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Cardiff Castle vs. Tintern Abbey

Hello. My husband and I will be in Cardiff for one night. My plan is to rent a car in Birmingham, first thing in the morning, then make our way towards Cardiff. From looking at maps I think we will go right to Caerphilly Castle, then to Castell Coch. Do you think they both can be done in one day? Next morning either do Cardiff Castle or Tintern Abbey. Which would be better? Then it's on down to Dartmoor.
Thanks in advance!!

Posted by
4860 posts

Because of location (i.e. you can walk to Cardiff Castle from some Cardiff hotels, as we did) it's inappropriate to compare the two-especially when you have a car. (Suburbs or downtown hotel?)

I would also observe that Cardiff Castle is a very busy, staffed, decorated, family-oriented destination. I am trying, in a nice way, to say that kids are brought to see knights giving sword fights and adults taste medieval food cooked over a fire! That's not a slam against it, it's a nice place. Tintern is an evocative ruin of considerable literary and artistic fame, off in the woods. It depends on what you like to visit.

I went to Caerphilly on the train, which worked well. That's not a reason not to take the car, it's probably much faster, and much easier to park there than in Cardiff. I'm not sorry I went to Caerphilly, but it could be described as a prettier Cardiff Castle. It is worth going to both, but if you're driving anyway, I'd settle for just Caerphilly to save time for another of the many, many, many superb attractions in Wales.

Posted by
9 posts

Thanks Tim! That gives me a better understanding of what Cardiff Castle is about. I think looking at it from the outside should be sufficient, and my time will be better spent at Tintern.

Posted by
1838 posts

If you have a clear run, it takes around 2 hours to drive from Birmingham to Cardiff. Leave the M5 near Tewkesbury & take M50.
At Monmouth, you could turn left and follow A466 down the Wye Valley to Tintern. Then, continue S to join M48 & head W to Cardiff or Caerphilly. Alternatively, stay on A40 at Monmouth and about 7 miles further, go to visit Raglan Castle (ruin). You loop around at a roundabout and turn left up the castle drive. Then, back to the A449 for the run down to Newport where you join the M4 going west.http://cadw.gov.wales/daysout/raglancastle/?lang=en

Raglan Castle is in the middle of the countryside. Caerphilly Castle is in the middle of a not attractive town. Cardiff Castle is in the middle of a city - which has modern malls as well as several arcades dating from the 1890's.

It would certainly be possible to do B'Ham > Tintern or Raglan plus Caerphilly & Castell Coch in 1 day. Look on Google Earth at the road configurations - especially at Raglan, Caerphilly & Castell Coch. If you are slick about it, you could also throw in St.Fagans as well on the same day. (It is about a 14 minute drive from Castell Coch > join M4 at Junction 32 & head W to J33 - turn L and after about 2 miles on A4232 - turn left - it is a very sharp turn). http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/stfagans/

Of course, Tintern Abbey could also be 'done' on the way from Cardiff to Dartmoor. Cardiff Castle & a wander around central Cardiff is also worthwhile as is a visit to the waterfront at Cardiff Bay. http://www.cardiffcastle.com
http://www.visitcardiff.com

If using a car, it is best to choose a hotel on the edge of the city as it will have free parking. This one is near Castell Coch:> https://www.village-hotels.co.uk/hotels/cardiff/
This one is on the west side of the city (near St.Fagans) >http://www.millenniumhotels.co.uk/copthornecardiff/

Of course, you could always take the train* to Cardiff and stay in a downtown hotel which would be handy for Cardiff Castle. (Frequent trains go to Caerphilly). Then, you could hire a car from Cardiff & visit Tintern on the way to Dartmoor. (Chepstow also has a medieval Castle).
* Split train tickets at Cheltenham may be cheaper than 1 through ticket - even though you stay on same train.

