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7 nights in Wales itinerary

Trying to narrow down an itinerary for next summer, end of July / beginning of August. Wondering how much worse traffic will be due to high season? Would love some feedback. I've read every post on the Wales forum, and I have read Lonely Planet Wales, and of course RS Great Britain. I've been to Conwy on a RS best of England tour, but my husband has never been to Wales. I've been wanting to go back ever since that tour! We both strongly prefer small villages to cities (hence sleeping in Chepstow vs. Cardiff.
We'll start by picking up rental car in Bath in the morning.

Day 1. Drive from Bath to Saint Fagan's, on to Caerphilly Castle then sleep in Chepstow.

Day 2. Chepstow Castle and Tintern Abbey, I'd like to also include a 3 - 5 mile walk somewhere around Chepstow. Ideas?

Day 3. Drive from Chepstow through Breacon Beacons, sleep in or near Harlech (see Harlech Castle if time, otherwise see it the morning of day 4). Ideas for sights along the way?

Day 4. Drive from Harlech to Beddgelert, explore village and possibly do a short hike, then drive to Caernarfon (again - see castle if time, otherwise see it the following morning).

Day 5. Drive to Anglesy, see Beaumaris, south stack etc., sleep in Conwy.

Day 6. Explore Conwy - walk the walls, Conwy Castle, Plas Mawr.

Day 7. Betwys-y-coed. Wondering if it might be better to just take the train from Conwy vs. driving? Sleep in Conwy.

We could return the car at the end of day 5 (returning in Llandudno junction), unless driving to bewys-y-coed is advised. Next day on to London.

Posted by
1838 posts

Day 7 Leave Conwy (Conway) & go to Bodnant Gardens prior to heading for Betws-Y-Coed.https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden. (Do not use the train as they are few and far between on this line - use the car and see the garden)!

I would then leave Betws-Y-Coed and take A5 westward into the mountains (via Capel Curig). The walk to Cwm Idwal is worth doing from the head of the Nant Ffrancon Pass. Also try and take the road from Capel Curig to Beddgelert for wonderful scenery.

When the time comes to leave north Wales, take the train from Llandudno Junction to Chester and have a couple of hours walking around this old city (which is small). Manchester Airport is the nearest for trans Atlantic flights rather than going south to London.
http://www.visitchester.com

Pre-book specific longer distance trains about 11 weeks ahead for the lowest prices. www.nationalrail.co.uk

Posted by
1352 posts

Thanks for the recommendations James! Do you know if the rail station in Chester has a luggage storage?

One more question I was contemplating overnight - Wondering if we should consider picking up the car in Newport to avoid driving through Bristol? I had thought about just using a rental car in North Wales, but really want to go to Saint Fagan's which is possible by public transport, but takes much longer with not too frequent service. (we are first time left side drivers:)

Posted by
1838 posts

Not sure about lock up luggage at Chester station - not mentioned under facilities. If you went to the lost luggage office, you could ask them if they would look after* your baggage while you wander around the city centre - which I think is about a 14 minute walk from the station. * Check if they will charge you a fee? http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/stations_destinations/CTR.aspx

You do not drive through Bristol to get from Bath to south Wales - you take the A46 north from Bath to the M4 = motorway (interstate in American)!

You asked about a walk in the Tintern area. Click this map:>
https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@51.6532409,-2.6824014,5902m/data=!3m1!1e3!5m1!1e1
Can you see Chepstow? Now look for the A466 going through St.Arvans. Take the first left after passing through this village - it will be a single track road marked ‘Wyndcliff’. After about 3 minutes - park in the parking area on R. Then take track up through the woods until it levels off (about 18 minutes). Go right and you reach the Eagles Nest Viewpoint. (I do not recommend taking the path over the iron bridge at Tintern to Pulpit Rock - very steep and difficult). Far better to drive to the Yat Rock viewpoint which is some miles away to the NNE.

As far as driving is concerned, I would go on Google Maps / Earth and zoom down to the areas that you plan to visit to get some idea of what the roads are like. Towns like Chepstow and Conwy still have narrow medieval street patterns but both have by-passes. In the case of Conwy, an expressway goes through a tunnel under the estuary as they did not want to spin the view! Bath, has heavy traffic as does the A46 going N to the M4. Once on the M4 it is pretty much like an interstate with 3 lanes each way (4 near Bristol). Although traffic can be heavy, the accident rate in Britain is relatively low. When on the highways, you can only overtake on the right - it is not a free for all with overtaking in any lane. You might see people going faster than the speed limits - that is because they know where the fixed speed cameras are located - though the cops sometimes hideout in new locations! If going from Chepstow towards Cardiff, the Newport section of the M4 can get jammed up where everybody has to get through a 2 lane each way tunnel.

