Whilst we are not exactly overflowing with safe cycle routes here in Cardiff, one that we do have is the Ely Trail.
From the Cardiff side of the Pont-y-Werin Bridge it is possible to get to the Museum of Welsh Life without dealing with too much traffic. However, it’s not exactly well signposted, unless you have the eyesight of an eagle.
The trail starts off quite well, leading you through Grangemoor Park, across Penarth Road and onto a path sandwiched between the A4232 and the Ely river.
However, once you pass under the A4232 a second time things start to get a little more confusing. Entering Sanitorium Park the trail splits off in a number of directions, however it isn’t signposted so it is wise to keep heading generally left-ish!
Hopefully you will end up at the far end of Sanitorium Road and onto Paper Mill Road. Here you’ll need to dismount and carry your bike over the railway bridge and onto Lansdowne Road.
Unfortunately, this is where it is easy to get lost. From the crossing on Lansdowne Road, the eagle-eyed among you may notice a tiny blue sticker on a lamp-post across the road and a little way down Mayfield Avenue. This is where you need to go.
Take a left onto Windway Avenue followed by a right onto Windway Road. Then, turn left onto Ely Road followed by an almost immediate right onto Lloyd Avenue. Ignore the dead-end sign, it doesn’t apply to us. At the end of the street, take the path down to the A48 junction where you can use the crossings (or re-join the road) and head along Waungron Road.
As you pass under the railway, take a left onto St Fagans Road followed by the 2nd right onto Norbury Road leading to Finchley Road and Bwlch Road. At the end of Bwlch Road, head straight onto Landwade Close where you’ll spot a path leading off to the right.
This last section is a metalled track that gets a bit rough in places, but we’ve done it on 28mm tyres on a cyclocross bike, so not too much to worry about. Eventually you’ll find yourself on a main road, where you need to turn left followed by right onto the Museum of Welsh Life site.
Helpfully, Nick Russill has produced a video of the route compressed into a handy three minutes:
There’s parking for 10 bikes at the time of writing, but there are refurbishment works going on and there’s a temporary entrance, so parking provision may change with time.
The Ely Trail is a bit of a mess. It’s not well signposted; it’s confusing in places and much of it takes you through areas we really wouldn’t want to visit alone at night. On a lazy Sunday afternoon it is ok, but that’s about it. The surfaces are generally poor, with roughly half of it metalled path and the other half normal road, so if it is wet, expect to get a bit mucky if you don’t have mudguards.
If you don’t mind dealing with traffic, taking Pencisely Road and St Fagans Road all the way is much more direct and far better lit at night.
The question of whether the route is suitable for a road bike often seems to come up. However, whilst road bikes are capable of dealing with far more variable terrain than we give them credit for and can easily deal with the gravel on the Ely Trail, we’d be more inclined to stick to St Fagans Road. It’s more direct and the asphalt is in pretty good condition.