Thanks to everyone who responded to my previous Wales questions. My itinerary has changed in the last few days: I'm meeting my sister in London on Oct. 21 and we'll be in the city for 6 nights. We are planning to do a day trip from London so I can get my castle fix. I'm considering Cardiff - I think it's about a 2-hour train ride from London. Are there direct trains between the cities? Does anyone recommend buying train tickets in advance? About 3 years ago I went to Canterbury from London for a day, and the day before I left, I went to Charing Cross station and bought a round-trip ticket good for any off-peak hours on the day of the journey. Can I do this for Cardiff as well?
Trains between London and Cardiff, yes trains run every half hour and take about 2 hours. Click here for the full timetable for this route.
Yes, this is a main line and prices can be cheaper booking in advance, but if you do so the ticket is only valid for the train you chose, you cannot change your mind later. For prices go to the website of the company that runs the trains: https://www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk/
Yes, you can buy tickets on the day or the day before if you want to.
But, you say this trip is so you can "can get my castle fix". So why Cardiff? There are dozens of better castles a lot nearer London. See this list here.
Hi Chris - thanks for this great advice. I'm interested in castles built by Edward I and I assumed the one in Cardiff was. Your "Why Cardiff?" question helped me realize in 2 minutes that I was wrong! I like medieval castles, built for defense, that weren't "restored" by ignorant Victorians or anyone else but left alone to fall apart. Can you recommend one that's within a reasonable (2-hour) day trip from London?
Cardiff Castle has Roman origins - you can still see some of the original Roman stonework. At the centre of Cardiff Castle is a Norman keep. However, much of Cardiff Castle is indeed Victorian - though still well worth seeing. http://www.cardiffcastle.com
If you wish to seed a true medieval fortress, then Caerphilly Castle would certainly fit the bill. This is about a 20 minute train ride - 7 miles north from Cardiff. (The town of Caerphilly is not up to much). THe CADW site will show you Caerphilly & other Welsh Castles that it controls.http://cadw.gov.wales/daysout/caerphilly-castle/?lang=en
On the bus route between Caerphilly & Cardiff is another Victorian Castle, Castell Coch, at Tongwynlais =http://cadw.gov.wales/daysout/castell-coch/%3bjsessionid=E2EBDCCF5E4C703AEEFDC483E5716EA3?lang=en
About 4 miles west of Cardiff city center is St.Fagans Castle - which dates from the 1500's & is more like a Manor House. The grounds contain gardens as well as buildings of architectural interest that has been brought from all over Wales. (Buses 32 / 320 link this place with Cardiff centre) http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/stfagans/castle-and-gardens/
So, on a visit to Cardiff, you do in fact get 4 castles all within 7 miles of the middle of the city. Now, it is perfectly possible to get from London to Cardiff by train in 2 hours & then take a local train to Caerphilly & perhaps take a quick look at Cardiff Castle on your return. However, be aware that the Great Western Mainline between London and south Wales is undergoing electrification work and this is causing lengthy detours on weekends. It would in my opinion justify actually staying in Cardiff for at least one night and preferably 2 if you wish to visit the Castles mentioned above - even though only 1 of them is the true medieval fortress that you wish to see.
The greatest concentration of medieval castles (Edward 1) in Wales is found in the north-west:> Conway/Conwy, Caernarvon, Beaumaris & Harlech. However, another medieval castle is found in south-east Wales - at Chepstow - which is about a 35 minute train ride east of Cardiff (15 from Newport). http://cadw.gov.wales/daysout/chepstow-castle/?lang=en
If making the journey to Chepstow, then I think that it is also worth taking a bus up the scenic Wye Valley to see the ruins of Tintern Abbey. http://cadw.gov.wales/daysout/tinternabbey/%3bjsessionid=JVBGTV5M7xgbGwjBKXTGhhLnrXHlSqVmKr9LhpYsJLrpGqnbTJlP!1587771443?lang=en
Trains = www.nationalrail.co.uk (Cheaper fares can be found by pre-booking about 10 weeks ahead if possible. Pay on the day is much more expensive). www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk
To find bus journeys : www.traveline.info
James, I can't thank you enough for this wealth of information. I've wanted to see Tintern Abbey since I read the poem by Wordsworth; I must have forgotten it was in Wales. That site is exactly what I meant: medieval architecture that was destroyed or left to fall apart hundreds of years ago. I'm practically drooling over all the links you included!