Now look at this map:>https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@51.4854078,-3.2808025,7424m/data=!3m1!1e3!5m1!1e1
It shows the way you would reach St.Fagans just to the west of Cardiff. (The colours on the road are live traffic speeds). Running left to right you will see the M4 and running north to south - you will see the A4232 expressway. You take this expressway for about 2 miles south from M4 J33 to reach St Fagans Castle/Museum - which has a sharp turn off from a 70mph road. When you leave St.Fagans Museum, you need to return to the A4232 expressway in order to return to he M4 - but you must go south to the next interchange and loop back. Zoom down on that interchange and you will find an elevated roundabout with traffic lights - really pathetic by American standards! Anyway, grab the yellow man and drop him on this junction to see one of the more difficult junctions that you would negotiate if you decide to use a car. So, by doing this, you could get familiar with the roads and complicated junctions from your own home which would help immensely should you decide to drive. Also check out the roads in north Wales - which are bounded by stone walls.

Chepstow to Cardiff can be done by train but if you wish to go to Caerphilly as well, buy a through train ticket (on the day) and simply get off on return for a look around Cardiff centre. To do Caerphilly Castle and *St. Fagans, you would really need a car. Be sure to order an automatic that is what you want. Direct trains run from Cardiff to north Wales via Ludlow, Chester and Shrewsbury. *Bus 32 air 320 from Cardiff.

Posted by
84 posts

Great idea to take full advantage of the car by avoiding cities. Your trip is well thought out but I would make the following suggestions.
1. Keep the car for the 7 days. Day 1 would not work with public transport. Only a few slow local buses a day to Saint Fagans.
2. Day 1 is crowded. What with picking up the car, getting organized, driving around Cardiff twice. I spent 4 hours at Saint Fagens last fall and really enjoyed it. It would be a shame to feel rushed.
I would suggest reversing Days 1 and 2, see Chepstow Castle, Tintern Abbey and walk on Day 1. I have gone for walks in the Forest of Dean and along the Wye from Monmouth but there seemed to be decent walks just about everywhere and I have always found tourist information has good recommendations and maps.
On Day 2, you could enjoy a big breakfast, wait for rush hour traffic to clear in Cardiff and go to Saint Fagens.
3. I found Bulth Wells to be a pleasant market town for a stop on the way to Harlech but there is great scenery the whole way.
4. I agree with keeping the car and stopping at the gardens on the way to Betwys-y-coed. I would even consider staying in Betwys-y-coed for the 2 nights. It is less than 15 miles from Llandudno Junction, slightly smaller and easier to manoeuvre with a car, and right in the mountains.
5. Chester is definitely worth a stop if you have the time.
It looks like you have lots of time to plan but I would recommend booking your accommodation in Snowdon well in advance and places fill quickly in the summer.

Posted by
1838 posts

What alangowdey says above makes sense. Far better to leave Bath - cross the estuary on the M48 bridge to see the lower Wye valley area before heading off for the Cardiff area - where you should stay for maybe 2 nights. This saves you double - backing to Chepstow and places you by the A470 which will take you up through the middle of Wales to NW Wales. (Most of the A470 route is scenic).

Posted by
1352 posts

Thanks James and alangowdey!

The reason I was doing day 1 and 2 in that order was to save myself a little driving IF we picked up rental car in wales. I just realized there is an enterprise rental car office just south of Cardiff Central, and when google mapping to Saint Fagan's it says 18 minutes done mostly on "st fagan's rd". If we did this it would be 1 hour by train from bath to cardiff then 20 - 30 minutes to get to Saint Fagans. If it makes any difference day 1 and 2 would most likely be on a Saturday and Sunday. If we didn't have time to see Caerphilly Castle on day one then I think we could push it to day 2 on our way north.

I will give some consideration to switching day 1 and 2 though. If I do switch them any suggestions on where to stay near Cardiff, but not IN Cardiff?

One more question - I may have one more day to add to Wales. Any suggestions on best way to spend that extra day? I thought about Pembrokshire (tenby), but we're not really into beaches. More into historic places and beautiful scenery. I also thought about St. Davids, but it seems so far out of the way. Guess I could take James' suggestion and spend an extra night near Cardiff?

James - thanks for the map links. When I google map the route I don't think it takes me to the elevated round about - if it is the huge round about where A4232 and M4 meet up north of Saint Fagans.

