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I extended my trip

I’m in Grassington until 30 April, then York until 3 May, and HF holiday at Whitby 3-6 May, then I want to work my way around England and possibly Wales in a logical route using public transportation.
Hiking, history, cathedrals, castles, villages, cities. I absolutely love it here.
I just need some general cities, villages or towns and I can wing it from there.
I’ve been hiking a lot but I’m certainly not hardcore. I slipped on some stones and fell in a stream the other day. Taking it easy on the Leeds-Carlisle-Settle train today.

Posted by
1965 posts

How about Chester and North Wales (Llandudno/Conwy area) Then possibly Cardiff (don't miss St Fagan's and Castell Coch). Then onto Bristol/Bath . Maybe a detour into Devon or Cornwall before ending up in Dorset...

Posted by
1277 posts

Absolutely go to Evensong in York.
Awesome in the proper sense and do check out " the heart of Yorkshire"
I wonder if the hill tops still have snow as you go by on the train ,its a very late spring.
Appleby is a nice spot.
If you end up in Carlisle go to the huge second hand book shop across from the cathedral...you can play hide and seek in the multiple rooms and it has a great cafe hidden in the back.

I think there's a bus service up to Malham on a Sunday its easily one of the most impressive bits of landscape in England, realatively easybto walk via Mastilles lane back.over to Wharfedale

Posted by
1277 posts

There's a booklet you can buy in York with hugely descriptive route through the " snickets"

Posted by
86 posts

Richard, Thank you. Evensong is a favorite of mine! I’ll check into “heart of Yorkshire”. I stopped in Carlisle and visited the lovely Cathedral, found the bookstore but read your reply too late for the secret coffee shop.

Posted by
86 posts

“How about Chester and North Wales (Llandudno/Conwy area) Then possibly Cardiff (don't miss St Fagan's and Castell Coch). Then onto Bristol/Bath . Maybe a detour into Devon or Cornwall before ending up in Dorset...”

Excellent suggestions. Thank you!

Posted by
6805 posts

I can second the recommendation for Chester and Llandudno. I loved Chester and it is such a charming city. While you're there, visit Huxleys, which is a cafe with a porthole where you can look out and see a lovely view of the city. Good tea and pastries as well.

Posted by
366 posts

I third the suggestion of Chester and North Wales. Visited a few years ago and loved it! It is beautiful country!

Posted by
2445 posts

In the event that you go to Chester (be sure to see that city) and then move on to north Wales, if staying in the Conwy/Llandudno area - be sure to visit Bodnant Gardens not far to the south. They are at their best in May.

You might just as well then see the rest of NW Wales. You could take the train to Betws-Y-Coed and then the Sherpa buses into Snowdonia. Caernarfon has another medieval castle but Bangor is not worth a visit. https://www.sherparwyddfa.wales
You might wish to visit > https://portmeirion.wales/
Narrow gauge railways in NW Wales >https://www.festrail.co.uk

I take it that you are aware of this site which is good for finding buses:> https://www.traveline.info / https://www.traveline.cymru (in Wales).

Posted by
6417 posts

Whitby to Scarborough and York we have already plotted for you on another thread.

So if we look at doing this logically, with about 5 to 6 weeks to play with.

From York take any train to Leeds. Then from Leeds Northern Rail run a train all the way to Chester every hour.

So then time in Chester before moving on to North Wales.

Now there is a fantastic value public transport ticket - the Explore North and Mid Wales Pass for all trains between Chester and Aberystwyth- (see the map here)-
https://railrover.org/pages/explore-north-and-mid-wales-pass.html

Trains for 4 in 8 days, but buses for all 8 days- £76, or £50.15 with the railcard I trust you have by now.

There is also a 4 in 8 days Explore Wales (every train and the vast majority of buses in Wales) for £109 or £71.90 with railcard.
https://railrover.org/pages/explore-wales-pass.html Again 4 days train, and 8 days bus.

The long distance bus routes are run by Traws Cymru- https://traws.cymru/en

So you could start in Chester, work your way through North Wales, then down the west coast visiting as many of the 10 Edward I Castles as you want, down the coast to Aberystwyth, then the Traws Cymru buses to St David's/Pembrokeshire;
thence along the South Coast (possibly using Traws Cymru to divert into the Brecon Beacons) and then to Cardiff and BristolBath.

You could very easily, I think, make that a two week trip Whitby to Bristol.

Then the next stage is what you want to think about, in due course

Whether to go to Devon and Cornwall after time in Bristol/Bath.

Or then to go Oxford and East Anglia.

You seem to have an open ended time frame and the budget to suit so it may even be possible to do both.

If you do go the Cornwall route, then you could even go on from Penzance to the Isles of Scilly for a few nights.

Posted by
6805 posts

I would also second James' recommendation for Portmeirion. It is a lovely and fantasy-like village, with gorgeous architecture. It was a haven for many writers, including Noel Coward (who wrote "Blithe Spirit" here) and George Bernard Shaw. I absolutely loved it!

Posted by
1302 posts

“I slipped on some stones and fell in a stream the other day.”

Welcome to Yorkshire! Something of an occupational hazard, but unless it’s the Strid (look it up or visit when at Bolton Abbey), no lasting damage as a rule!

Ian

P.S. One of my hiking poles has a slight bend in it when I landed on it having fallen headlong into a stream, so there’s no way I’m immune!

