Real Cardiff

Real Cardiff cover - and that isn't the author walking towards the stadium.

Real cardiff Two cover - Peter Finch

Read about

Real Cardiff
Bute Street
Charles Street
City Road
Flat Holm
The Four Elms
The Garth
Gorsedd Gardens
Hadfield Road
Lloyd George Ave
Mount Stuart Square
Newport Road

The Parks of Roath
The Pearl


Womanby St.

What else?

Cardiff Poets Map
Cardiff City Map
Cardiff, New York

Shots of the Bay
and the City

More Scenes

Cardiff Fictions and


What the Critics

Real Cardiff

Hamadryad Park
The Bay
St David's Hall
The Museum
The City
Check Your Accent
Ffynnon Denis

to Cardiff

to site map


Real Cardiff Three:

The style is seriously unbuttoned, conversational, occasionally breathless, with a fair helping of wordplay as might be expected from this author
- Sally Roberts Jones, Planet, April, 2010

Real Cardiff Two:

Utterly compelling ambles round the Welsh capital, full of oddball nuggets and with a terrific sense of context and place.
- The Rough Guide To Wales 2006

Finch's Real Cardiff was one of the most successful and original books ever written about the Welsh capital - Here comes part two, and it's even better than the first.
- Dean Powell, The Western Mail, December 2004

In this book, Peter Finch gets the balance damn near spot on, casting the gentlest of aspersions, giving the knife a tiny twist where necessary, but always while staring you unwaveringly in the eye as a true poet. This is not just true poetry, however, it is also travel writing of the sharpest kind.....Finch's particular skill is his supreme ability to weave the past in with the present, and to that end his illustrations are often exquisite in their sparseness.
- Mike Parker, Planet, April, 2005

In this second volume, Finch meditates upon Cardiff as a multi-layered and multi-cultural city. He writes in his introduction that 'Cardiff is bigger than I thought'. He then finds that it is deeper and denser too. It is this insight, in fact, which makes Real Cardiff Two an even richer, more provocative and more diverting book than its predecessor (which was also thought provoking and entertaining in equal measure).
- Andrew Hussey, New Welsh Review, Spring 2005

A sequel to one of the most successful and original books ever to have been written about the Welsh capital....Finch has created an extraordinary city guide that is bound to fascinate Cardiffians and newcomers alike.
- The Big Issue, December 2004

This excellent value for money book reaches parts that other Cardiff books have failed to reach.
- Cardiff and South Wales Advertiser, December 2004

A fascinating and unique tour of Wales' capital city
- Brian Lee, The Post, December 2004

Brings Cardiff to life on the printed page, a great read....It's the unexpected bits of information too which I like so much.
- Ian Jones, Chadwick Jones Associates, November 2004.

Peter Finch has lived in the City all his life. He has an individual, unromanticised way of looking at it, but his affection for the City is clear. You need an independent-minded guide to Cardiff. It's that sort of city. I'd certainly be happy to read the equivalents of 'Real Bristol', 'Real Norwich' and 'Real Aberdeen', but only if they're written by authors who feel a genuine engagement with their cities and are able to express it in as bold and direct way as Peter Finch.
- Raymond Humphreys, Stride Magazine, December 2004

Honest, insightful and pulling no punches, author Peter finch is back with his second instalment of life in the city of Cardiff.
- Medina Bailey, Buzz, December 2004

Real Cardiff 2 is a love letter to the noise, the waste, the mess that the amnesiac sheen of modern capital, locked into ever-decresaing cycles of urban renewal, continually tries to forget.
Duncan Campbell, Walking The Line, New Welsh Review, Autumn 2005

Real Cardiff One:

Native Cardiffians now have the definitive guide to their city...the excitement of being one of the newest European capitals hangs light in the air.
- Kate Nicholson, Writers' News, February, 2003

This is a marvellous book - one of the very best books about a city I have ever read. It makes me feel terribly old-fashioned - superficial too, because I have never actually lived in the cities I have written about. I skip most of the poems, which I don't understand, but everything else in it is gripping me so fast that I have momentarily suspended my first ever reading of Wuthering Heights.
- Jan Morris, writing to the author

