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Cardiff 1-day Reality Check

In the midst of our grand tour of Great Britain, we are spending a day in Cardiff. We originally scheduled this (and booked the hotel) because Cardiff seems to be the only city where Enterprise has a rental return within walking distance of a train station. I have since relented and decided not to make my husband drive from Bath to Cardiff.

I need a reality check on our schedule, though. We will return the car in Bath at about 8:30 a.m., take a taxi to the Bath train station then by rail to Cardiff Central Rwy Station. We'll arrive around 11:00 a.m.

Our hotel is about 2 blocks east, on St. Mary Street. We'll walk to the hotel to drop off our luggage (check-in isn't until 2:00 p.m.). Around 11:30, we'll need to find a place to have lunch (there are a few restaurants on St Mary St that appear to be likely suspects).

After lunch (guessing: allow an hour?), we'll take the Baycar (#6 bus) to Dr. Who Experience. Afterwards, we'll take the bus to Roald Dahl Plas, wander around a bit, then back on the bus to our hotel.

On the surface, this seems do-able. The fly in the ointment is, the tickets to Dr. Who need to be booked in advance for a SPECIFIC TIME. You'd think an exhibit about a Time Lord wouldn't require that. However, I was thinking of ordering the tickets for 1:30 p.m. Is that reasonable?

I want to allow as much time as possible to see the museum but I don't want to risk missing out scheduled time. Does anybody have any experience trying this?

Posted by
1838 posts

I am not sure about the specific time booking for Dr.Who. It is about an hour on the train from Bath to Cardiff. So, you first need to ditch your baggage in the hotel. On leaving Cardiff Station (north side), you will see an abandoned bus station & it looks run down. Don't be alarmed - the area is going to be demolished so that a new BBC Wales HQ & other office blocks can be built. Anyway - leave station and turn hard right - with railway on your right. You soon reach a main road -cross on the crossing & proceed up Mill Lane - passing cafes on your left & Marriot on right. (You could return to these for lunch). You don't say where your hotel is located but I suspect Churchill Way. You need to walk through the shopping area / malls to hotel. St.Mary Street is not so good for restaurants but you will find plenty in central Cardiff - especially in the eastern wing of St.David's 2 shopping centre.

After lunch, I would head down to the Bay. I suggest that you take the number 6 bus (every 10 minutes) - it might say Porth Teigwr on the front. Be sure to have exact money (about £3.60 return) as they don't give change. The bus will go in a loop around the central area and will pass the National Museum* and Cardiff Castle. (You may well wish to visit these after you have seen Dr.Who/Bay). The bus should stop directly outside Dr.Who. After Dr.Who - walk to Roald Dahls Plas taking a look at the Norwegian Church and the Senedd (Welsh Government building) on the way. You could catch the number 6 bus back to the city from the stop outside the Wales Millennium Centre. (The waterfront has plenty of restaurants).

  • Check that no strike is tasking place - also applies to St.Fagans.

Also consider taking the train to Caerphiilly (Castle) where they have recently been shooting new episodes of Dr.Who. (Town is a dump but castle is everything you would expect a medieval castle to be).
http://www.visitcardiff.com
http://www.cardiffcastle.com
http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/stfagans/
http://cadw.gov.wales/daysout/caerphilly-castle/?lang=en

Posted by
4521 posts

The Doctor Who Experience only holds so many per performance for the first part (the second is browse at your leisure). Now we are into autumn and children are no longer off from school (or will be soon for some remaining parts) the walk-up queue weekdays ought not be too much of an issue - and even then you can book, and tour the local things in the area until your time. I see they have started loading in booking fees etc for advance booking now they have subcontracted out the arrangements.

Having said all that if you want to pre-book and be there by 13:30, arriving at 11:00 and having lunch beforehand looks a bit tight to me. I'd be happier going to the Bay and eating there so you can judge the time better.

If they were running tours of Roath Lock studios and the standing Tardis set pre-booking would be much more essential, but they don't seem to be at the moment - probably they are in production use.

Posted by
17 posts

Thanks for the helpful critiques.

Marco, we are going to be in Cardiff on 18 May 2016. I would still be more comfortable booking in advance. Would 2:00 pm be more feasible?

We are staying at the Maldron Hotel on St Mary St, which is why I was looking at restaurants nearby. Do you have any suggestions for restaurants closer to Dr Who? Google maps didn't show any there, that were open for lunch.

Posted by
4521 posts

On so your trip is way off - as I read the beginning of your post it seemed you were already here ...

What I say above remains the same really. It may depend how long you want to be in the experience. A coup!e of hours possibly. Therefore I wouldn't think you'd need to rush over.

Posted by
17 posts

Thanks, Marco. I'm a very detailed planner...I can see where you would get the impression that we are already there. LOL

I found a couple of Italian restaurants at Mermaid Quay. I think we can walk to Dr Who from there (we're both old and have bad knees). It would be almost as far to the bus stop, anyway. If we have time (or find a TARDIS) after lunch, we can visit the memorial for Ianto Jones and take pictures of us trying to get into Torchwood ;-)

Posted by
1838 posts

The Maldron Hotel is right by Cardiff Central Railway station - just turn hard right on leaving the north exit and you will reach it within 3 minutes walk. For the bus 6 Baycar, leave The Maldron - turn left into Penarth Road - go under railway bridge and it will be the first bus stop on left side of road. (On return number 6, it is the one on the opposite side (Cardiff Central rail station south side). If you have purchased a return ticket for the number 6, just sit on it for the entire journey - it loops around part of the Bay area as well as the city centre.

If you are going to the Bay area and wish to eat prior to visiting Dr.Who, get off number 6 bus where you see big building looming ahead = Wales Millennium Centre (Opera House/Concert Hall). 5 minutes walk towards S will bring you to Mermaid Quay - where you will find loads of restaurants. You will be able to see the Norwegian Church & Dr.Who from the quayside - they are about an 8 minute walk. (Staying on the bus, would (usually) take you to a stop outside Dr.Who).
http://www.mermaidquay.co.uk/eat

Posted by
17 posts

Thanks for the info on the bus, James. I saw on the Cardiff bus website that a day-at-a-go ticket is available. Does that mean the ticket allows riding the bus all day for a flat rate?

Posted by
1838 posts

Yes, Charlotte, with the Day to Go ticket, you can ride on CARDIFF BUS all day in the Cardiff area. (It does not include other companies such as Stagecoach or NAT/ Easyway - that you might use for the 4 mile trip out to St.Fagans Castle & museum of buildings).

PS. If you did go to Caerphilly Castle by train (7 miles N of Cardiff centre), on the return journey, if you got off at the first stop after the Tunnel (Lisvane & Thornhill), walk across the road & by the mini roundabout, you will see a driveway. Walk up it and you enter Cefn-Onn-Park (free). In May, this is a lovely park with all the woodland flowers out such as bluebells & celandines. It also has Rhododendrons & Azaleas.

Posted by
91 posts

Cardiff Castle is a wonderful place to visit a must see , and it's right in the heart of Cardiff !