Posted by
1302 posts

I’d second the recommendations to visit North Wales, Snowdonia is stunning, and while there, Portmeirion, an unlikely small-scale Italianate village dropped onto the North Wales coast. Although if you’ve ever watched the 1960’s (British) TV series ‘The Prisoner’, some of which was filmed there, it can be unsettling. As a fan in my youth it positively freaked me out!

Lots of castles on the Welsh coast to visit too.

In the south, St David’s and its cathedral are remarkable and there’s excellent relatively easy hiking along the Pembrokeshire coast. I have friends who live at Broad Haven and that stretch of coast is particularly good.

Ian

Posted by
86 posts

So many wonderful choices! I’m going to open up my map, google a few things, check lodgings and start making some plans.
I did buy a National Trust membership today while at Fountains Abbey.
The bus driver was elderly and forgot I was on the top level of the bus so he didn’t stop at Fountains Abbey. I came down and we had a good laugh. He turned around at Pately Bridge and brought me back to Fointains and promised not to forget to pick me up. That was better than falling into a stream.

Posted by
86 posts

So you could start in Chester, work your way through North Wales, then down the west coast visiting as many of the 10 Edward I Castles as you want, down the coast to Aberystwyth, then the Traws Cymru buses to St David's/Pembrokeshire;
thence along the South Coast (possibly using Traws Cymru to divert into the Brecon Beacons) and then to Cardiff and BristolBath.

You could very easily, I think, make that a two week trip Whitby to Bristol.

Then the next stage is what you want to think about, in due course

Whether to go to Devon and Cornwall after time in Bristol/Bath.

Are you saying take 2 weeks to get from Whitby to Bristol? Stopping for a night or 2 in different places?

Posted by
6417 posts

I think so. Whitby to Chester. A couple of nights there (more if you want to do a side trip to Liverpool for the Beatles and/or the Albert Dock and the two Cathedrals), then 'somewhere' like Conwy/Llandudno/Caernarfon for Castles, Snowdonia walking and steam trains for however many nights you think you need (3 or 4??), down to St David's or elsewhere in Pembrokeshire for several nights, then to Cardiff (2, maybe 3 nights).

Then on to Bristol/Bath- whichever you decide to stay at.

Posted by
2445 posts

The Premier Inn at Porthmadog would be a good place to stay after a stay in Conwy / Llandudno area - from where I suggested you did Bodnant Gardens (NT). The Premier Inn is right by the station for the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways - but the normal train station is at the northern end off this small town.

It is possible to go down the west coast of Wales from Porthmadog by train as far as Aberystwyth - with a change at either Dovey Junction (in the middle of a vast marshland) or Machynlleth*. This is called the Cambrian Coast line and is very scenic - especially crossing the Mawddach estuary at Barmouth. * If you want to skip SW Wales, stay on the train to Shrewsbury (worth seeing) from where trains (at least 1 per hour) go south to Cardiff in around 1 hour 45 minutes.

If having a night or 2 in Aberystwyth, you may like to consider taking > https://www.rheidolrailway.co.uk for a trip inland.

From Aberystwyth, you will need to go south by bus. I would suggest that Aberaeron is worth a stop for an hour or so although I understand that work is taking place in the harbour to prevent storm damage.

From Aberaeron, you could go by bus to Carmarthen (not worth seeing) and then train to Cardiff but that would mean missing out on Pembrokeshire - the most south westerly county in Wales. So, you may wish to stick to buses down the western side via Cardigan & Fishguard to reach St. David’s (which also has a Premier Inn but you may prefer a traditional lodging here).

After St. David’s, you would need to go to Haverfordwest by bus in order to catch a train to Cardiff. However, you may wish to consider changing to another bus and going to Tenby in south Pembrokeshire for a stay? Tenby has train links to Cardiff.

Note that Transport for Wales - who run the trains in Wales and nearby England are not affected by the strikes. GWR - who operate trains from south Wales to London and Avanti - who operate from north Wales to London - may be affected by strike action.

Keep an eye on the weather forecast. Today (Monday 29 April) & tomorrow will have better weather in the east of England than in Wales & the west where it will be raining. At least the cold north winds have now ceased and the weather will get warmer.

Posted by
86 posts

Richard - I am going to Evensong this evening. It says enter through the South entrance. Is that easy to find? I’m directionally challenged.

Posted by
6417 posts

You are probably at York Minster by now and seated, but the normal main entrance and grand frontage is the west end of the Minster.

So if you are there go down the right hand side of the building and about half way down you will find the South entrance into the Transept.- see this plan- https://yorkminster.org/discover/interactive-map/

(so you enter at the blue symbols by the number 2)

Posted by
6417 posts

As regards the Welsh Railways (festrail) before Covid they were transport.

In the new world they have redefined themselves as day trips. I don't even think there is now a through Caernarfon to Porthmadog service, and you can certainly not now connect between the two lines at Porthmadog on the same day.

I couldn't separate the two lines out. Luckily it is not my money I am spending, so I suggest you do both. On the Welsh Highland you are now offered Caernarfon to Beddgelert return or Porthmadog to Beddgelert return. For me Caernarfon to Beddgelert is easily the more scenic half.

I would base in either Caernarfon or Porthmadog.

Given that you are arriving by train from York (or maybe Chester) Caernarfon is the more sensible choice. Change from train to frequent bus #5 at Bangor.

The same number 5 bus takes you down the coast to Conwy and Llandudno.
For Bodnant Gardens change from Bus 5 to 25 at Llandudno Junction.

Caernarfon is also a great base for the Sherpa buses into Snowdonia.

