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Conwy and Caernarfon questions

Hi all - I'm heading from London to Wales on Sunday, Oct. 25 (I'll have been in Europe for about 2 weeks prior so no jet lag issues) and have Sunday and Monday nights to spend in the area. On Tuesday afternoon I'll take the train to Manchester from where I'll fly home on Wednesday the 28th. I'd like to see some Edward I castles, preferably in Conwy and Caernarfon though this itinerary isn't set in stone, and have some basic questions. I'm just starting to research this leg of my trip and would like to hear tips first-hand from experienced travelers.

-How long does it take to get from London to Caernarfon by train? Are there trains from Caernarvon to Conwy? According to Google Maps, it's 7 hours by bus between the towns but only 30 minutes by car. Can someone explain this? What's the quality of public transit in this area in general?

-I allotted about 2 full days to visit the castles - is this enough time? If I have the luxury of more time, does anyone have recommendations of what else to see, especially along the lines of medieval and ancient (Roman, Bronze Age, Neolithic, etc.) art and architecture?

Posted by
8889 posts

The railway line runs along the north coast of Wales, ending up in Holyhead. The route goes via Conwy, the train famously passes the castle. See photo here. Caernarfon does not have a railway station. You need to get a bus from Bangor, which is the nearest station.

Public transport in that area is limited, there is the railway line along the north coast from Chester to Holyhead, plus a branch from Conwy south to Blaenau Ffestiniog; otherwise it is buses.

Posted by
796 posts

Have you ever thought of actually staying in a castle in Wales? We have stayed at Gwydir Castle B & B in Conwy- www.gwydircastle.co.uk and loved it. Even better- and our favorite- is Ruthin Castle which was built by and was the home of James I. www.ruthincastle.co.uk There are different rooms for different prices though my husband I favor the Prince of Wales suite (even Queen Victoria's son Edward stayed there after many other princes of Wales before him). All of the rooms are good. We like the afternoon tea which has the best sandwiches and scones and other sweets. We don't care for the Bertie's restaurant but do eat in the Library Bar (sandwiches, soups, salads, cheeses, divine desserts including those fruit scones and the tea cakes, platters and more) at the castle. We also always try to take in the Medieval banquet which is an event (rent a Medieval costume at the castle) to recreate Medieval life in the castle. My husband and I are planning to renew our wedding vows on a future anniversary since you can have a Medieval Wedding there (or other party).
It is definitely worth spending 2 or more days visiting castles. Each is different and has its own story and history.

Posted by
1838 posts

You might find train travel can be disrupted by engineering work on Sundays. Anyway, I have just done a search on www.nationalrail.co.uk for EUS (London Euston) to LLJ (Llandudno Junction) & found the 8.15 departure takes 3 hours 38 minutes to do the trip at a cost of £39 one way. (Llandudno Junction is the nearest place that the Virgin express trains from London stop in order to reach Conway/Conwy in Welsh, which is about 1 mile further on. I would advise that you do a similar search about 10 weeks before your date of travel. This will show you the timings of the trains and whether they will be affected by engineering work. Note that the Advance tickets apply to specific trains & that the fares tend to rise as date approaches - so you should pre-book with www.virgintrains.co.uk as they are the company you will be using. (I would also suggest that you check for the Saturday if you are able to leave London on that day).

www.arrivatrainswales.co.uk operate the stopping trains that call at Conway, so, you may well find that you could get off the express at Llandudno Junction & wait a bit for the stopping train to come. (Put in for EUS to CNY and it will show you how long that wait will be). Alternatively, take a bus or taxi to Conway from LLJ. Don't forget, that you could also stay on the express from London & continue to Bangor - which is the nearest rail station to Caernarvon.

http://www.traveline.info is the site that will tell you the times of the buses from Bangor to Caernarvon. I have just checked for today (Wednesday) and they are every 15 minutes or so and take about 30 minutes to do the trip. You will need to check what they are on a Sunday if you intend to go from London to Caernarvon (via Bangor) on that day. (Just shows that Google don't know everything)!

To get back to Manchester Airport, go to the www.nationalrail.co.uk and put in a starting point in north Wales such as Bangor or LLJ to MIA & it will tell you the schedules. (You may like to visit the English border city of Chester. http://www.visitchester.com.

As well as Conway & Caernarvon, you might also like to visit this place near Porthmadog:> http://www.portmeirion-village.com
Also consider a ride on at least one of these steam trains in NW Wales:>http://www.festrail.co.uk

If going up Snowdon, beware of the weather as things can be going downhill in late October. (Don't pre-book the mountain railway unless you are sure of good weather. http://www.snowdonrailway.co.uk)

http://www.eryri-npa.gov.uk/home

Posted by
1976 posts

Wow, this is all great information! Thank you all very much!

I would prefer to leave London on a Sunday because I'm arriving there on Friday evening and visiting a friend who I haven't seen since 2012, so I'd like to have all day Saturday with her.

It looks like I can take the train to Conwy for my first castle visit. I studied Edward I castles as an undergrad in 2002 and have wanted to see them since then, so this trip has been a long time coming. Depending on how big the castle complexes are, I can see myself spending several hours there, wandering around and taking pictures.

I'll have all my luggage with me so I'm wondering if I can stay in Conwy for 2 nights and go to Caernarfon as a day trip. I'll only have my day bag so I won't mind taking buses and changing at Bangor.

Terri Lynn, how much did it cost to stay in the castle? I love the idea but am on a budget and want to pay no more than about 100 pounds per night for a room.

And James, thank you so much for all of these links and additional information. I'm glad to learn that Wales travel isn't as complicated or time-consuming as I thought.

Posted by
1838 posts

I don't think that Gwydir is a true castle - looks more like a Manor House to me. It is at Llanrwst & this small town does have a rail station - but it is quite a way from Gwydir Castle - which is on the other side of the valley. To reach Llanrwst by train, you must change at Llandudno Junction. The trains on this branch line are not that frequent. I would suggest that without a car, it is not worth considering.

You need to make sure that you can have easy access to and from any accommodation via public transport. Accommodation in Conwy seems to be somewhat limited but nearby Llandudno has plenty to offer. Overlooking Conwy - & mid way to Llandudno, is Deganwy which has this modern hotel:>http://www.quayhotel.co.uk
Deganwy rail station is about a 10 minute walk from the hotel. Alternatively, frequent buses run from Llandudno Junction rail station & stop virtually outside the hotel. (Frequent buses also link with Llandudno & Conwy via Deganwy - see Traveline.info). You can also catch a bus from Deganwy to Bodnant Garden - which should have autumn colour during your visit but few if any flowers. (It is fab in May).http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden/

So, from a position & transport point of view, the above hotel would be excellent. However, it might be a tad expensive. Always check the public transport to reach any chosen accommodation as well as the position on Google Earth/Maps.
http://www.visitwales.com/accommodation-search

If arriving in Conwy / Conway by train - be sure to tell the conductor that you wish to alight & if waiting on the platform for a train - hold your hand out so that the driver knows that you wish to board. (It is a 'request stop').

Also consider the Premier Inn in Caernarvon. http://www.premierinn.com

Posted by
1976 posts

Thank you all for your help. Because of time constraints and my desire to see medieval castles, built for war and left to fall apart or destroyed hundreds of years ago (in other words, not interfered with), I've decided to visit Caerphilly in south Wales and tack on Tintern Abbey.