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Day trip to Cardiff from London in mid March -- Thoughts?

Great Western Railway is having a phenomenal sale that ends in 4 days. For £30, I can go roundtrip between London & Cardiff. I have never been to Wales. This rail fare is so enticing, I'm considering doing this but wanted feedback. Each way is about 2.5 hours but I have a back condition so sitting on the train isn't the worst idea assuming the 2nd class carriages aren't too old and/or uncomfortable. I'd like to walk around, see the docks, perhaps visit the castle, just see where the day takes me. I haven't had a chance to take out a guidebook about Wales from the library so I am seeking your advice about whether to do this. Thanks so much.

Posted by
4468 posts

You haven't mentioned when you are looking to do this visit, but the new trains on the route to South Wales are now the general rule rather than the exception, and will be the only ones by May. Views on seats are subjective, but these follow the modern trend of being fairly hard which suits some more than others.

Posted by
1834 posts

The journey should be about 2 hours 5 minutes and the train will be a new InterCity Express - see this video :> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9L_lBsiuMOE
(The service will be faster once the overhead wires reach Cardiff).

The seats are rather hard but you can always move around and stretch your legs. The price is a bargain - cheapest I have ever seen.
On arrival in Cardiff - I would suggest you descend from the platform and don't follow the herd in the underground passageway but instead exit the south entrance. Look towards the nearest office block that is also near the railway and go to the bus stop by it. Get the number 6 (every 10 minutes) to the Bay (what you call docks). You will need the exact fare - something like £3 each for a return ticket as no change is given. Get off at the waterfront and have a look around before getting the Number 6 back to the city centre. I would then suggest you head for the Castle and having done that, spend your remaining time wandering around the shopping areas before walking back to the main (north) entrance to the Central Station. (Trains to London normally depart Platform 1).
https://www.visitcardiff.com
https://www.cardiffcastle.com

You won’t have time for other places around the city if doing Cardiff as a day trip. (Caerphilly Castle, Castell Coch, St.Fagans Castle & Museum). If the weather is bad, you may like to take a look around the National Museum of Wales which is in the city centre. Just going to Cardiff does of course mean that you have not seen the scenic areas of the country. www.visitwales.co.uk

Posted by
3133 posts

Thank you, James. This is very helpful. I appreciate the youtube links especially. Given my back condition, I carry a seat cushion wherever I go. Those seats do look hard; quite the opposite to the Thalys 2nd class seats which I took the train from Paris to Dortmund two months ago. I realize that a day trip to the capital city does not mean seeing the country whatsoever. This is just a chance to see Cardiff given the GWR fare sale.

Thank you for the bus recommendation. How will I know where the "south entrance" is once I deboard the train? Also, when I buy the GWR ticket, I have the option of adding a one-day bus pass for £3.50. May I assume the bus pass would be accepted on bus #6 down to the bay? I would love to see waterfront. I contacted a boat line --"Princess Katherine"? They said they run all year long unless there is a storm. Would taking the Bus 6 lead me to the area where one boards the boats?

Again, thank you very much!

Posted by
3133 posts

I did it. I bought the same day return ticket between Ealing Broadway & Cardiff for £30. I also bought the PlusBus day pass for £3.50 for Cardiff. Now I'll be taking two back-to-back day trips on GWR thanks to the robust January sale.

Cardiff on a Thursday and Gloucester on a Friday.

Posted by
23405 posts

Have you seen this Plus+Bus official webpage? http://www.plusbus.info/cardiff It gives many of the major destinations, participating operators and which routes it is valid on within, a street map with all the bus stops, and a zone map showing exactly where the Plus+Bus is valid.... a good resource

Posted by
1834 posts

Yes, the Plusbus ticket will be valid on the number 6 down to the Bay. Please click this link to see where to catch it:> https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@51.4754735,-3.1775525,406m/data=!3m1!1e3!5m1!1e1

Right, so your train from London comes in on the tracks that you see coming in from the right. The people get off and go down steps to a passageway under the tracks - most will head to the north exit - you simply go the other way to the south exit. You see the car park - now walk towards the bus stop that you see marked by the office block and wait for the number 6 ‘Baycar’ - going south - not the other way. (if you were to return on the bus to the city centre, I would suggest that you get off at the stop in Custom House Street = the first stop after the one at which you boarded).

