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Bath Cardiff Windsor October Itinerary Feedback

Hi All

Need some feedback on possible England + Wales October Itinerary. My husband & I are looking for a medium-paced trip in the last week of Sept/ 1st week of October & would love your inputs on it (including the pacing + weather & driving conditions, where applicable + how can we maximize use of public transport + alternate places). Thank you in advance!

Things that are imp to us:

  • to rent a car only for 2-3 specific days when we absolutely need it
  • don’t want to move bases/hotels many times during our trip so have to work around that
  • Medium-paced/ no rush / slightly fluid trip
  • will the following give us a variety of landscape, scenery, smaller towns/ village experiences?

BATH + CARDIFF (with side trips) + WINDSOR

Day 1: Arrive in LHR; Transfer to Bath; recover from jet lag; Overnight in Bath
Day 2: Bath, Overnight in Bath
Day 3: Bath (possible side trip to Cotswold? Rent car as need)
Day 4: Bath
Day 5: Bath to Cardiff (rent a car & drive) via Chepstow; Tintern Abbey; Monmouth; Raglan Castle; Usk; Cardiff; Overnight in Cardiff
Day 6: Cardiff (amongst other things go to Caerphilly Castle?)
Day 7: Cardiff; Day trip to Gower?
Day 8: Cardiff
Day 9: Cardiff to Windsor/Heathrow by coach/ train; Overnight in Windsor/Heathrow
Day 10: AM LHR Flight back

I am open to suggestions on alternate cities/ towns/ villages as bases instead of Bath & Cardiff as long as there is some transport connections.

Thank you again

Posted by
2444 posts

Heathrow to Bath - a lot of people say go by National Express bus/coach which is cheaper than the trains BUT the service is only every other hour. By train, the services are normally every 30 minutes BUT you would first have to take a train (not Heathrow Express to London Paddington) to Hayes & Harlington (which is just a few minutes from Heathrow) and then a westbound stopping train to Reading for an express to Bath.

On day 3, you could go by train to Salisbury and then shuttle bus to Stonehenge before returning to Salisbury to see the medieval cathedral and then train back to Bath. Some people on here have recommended Mad Max tours from Bath to Cotswolds. Bath is a difficult to place to have a car so if you do hire a car here, make sure your hotel has guaranteed free parking. All roads in/out of Bath are busy and not super highways. The greatest concentration of attractive Cotswold villages lie well to the NE of Bath but are doable s a day trip form Bath. Castle Combe is the best of those nearby and can be reached via some narrow roads on the final bit.

The drive that you suggest from Bath via Chepstow (castle) and Tintern and then Raglan (castle) is very pleasant for the most part. The first village N of Chepstow on route A466 is St.Arvans. After driving through village - a narrow country lane gos off at first bend & signposted Wyndcliff. You soon come to a sharp bend with parking area on R. A 20 minute walk up a zig zag path through trees takes you to Eagle’s Nest viewpoint - well worth it if you are driving. (Yat Rock viewpoint is also worth visiting if you have time - see if you can find these places on Google Maps.

From Raglan (castle only reachable from eastbound lane of A40) - you may like consider looping back to go west bound A40 (look at road layout on Google maps as it is complicated unless you know) and then consider heading for Abergavenny & the Brecon area for an overnight - assuming you have a car. If doing that, you would use the A470 from Brecon to Cardiff & could make a detour to see Caerphilly Castle on the way. Of course, you could go straight to Cardiff from Raglan.

I would not have a hotel in Cardiff city centre if I have a car due to expensive parking and jams around the core area as the Council have made bus & cycle lanes as they have declared war on the car. All well and good to have a central hotel if you arrive by train from Bath. So, if arriving in Cardiff by car I suggest you choose a hotel on the edge of the city. The Village Hotel by M4 junction 32 would fit the bill as you could commute in to the centre by bus or train from Radyr station - which has trains about every 8 minutes taking only around 12 minutes to the centre of the city.

Look at Google maps & you should see Castell Coch just to the N of the Village Hotel - well worth seeing - as well as Radyr station which has a large free car park. You should certainly visit the Museum of Welsh History at St. Fagans and from J32 you just drive W to J33 & then A4232 southbound - look out for slip road into Museum about 2 miles S of M4 - SLOW DOWN in slip as turning off is SHARP. If not having a car and staying in city centre - use Cardiff Bus 32 for St.Fagans.