More info on SE Wales here:>http://www.visitwales.com/explore/south-wales/wye-valley-vale-usk

Posted by
1878 posts

Another one to consider in that area is Chepstow Castle. My wife and I arrived just as it was closing on our 2013 trip, but we did get to walk around the perimeter. I bought the guidebook, which your post made me want to dig out of my piles of guidebooks. It looks really interesting and if we ever make it back to that part of the U.K. we will make a return visit. We also viewed Tintern Abbey from the outside as it was also closed by the time we arrived. I was a lot more sorry to have missed Chepstow Castle than Tintern Abbey, based upon what I saw. On the same trip we went to Dartmoor National Park -- excellent choice to visit there. You can climb to the top of these huge, very unique rocks, view wild ponies up close, just lots of fun all around. Hope you have good weather as it rains a lot there.

Posted by
9 posts

Thanks for the responses. VS, I was looking on line at Chepstow Castle yesterday, and decided to make that part of the plan. I think we will do Chepstow and Tintern the next day, before we leave for dartmoor. I'll check out the other castle mentioned and see if we can fit that in too. I plan to walk around Cardiff in the evening, since all the castles close at 5-6. We are staying in the Artisian quarter serviced apts, on Cathedral road and they provide parking.

Posted by
1838 posts

If going to Caerphilly Castle (from Birmingham), leave M4 at Junction 28 (on the west side of Newport) & take A468. You might also like to know that immediately south of this junction is Tredegar House.http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/tredegar-house/

The M4 around Newport has lots of gantries with electronic signs. Be sure to apply any temporary speed limits as they all have cameras on the reverse to catch anybody who exceeds the limits.

Tintern Abbey is just a ruin and I can't see much point in paying to go inside. Likewise with Caerphilly Castle. I have been inside but you can get be far the best views from the outside (for free) - especially from the SW.

Cardiff Castle, on the other hand, does have far more to see on the inside - from the ornate Victorian section to climbing the Norman keep in the centre and looking out across the city. 2 prices are available with the dear one being for the tour with guide (of the Victorian bit). If you have time, I would pay the lower price to go inside on the self guided tour which includes the banqueting hall where Barack Obama attended a banquet during the 2014 NATO summit.

Cathedral Road is about 1 mile long and I presume that the parking for your apartments is accessed from the rear lane. Ask them which side of the road your apartment is located (west or east) and where is the access point for the rear lane? (It is likely that parked cars will be all along Cathedral Road).

I suspect that your apartments are more towards the southern end of Cathedral Road. That being so, it is about a 20 minute walk to Cardiff Castle. Look at a map or Google Earth and find 'Sophia Close' - coming off Cathedral Road. If you walk through Sophia Close and pass the temporary Coach station - turn L and head over the river footbridge & then turn R - you will find yourselves walking through Bute Park. Continue on path passing flower borders - with river just to right. Just after the flower borders end, if you detour to left (east) you will see the west side of Cardiff Castle. Now go back to path and through arch by Pettigrew tearooms & turn left and walk to see main entrance of the Castle. On the opposite side of the road, you will see the Castle Arcade - well worth taking a look inside as it dates from the 1890's. The main shopping area of Cardiff now starts here running south and eastward from where you are now. The City Hall & National Museum of Wales are about a 10 minute walk NE of the Castle.

It takes about 2 hours to drive non stop from Cardiff to Exeter (for Dartmoor). The unique rocks that you find at high points are called Tors = granite.
www.visitcardiff.com

Also consider doing B'ham > Monmouth A466 down Wye Valley to Tintern - with maybe a detour into Chepstow. (You can view the Castle form the car park &/or walk & view from river bridge). Then, back to A466 for the 1 mile link to the M48 and drive straight to Cardiff accommodation. Dump stuff & walk to Cardiff Castle / city centre or even a visit to Cardiff Bay.
Next day > do Castell Coch first. (On exiting this castle - a back road to Caerphilly is hard left by CC exit - you will turn left at the next junction after the Black Cock Inn to reach Caerphilly via this short cut. (Only if you don't mind narrow roads). Then do Caerphilly Castle before heading to M4 at J28 (Newport). The advantage of doing things this way is that you get more time in Cardiff and are able to take the shorter route over the Severn estuary via the M4 bridge and M49 rather than the longer route from Chepstow via the M48 bridge and the congested M5 passing Bristol. (Look at it on Google Earth to see what I am on about).
This option would leave the evening for perhaps a quick 2 mile drive from Cathedral Road to see Llandaff Cathedral.
http://www.llandaffcathedral.org.uk
http://www.pettigrew-tearooms.com

