We arrive at LHR Oct 7 and plan to take National Express towards Wales. My dilemma is I want to avoid busy cities with car rental and driving (if possible). We are leaving 5 days later out of Bristol airport. Where should we rent a car? I've been thinking Cardiff but it looks a bit large and we would need to take a bus to Bristol airport or should we get it at Bristol airport even though it is a bit out of the way to start? We plan on visiting Brecon Beacons for hiking and along the coast for hiking and take in some castles and old churches along the way. We are not making sleeping arrangements and want info on how to find local places to sleep along the way. Thanks!
Heathrow is outside of London and is where we have picked up and dropped off cars.
I think getting out of Heathrow is easier than driving in the center city of many small UK towns- it's like three simple roundabouts from rental car pick-up to the nice M road (Interstate equivalent) where you can just go west and park yourself in the slow lane and have to make far fewer complex driving decisions than you would picking up a car from an in-village location.
I assume you’re taking the bus because you’re coming off a long flight. Maybe pick up the car at Cardiff or Bristol airports. You can avoid the city driving picking up at the airports. The drive, if you decided to drive rather than take the bus, from Heathrow to the border of Wales is about 2 hours. When I was there in May, there was construction on the M4 for much of the first hour of the drive. For lodging, when you get close to where you be spending nights, use sites like TripAdvisor or Booking to get ideas of what is in the area you’re in. I assume you’ll be able to access the Internet. If not, watch for lodging signs as you enter and pass through towns. Most towns in Wales are pretty small.
Jaime you are exactly right. It's a very long flight and I don't feel like driving right after exiting the airport. Great idea about renting at Cardiff airport. That may work out best. Sometimes you just need another idea to pop the lightbulb on it your head. Thanks for all the responses I contemplated them all.
I'd say that Cardiff airport is not actually the most straight forward location to drive onto the motorway network from plus its quite far from the city centre where the bus would drop you. My advice would be to take the coach to Cardiff which will drop you at Sofia Gardens. Find an overnight stay in the vicinity and take in Cardiff Castle that day before jet lag kicks in. The next day Hire your car from a rental company based on Hadfield road. It's a short taxi ride from the centre. From there it's much easier to get onto the A4232 and then the M4. You could also chose to make a stop at the Welsh Folk museum in St Fagans in the morning which is well worth a visit if dry. You can opt to return the car direct to Bristol airport. It usually attracts a £50 surcharge but as Bristol airport is not very accessible by public transport this may be the most straight forward and cost effective option.
I will echo what ryan & gill say. Bus to Sophia Gardens terminus in Cardiff. I would not then hire a car but check in to a hotel for maybe 2 nights - possibly in Cathedral Road. Now you could walk through Bute Park & visit Cardiff Castle & look around the city centre on foot. The next day, I would take Easyway Bus 32A out to St.Fagans Castle & Museum - which is on the western edge of Cardiff. Also consider going by local train to Caerphilly to see the castle. www.nationalrail.co.uk
Do not hire car at Bristol or Cardiff Airports as you are going to far out of your way & wasting time. The coast about 18 miles SW of Cardiff is OK but not one of the best parts of the south Wales Coast. I would leave Cardiff by car for the Gower peninsula - which lies W of Swansea. However, be warned that some fo the roads on Gower are rather narrow*. I would head for Rhosilli at the western tip off the peninsula and have accommodation in that village or the more sheltered Port Eynon or Oxwich. The south Gower coast offers fine coastal walks. See map:>https://firstname.lastname@example.org,-4.192717,11803m/data=!3m1!1e3!5m1!1e1
To get from Gower to Brecon Beacons use A465 expressway up the Vale of Neath. (In the Pontneddfechan/Ystradfellte area are some lovely walks to waterfalls). You don’t say where you are in the accommodation rankings > hostels or 5 star? Try www.hotels.com for finding accommodation. Try and book in the green coloured area shown on this map:>https://email@example.com,-3.4000176,10.5z/data=!5m1!1e1
From the Brecon Beacons, you could eventually drive down the A40 to Abergavenny & Raglan in order to reach the Severn Bridges for travel to Bristol Airport. For bus travel in Wales:>https://www.traveline.cymru
- Streetview of one of the worst sections of Gower roads:>https://firstname.lastname@example.org,-4.0944627,3a,75y,270.85h,104.36t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1suTDjfvdISA2n5U1gWm5s_w!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!5m1!1e1
Thanks everyone, after looking into the bus schedules and other logistics we decided to rent our car at Heathrow. Will throw in an extra stop at Stonehenge and surrounding areas before heading to the Brecon Beacons for hiking.
In my opinion, going all the way down to Stonehenge is going too far off route. What’s more - the roads from Stonehenge to the M4 are just 1 lane each way ‘A’ roads. Assuming you stayed on the M4, it would take about 2 hours to get from Heathrow to the Severn Bridge. The speed limit is 70 mph. You will see people going faster. They tend to know where the speed cameras are located. If you see gantries overhead - assume that speed cameras are on the back of them waiting to nab you. If you see temporary speed limits - obey them as those are the places where you are most likely to get caught.
It would take about another 2 hours to get from the Severn Bridge to Brecon. If you are going to make a detour, I would suggest you cross the Severn Estuary on the M48 bridge and follow the A466 up the lower Wye Valley and see the ruin of Tintern Abbey. Proceed to Monmouth & turn left onto the A40 - which you follow all the way to Brecon. Alternatively, cross the Severn on the M4 bridge and leave the M4 at junction 24 near Newport. Then A449 to Raglan and then A40 to Brecon. (This latter route is on divided highways all the way to Abergavenny).
If you are coming off an overnight flight, you will have quite enough on your hands without making long detours.