The Traws Cymru bus to Aberystwyth #T2 links Caernarfon with Porthmadog (in about 1 hour) for the Ffestiniog Railway to Blaenau Ffestiniog and return.

If you telephone them and they have spare seats you can still book single seats- allowing you to create circular routes using train and bus, or just to use as transport from A to B as part of a longer journey.

Posted by
86 posts

James and isn31c -
I cannot express how helpful all that information is. I have 3 nights booked in Chester. I am looking at Caernarfon right now. 2 or 3 nights? Luckily it’s not my money I’m spending either ( ; so I’m riding those scenic and very cool looking trains.
Then on to Aberystwyth for a night or two, St David’s, Tenby and Cardiff.

Posted by
6417 posts

I would do 3 nights at Caernarfon, between trains, castles and scenery. I think it's the minimum you need to avoid running round and regretting being short of time.

This is so unusual and refreshing to have some one with a pretty open ended schedule, planning more or less as they go and with no specific budgetary constraints.

Posted by
6417 posts

Two of the classic Castles to consider from Caernarfon are Beaumaris (on Anglesey) and Harlech. You don't really want to be trying to do Harlech on transfer day to Aberystwyth when you are encumbered with luggage- even though you will be passing it.

Of course Caernarfon has it's own Castle, where King Charles was crowned as Prince of Wales in 1969.

Posted by
86 posts

Isn31c

Ok I booked one night at Gwynfryn House Bed and Breakfast. I probably should have booked 2 but I don’t want to spend an excessive amount of time in Wales. Bristol/Bath, Salisbury, Avebury, Oxford, Cornwall, Devon are calling. And I
Sure I’ll add more to my list. I may need to change my flight again.
Then Travelodge in Caernarfon for 3 nights; it was slim pickings in Caernarfon. I’m not entirely sure about the scenic train, I may want to hike by then.

I like planning travel a week or so at a time and being able to change plans if something doesn’t work out. This is the first time I’ve had this kind of freedom and I’m going to take full advantage. I have 6 kids and they are finally all self sufficient.
I don’t have an unlimited budget but it’s comfortable and I have a lot of Hilton and Marriott points which helps. If I had an unlimited budget I’d hire a driver.
But I have to say, after 4 nights at the Forester Arms I was relieved to stay at Hampton York Piccadilly. Nice big modern room on the top floor WITH A LIFT.
I’ve dreamed of exploring the UK for a long time and I want to do it while I’m in good health.
Day 2 of York I may check out the railway museum, walk along the river of take off to Scarborough for the day.

I do appreciate your input and enthusiasm isn31c

Posted by
2445 posts

I take it that is the Gwynfryn Guesthouse in Conwy? That being so, you will spend much of the day visiting Bodnant Gardens and possibly having a quick look at Llandudno and Conwy Castle. (You can get a good external view of Conwy Castle from the south side rather than the town side). Also check out the suspension bridge - now for pedestrians only. I think you really need 2 nights in Conwy.

Regarding the narrow gauge steam railways: Portillo has a series running weekdays on BBC 2 (ends this week) of Coastal Railway Journeys in Britain. One recent episode included a trip on the Welsh Highland Railway. You might like to view it:>https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m001yd36
I travelled on the WHR from Porthmadog to Rhydd Ddu where I switched trains to return to Porthmadog. This section was very scenic and included going through the Aberglaslyn Pass. It was a hot day and I chose the one coach that had no windows so was great for taking photos.

You may find that you could do the following when leaving Conwy. Go to Llandudno Junction station for the 10.25 departure for Blaenau Ffestiniog (an old slate mining town) which you arrive at 11.25. Then transfer to the adjoining Ffestiniog Railway for the 11.40 departure for Porthmadog. (If you wish to see Portmeirion Italian style village - which also has expensive accommodation - leave the Ffestiniog steam railway at Minffordd. The walk from here to Portmeirion is I think just over a mile but I guess that if you are staying in the place, they will come & get you? Check on Google Maps & note that the normal railway also has a station at Minffordd.
https://portmeirion.wales/eat/castell-deudraeth

Anyway, assuming you stayed on the steam railway to Porthmadog, you could check on to the Premier Inn - which is right by the steam railway station and then go back to Portmeirion by bus/taxi or transfer to the Welsh Highland Line for the journey to Caernarfon and stay in that town. Porthmadog or Caernarfon would be a good base. Note that the normal railways tend to have fewer trains on Sundays.
The schedules for the steam railways are a bit complicated as they change according to day. See > https://festrail.co.uk/pdf/fwhr-base-timetable-2024.pdf

Don' t forget that you can go to the top of Mt. Snowdon by train but the summit can be rather busy as people want their photos taken when they are the highest person in Wales & England.https://snowdonrailway.co.uk (No point in going up in bad weather).

Posted by
2445 posts

Yes, I was aware of the walks information provided by TfW. Swansea is not worth seeing. However, the Gower peninsula west of Swansea has wonderful coastal scenery - beaches & limestone cliffs. As you are going to Pembrokeshire, I think you can give Gower a miss so you can push on to all the other places you wish to see.

Note that Cardiff has a Marriott & a Hilton with Marriott being closer to the station - like a 5 minute walk. Hilton is about a 15 minute walk on the flat mainly through pedestrianised streets. Rooms on the west side overlook the castle. The Marriott has the number 6 bus stop practically outside the main entrance with buses every 15 minutes to Cardiff Bay (waterfront).

