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Weeklong trip - Carmarthen, Shrewsbury, Holy Island, London - Sept. 2022

My mom and I are planning a weeklong ancestry-related trip in September 2022. She would like to fly into London, make our way to Carmarthen in Wales and spend 2 nights, then move on to Shrewsbury and spend 2 nights, then 2 nights on Holy Island, and finally spend 2 nights in London before flying home (we've been to London many times).

In her mind, we can just travel by train the whole time. To me, the "easiest" thing would be to rent a car, although I know I don't want to jump in a car immediately after landing and try to make my way to Carmarthen while jetlagged. I'm also concerned about the timing of arrival and departure on Holy Island.

Any advice on how best to structure this trip would be greatly appreciated. Train or car (and if car, where and when should I pick up/drop off)? Itinerary suggestions/revisions are also welcome.

Posted by
2337 posts

The one immovable is the tide times for Holy Island. So you’ll have to work around those and see if they fit the order you currently describe.

You can get trains to Carmarthen and Shrewsbury. Holy Island is more difficult – train to Berwick, then a local bus.

Coincidently, there is an article on Carmarthenshire in today’s Guardian.

https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2021/nov/23/carmarthenshire-west-wales-llandeilo-laugharne-ferrytown

If money was no object I'd do something like: fly into Edinburgh, stay one night to recover from jetlag. Hire a car from the airport, go to Holy Island, drive down to Wales, return the car at say Cardiff or Bristol airport, then train to the smoke (London).

Posted by
52 posts

Thank you! I'll read that article, and I love your suggestion about flying into Edinburgh.

Posted by
6113 posts

Sorry, but unless you want to spend more time in transit than actually seeing places, you need to add additional days or reduce your itinerary. Two nights somewhere means one day there, particularly as you have so much travelling between your locations.

Holy Island is the geographical outlier and access on and off the island is dependent on the tides, so you may have to switch your dates around to make this possible.

You are right to be concerned about driving immediately upon arrival whilst jet lagged - please don’t! Have the first night in London or at the airport, depending on your arrival time. Alternatively, if you are up to it, take the train straight to Carmarthen - it’s a long four and a half hours + on board, with changes in London and Newport. Trains run hourly, so if you just miss one, it’s a long wait! I am not sure I would want that journey after a long flight.

Carmarthen to Shrewsbury - likely to take the best part of 4 hours driving including finding somewhere to park etc. If you can get one of the direct trains, the door to door time will be about 4.5 hours.

Shrewsbury to Holy Island - a nightmare by train, involving between 2 and 4 trains depending on the time of travel, then a bus from Berwick upon Tweed. There is only one bus a day - the times vary depending on the tide times and therefore you may need to get a taxi. Likely journey time door to door is 8+ hours. Driving is nearly 300 miles and is likely to take you 6.5 hours + assuming you don’t stop or get held up in traffic. These times assume no delay for crossing the tidal causeway. Today, you can’t access the island between 14.55 and 20.00, so if you got there at 15.30, you would have a long wait!

I am used to the U.K. roads and wouldn’t relish doing this much driving in such a short timescale, but I wouldn’t want to spend so long on trains either.

Posted by
52 posts

Jennifer, thank you for the thoughtful reply. I agree with you wholeheartedly on all points (this would not be my desired itinerary if I were travelling solo). I'll talk to my mom about it all and maybe she'll be up for some changes!

Posted by
2 posts

For Holy Island, September tends to be a busy month, so make sure you book as early as you can. There is an archaeological dig 13-Sep to 2-October, so all accommodation sells out. The first part of September is also very popular.

The island's tourism site will give you a full list of all accommodation providers: https://visitlindisfarne.com

And always make sure you understand how to cross the causeway safely and check tide times: https://holy-island.uk/holy-island-causeway-tips-tides-safety/

Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
470 posts

There are direct trains from Carmarthen to Shrewsbury which travel up the English border but a more interesting and scenic route would be to change trains in Llanelli and take the Heart of Wales line which cuts across the centre of Wales
For information on train travel in UK you should consult www.seat61.com

Posted by
52 posts

Thank you for the tips, Orange and Roger! I think we've decided to cut out Holy Island this time so we have a little more time for our other stops, and will indeed travel by train instead of car. Hopefully we'll plan a future northern England trip which will include Holy Island. So now, this itinerary is looking like:

