Barry, Barry Island and the home of Gavin and Stacey

Barry is a small coastal town located in the Vale of Glamorgan, a county in the southeast of Wales. Barry is rich with history, once a significant port, and is now a thriving seaside resort.

In easy reach of Cardiff – only 9 miles south – it is the perfect beach escape from the busy city.
Barry had a population of 54,673 in 2016.


Barry has a long and fascinating history. Artefacts provide evidence of early settlement in the town, dating back to the Iron Age.
Barry Island is even thought to have been a base for Viking raids in the late 11th century.

In the medieval and Middle Ages, Barry was a significant religious destination, as one could pilgrimage to Saint Baruc church on Barry Island as an equivalent to going to Rome.

Up until this point, Barry was only a small village. That changed as Barry became a coal port and grew significantly. Cardiff’s port was too small to keep up with the growing demand in the coal industry, hence a dock was constructed in 1889. The Barry Railway – who built the docks – brought coal from nearby towns, which in turn was transported by ship elsewhere in the world. By 1913, Barry had the largest coal port in the world.
Barry is still very much a port, however, since it has shifted to a seaside resort.

Barry island

Barry Island, WalesDerek Jones / Whitmore Bay, Barry Island

The Barry Island peninsula used to be a stand-alone island. In the Victorian era, the island became connected to the mainland by the newly built docks and has since been considered part of mainland Barry.

You can now reach the island by taking a refurbished steam passenger train to the island from the heritage railway station.

Barry island dates back to the 8th century but became popular after 1966, when a Butlins holiday camp was opened here.

After the park’s closure, and before it was taken over, the abandoned holiday park somehow became a filming location; A Doctor Who serial entitled Delta and the Bannermen, during **the run of the seventh doctor Sylvester McCoy, was shot here.

The BBC sitcom Gavin and Stacy heavily features Barry, including shots of Barry Island. Casualty, predominantly filmed in Cardiff, has also featured scenes on Barry Island.


Whitmore bay

The most well-known beach is Whitmore Bay, equipped with golden sand, arcades and busy food stalls.
The iconic beach huts stand out along the eastern promenade. These brightly coloured beach houses are available for daily or seasonal hire, and provide a great base for a family spending the day at the beach.
You can even get married in one.

Jackson’s bay is a smaller, cosier, and much quieter beach. It has far fewer visitors, par a few dog walkers (the beach is dog-friendly all year round.)
It is a good option to avoid crowds, although it is not appropriate for weaker swimmers due to strong currents and no lifeguards.
Cold Knap Bay.

An alternate beach is the pebbly cove of Cold Knap Bay, filled with rockpools and perfect for fishing.

Barry Island Pleasure Park

Barry Island Pleasure Park has all the fundamentals for a great funfair: old-fashioned arcades, rollercoasters and other typical fairground rides.
The fairground has passed through multiple owners and was most recently bought by Showman Henry Danter. He has invested a lot into the park, including purchasing new attractions such as the Ferris Wheel, Cyclone and Aerospace.
It is open from Easter to the start of September.

Saint Baruc church

Walking around Barry Island, you may notice a collection of crumbling ruins, looking far older and more mysterious than the surrounding architecture.
These remains were once a chapel dedicated to Saint Baruc, a 6th-century Celtic saint; This chapel was probably built around the early 8th century.
Visiting this holy place four times was equivalent to a pilgrimage to Rome. By the 17th century, this one significant sight was buried in sand and seemingly lost, until an 1895 excavation uncovered the remains of the church, a holy well and a mass grave. Since it was a holy site, bodies would be brought here for internment – hence the grave. Every 27th September, a church service is held in the ancient ruins.

Barry town centre

Away from the island, the traditional high street of Barry is worth a visit. However, the more unique shops lie just beyond the high street.
An old dockyard has been repurposed, with shipping containers renovated into boutique stores and independent retail. The unique shopping street – Goodsheds – also contains the original Gatwick Express railway carriages, refurbished to accommodate high-quality shops. This area of railway carriages – the tracks – even has a cinema.

Barry Castle

Barry Castle, Wales
Cath Mudford, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Barry has two castles. The smaller one is now just a ruin; a few walls and an impressive stone arch are all that remain. In its prime, Barry castle was a fortified manor house rather than a true military castle. It was home to the de Barry family from the early 12th century, but over the centuries it has been mostly destroyed.

Fonmon Castle

Fonmon Castle is the larger, better-preserved version of Barry castle.

The castle is believed to have been built around 1200. The original owner was Oliver St. John of Fonmon, who was one of the Twelve Knights of Glamorgan. It stayed in his family for generations, until it was acquired by Colonel Phillip Jones in the 17th century.

Many of the castle’s buildings were additions built between the 13th and 16th centuries, with more added in the 18th to 19th centuries. This led to a fascinating blend of architecture.

The castle estate includes a vast 350 acres of land. The beautiful walled gardens were built by Robert Jones II and date back to the Victorian era.

Porthkerry county park

The nearby Porthkerry County Park is a short walk away, at the end of Cold Knap beach. Located in a sheltered valley, nature has been able to thrive here. There are 220 acres of varying ecosystems to explore, from woods and meadowland to pebble beaches and striking cliffs.

Photo Porthkerry Viaduct, Barry, Vale of Glamorgan south Wales, UK
by  Dr. Blofeld, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The centrepiece is the large viaduct, with its many arches, that overlooks the entire park. There is also a cafe and picnic tables; it is a popular spot for families and dog walkers alike.

Cover imageJacksons Bay, Barry Island, Vale of Glamorgan, Sionk, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons