or about Cardiff in general? Feel free to pop them in a comment!

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