You might also be interested in :> https://tfw.wales/ways-to-travel/rail/ticket-types/rovers-and-rangers/ffestiniog-round-robin
https://www.nationalrail.co.uk/tickets-railcards-offers/promotions/ffestiniog-round-robin/
(Best check that it is still accepted by the Ffestiniog Railway if intending to buy).

The following video shows you Bodnant Gardens. (I visited in the last week of May and the Laburnum Tunnel was in full flower. It is unlikely to be in flower until at least mid May). In the opening scene, you see a lighthouse - that is on the south coast of Anglesey.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wk7DGtRARc

Note that Monday 6th May will be a Bank Holiday.

Posted by
6417 posts

The Gwynfryn Guesthouse looks a fantastic place- the epitome of what a Rick Steve's place should be, and the Hidden Chapel conversion behind looks stunning.

What their history page doesn't tell you is that the Chapel schoolroom, like many places in Conwy, was used during WW2 to house child refugees from Merseyside- moved to the Welsh coast for their own safety. That wartime history is a side of Conwy which few international (as opposed to domestic) tourists here seem to explore- in the same way as they tend not to explore Llandudno and the Great Orme. I am not familiar with the Conwy refugee story- but in many cases that was a complex story- children being split up, unsuitable billeting, and homesickness (by children and their parents).

I've established this morning, on the back of this, that there is a previously unrecorded war memorial therein- so was useful to me, irrespective of what you are doing.

If you are coming there direct from Whitby (as opposed to an intermediate stop in Chester) then you do ideally need 2 nights in Conwy. If coming from Chester one night could be just OK- but still tight.

I repeat my advice that if using the FR and WHR as transport (as opposed to day trips) you need to book by telephone (or book in person the day before if you can)- you can not book such journeys on line. If you just turn up and book on the spot you may be disappointed, as the number of train cars is now being restricted to those required for advance day trip bookings. You may well be lucky, and get a seat but there is no guarantee.

The Ffestiniog Round Robin is a controversial ticket now, given that FR seats are no longer guaranteed to turn up and go customers. The good news is that there is now a fallback in the form of an hourly Blaenau Ffestiniog to Porthmadog bus service, extended every 2 hours to Caernarfon (one of the Traws Cambria services).

It will be a big difference- from somewhere quirky like that to a chain budget hotel like the Travelodge at Caernarfon!

As you go towards the end of May and into June, finding places to stay will become that bit more difficult, especially in Devon and Cornwall. Never impossible but getting significantly tighter.

Posted by
86 posts

Isn31c

I will be staying in Chester 6-8 May -
Gwynfryn 8-9 May
Caernarfon 9-12 May
Can I explore Llandudno and the Great Orme from Caernarfon?

Hopefully Cardiff around 15 or 16 May
Then on to Bristol/Bath
I may leave Cornwall and Devon for next time. I will be with my daughter and we will hire a car.

I think I should concentrate on Bristol/Bath/Salisbury/Oxford/Cambridge/Avebury and/or Canterbury and lastly London.
I’d have about 4 weeks to cover that area

Posted by
86 posts

I am rethinking scenic train rides. I don’t want to sit on a train watching the country roll by without experiencing it.

I need to book something between Caernarfon and Cardiff. I booked the Marriott in Cardiff 15-18 May. If that’s too long I can easily change the dates.

So 9-12 I’m in Caernarfon (which can also be changed). So 12-15 May I should explore the Pembrokeshire Coast?

Should I stay in Bristol AND in Bath or just pick one and do day trips by bus/train? How many days?

Posted by
6417 posts

Can I explore Llandudno and the Great Orme from Caernarfon?

Yes- it is 2 hours by bus from Caernarfon, although I think the 35 minutes to Bangor then the train (at least in one direction) is the more practical and certainly faster alternative. Some buses go through, some are a quick change in the centre of Bangor. It is both a nice bus ride and a nice train ride. No right or wrong answer.

Bristol and Bath are only 15 minutes apart by train, so choose one or the other. The forum will always be divided between Bristol and Bath as the right place to stay. Personally, for me and my own liking and preferences, I would always choose Bristol over Bath unless I got a really good wow deal in Bath. Many here, and it is an utterly valid opinion, would opt for Bath.

I think getting out into the countryside- Wells, Glastonbury, the Cheddar Gorge, all that good stuff, is that bit easier from Bristol than Bath.

So 12-15 May I should explore the Pembrokeshire Coast?

Yes, Pembrokeshire. I really don't mean to cause confusion, but a while ago we talked about routing down to Cardiff through the Brecon Beacons, rather than West Wales. I notice that HF have availability at their Brecon House from 13 to 17 May.

Choices, Choices!!

So you could do one night in Aberystwyth then Brecon, then straight from Brecon to Cardiff on Traws Cambria.

James and I would probably agree that 3 or 4 nights in Cardiff (I would suggest 3 if you've pinched a bit of time in Brecon) is around optimal.

Salisbury is an easy day trip by direct train from either Bristol or Bath.

Posted by
6417 posts

When in Caernarfon these are the local bus timetables for the County of Gwynedd- https://www.gwynedd.llyw.cymru/en/Residents/Parking-roads-and-travel/Bus-timetables/Bus-timetables.aspx

Across North Wales (from Chester to Aberystwyth) there is the 1Bws ticket valid on all bus services in the region- https://www.gwynedd.llyw.cymru/en/Residents/Parking-roads-and-travel/Travel-passes/1bws-Ticket.aspx £6.50 Daily, £28 Weekly (so £4 a day)- that may meet some of your needs.
Note that this can be a physical ticket or just done by tap on tap off with the same credit/debit card all day/week. That caps out at the above prices.

