I would love some advice please. My husband and I (from New Zealand) are arriving in Bristol at midday from Nice, mid October. We're hiring a car for 5 days and want to see something of Wales (Cardiff or Swansea perhaps for the first night?) St Michaels Mount, Port Isaac, Padstow. We have been to Bath in the past so we might just perhaps pop in there but not to stay. We're pretty fast tourists, not needing to stay too long in one place and would love any advice on timing, accommodation etc. We're returning the car to Bristol airport then catching the train to London. Many thanks in advance. Marie
Marie, I don't know Wales, but it certainly is convenient to Bristol. It sounds like you only plan a day or so in Wales. Having been to Bath, I would say that one visit is enough. It is kind of convenient, but a bit out of the way. From the M4 out of Wales, I would take the M5 all the way to Exeter and the A30 which runs straight through Cornwall. We stayed in Falmouth which is a charming town, large enough to have several restaurants. St. Ives is also charming and large enough to provide variety.
This is sort of the other direction from Port Isaac, etc. but....
Waaaaay back in early 2001, we stayed in Caernarfon, Wales, and found that a good base for seeing Wales. There are a couple B&Bs inside the castle walls, which makes for a picturesque stay (the type that are rooms above a pub). We stayed at the Black Boy Inn, which was great fun - rumored to be haunted! And one of the oldest (the oldest?) in the town. But perhaps that is a different trip...
In the time available, you will not be able to see much of Wales except parts of South Wales, and I would suggest that you stay there two nights and then leave for Cornwall first thing on the third day. Depending on your interests, places worth seeing in South Wales include Cardiff Castle Caerphilly Castle Castle Coch Chepstow Castle Tintern Abbey Roman baths and fortress at Caerleon Big Pit at Blaenafon (you can go down a coal mine) St Fagan's National History Museum near Cardiff and for scenery Gower Peninsula Brecon Beacons Admission is free to the various national museums in Wales. There are lots of places to visit in Cornwall, and you may like to check out: Eden Project near St Austell Lost Gardens of Heligan St Ives Tintagel St Michael's Mount
as well as the ones you have already mentioned. Cornwall is long and thin, so travelling between different sites can sometimes take a long time. This will help you choose where it is best to stay. October is certainly end of season for Cornwall, which may affect what is open or available. Check out online the places mentioned, and see what suits your interests.
Taking one day out of five for Wales is going to gum up the South West. So will ducking into Bath. In a day outing from Bristol, you can get to Chepstow (village and castle) plus either Tintern and a bit of the Wye or Caerphilly (if you want a bigger, good castle) or Cardiff. The Cardiff castle is not worth the trouble, the National Meseum and a boat tour of the waterfront are. Swansea is too far and doesn't offer much. You could make a really strong case for spending the whole time in Wales since five days would give you a good taste of the whole country, especially if you move at a pretty good clip. Switching back to England, you might want to see if you can spend a night in Penzance so you can catch a performance at the Minack - - they tend to book up quickly, however.
Thank you so much David, Kate, Bob & Ed. A huge help already! So Swansea not worth the hassle? Cardiff nicer? It'll be one or the other I think.
If you've got to do one, make it Cardiff. The extra seventy-five miles or so on the round trip to Swansea is just going to eat you alive. Personal perspective. Last week I polished off what was left of walking the perimeter of the principality. It was something that happened in dribbles until I saw there was a pattern. That means I've made a bunch of visits. I really like Wales, but I just can't champion the three larger cities. I can, however, make a case for just about every town, village, and cross-roads.
Wales is definitely a place where I felt a need to "walk the land" -- we will go back someday.
You can't go wrong just "doing" Wales. The North has Edward's Castles which are the dream Medieval Castles. These would more than compensate for St. Michaels unless it is on your bucket list. Port Isaac is waaaay out the way. If you've been to Bath it hasn't changed much. Chester and Liverpool are interesting too if you go north instead of south.