If you do not know Cardiff, this walk will be something of an eye-opener, as it takes in some major iconic British buildings like the Senedd (Welsh Assembly), the Millennium Stadium and Millennium Centre, two cathedrals – one of them occupying the oldest cathedral site in the British Isles – some of the most interesting parkland in Britain and a waterfront that is a reminder that this was once one of the largest ports in the world.
One of the first poets that we know of who lived here was Robert Curthose, William the Conqueror’s eldest son, who was neither an inhabitant nor poet by choice. Robert was imprisoned here by his brother in Cardiff Castle in the 12th century, where he is said to have learnt Welsh and then used the language to write poetry. This is not as fanciful as it may sound; at the time it is estimated that the everyday language of the majority was Welsh – with Norman French being the language of the aristocracy, not English. This situation did not change for another three hundred years, when a Welsh-born king, Henry V, decided during the 100 Years War that he had better make English the official language of England but the situation did not change noticeably in Cardiff until the end of the 18th century and there are records of what is now a suburb of Cardiff, Ely, being almost totally Welsh-speaking when the railway was built through it.