Posted by
2445 posts

I can’t see the point of backtracking from Caernarfon to explore Llandudno & The Great Orme as you will be staying in Conwy - which is on the doorstep.

Posted by
1302 posts

Hi abbeygurl -

So….how did you find Grassington and were the walks from there good? Where did you actually get to? Or do we have to wait for the ma-hoo-sive (probably several volumes like an encyclopaedia!) trip report?!!

Ian

Posted by
6417 posts

I was wondering why Caernarfon was so busy on a random weekend in May. I've done a bit of googling and May 11 is the Caernarfon Food Festival.
Now that is a really good thing. But it explains why everywhere is booked up.

I very strongly dislike giving hotel advice because everyone is different for their hotel preferences, and everyone has a different attitude to travelling times from elsewhere to where they want to be that day. Also Caernarfon is very personal to me as a town, and I would want anyone to stay there and experience the place.

So I hate writing this, and have given it due thought whether I should.

But for the price you are being charged at a Travelodge (or what I am seeing this morning) I would either stay at the Celtic Royal Hotel in Caernarfon (very mindful that it has mixed TA reviews, the truth of which I cannot verify) or at the Premier Inn in Porthmadog. My other option, as you have found an absolutely wonderful looking place in Conwy (at effectively the same price as the Travelodge) would to very seriously think about 3 or 4 nights in Conwy (if you can switch things around now). The two establishments are as different as chalk and cheese.

Both Porth and Conwy have the good public transport in to Caernarfon, so for me personally (I stress me personally) would be my preference. And Conwy would be my own clear winner between those two.

At the least I have done due diligence for you.

Posted by
86 posts

Isn31c

I had booked and canceled Premier Inn in Porth. Then booked Travelodge and have since realized it is a HORRIBLE company. Took me hours to get in touch with them and I still can’t find my booking online. Called them, was put on hold twice and hung up on. Can’t cancel. But honestly the place gives me a bad vibe now and I’m willing to lose the money and stay somewhere else.

I need to do MY due diligence as well.

If I can extend my stay in Conwy I will.

Posted by
2445 posts

Travelodge is a well respected basic accommodation company. Indeed, I stayed in the one in Porthmadog* despite the fact that it was tucked away in a small industrial type of estate but at least I could park my car outside for free. Travelodge can vary according to location with some in pleasant places on the edges of towns whilst others can be in city centres near noisy clubs/bars - so - buyer beware and always look at your proposed accommodation on street view to see where you are going if booking.
* The place was cooking in a heatwave and had no air con.

Premier Inn’s are a notch or 2 up from Travelodge’s and the one in Porthmadog has been built since my visit but I know it is in a good location - look on street view.

Your place in Conwy looks lovely. Also read this thread> https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/wales/prehistoric-sites-near-conwy

Note that Porth is an ex-coal mining town in the valleys of south Wales. If you search for Porth on a train site - you will be sent to south Wales and not Porthmadog in north Wales!

Posted by
86 posts

“Yes, Pembrokeshire. I really don't mean to cause confusion, but a while ago we talked about routing down to Cardiff through the Brecon Beacons, rather than West Wales. I notice that HF have availability at their Brecon House from 13 to 17 May.”

I’m just getting confused and bogged down by choices. I need to just choose and go with whatever comes.

I can however, take a day from Chester and give it to Conwy which would give me 2 nights in each.
Travelodge Caernarfon 9-12 May is set in stone so to speak.

Just get me to Cardiff now. I’m guessing I have to choose between Brecon and Pembrokeshire coast? Anything I see will be new to me and I always find something interesting, but my preference is the coast.

I booked Marriott Cardiff 15-18 May.

Then Bristol with day trips.

Posted by
4289 posts

I am no help. But I have to pop in and say I love all the places you are going. And yes - you just have to decide. You can’t get to ALL the amazing options. :) What great help you are getting!

Posted by
366 posts

I don't know if it's too off the path for you, but the Lake Vyrnwy area is beautiful!

I do hope you do a trip report when you're done, it would be a great read!

Posted by
1277 posts

Used Travelodge a good few times no dramas thankfully.
My pal repeatedly used the Porthmaddach one on her big trip last year

Posted by
6417 posts

Oh, that is presumably the St Ives house.

What a good idea that is. Some wonderful coastal walking there.

Make your way to London etc, then Cornwall to end.

There are even flights from London (Gatwick from memory) to Newquay

Posted by
457 posts

I think you have done a few of the HF sites. I'd be very interested to read reviews of the various properties and areas if you have time. (I did one of their sites about a month ago, first time with HF. It was great and I'm keen to do more.)

Posted by
86 posts

Public transportation around the Pembrokeshire coast is proving to be complicated. So I am thinking Chester 3 nights, one of those days I can take a day trip with Mountain Goat from Chester to Conwy and hit all the main sites in the area. Then I’ll be in Conwy for a night at Gwynfryn to explore on my own.
Then on to Caernarfon for 3 nights where I will make use of Sherpa buses to see Dinorwic Quarry and parts of Snowden.
Then I thought I could base myself in Cardiff for 3-4 nights, hire a car and see the Pembrokeshire coast. Or 2 nights in Cardiff and 2 in Tenby ?
Anything I am not taking into account?

