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Cardiff and South Wales in 2 days

I will be arriving in Cardiff by train/bus from Conwy on June 24 and leaving on June 26 for London (1 night before flying home). I haven't looked at the train schedule yet but anticipate that it will take about 4-5 hours and that I can get into Cardiff mid-afternoon. I would have part of the arrival day, full day, and most of the departure day (just need to get to London to sleep before a morning flight out of Terminal 3). I would appreciate ideas and suggestions for spending that time.

My current idea is:
Arrival day: Check-in to a hotel (TBD) and start with the RS walking tour, planning on seeing the town, castle, and the bay area.

Full day Sunday, the 25th: Take a private car tour to either Swansea, Mumbles, and the Gower Peninsula or to Tenby and coastal area. On either trip we could stop for views, exploring, etc. Not sure which one would be better.
Departure day: Take a half day trip to St Fagans or Brecon Beacons using public transportation or a private car tour. Then taking the train to London to be near the airport or easy access to it.
We initially thought that we could do this type of trip without a car, but now after reading several forum topics, I'm not so sure. Thus I am considering a couple of private tours.
Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Posted by
4393 posts

If possible, you should allow a little more than half a day at St. Fagan's-there's a lot to see there.

Posted by
6173 posts

For me either the Mumbles/Gower or Tenby area is a good, scenic and interesting day. You'd enjoy both. I wouldn't have a strong preference either way. I might tip slightly for Tenby etc but it's a bit further and it's purely personal.
Brecon Beacons is 2 hours each way by transit, further to really see the area, so it's a full day trip, especially to do any justice to the trip.
Cardiff to Paddington is only 2 hours, so you can leave quite late afternoon and still arrive in London at a decent time. The other question that day, if you use transit, is what are you doing with your luggage. Cardiff Central has no left luggage. So maybe a private car tour might be better.
If you did St Fagan's you could have most of the day there. Or the Beacons by private car. But I think I'd do St Fagan's because if there was an incident on the road back from Brecon and you had a fixed train to catch you could be 'up a gum tree.'

Posted by
25 posts

Thanks for your replies. I think that we'll do the Mumbles/Gower. Since it's shorter, hopefully we'll get more sights and less driving time. St Fagans sounds safer to do on our last day with less concern about getting to the train to London. My hope is that our hotel will store our luggage after we check out until we leave.

As usual, more answers leads to more questions :)

Is the bus schedule from St Fagans back to Cardiff reliable?
How much cushion do you think we need for booking the train to London?

You mentioned a fixed train - I haven't started researching trains yet - would I need to book a reserved seat from Cardiff to London? And, is there just one option which would go to Paddington? I haven't book a hotel for the last night yet.

Posted by
6173 posts

Start with the train-
There is only one operator -Great Western Railway- to London Paddington and only one route, so that's easy.
If you just turn up and buy a ticket to Paddington you may end up paying £70.20- the full fare.
If you book ahead you should only pay £27.60. Having said that I am looking at today's fares and you can book an 'advance fare' (one that includes a seat reservation) up to 15 minutes before departure at £50.80. But you take your chances, if the trains are busy due to some event those last minute tickets may not be available and you may end up standing having paid the £70.20 full fare which does not guarantee a seat.
So best to book ahead.
The bus timetable is here-
https://passenger-line-assets.s3.eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/ccts/CB/32-timetable-20220722-cf89c249.pdf
and the stop is 3 minutes walk from Central Station.
All bus operators in the UK are short of staff, and all are experiencing short notice cancellations.
So I wouldn't depend on the last bus- I would get the 1530 bus back.
You then have to go back to your hotel (in theory) for your luggage.
Before you book a hotel - try to get one close to Cardiff station and check they can store your luggage.
So I would leave a 2 hour margin (1 hour in case the 1530 bus is cancelled and you end up on the last one at 1630 and 1 hour to return to your hotel) and book either the 1754 or the 1818 train to London. If you make it there earlier fine, plenty of places to eat and drink on the station or in the City Centre. If something goes wrong there is enough leeway. That also allows time to get the Museum to call a taxi if the very worst happened.
Cardiff Bus do have a live journey tracker so you can keep trace of any issues (I've set this at St Fagan's but it can be set to anywhere)- click on the blue icon at the stop you want to use.
https://www.cardiffbus.com/explore?center=51.486173%2C-3.273773&zoom=15

Posted by
25 posts

Thanks for your ideas. We are now considering changing our one day trip to a two day trip with an overnight in Tenby. Our plan is to go to/through Brecon Beacons, overnight in Tenby, and return through Gower. We still need to get a train to London after our touring activity. It looks like we could catch a train in Swansea rather than continue to Cardiff to catch it. Is there an advantage to getting the train in Swansea (or any other station) versus Cardiff? Or, is it better to continue driving to Cardiff and getting the train there? I guess that I need to make that decision in time to purchase an advance ticket of some sort.

Posted by
6173 posts

That's a great idea, a very efficient use of your time.
As regards the train, one of the two trains an hour from Cardiff starts at Swansea anyway. And it's only £2.60 more to join at Swansea than Cardiff- advance fare. The train will almost certainly be faster from Swansea to Cardiff.
The great benefit of joining at Swansea is, as the train starts there, you have time before departure to find your car and seat, and there are far less people joining at Swansea so a more relaxed experience all round.

Posted by
2444 posts

You are trying to cover too much territory in the time available.