Posted by
9 posts

Thanks James, that's great information. As our trip is still a ways off, I am now considering doing 2 nights in Cardiff, and driving through Dartmoor as an alternative to spending the night, stopping at any interesting points. I have read in the England forum that the drive on the B3212 is great, so that may be my new plan; on our way to Cornwall. Thoughts on Caldicot Castle, that looks close to Chepstow?

Posted by
1838 posts

If you do 2 nights in Cardiff, that should allow you time to also visit St.Fagans Castle - which has extensive grounds containing buildings such as old farmhouses - that have been brought from all over Wales. It is roughly a 4 miles drive from your Cathedral Road accommodation:- take Cathedral Road outbound and do not turn left or right at any junction that you come to. After about 3 miles, you will find yourselves in the countryside & St.Fagans will be the first village - with the Castle (really like a Manor House), straight ahead. When you see this (behind wall & gates) - turn right (with church on right) & then right by the first building that fronts the road. You now have the church graveyard on your right - take first left & park for free behind Plymouth Arms pub (which would be OK for a meal later). Now walk back to Castle entrance & press a button and an electronic gate will open to give you free entry - including the Castle building. The grounds are massive so allow 2 hours. The main museum building has been demolished to make way for an upgrade. Eventually, you come to a tunnel - walk through it & turn hard left for small gift shop & guidebook. (The tunnel is about the halfway point in the entire complex).

You may also like the main museum in Cardiff (25 minute walk from Cathedral Road). The Big Pit, that is shown on this website, is a disused coal mine that has been opened up for tourists. Entry is free along with going down into the mine. (It is about a 45 minute drive from Cardiff at Blaenavon & could be combined with a trip to the Brecon Beacons National Park or Raglan Castle).
http://www.museumwales.ac.uk

From Bute Park in Cardiff (near Castle), ferries run to Cardiff Bay. You can also use the Number 6 'Cardiff Bus' but make sure you have coins as they do not give change.

Caldicot Castle is not worth bothering with in my opinion. If you did go to Caldicot, I would suggest that you also take a look at the remains of a Roman town at Caldicot. (I would not normally suggest this because, as you see, it does not exactly have the wow factor unless you are really into history). The main Roman base in SE Wales was at Caerleon - just N of Newport but with poor access from M4. http://cadw.gov.wales/daysout/Caerleon-roman-fortress-baths/?lang=en

http://www.visitwales.com

I have driven the B3212 over Dartmoor once. Near Postbridge, it is worth stopping to see the ancient 'Clapper Bridge' - looks like Fred Flintstone built it.

If you drove from Cardiff to say Truro in mid Cornwall non stop & with no hold-ups, it would take you about 3 hours 30 minutes using expressways. Exeter is worth a look but can be very congested getting in and out.

http://www.theaa.com/route-planner/index.jsp

For the south west, you may also find my responses to these queries of interest:

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/england/need-a-base-in-devon
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/england/need-help-on-travel-to-southwest-england

Posted by
1 posts

@James: You said "Tintern Abbey is just a ruin" - Pfft! So by your logic I suppose I should skip the Coliseum when in Rome and the Parthenon when in Greece? Great logic, son.

Posted by
1838 posts

rburns: Yes, Tintern Abbey is "just a ruin". The point is that I don't value it any less that because of this but it is much quicker to view than say a historic house with guided tours of the rooms.