Posted by
6417 posts

OK. At the start of last season the operator of the Pembrokeshire Coast services pulled out due to a lack of crew (the wonderfully named Poppit Rocket, Strumble Shuttle and the Puffin Shuttle- among other bus services).
Looking at the relevant web site page- https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/bus-routes-and-timetables/bus-routes-list-coastal-buses
replacements are now let but not starting until 25 May.

However, rather than going to Cardiff there must be car hire places in North Wales (or even Aberystwyth) to do a one way rental from- drive down the west coast to St David's, then along the south coast through Tenby and the Gower etc to Cardiff. (possibly diverting via the Brecon Beacons between Swansea and Cardiff).
That way you still get more of Wales.

The fall back (if there is nowhere else in North Wales) would be to go the half an hour by train from Bangor to Holyhead Port, rent there (there are several companies at Holyhead) then drive back across Anglesey to start the trip south.

EDIT- Enterprise have offices both in Bangor (choose Bangor, UK as they also have an office at Bangor, Northern Ireland and at Llandudno Junction; and then drop off locations at Llanelli, Swansea and Cardiff (including an office at Cardiff Railway Station).

Posted by
6417 posts

I've just realised that 12 May is a Sunday. None of the car hire places is open in North Wales on a Sunday (even Holyhead). So you would need to pick up on the Saturday morning, 11 May.

Interesting that a one way is rental is just about £30 more than a Cardiff to Cardiff rental. And Bangor does have automatics, if you were wanting that rather than a manual (stick shift). Automatic is about £50 more than stick.

I've just checked on the trains Caernarfon to Cardiff that day- there is rail engineering work between Bangor and Rhyl with bus replacements, so no Advance Fares. That is when the Wales rail pass talked about previously would be very useful.

So if you were wanting to take the train from Caernarfon to Cardiff and miss the whole of the west coast massively the better choice would be bus to Porthmadog then train Porthmadog to Shrewsbury, change, train Shrewsbury to Cardiff. Then rent the car on Monday morning from Cardiff Station. The Marriott is just across the road from Central Station.

Cardiff to St Davids is 2:30 direct on the M4, 3 hours via Brecon.

Caernarfon to St David's is a 4 hour drive straight through.

Si to me rent on Saturday 11 May, drive to St Davids for the nights of 12 to 14 May, drive to Cardiff on 15 May in time to turn the car in that evening.

Posted by
86 posts

9-12 May I’ve booked Travelodge Caernarfon. I chose non refundable by accident - it was late and whisky was involved.
But I’m starting to wonder if most of Wales just isn’t in the cards for me. I am at HF Larpool Hall btw and it’s in such a beautiful area. A few people here were extolling the beauty of Cornwall and I’m wondering if I should put my energy into figuring that out instead. I will still go to Chester, Conwy, Caernarfon and Cardiff.
I can drive a manual car but I honestly don’t know how comfortable I would be driving someplace so unfamiliar to me.
I keep hitting roadblocks when it comes to Wales.

Posted by
6417 posts

IF this was me, and it isn't, I wouldn't see this as a roadblock at all. I would see it as an opportunity. I would still go to St David's, and would suggest using local taxis to get to walks. But here I will take the line of least resistance and suggest going to Tenby instead.

From Tenby one of my day trips would be one of my bucket list items- Caldey Island (Wales' equivalent to Iona in Scotland or Lindisfarne in England).

On Sunday 12 May I would take bus T2 from Caernarfon at 0905 and have a 2 hour lunch break in Dolgellau, arriving at Aberystwyth at 1425. The connection into main line train at Porthmadog is excessively tight thus bus to Dolgellau (a very different route from the train, and I like Dolgellau as a town).

That is the simple version- left to my own devices I would add bells and whistles to that plan to add value, but that will do. I would be trying to add in the Tallyllyn Railway at Tywyn or the Fairbourne Railway at Barmouth. I've already checked and the Corris Railway (on the T2 route) isn't running that day.

Then on 13 May the T5 to Haverfordwest at 0810 or 1010 breaking the journey in Cardigan for 1 hour, arriving at Haverfordwest at 1226, or 1426.

If I was on the 0810 bus I could even change onto the T11 bus at Fishguard and fit in a 2 or 3 hour visit to St David's (what I would do personally) arriving at Haverfordwest at 1608 or 1638.

From Haverfordwest to Tenby I would change onto the 381 or 349 to Tenby (half hourly service between the two routes, last departure at 1800). This is a day which is about the journey, rather than just getting from point A to point B.

Then 2 nights in Tenby. You can make that two full days then take an early evening train to Cardiff on 15 May. On the 349 bus one of the castles to try to get to from Tenby is Pembroke Castle. Pembroke actually has a long and interesting military history. Trains also run from Pembroke to Cardiff.

If I couldn't get to Caldey on 14 May I would hope for 15 May

Re- Cornwall- if you haven't booked that HF yet at St Ives I would encourage you to do so.

Posted by
86 posts

Very detailed instructions. I’m considering it..

Is it as complicated as it looks? It’s so hard to tell until I do it. I’ve managed so far in England but Wales seems more complicated.

Posted by
6805 posts

But I’m starting to wonder if most of Wales just isn’t in the cards for me. I am at HF Larpool Hall btw and it’s in such a beautiful area. A few people here were extolling the beauty of Cornwall and I’m wondering if I should put my energy into figuring that out instead. I will still go to Chester, Conwy, Caernarfon and Cardiff. I can drive a manual car but I honestly don’t know how comfortable I would be driving someplace so unfamiliar to me.