Posted by
1838 posts

I shall refer to this map of Cardiff -https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@51.4907083,-3.2025977,13z/data=!5m1!1e1

If you arrive at Cardiff Central station and wish to hire a car from Enterprise in Penarth Road/Trade Street > descend from the platform but do not follow the herd in the underground passage - go the other way to exit via the south side of the station. Walk across the car park to the main road (Penarth Road) and cross this road where you see the traffic lights - then turn right and walk along Penarth Road for about 5 minutes and the Enterprise place will be on your left in Trade Street - the cars are hidden inside the building.

However, I would be reluctant to do this on arrival in Cardiff as I think you should have wander around the city centre and see the castle = www.cardiffcastle.com (Most of the centre is traffic free and has a mix of Victorian arcades and modern malls). Now, you would not really wish to do this with your baggage so perhaps you could drop this off at Enterprise first? Alternatively, consider checking it into a hotel. Now, I understand that you are wary of driving in a city but Cardiff is not too bad if you choose a hotel that has parking. The Travelodge at Atlantic Wharf is just a short *bus ride (6) near rear of the central station so you could check your baggage in there and then perhaps make the short walk to Cardiff Bay’s Mermaid Quay to have lunch before catching a number 6 back to the city centre. If you wanted to see Caerphilly Castle on the same day, just walk across the road from the Travelodge at Atlantic Wharf to Cardiff Bay station and catch a train to Queen Street where you change foremother train to Caerphilly. (Not advised on Sundays due to engineering work - lower frequencies). * Cardiff Bus do not give change. Present price for a Day To Go Ticket is £3.60 - pay driver.
One way ticket is £1.80.

If you do not wish to see anything in central Cardiff or the Bay area - go and hire the car and drive out to St.Fagans or wherever. The reason that Google are giving you different routes is because there are several ways in which you can reach St.Fagans Castle / Museum. The route I originally gave you assumed you were coming direct off the M4. Coming directly off the A4232 saves you from some very narrow and busy local roads. If staying in the Travelodge at Atlantic Wharf & heading for St.Fagans, follow the signs for A4232 M4 West and head for M4 junction 33 before looping back. Look at the Cardiff map and see where these places are.

If not staying in Cardiff, the Copthorne Hotel at Culverhouse Cross - on the western edge of Cardiff, would be an ideal location. If you were to leave this hotel and take the A48 west to the first village (ST.Fagans) & turn left, you would reach Dyffryn Gardens - which would be at their peak when you visit. Another edge of Cardiff hotel to consider is Holiday Inn Cardiff North - which is on the north side of M4 Junction 32 and very handy for Castle Coch.http://cadw.gov.wales/daysout/castell-coch/?lang=en
https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/dyffryn-gardens
www.visitcardiff.com
This is about 5 minutes walk from the Travelodge at Atlantic Wharf >http://www.mermaidquay.co.uk

You say you do not like the seaside. Coastal areas can vary enormously from brash places to wild coasts with spectacular bays and cliffs. Tenby is a lovely coastal town but is too far from where you are going to be viable. (It is 1 hour 30 minutes fast driving time from Cardiff = 100 miles). When you go to Anglesey, you will find plenty of beaches on this island. You may also find the time to pop into the Victorian style seaside resort of Llandudno. The Great Orme Tramway on one side of the bay is worth a ride if you have time.
If booking accommodation in Conwy, make sure it has parking as you already know how narrow the streets area.
Of the areas you are planning to visit, mid Wales is the quietest.

Posted by
351 posts

We spent about 3 hours at St Fagans in early March and I could easily have spent more time there. Stop in at the bakery for a slice of Bara Brith (heavily buttered!!)

Posted by
1352 posts

Thank you James again for the detailed info! You have given me lots to think about!!! I just want to say that I really do appreciate all of the time and effort you put into your posts! If you ever need info on Colorado please ask:)

Thanks Motogirl!

Posted by
1838 posts

Thanks Jill.

Motorgirl - just as well that you did not attempt the walk to Devil’s Pulpit in my opinion. I did it last year in ideal conditions and it was quite hard going - including fallen trees across the trail. The view from the Devil’s Pulpit back down to Tintern Abbey was excellent. In my opinion, the best viewpoints in the lower Wye Valley are from The Eagle’s Nest (near St.Arvans) and Yat Rock (near Berry Hill). Pleased you enjoyed St.Fagans. Anybody reading this should note that the estate is in 2 halves linked by a small tunnel - be sure to see both sections! A new museum building for internal displays is currently nearing completion.