Now look at this view of the inner harbour at Cardiff Bay:>https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@51.4647283,-3.1656135,686m/data=!3m1!1e3
I would suggest that you get off the Bus 6 on Lloyd George Avenue - where you see small fountains on your R. (Tell the driver you want ‘The Flourish’ or Wales Millennium Centre (Opera House/Concert Hall) which will be the very big building straight ahead. The Senedd is the seat of the devolved government of Wales = part of the UK but with powers over things like health, transport, education in Wales. You can go into this building if you wish but will have to go through a security scanner. I would also suggest that you walk up to the Norwegian Church which has a nice cafe.

2 companies operate ferries to the city centre (Bute Park) from the jetties that you see in the centre of the view. Just show up and see which one goes next. The trip takes about 25 minutes, Should you do this, when you arrive at Bute Park - which is just to the west of the Castle, I would walk into the park - towards the Castle wall. At the time of your visit, you should see this area full of Magnolia trees in flower with daffodils at ground level. (You will need to return to the gateway through the wall that you see near the Pettigrew Tearoom - which is near the landing stage - in order to get onto the road and walk east to the Castle entrance).

When you board the trains in London, if you don’t like a pre-booked seat, you can move somewhere else - as long as it shows that it will be vacant. I would suggest that it is better to sit on the right when westbound in the morning so that you do not have the sun in your eyes - you will therefore be facing north. (Between Reading & Didcot - you get views of the river Thames flashing by - you will be travelling at 125 mph). Your train to Gloucester will use the same route as far as Swindon. It will also be pretty fast until it goes through a tunnel through The Cotswolds and then slows down to descend a valley where you will see lots of small cottages.

You may also like to consider going from Gloucester down to Chepstow to see the medieval Castle. The line is quite scenic and the journey takes around 30 minutes with trains roughly every 30 minutes. To do this, purchase an off-peak return Gloucester to Chepstow at Gloucester station - cost = £12.30. The Castle at Chepstow is around a 15 minute walk from the station. (You can get a good view from the river bridge - where if standing mid bridge - you have one foot in Wales & the other in England). https://cadw.gov.wales/daysout/chepstow-castle/?lang=en
http://www.castlewales.com/chepstow.html
www.nationalrail.co.uk for trains.
https://www.gloucestercathedral.org.uk

Posted by
4684 posts

I agree that Cardiff is its own attraction. It has little to do with scenic and historic "Wales". Not too many years ago, Cardiff had a problem with public partying and drinking. Don't know if that's still true. I enjoyed the city's attractions, and also went to see the tidal barrier. But I think it's not worth making your back suffer for a single-day runout with no overnight. I particularly took some commuter trains to historic castles while my wife was at business meetings. But I never got far north or to hear men's singing groups, two things on my list. It's a BIG region.

Posted by
4131 posts

The main draw to Cardiff is the Castle that is close to downtown, as well as the Museum of Welsh Life that is miles from downtown. Also, there are other castles nearby. South Wales is great. Rent a car and enjoy. Don't miss Tenby and St. David's as well as Tintern Abbey and many of the castes.

Posted by
3133 posts

After doing some reading, I will go to the National Museum Cardiff to see their Impressionist & Post Impressionist collection. It's called one of Europe's finest museums; I never realized that.

Posted by
373 posts

Yes there is a fantastic collection of impressionist art all in one room, it's very uncrowded and free to get in! A real hidden gem ( nite the museum is closed on Mondays). The museum is within easy walking distance of Cardiff Castle. I would recommend walking there. As you come out of the station go through the main exit. There's building work going on at the moment at the front of the station but head straight over the square until you reach the street which is called Wood Street, take a right on Wood Street and then at the end take a left on St Mary's Street. Walk all the way to the end and this will bring you out within site of Cardiff Castle entrance. You should be able to easily find your way from the castle to the museum. On your way back to the station come via Working Street into the Hayes area, and then go down one of the fine Victorian Arcades that link back through to St Mary's Street - Morgan Arcade is probably the best but Royal Arcade is nice as well.