Day trip to Gower is perfectly viable and driving non stop, it takes just over an hour to reach the start of peninsula. Best advice is to head for SW tip at Rhosilli first & then work back along S coast. Roads can be narrow in places - check them out on Google streetview. Be sure to choose a good weather day for this trip as the area is exposed so keep your schedule of days flexible.

You could drive back to Windsor or use the trains with changes at Reading and Slough. For this longer one way train trip - it would be cheaper to pre-book a specific train Advance ticket.

Posted by
1919 posts

In Cardiff, you have the Castle which was an C11th motte and bailey castle which was restored by the marquis of Bute in the C19thinto what it is today. The National Museum of Wales is also worth visiting.

On the outskirts of Cardiff (either walk or bus) is the wonderful Castell Coch which is everyone’s dream fairytale castle with its turrets. This again was restored by the Marquis of Bute in the C19th and the inside is an Arabian Night’s fantasy and wonderful! There is also Llandaff Cathedral between the two which is worth visiting too.

Another place you should also consider is [St Fagans National Museum of History][5] which is a very good folk museum about ten miles from Casrdfiff and easily reached by bus. Old buildings from across Wales have been moved and rebuilt here and it is a wonderful insight into what life was like in the past. If you are interested in social history it is very easy to spend sevreal hours, if not a full day here.

You can even do a Ghost tour!

Caerphilly Castle can be done on the train or by bus from Cardiff, so you may not need a car in Cardiff - unless you need one for the day tour of the Gower Peninsula.

Posted by
4383 posts

St. Fagan's is my #1 must see if you're in Cardiff. We also went to Caerphilly and it's a great castle, but there are plenty of other castles and St. Fagan's is unique.

EDITED: There is a bus that goes directly from Cardiff to St. Fagan's.

Posted by
6633 posts

To me, everything you have listed for day 5 might be hard to accomplish in one day. Tintern abbey could take 2 hours to see. Monmouth can be seen in an hour, as can Raglan castle. For Monmouth, you can park in the Waitrose grocery store lot free for an hour. Which roads you take to get to the different places on your list will determine how long it takes to get there. Some back roads are very narrow.

If you go to Caerphilly castle, parking is easier along the backside of the castle at Crescent Road Car Park. It is larger than the one in town and is less congested. Nearby is Coch castle. It isn’t as old, is worth visiting, and isn’t a ruin.

Posted by
40 posts

@James Thank you for such detailed information. It definitely puts things in perspective & I get a sense I need to work around the itinerary much more since it’s not as straight forward as I initially thought. Just a few follow ups:

  • Other than the Village Hotel area is there an alternate place around Cardiff/ in Wales which could act as base for our entire stay there?
  • Would it be better to arrive from Bath to Cardiff via Train; stay in Cardiff or preferably a smaller town around & then do day trips from there?
  • Am I right in assuming/ understanding that most of Wales that we want to see i.e. smaller towns, scenic landscapes can only be done if we have a car?
  • The day#5 drive you mention (and as jaimeelsabio also mentions in his comments) sounds like a lot & perhaps a difficult one with steep turns etc? It’s our 1st time driving in the UK (visiting from the US but have driven in India but a long time ago)- do you think we’d be able to do it comfortably w/o getting too overwhelmed considering it’s our 1st time in Wales?

@wasleys & @cala thanks for the suggestions, noting these down to add. :)

@jaimeelsabio Thanks for pointing that out. Do you think we do this as a whole day trip starting from Cardiff (/surrounding town) instead of directly from Bath? Would that make it more doable or splitting that drive by doing an overnight in that area is better? Also, sounds like the drive can be a bit dangerous with steep & narrow turns & roads? We would ideally like to avoid being over adventurous since it’s our first time driving in Wales (visiting from the US but have driven in India but a long time ago)? Are there alternate easier scenic drives, towns villages to visit around or am I over thinking this?

@ All- Do you think dropping Bath completely from the itinerary would help us see Wales better? I think I know the answer there may be YES :). But I will still need to figure a way out to reach directly from LHR to the Cardiff area after a long international flight though.

