Opening Dahl’s door — special events reveal Llandaff’s tales of the unexpected

Thursday 17 September 2015

Llandaff Cathedral - © David Llewellyn

To locals, it’s known as a ‘city within a city’ — and now, thanks to the annual Open Doors celebration, visitors to Llandaff can see behind the scenes in the historic north Cardiff district.

Occupied at least since Roman times, Llandaff has been a significant site for Christians since the 6th century. It’s thought that the picturesque district is known as a ‘city’ because it’s been the home of a grand cathedral, and the seat of the Bishop of Llandaff, since the 12th century.

This September, some of the fascinating landmarks in the ‘city of Llandaff’ will open their doors for free – including many generally not open to the public – giving visitors a rare opportunity to discover the area’s hidden history, along with the childhood tales of one of its most famous sons.

As part of the month-long Open Doors programme — organised by the Welsh Government’s Historic Environment Service (Cadw) — Llandaff’s spectacular cathedral, one of its historic schools and the soon-to-be-closed BBC Cymru Wales headquarters will all host guided tours and unique events.

Visitors can learn more about the fascinating life of Llandaff-born Roald Dahl on Tuesday 15 September, as a lively literary tour takes in some of the local landmarks that the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory author visited when he was growing up in the area — including the site of the sweet shop that featured in his autobiography, Boy.

The renowned author’s childhood home, Cumberland Lodge, will also be open to visitors on Friday 18 September as part of the tour of Howell’s School — the independent institution that was established as school for girls in the mid-19th century.

Other events in the ‘city of Llandaff’ will include tours, talks and a schools’ drawing event at Llandaff Cathedral, the grand Anglican cathedral that stands on one of the oldest sites of Christian worship in the United Kingdom.

Linda Quinn, Chair of local coordinating body Llandaff Open Doors, said: “Organisations in Llandaff work together throughout the year to plan a wide range of interesting free Open Doors events for visitors, and anyone coming this year will enjoy the best programme yet.

“The people here are enthusiastic to share their knowledge of our special ‘city’ and visitors will have much to see and enjoy.

“Llandaff Cathedral, for example, will offer a guided tour, the opportunity to visit the bell tower and the chance to learn about the magnificent cathedral organ.”

Ken Skates, Deputy Minister of Culture, Sport and Tourism, added: “Open Doors brings different and unique sites together in celebration. The events in Llandaff are a great example of how this imaginative programme gives everyone the opportunity to explore the fascinating buildings on their doorsteps.

“From exhibitions to guided tours, there are hundreds of exciting events taking place across the country to help bring Wales’s history to life for visitors to explore and enjoy.

“We would not be able to organise such a large scale event if it wasn’t for the incredible dedication of the invaluable volunteers and community members who give up their personal time to help showcase Wales’s rich and diverse culture.”

Further information on the Open Doors events that are being held in the Llandaff area — and throughout Wales — can be found at cadw.gov.wales/opendoors.

Event listings

Roald Dahl Walk
Tuesday 15 September, 6.30pm
See Llandaff landmarks that the renowned author would have visited when growing up. The lively walk sets off from the Green, Llandaff, at 6.30pm. Booking essential — telephone 029 2056 3181.

Ysgol Pencae
Thursday 17 September, 10–11am
An opportunity to tour the school and enjoy a short performance by pupils.

Howell’s School
Friday 18 September, 10am–12.30pm
A chance to view the school’s museum and take a tour of the campus.

Llandaff Cathedral
Friday 18 September, 10.15am–12.15pm
Schools’ drawing event.

Saturday 19 September, 12.30pm onwards
Spend a Saturday afternoon exploring this fascinating building, which dates back to the Middle Ages.  Take a guided tour, visit the archives and hear the Nicolson organ, which was installed in 2010. At 3.45pm, there will also be a rare opportunity to tour the cathedral’s bell tower. Booking for the bell tower tour is essential — please telephone 02921 154 275.

BBC Cymru Wales
Saturday 19 September, 10am and 11.30am
Guided behind-the-scenes tours of BBC Cymru Wales’s headquarters. Booking essential — please email wales.opendoors@bbc.co.uk or telephone 03703 500 700.

Did You Know..?

• Author Roald Dahl was born in Llandaff. The centenary of his birth will be celebrated in 2016.

• Llandaff has featured in Doctor Who. It doubled as the village of Leadworth in Matt Smith’s debut episode, The Eleventh Hour.

• Llandaff Cathedral’s organ had to be replaced after a lightning strike damaged the historic building’s electrical wiring. The new organ was installed in 2010.

• BBC programmes Wales Today and Crimewatch are researched, written and shot at their Llandaff headquarters.


In celebration of Open Doors, Cadw is also offering the first 20,000 people who register through its Eventbrite page free entry to its paid-admission sites over the final weekend in September (26-27), as well as hosting a packed programme of activities and events at 100s of historic buildings across Wales.

Some venues have limited numbers of spaces or require advance booking. Visit cadw.gov.wales/opendoors for full event listings and details of properties taking part in the programme.