Day 1: Arrive in London, spend the night near Paddington station
Day 2: Train to Carmarthen, spend the night
Day 3: Carmarthen, spend the night
Day 4: Train to Shrewsbury, perhaps via Roger's suggested route; spend the night
Day 5: Shrewsbury, spend the night
Day 6: Shrewsbury, maybe a day trip to Liverpool, but spend the night in Shrewsbury
Day 7: Train to London, spend the night
Day 8: London, spend the night
Day 9: Fly home

Posted by
470 posts

Forgot to mention,i stopped in Carmarthen for a couple of nights a few years back when i did a circular trip from Shrewsbury by train
I stayed in the Boars Head which is simple but adequate accommodation and has the benefit of only being a short walk from the station via a footbridge over the river Towy

Posted by
2186 posts

I am not sure why you wanted to go Holy Island being as it is so far from the other places you plan to visit. Just as well that you have now crossed that off. If you want to see a nice coastal town that is just a 46 minute train journey from Carmarthen (pay on the day £11 return ticket), I suggest you take a day trip to Tenby and if you wish to go to an island - go down to the beach where the local boatmen run settles over to Caldy Island.https://www.visitpembrokeshire.com/articles/48-hours-in-tenby

https://botanicgarden.wales is a few miles east of Carmarthen and worth seeing although by September , many of the flowers will be over. Local buses are few and far between. Consider taxi if planning a visit.

A word of warning about train travel - when going on longer journeys, it is cheaper to pre-book Advance tickets for specific trains and these tickets are not refundable. Normally, these cheaper Advance tickets get loaded around 10 weeks out but due to Covid, this is not always the case at the moment. If you were to land at Heathrow, it could be difficult to figure out which train to catch if going straight to Wales. Going from London to Carmarthen is a long journey requiring one change (usually it tells you to do this at Newport). If your train from London is going to Swansea, I would stay on that and change in Swansea. Alternatively, buy a ticket from London (Paddington) to Cardiff and have a wander around the city centre (or even stay overnight) and see the castle before taking another train to Carmarthen on a separate ticket. https://www.visitcardiff.com/discover/city-centre/
Please note that Caerphilly Castle and St.Fagans Castle & Museum are also well worth visiting whilst in Cardiff but require longer than a brief visit.

Direct trains go from Carmarthen to Shrewsbury hourly via Cardiff & Hereford. A pay on the day one way ticket is around £63. You can do the trip for far less. Take a local bus from Carmarthen to Llandeilo - walk down to the train station and then take the scenic Heart of Wales Line to Shrewsbury (3 hours) which can be had for £9.50 advance one way fare. If you want to go the whole way by train but use the cheaper Heart fo Wales route do this:> buy advance tickets from Carmarthen to Llandrindod = £10 each one way and then Llandrindod to Shrewsbury for advance one way for £8.50. (You change trains at Llanelli but stay on the same train at Llandrindod).
https://www.traintickets.com/?/
This site will tell you the buses:> https://www.traveline.info

You might want to consider buying a 2 Together Railcard - which costs £30 and get a third off most fares. Note that trains on the Carmarthen to Shrewsbury route via Cardiff are air conditioned expresses but those on the Heart of Wales line do not have air con - although that won’t be much of a problem in September. Chester is also worth a day trip by train from Shrewsbury.

Posted by
52 posts

Thank you for the tips, James! Holy Island was on my mom’s bucket list; she’s been there but wanted to spend the night. Ha. We’ll save that one for another time.

We had already planned on getting the Two Together railcard and taking the Heart of Wales line to Shrewsbury. Judging from the pictures online, it’s a beautiful route.

Tenby sounds like a great place to check out. We’ve been to Cardiff and visited Caerphilly Castle years ago but wouldn’t be opposed to going back.

I will make a note of your other suggestions too. Thanks again for taking the time to reply!

Posted by
2186 posts

Pleased to be of help.
www.nationalrail.co.uk is showing advance fares for tomorrow Carmarthen to Shrewsbury via any route of £24 one way. These trains are run by Transport for Wales who I understand are currently loading the Advance fares only a few days ahead (like a week) due to Covid disruption. Buy on the day is about £64 one way so a big difference. (These are non railcard fares). This does not necessarily mean that it would be £24 buying the day before in September.

https://www.wales.com/visit