A wealth of information on the significance of familiar sites for those who live in Cardiff and an interesting insight into Wales' capital for those who don't, Real Cardiff is far more indicative of life in the city than the average tourist guide.
- Cathryn Scott, The Big Issue, December, 2002

Every district is covered and there is something new to discover in every section. This will be a best seller and will be the top gift on my Christmas present list this year!
- Bill Barrett, My Cardiff in the Cardiff Post, December, 2002

The travel section of the Observer highlights Wales as a 'place to visit' in 2003. If you are persuaded, and would like a genuine flavour of the capital, read Peter Finch, who has studied the city in historical depth and quartered it on foot and will entertain you all the way.
- Sam Adams, PN Review, March, 2003

The book's great strength is not in the macro but in the micro, in the deep, prolonged engagement with a particular place which has produced a richly nuanced, affectionate and sometimes exasperated portrait of a city. The beauty lies in the detail.
- Grahame Davies, New Welsh Review, March, 2003

Cunningly intermeshed with this cornucopia of useful and fascinating material is an account of how a young man who was something or other in the City Hall became an editor, a publisher, a bookseller, an arts administrator and a poet - the most surreally inventive and provocative writer we have - without leaving the city's limits.
- Meic Stephens, Cambria, April, 2003

This book should be read by anyone who wants to get to know more about Cardiff. That should include most people in Wales for a start. Even the ones in places like Swansea, Aberystwyth and Caernarfon.
- Raymond Humphreys, Cambrensis #55, April, 2003

Lurking behind much of the text is a reassurance from Peter Finch to the reader, and from Peter Finch to himself, that the poet's place is that of an outsider, even when the poet in question has become, ostensibly at least, part of the Establishment. And that's why the subject matter fits so well. Cardiff, that deeply self-conscious and not-very-Welsh capital of Wales, that country with more chips than Barry island, is truly the outsider's metropolis.
- Mike Parker, Planet, Winter 2003

With this pearl of a guide, like one of those professionals so necessary to hire in Fez, we dart up side alleys, through gaps in the wall and over fences to visit those parts of Cardiff other guides would never reach. The author's style is racy and city slick, the quirky punctuation and syntax more often than not intentional. His ears and eyes are alert for every detail. Cardiff's limits are defined by its peculiar accent, with its nasal ‘a’ as in ‘a pint of dark in The Park’. These limits are precisely located, not just as north of Whitchurch but as north of the Melingriffith Weir And did Disraeli really overnight hereabouts at the Cow and Snuffers? This immensely readable book is full of such gems.

Peter Finch is that rarity in the city, a native born and bred. He has memory, that strong and necessary antidote to contemporary marketing. His sympathies are with the small traders of the Arcades and the Hayes Island Snack Bar rather than with the retail giants of the glossy shopping malls or out-of-town retail parks. His tour is unashamedly pedestrian. As he remarks on one occasion, with ironic exasperation, ‘there's just too much transport going on here’. He knows where the city's lost rivers still run, that the Pearl Tower is built on a mediaeval plague burial pit, and is able to savour the deep time of Caerau iron age hill-fort in the midst of the Ely housing estate. He speaks eloquently for communities who have survived the best efforts of the Luftwaffe and the city planners to obliterate them and that continue to resist the refashioning of late twentieth century marketing boys. Tiger Bay and Muslim Butetown are not yet Cardiff Bay. Above all, the author is also a poet and a dozen of his poems – my favourite was 'Shop-lifting', based on his experience as manager of the splendid Oriel book shop, the passing of which he rightly laments – adorn the text. A generous sprinkling of bizarre brownie thumbnail black-and-white photographs are a perfect complement to what we gradually realise is not simply a brilliant guidebook but the moving autobiography of a poet.
- David Barne, from, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council, 2005




Real Cardiff - Peter Finch - Seren Books

first edition November 2002
reprinted December, 2002









back to the top