Cardiff may have only become the capital city of Wales in 1905, but it’s awash with history. Where better to find out about the Cardiff of bygone days than from some of its oldest pubs? If only walls could talk…
1. The Rummer Tavern
This mock Tudor tavern is thought to be Cardiff’s oldest pub, and has been around since the early eighteenth century – in fact, you can find an old trading licence from the 1800s displayed on one of the walls. It’s named after a rummer, a large glass or cup used for wine in the olden days. It’s a warm and welcoming place, although staff and customers have reported ghostly sightings over the years. It’s believed that the pub is haunted by a sailor who died soon after finding his wife in bed with another man.
Find The Rummer Tavern at 14 Duke Street, Cardiff CF10 1AY.
2. The Goat Major
This locals’ favourite has been around since 1813, when it was simply called The Goat. In 1873, it was renamed The Bluebell, which is how it’s still known to many older Cardiffians, before it finally became The Goat Major in 1995. The name comes from the title given to the soldier responsible for looking after the Royal Regiment of Wales's mascot, a goat called Taffy, who sometimes pops into the pub to say hello. True story: Taffy’s a bit of a wild card and has on occasion been formally disciplined for his unruly behaviour.
Visit The Goat Major at 33 High Street, Cardiff CF10 1PU.
3. The Golden Cross
This Grade II listed building in the city centre dates back to 1903, although there has historically always been a pub on the site since 1849. As with many pubs, The Golden Cross has been the scene of much drama, none more so than when fascist leader Oswald Mosley attempted to hold a meeting there, but was met with violent opposition and forced to leave. Legend has it that during the Second World War, an American GI called Rock Marciano also caused a massive pub brawl and knocked out 100 Welshmen. It’s also rumoured that an old woman haunts the pub. Nowadays, The Golden Cross is a far less violent, more friendly place, in its capacity as a welcoming, accepting gay bar. There's regular live entertainment, including 'Retro Night' Mondays, and karaoke Wednesdays.
Investigate the haunting rumours yourself, or simply make yourself at home in the friendly, attitude-free pub at 283 Hayes Bridge Road, Cardiff CF10 1GH.
4. The Old Arcade
This city centre boozer was built in 1844, although the building appears on Cardiff maps from as early as 1610. Although now named The Old Arcade, it was originally called The Birdcage Inn because the landlord liked to make – you guessed it – birdcages and sell them from behind the bar. There’s a covered walkway that passes through from Church Street into the central market which has been running since the eighteenth century. The pub was refurbished in 2006 and is a popular spot for rugby fans.
Check out The Old Arcade at 14 Church Street, Cardiff CF10 1BG.
5. The Packet
Cardiff Bay’s awash with identikit bars and restaurants, so this charming little pub, The Packet, with its stained-glass windows, and character-filled interiors stands out from the crowd. It’s named after the packet ships that carried mail to and from British outposts and has been part of Tiger Bay's history since 1864. The pub was originally a hotel for sailors visiting the docks, and there’s an unwritten rule that if a sailor is in the venue when the tide is out they should be granted free lodging for the night.
Check it out at 95 Bute Street, Cardiff Bay CF10 5AB.
6. The Rompney Castle
This Rumney pub has a rich and fascinating history, and opened in 1871 as The Pear Tree. It was later bought by the American Consul based in Cardiff, who changed it to its current name - The Rompney Castle - as Rompney is how Rumney used to be known. When the Welsh Sunday Closing Act was introduced in 1881, people in Cardiff would travel to the pub because Rumney was then in Monmouthshire - at the time, a part of England - and this would cause chaos when revellers ‘returned’ to Wales. In fact, future Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, once said that Rumney was like hell on earth on a Sunday.
Romp your way over to The Rompney Castle at Wentloog Road, Rumney, Cardiff, CF3 3EB.
7. The Royal Oak
The Royal Oak in Adamsdown dates back to the late 1800s, and is still at the heart of the community today. At one point, it was run by a cousin of Welsh boxer Jim Driscoll, who trained in the boxing ring above the pub. Driscoll went on to win the Lonsdale belt in 1910, and this achievement is proudly displayed on the walls of the pub, alongside other boxing memorabilia. The pub was recently renovated, but has kept many of its original features, including stained-glass windows and high-backed pews.
Check out The Royal Oak at 200 Broadway, Cardiff CF24.
8. The City Arms
This building has been in use since 1610, although it’s not known when exactly it became a pub. It was once - somewhat worryingly - known as The Van of Flesh Tavern, because it was directly opposite Cardiff’s slaughterhouse and cattle market at that time. Then, when Cardiff was officially named as a city in 1905, the pub became The City Arms. The pub has retained much of its original charm, and the walls are decorated with old photographs, brewery memorabilia and cartoons by the infamous Gren – plus it’s rumoured that a poltergeist lurks in the shadows. At the height of Cool Cymru in the 1990s, it was a regular haunt for the likes of The Super Furries, Catatonia and The Manics.
Get your slice of musical history at 10 - 12 Quay Street , Cardiff, CF10 1EA.
9. The Mochyn Du
This popular watering hole next to Cardiff’s cricket grounds is full of character and its thatched roof, wood panelling and stone walls sets it apart from others in the city. The building was formerly a gatekeeper’s lodge, then was a pub in some shape or form before it became The Mochyn Du, named after a traditional Welsh folk song, in 2002. The Mochyn, as it’s known to regulars, is one of the few Welsh speaking pubs in the capital, but everyone is guaranteed a warm welcome. It’s the perfect spot to watch the rugby, as you can see from the walls which are adorned with photos and the framed shirts and boots of Welsh sporting heroes.
Check out The Mochyn Du at Sophia Close, Cardiff CF11 9HW.
10. The Old Market Tavern
Until recently, The Old Market Tavern on Trinity Street was known as the ‘little’ O’ Neill’s, but it started out as the New Market Hotel in 1840, with the building standing since the 1600s. The pub was famous for the exploits of its landlord Joe Holbrook, who also ran the local circus. The story goes that when he died, a circus elephant called Lily drank a pint in his memory. The stories don’t stop there: in 2007, Grease actress Olivia Newton-John discovered that her grandfather was once the pub landlord, and that her father was born there. Such fun!