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Best way to travel from Holyhead to Cardiff by train?

Hello everyone -

My family will be arriving in Wales on the ferry from Dublin and I'm wondering what the best one day train itinerary might be from Holyhead to Cardiff. There are a variety of reviews about the trains themselves. Any advice as to the nicest train would be great.
We'd like to see some countryside on our way south to Cardiff if possible? If we get on an early ferry it looks like we'd make it to Cardiff by evening.

We are also thinking instead of going from Holyhead to Aberswyth. Any advice on the best way? A hired car (we are 4 people so that sometimes works well but cost??) or bus? What then is the wisest way to get from Aberswyth to Cardiff by public transportation?

Or would a flight be wiser? Do you have to go through customs or tons of security on a Dublin to Bristol flight?
Thanks so much for your help!

Posted by
68 posts

I too am researching on train travel in Dublin and Wales for a trip in 2017.
I would like to recommend the website The Man In Seat 61. A wealth of information on train travel.

Best of luck in your travels.

Posted by
11288 posts

There are flights from Dublin to both Cardiff and Bristol, on various airlines (Ryanair, Stobart Air which is the short-range affiliate of Aer Lingus, FlyBe). Look at Skyscanner to find all your options:

Be sure to do a dummy booking (up to the point where you put in your credit card) to see the cost of all the extras, and to learn all the rules (these are budget airlines, and they follow their rules strictly).

On these flights, there's no customs as both Ireland and the UK are in the EU. There's no immigration (passport control) as they are in a common travel area. There will be security, and you will use your passport as ID.

I haven't traveled this route, so I can't say if a flight is "better" than the ferry plus train. A lot depends on whether your goal is to get right to Cardiff, or to see places in between.

Posted by
1889 posts

If you were to pick up a hire car in Holyhead, you would certainly see some fine Welsh scenery as you drove south eastwards across the country. The A5 is a fast dual highway that would get you swiftly to the mainland. You would then head for Caernarfon - which has a fantastic castle. Then on to Porthmadog - which takes me about 30 minutes on a good run. Leaving Porthmadog - which has a by-pass, you head for Dolgellau and then just keep following the A470 all the way to Cardiff via Builth Wells. Porthmadog to Cardiff is 150 miles and it takes me 3 hours 30 minutes on a clear run with no stops. So, the leg from Holyhead to Porthmadog would take about another hours and a half. The trouble with all this is that it is solid driving and you are shooting though all of the things that you should be seeing in Wales. It is not the best plan! Far better, in my opinion, to hire the car in Holyhead and drive to say Caernarfon or Porthmadog and use that as a base for 3 nights in order to explore NW Wales. Then make your way south.

Don’t bother with the car hire to Aberystwyth idea. You might as well keep the car for the entire trip. Alternatively, direct trains run every other hour from Holyhead to Cardiff via Chester. These trains are air conditioned Class 175 units operated by Arrival Trains Wales. Schedules & fares (cheaper to advance book specific trains about 11 weeks out) >
Please note that in the autumn & spring, that ATW often have special deals for the over 55’s. Currently, this means that you could get from Holyhead to Cardiff for only £24. Google 'Arriva Trains Wales Club55' if appropriate.

Here again, you are passing through places of interest. The first of these is Conwy - which has a wonderful castle - but you would not realise that you are actually passing beneath its walls. The next place worth a visit is Chester. The train then heads south roughly following the border and the next place worth an hour or two is Shrewsbury. Another 45 minutes or so south is Ludlow - which has some fine olde buildings. By pre-purchasing a through ticket for specific train, you are not allowed to hop off and catch a later service. (Trains are at hourly interviews roughly linking these places). So, you could of course by tickets for each leg or check if you can purchase an ‘Anytime ticket’ and that this would permit hop offs at places of interest.

Another way of doing the journey using public transport is to go by train from Holyhead to Bangor. Then bus to Caernarfon - see castle. Then take Welsh Highland Narrow Gauge Steam Railway through the Snowdonia National Park to Porthmadog (stay 2 nights?).
Visit Portmeirion on day in Porthmadog or ride the Ffestiniog Railway. Then, leave Porthmadog for Cardiff by ‘normal’ train - which is slow going as it hugs the beautiful Cambrian Coast before turning inland to head east to Shrewsbury where you can change for a Cardiff train. (I would have a walk around Shrewsbury first).


Google the places mentioned for more info.

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you - Dianne, Harold and James. The ferry to train option - and the flight option - now sound much simpler.
Conwy is tempting - and I did watch on Seat61 the video of the train ride under the castle.
Again, thanks for the advice. It is immensely helpful.