river taff cardiff

The Two Rivers Of Cardiff Bay: Taff And Ely

If you are travelling to meet us at our Cardiff Bay office, we have some useful information about the local area below.

Cardiff Bay is a bustling waterfront area situated ten minutes by car from Cardiff City Centre. Hailed as a place where natural beauty, history and culture converge, the restaurants, shops and cultural attractions were developed from derelict docklands surrounding the area’s core feature – a permanent, freshwater lake constantly replenished by the Rivers Ely and Taff.

For decades, the two Rivers of Cardiff Bay ran black with the soot and sewage pumped into the water by the coal mines and other industries that dominated South Wales during the Industrial Revolution. By the late 1980s, however, plans were afoot to regenerate the abandoned Cardiff Bay area, a crucial element of which involved cleaning up its two rivers.

River Taff

The River Taff is one of Wales’ most iconic waterways, credited with giving the Welsh people their nickname ‘Taff’. Often considered the lifeblood of Cardiff, the 42-mile river begins in the highest peaks of the magnificent Brecon Beacons and flows through Pontypridd and Taff’s Well before meandering through the heart of Cardiff.  The Taff makes its way past Cardiff Arms Park and the Principality Stadium, home of the Welsh National Rugby Union team, and finally empties in Cardiff Bay.

The Taff trail, hugely popular with walkers and cyclists, runs alongside the river. The trail incorporates an array of stunning scenery, including waterfalls and mountains, and magnificent landmarks such as Castle Coch, Cyfathfa Castle and the Principality Stadium. For those who prefer to travel by water, riverboat tours frequently run along the river from the Bay to many of Cardiff’s cultural highlights, including the Castle and beautiful Bute Park.

Following the clean-up operation, the river Taff now teems with wildlife, including otters, sea trout and kingfishers.

River Ely

Whilst the Taff is undoubtedly the better known of the two rivers, the River Ely plays just as vital a role in maintaining Cardiff Bay’s freshwater lake. At 24 miles long, the curvy river rises in the mountains of Tondypandy and flows in a general South Easterly direction. It makes its way to Cardiff past Tonyrefail, through the grounds of the Royal Glamorgan Hospital and various other densely populated areas, whose inhabitants make the most of the water by partaking in pursuits such as fishing and paddling.

A tree-lined trail follows the river for around 7 miles. Surprisingly rural, given its proximity to urban areas, the trail is largely car-free, making it ideal for walkers and cyclists. Boasting scores of fishing platforms and picnic spots, it’s a hidden gem for locals and tourists. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of some of the river’s wildlife, which includes otters, herons and buzzards.


Over the past 30 years, Cardiff Bay has undergone a dramatic transformation. Fusing Cardiff’s proud maritime heritage with the innovation that has cemented its position as a modern capital city, the once derelict docklands are now a cultural hub, where locals and tourists work, live and play. The Bay’s two rivers, once lamented for their black, polluted water, are celebrated as an integral part of the regeneration, creating the freshwater lake around which the thriving waterfront development is centred.

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