Posted by
1834 posts

You might also be interested in the much smaller 'The Cardiff Story’ - which is located in the Old Library (along with a Tourist Information Centre) in the heart of the city centre.https://cardiffmuseum.com

(A cafe/restaurant is found on the floor above).

Personally I think its a lot to do in one day. If I go Cardiff to London I always stay over one night. You can get quite a cheap B&B for about £50 if you wanted to stay over.

Cardiff Castle is a must see, so is the museum. You can also get a boat taxi from the centre to the bay. The bay is a lovely place to visit, lots of restaurants and cafes and lots of Welsh history.

Posted by
910 posts

We did a day trip from London to Cardiff in March about ten years ago. Mostly, it was to see the Doctor Who locations like the Millenium Centre(very cool) and Cardiff Bay but we also managed to see Cardiff Castle and walk around the town a bit.

I believe we took a bus from downtown to Cardiff Bay but walked back. If you like Italian food, I'd heartily recommend Casanova restaurant in the shadow of the soccer stadium. We had a price fix lunch for 12 GBP with authentic Italian(Italy) cuisine.

Posted by
3133 posts

My plan is first to take the bus to the National Museum to see their Impressionist collection. From there I'll walk to St John the Baptist Church, the Central Market, the Arcades and maybe take the bus to Cardiff Bay. Of course, anything can change. I'd like to have my main meal of the day in Cardiff as well.

Posted by
1834 posts

I would not bother taking a bus from the Central station to the Museum. Far better just to walk through the mainly pedestrianised city centre. If so - walk out of the main (north) entrance and proceed east towards the Marriott. Continue up The Hayes - on your right are modern malls - which you could walk through if you wish. Alternatively continue to the John Batchelor statue. The next old building just N of the statue contains a tourist information centre where you could collect a free city centre map. Also in this building is ‘The Cardiff Story’ = a small museum about Cardiff (free). Then continue your way north eastwards through the shopping areas to the Museum - which you will see at the top of this map:>https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@51.4801106,-3.1777365,1336m/data=!3m1!1e3!5m1!1e1

After the Museum, walk over to Cardiff Castle - entrance is on the south side. Bute park - reached by leaving the Castle and turning R - walk along the road westward passing the animal wall to reach the entrance. Here - alongside the western wall of the Castle, you will now find magnolias in flower. You will also have noticed a pontoon from which boats leave for the Bay - it takes around 25 minutes to reach Mermaid Quay. Roughly 1 boat every 30 minutes. Alternatively - bus 6 from Westgate street (southbound) very 10 minutes.

Posted by
3133 posts

I'm back. I enjoyed my day in Cardiff. I walked to the national museum as it was only about 15 minutes and I'm unfortunately a slow walker because of my back condition. But I loved it as I walked by the castle and saw the flowers and trees bursting with spring flowers. I spent about 2 1/2 - 3 hours in the museum. I then went to St John the Baptist Church and met a priest who had a connection with my church in NYC knowing a few of the people I know! Connections like that are great. From there I took pictures of the garden by the church which had magnolias in full bloom plus tulips, daffodils and other flowers in their peak. I walked around the Central Market and tried Welsh cakes. RS was at the Central Market in one of his programs and recommended trying a Welsh cake. What a super recommendation. I walked around the arcades. I had a late lunch/early dinner but I forgot where. Then it was time to return to the train station.

The weather was cloudy when I arrived but when I left the museum, the sun was out and it was gorgeous.

Posted by
1834 posts

Pleased you enjoyed your visit but a shame you could not also get down to the Bay. Sounds like you are really into the art! Many more magnolias are out in Bute Park - to the west of the Castle.

Posted by
3133 posts

James, my back was acting up so I preferred sitting in a garden, having a snack in the Central Market, just enjoying where I was. I accomplished what I wanted to enjoy in Cardiff and have no regrets.

Posted by
3133 posts

The hard seats on those new trains can’t have helped.

I travel with a cushion; I carry it with me everywhere regardless of whether I'm traveling. I was very comfortable on the trains. By the way, those "new trains" have unreliable power outlets at each seat. It took me a while to find a seat whose outlet actually worked.