Thank you all for your patience & such great info!

Posted by
6633 posts

For much of Wales having a vehicle makes life easier. The drive from Cardiff or Bath to Chepstow is about the same, about 45 minutes. We used Tintern as a base for a three nights. One day we went to the abbey. On one full day there we visited Monmouth, and Raglan, White, Grosmont and Skenfrith castles. On another day we visited Caerphilly and Coch castles.

Looking at your itinerary, the drive should be pretty easy. It’s when you take shortcuts that you’ll come across the one track, two way roads. As long as you’re on the main roads you’ll be fine.

Posted by
6084 posts

For Cardiff the advice from LHR is the same as Bath.
Two train route to Reading, then half hourly train to Cardiff.
One an hour terminates there, the other extends to Swansea.

National Express also run a regular direct (no change) coach.-broadly hourly taking around 3 1/2 hours, about the same time as the train.

After a long flight I know which I would prefer- the coach where I can just settle back and not think about connections.

Posted by
2444 posts

From what I have seen on TV of driving in India, you will find driving in the UK far more ordered with people obeying the rules - especially as they have mobile police vans hiding waiting to catch you out if you go over the speed limits. Some of the roads date from tracks in medieval times but the motorways (M roads) are like your Interstates. ‘A” roads are main roads and ‘B’ roads are the next category down. Anything else might be a country lane (all tarred) where you might have to drive backwards to a passing place. Note that if you want an automatic transmission - you must stipulate that as a lot of people drive manuals. Signposting is generally excellent but in Wales you may be confused because they are gradually changing the sign posts to Welsh first & English second - even though only 18% of the population of Wales speak Welsh.

Public transport is generally better than in north America so by using trains & buses, you can get around in the more populated areas.
You could go by train from Cardiff to Chepstow to see that castle but it would involve a 17 minute walk from the station to the castle but with a car - you just park outside. Then you would have to walk to the correct bus stop in the town for the hourly bus service to Tintern - which continues to Monmouth. It would not be viable to reach the viewpoints that I mentioned previously when doing this route by car.

The same goes for staying in the *centre of Cardiff and using train to Caerphilly Castle; bus to St.Fagans and Castell Coch can also be reached by bus (to Tongwynlais - then 20 minute walk up a hill but a car would take you up to the castle). * Some parts of the centre can get a bit rowdy on Friday & Saturday night as people descend on the city from miles around as well as the locals. You also need to check for events in Cardiff as the stadium is a major sporting venue as well as attracting big name music people. (Coldplay this week and before that Beyonce). When events take place, hotel prices rocket.

The best scenery in Wales is in north Wales though the scenery the Brecon Beacons National Park is lovely.

You don’t say where you are in the accommodation stakes. 5* or cheapo or value for money? Always find any possible accommodation on Google Maps and check out reviews. Does it have free parking? What are the access roads like? Check on streetview to see if you think it is right for you. I will mention some places that you might like to consider but these are more on the expensive side and I have not stayed in any of them but I have seen them.
Abergavenny > Brecon area = Skirrid Inn; Peterstone Court Hotel at Llanhamlech.
In countryside west of Cardiff but near M4 J34 = Llanerch Vineyard ; Miskin Manor.
In Cardiff’s Cathedral Road - short walk from National Express terminal = Elgano; Lincoln House. (They might have parking in the back)?
In Cardiff value accommodation = Premier Inn on Churchill Way -though it says Queen Street.
Clayton Hotel - right by the central station but area outside could be noisy at night - trains at back but I get their noise is sealed outside.

You mentioned The Cotswolds. A central location from which you could cover The Cotswolds & Bath is Cirencester - but a car would be essential as it is not on the railway and bus travel would be difficult. (Nearest train station is Kemble).

Hope this helps. Find places mentioned on Google Maps and streetview the roads to see what they are like.

Posted by
40 posts

UPDATE: Since you all have been very helpful with all your suggestions, I thought I should let you all know that we have decided to go with an alternate itinerary for our trip. We are going to Scotland this time around & will be back again for a trip to Wales. Thank you again for your patience & all your help on this post. I am bookmarking all this info for a future trip.