Cornwall is lovely but will be very crowded the warmer it gets. And the more crowded it gets, the more difficult the driving gets. As someone who recently spent 7 days there driving (automatic car), I can tell you that driving is very difficult and stressful in many places. I was much more anxious driving in Cornwall than any other area in the UK. And that includes the Scotland isles last year, and 3 weeks this year in the The Peak, Yorkshire and Northumberland. I don't think I would drive again in Cornwall. That's my opinion, of course, but it is based on my recent experience.

Posted by
2445 posts

Wales is no more complicated than England - well, apart from place names on roads usually being written in Welsh first and Welsh being written first and in bolder type on train timetables and some bus timetables. (Around 18% of the population speak Welsh - as well as English - and the Welsh Government are trying to induce the rest of population to learn Welsh).

Obviously, in more sparsely populated areas, public transport is less frequent but you would also find that in England & Scotland. Generally though, you can get around by public transport quite well in Britain. Sundays tend to have fewer services and the railways tend to carry out engineering work on Sundays. If a route is affected, they will bus you around the line closure or the train will take a diversion route where viable.

Posted by
524 posts

I don't think I would drive again in Cornwall. That's my opinion, of course, but it is based on my recent experience.

Uh-oh. I'll be doing it in June. Wish me luck.

Posted by
6805 posts

Sorry, I'm not trying to scare anyone, and YMMV. I just found it stressful for me. And unfortunately, it's difficult not to use the single track roads there for more of the more scenic destinations. I will say part of the problem for me was the rain.

But just take it easy and plan extra time for travel. It's doable, but it takes work.

Posted by
2445 posts

It seems that you just can’t get some USA citizens out of cars. They blindly follow satnavs - even thinking they can drive across the sea to islands! Not sure how many people are reading this but the following might be useful:>

Read this link from the local press in Tenby (SW Wales for those who have never heard of it).

Coastal towns in Cornwall & Devon usually also have narrow streets built long before cars were invented. (You can always look at roads on Google Maps and go on Streetview to see what to expect if planning to visit).

Posted by
6417 posts

I think the bus route looks a lot harder written down longhand on "paper" than it really is. At each interchange you leave from the same place as you arrive at. You could go straight through from Caernarfon to Aberystwyth and Aberystwyth to Haverfordwest. It is just that they are long rides, so breaking each into two just feels more user friendly, and gets you to see a little bit more.
The Traws Cambria network is a well organised and efficient bus system.

I'm not sure if, driving, you'd be better in an automatic, or if it's the thought of driving (first time?) on the other side of the road solo. Apart from the M4 in South Wales the country has no motorway/freeway, and the most roads are undivided- that is one lane in each direction. Now whether that is easier than freeway is a subjective opinion. May be better in that you are constantly being kept alert, and of course there is now the national urban 20mph speed limit- to keep you further alert. Whereas on a motorway it is higher speeds and arguably less to keep you alert.

Until Covid there was a flight twice a day from Valley (Anglesey) to Cardiff- but that was withdrawn, never to return.

I have done my job, given you the options and the 'how to'- now it's for you to make a decision, both on destination and transport mode.

I looked at London to Cornwall flights but they don't work. Easyjet from Gatwick don't start their season until end June, Ryanair from Stansted fly once daily at 7am (so a stupid o'clock start) and Eastern from Gatwick are 3x daily- if you include baggage £95 each way. Plus getting to Gatwick and from Newquay.

So the train London Paddington to St Ives is the way to go- one easy change at St Erth to the short St Ives branch line (which has to be THE way to arrive in St Ives). Advance fares (a specific train each way) total £94 with railcard, a Super Off Peak return (totally flexible, valid on all trains on your proposed travel dates is £94.70.
So you know which option I would suggest.
Then taxi from St Ives station to the HF House. When HF say it is a steep uphill walk I can assure you they are not joking. It is, but the views from up there will be stunning.
It seems to be above the visitor car park and that is a lung buster.

Posted by
6805 posts

It seems that you just can’t get some USA citizens out of cars. They blindly follow satnavs - even thinking they can drive across the sea to islands!

I don't think one stupid act by an American means that all US citizens are ignorant when it comes to driving. And most of us do follow GPS, because we don't know the roads. But the only sea I've driven across to get to an island is the Holy Island causeway.

Posted by
6417 posts

It seems that you just can’t get some USA citizens out of cars.

In this case, with this OP, that is possibly not the most helpful commentary. She is now quite a few weeks into a lengthy trip which so far has involved only public transport, one small group tour and a couple of chance lifts from helpful and friendly people. She is not really intending to drive at any stage, and we are trying to help her to achieve that goal. She certainly has (so far) no intention to drive in the West Country. I am sort of trying to (unusually for me) persuade or coax her that for a few days driving may possibly be the most practical option.

Last night I had an E-mail from a friend in WA, who had tried to set her sat nav for a short drive from Renton WA to Newcastle WA, and for some mysterious reason it had wanted to default to Newcastle on Tyne, England!! Quite a difference in drive length (apart from the minor matter of a very small ocean to cross)!! And, no, the geo locate didn't think she was in Renton, Scotland. So Sat Navs are not infallible, either. And she is someone else (like this OP) who has not been persuaded to drive in the UK on a number of visits.

Posted by
86 posts

Isn31c
You given me very detailed information. I am sure that once I start out I’ll be fine. I opened up Apple Maps which I usually don’t like but they show very detailed bus routes and using it on my iPad is especially helpful.
I will also attempt some of your “value added side trips”. So far people have been patient and helpful along my journey so I’m sure I will find help if needed..

