Barry: The Welsh Guernica

Posted by in Culture, Travel

Welcome to Barry (the wrong station as it turned out).


Barry like Newport suffers a little from negative perception and while it is definitely down to earth in its ‘take me as I am’ appearance, that is to say plenty of taxi and takeaway joints as I alight at Barry (believing it is the main station) the first thing that comes to mind is… Guernica!

And so it continued, a few rows of commercial and residential properties that back up onto a hill only this time it isn’t raining, yes that’s right it’s a bright spring day in Wales and the view is infinitely more giving than its Spanish or Basque counterpart. A sparkling Severn Estuary bordered by England’s west country the other side.

You could also say it’s a Welsh version of London’s Hounslow with its proximity to Cardiff airport only here the planes don’t cut across town because the runway direction is S/E to N/W which makes for less noisy environs. I view the newly installed Qatar flight departing into hazy sky in the distance from the town centre which is illogically closer to Barry Docks (station).

Barry in the main is known for its island, the butt of a long standing joke with its Welsh accent refrain of ‘Barry Island!’ A popular staple of beachgoers on sunny summer days, in recent times the town has been highlighted by comedy show Gavin and Stacey but I don’t make it to the island this time round.

Familiar but different, the buildings of Barry.


Barry resides not in Cardiff but the Vale of Glamorgan though is still served by Cardiff Bus (more illogic in that it’s Traws Cymru that serves the nearby airport). It is also the sixth biggest populous in Wales and though there are plenty of ‘Tourist Info’ boards dotted around the town, it’s difficult to know what to see.

Most of it is not so much urban but the greater vale; a good hub for cyclists and hikers. Getting back to the town it’s earthy but not unreasonable – there has been a good effort to make it presentable particularly around the library and central park (top left).

Could Barry also rival Helsinki (left) for cool apartments?


There are also good local eateries in La Cucina and Costa, alongside other local providers, represent the brown stuff for those in need of caffeine (strangely no sign of Starbucks). On David’s Wharf the waterfront delivers similar apartments to those I mention in my Helsinki article (pictured top left) though I’m most likely still a long way off being able to afford one.

What it does do is raise a hitherto unlikely question. With the airport close by and it being cheaper than Cardiff, wouldn’t it make sense for a travel writer to live here? I find myself not only thinking it but ready to implement it!

David’s Wharf, chic comes to Barry (no I don’t mean Nile Rodgers).


Look on it this way, although I could quite happily live in the northern confines of suburban Cardiff; Rhiwbina, Llanishen, Birchgrove, Whitchurch or Llandaff are bonafide pleasentville/s a little like Birmingham’s Bourneville.

They are friendly communities but they are also family led communities, there is unlikely to be much in the way of one bedroom apartments for nomadic creatives so Barry may be the solution. Something I would not have thought of before hand, so my brief visit was to some extent an epiphany. If only Picasso had thought to paint a picture of the place.


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My Guernica – Manic Street Preachers
The Ink in the Well – David Sylvian

Photos: KH