After Wales I think I would like to spend a good amount of time in Bristol, Bath, Oxford, Salisbury, London. There is plenty of public transportation to interesting places in the UK, enough to keep me busy for several weeks at least.

Posted by
3806 posts

After Wales I think I would like to spend a good amount of time in Bristol, Bath, Oxford, Salisbury, London.

All excellent choices!
If you don't have hotels already booked, we can all help with suggestions in these locations.
I don't know where you are in the car rental conversation now (???) but you won't need one for this leg of your trip.
All easily reached, all connected, by train lines.

Posted by
86 posts

I have the Abbey hotel in Bath but that’s it. I’ve also got Marriott and Hilton points to use.
I would welcome suggestions.

Posted by
2445 posts

If you are still going to stay in Bristol, you may wish to visit the Great Britain = world’s first iron hulled. screw driven steamship. It is in a sort of dock exhibition area. You may also see a replica of ‘The Matthew’ nearby as John Cabot set sail from this very harbour to look for new lands & reached what is now Canada/USA. (Bristol now has a huge port on the Bristol Channel with today’s modern ships).
https://www.ssgreatbritain.org
https://matthew.co.uk

You mentioned that you have a National Trust Pass. You may be interested in visiting Tyntesfield House (NT) - which is a short bus ride west of Bristol on the way to Clevedon. Here are buses in the Bristol and Bath areas. For Tyntesfield, you need First Badgerline X6- but be sure to tell the driver where you wish to get off otherwise he/she will shoot past the bus stop. Also make sure to note the location of the bus stop in the return direction* and be careful crossing the road as it is on a long straight. * You could consider continuing to Clevedon - get off by the pier for views back to Wales.
There are plenty of NT properties about but to get to many of them - you really need a car.
https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/bath-bristol/tyntesfield

Salisbury & Stonehenge can be done as a day trip from Bath or Bristol using trains to Salisbury and then the Stonehenge Shuttle bus. Salisbury Cathedral is wonderful. You could consider staying in Salisbury?

I presume that Cornwall is off the plan at the moment? It is a shorter trip to Cornwall from Bristol/Bath than places further east.

Anyway, you still have lots to see in Wales first! Weather forecasters are saying High Pressure expected.

Posted by
86 posts

James - thank you for the wonderful suggestions, I will definitely look into them.
I don’t know if I should leave Cornwall for another trip when I have my daughter with me who would drive. I have about 5 more weeks so I could fit in another HF holiday. The one in Cornwall is a pretty good deal.

Posted by
6417 posts

St Ives HF is now full on solo rooms for your proposed dates. I did try to prompt you towards a decision, but now top late.

25-28 May is still available, but that does not fit in well with the rest of the travels.

I wonder about Bourton on the Water HF in the Cotswolds if that might fit in to your plans. That is easy to get to by bus. Maybe tweak things about a bit and end with Oxford and Bourton?

Do Bristol/Bath, London, Cambridge, Oxford/Cotswolds.

There is no solo availability at their South Downs house either before you go home.

Posted by
6417 posts

By the way it is not clear if you have yet booked anywhere in West Wales for the nights of 12 to 14 May.

Avebury is about a 90 minute bus ride from Bath. You take the hourly bus 272 from Bath to Devizes (1 hour journey) changing there into the hourly bus 49 to Avebury (25 minute journey).

The 49 bus continues on to Swindon, for trains to Oxford and Moreton in Marsh.

So Cardiff, Bath/Bristol (for Salisbury) and Avebury will probably take you on a further week to around 23 or 24 May.

That would mesh in nicely to HF Bourton in the Water 24 to 27 May (Bank Holiday weekend), Monday 27 May is a bank holiday (Sunday bus service) but there are route 801 buses from Bourton to Moreton at 0830, 1015 then every 2 hours for train to Oxford.

On the way to Bourton on 24 May weekday bus 801 Moreton to Bourton is now hourly.

NOTE- There is only 1 single room left at Bourton on 24 to 27 May, so that one needs to be decided quickly to end up losing that one as well. Then tailor Bath and Avebury round that- get Avebury booked first then Bath/Bristol- as Avebury will not have that many places to stay (if not look at staying in Devizes instead), Between Bath and Bristol you should always find somewhere.

A few days in Oxford, then on to London (also for Canterbury and Cambridge- either as day trips or as two or three of nights each). So everything is in sequence.

Posted by
17 posts

I am finding this thread very useful as I plan to wander "without a plan" on public transport through Wales for a couple of weeks in June (I do enjoy a good local bus -- eavesdropping on conversations is great!)

The website busatlas.uk has been very interesting to browse, but of course all of the routes will have to be cross-checks in timetables.

Posted by
2445 posts

‘Em’ >https://traws.cymru is the website for the main longer distance bus/coach services across Wales. Hope you have checked out the Wales forum on RS and come through the previous postings.

Wonder what happened to ‘Abbeygurl’? Not a word recently.

Posted by
6417 posts

James,

We know what happened to @Abbeygurl. She suddenly had to curtail her trip to the UK due to totally unforeseen circumstances. She chose to keep what happened off the forum, but I have been in touch a couple of times by PM since- in fact I sent her a PM yesterday.

Ultimately, in the change of plans, Wales was switched to another HF stay in Northumberland as a kind of finale.

It would be useful for @Em to start a new thread for any further queries in regard to her proposed trip.

Posted by
2445 posts

Many thanks for the update isn31c and I hope that all turns out well.