Please sign in to post.

five day hobbit holiday

Hello All,

I am a hobbit and I will be traveling Wales for 5 days. Like most hobbits I enjoy yummy food, rambles through nature, long paths that lead pubs in neighboring villages, music, song, poetry, literature, pretty much any story telling, ruins of bygone eras, friendly strangers, and epic gardens. We could rent a car but our next stop is Bristol and I think a car might be a hassle. My husband thought traveling by trains might be fun.

Please provide suggestions on where to go, where to stay, etc. Are trains a bad idea?

Posted by
2391 posts

Yes, Wales is doable by train - in certain areas. The first thing you need to check out is the route map PDF.

The different colours refer to routes operated by direct trains. The red lines in the south are not to scale and are over emphasised.

Look at the north coast - suggest you stay maybe 2 nights in CONWY or LLANDUDNO. Whilst here, you can take a bus to BODNANT GARDENS. When you leave this area, take the train south via Betws-Y-Coed to Blaenau Ffestiniog - where you change for a narrow gauge steam train & go to the terminal at PORTHMADOG for the rest of your stay. (Premier Inn might be suitable accomodation).

Whilst staying in Porthmadog, visit nearby PORTMEIRION and also take a ride on another narrow gauge steam railway = Welsh Highland Railway to CAERNARFON (castle) or get off at Rhydd--Ddu if you wish to climb Mt. Snowdon (but only in suitable weather).
https://www.festrail.co.uk

When the the time comes to leave Porthmadog for Bristol - take Cambrian Line train (very scenic) to SHREWSBURY (worth a look around) where you change for a south bound train to Newport - when you change for another train that will take you to Bristol.
https://www.visitwales.com/destinations/north-wales/explore-cambrian-coast-railway-line
Google the places mentioned.
To find buses in Wales :> https://www.traveline.cymru
https://www.nationalrail.co.uk

Note that should you do the above, that the station for the narrow gauge steam railways in Porthmadog is by the harbour at the south end of town. The normal (Cambrian line) trains have their station at the north end of town.

For north Wales, Manchester is the most convenient arrival airport in the UK - assuming it has flights from whatever country you are arriving from.

Posted by
1809 posts

How are you planning to get to Wales and where from? That will begin to determine your itinerary.

Public transport can vary depending on where you plan to visit - some parts are better served than others.

Posted by
5567 posts

Note that, post Covid, the two steam railways (Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland) are not really geared up to do single trips. Almost all their booking options (on both lines) are now aimed at people doing round trips.

If you did get a single ticket and were just doing the Ffestiniog then Minffordd is the easiest station to change at as narrow gauge and main line are essentially different levels of the same station.

Posted by
28 posts

We are taking a train from York through Chester to North Wales Conwy most likely. BODNANT GARDENS is on my list. I have looked at taking the train to Betws-Y-Coed and using the Sherpa buses to get around Snowdonia. I had thought about Anglesey and Abergavenny areas. I had not considered PORTHMADOG or that area of the coast. I am looking into it. Good to know about Ffestiniog issues with one ways. After Bristol we are headed to the Cornwall and Devon area for about five days. This will be in May.

Posted by
2391 posts

The Sherpa Bus network is a good alternative to the Ffestiniog Railway to get between Betws-Y-Coed and Porthmadog - and MUCH CHEAPER especially as the narrow gauge railways don’t offer one way tickets. https://www.sherparwyddfa.wales
(The Ffestiniog Round Robin ticket - which includes the normal trains, would have been OK for you if it did not have the restriction of having to do the whole journey in one day).

Anglesey inland is just flat boring farmland. The coast is nice enough but a car is really needed to get about.

I suggested staying in Porthmadog because it has transport links by rail & bus and puts you ideally located to see Portmeirion - the Italian style village. It also places you in a location where you can take the scenic Cambrian line south along the coast to Aberdovey before turning inland and heading for Shrewsbury (worth a wander when changing train routes). Tip - if using this route, ask the guard if you can just nip onto the platform at Harlech to take a photo of the Castle on a cliff high above the line. (The windows don’t open and are tinted).

It’s about a 4 hour journey between York & Conwy. I suggest you buy an Advance (specific train non refundable) ticket between York & Chester and then have a wander around the historic city centre. Then, head back to the station and buy on the day a one-way ticket to Conwy for about £13 - having first noted when the trains depart.

It’s just over 6 hours from Porthmadog to Bristol with the first scenic bit being especially slow going. You may like to buy a ticket from Porthmadog to Shrewsbury and have a look around before continuing south.

On some routes, it pays to split the ticket. It also can work out cheaper to book in advance specific trains - especially for one way journeys. This site will tell you if splits work out cheaper thought they do take 10% commission on the amount saved:>
https://www.traintickets.com/?/ (Play around with dates to compare the cost of pay on the day v advance purchase. Note that fares rise on 1st January).

It sounds like you will be travelling quite a lot by train. In that case, you should consider getting a Railcard. See >
https://www.nationalrail.co.uk/tickets-railcards-and-offers/railcards/

Also note that when you get to Newport, you will need a train going to Bristol Temple Meads (the downtown station) and not Bristol Parkway on the edge of the city.

Posted by
5567 posts

The best through advance fares from York to Chester are on Trans Pennine, for £16.40 each. You take a train bound for Liverpool as far as Newton le Willows then switch trains to a Transport for Wales train to Chester.
That train runs every hour at xx.50 from York.
Then allow yourself time in Chester, and pre purchase an advance train specific ticket Chester to Conwy for £7.60.
Do not be tempted by an advance ticket York to Conwy or Llandudno Junction. That is always more expensive.

You can save another £1 or £2 by buying a Northern Rail advance fare from York to Leeds, switch trains, then a Northern Rail advance fare for £11 on their hourly through train from Leeds to Chester. The York to Leeds fare depends on the train and the day, but it always works out cheaper. Leeds is a far better p!ace to change than Newton le Willows. That advice is free, rather than paying commission to the third party split ticket websites.

James is also wrong. Fares increase in March, not January, by 4.5%.

Posted by
5567 posts

Also, since you seem to be being directed to stay in Porthmadog, the easiest train route from there to Bristol is to stay on the same train all the way to Birmingham New Street, Then change to Cross Country to Bristol. A through advance fare is about £39.
If going down through Newport you want a Porthmadog to Newport advance for about £29 and a separate Newport to Bristol advance fare for £5.

At Machynnleth the train from Porthmadog links up with another train from Aberystwyth to form one longer train. You stay on during that process.

However I also note your statement above of thinking about another stop in Abergavenny, on the line between Shrewsbury and Newport- I assume that is replacing Merthyr Tydfil which was so maliciously rubbished on your earlier thread.

With the Ffestiniog Round Robin Ticket the complication (unstated on the blurb) is that, unlike in the past, there may not be capacity. for walk up passengers. You should book a seat ahead by telephone, if they have room. This is the big post Covid change.

The other way from Conwy to Porthmadog is the frequent bus to Caernarfon (for the Castle) then the T2 bus every 2 hours (headed for Aberystwyth).

Posted by
1809 posts

Picking up on isn31c’s comments about the Welsh Highland and Ffestiniog Railway, this has been very much my experience too. They are very much into promoting return tickets for part of the line and you have to return on that train. The timetable is also really complicated as to what days the different options run.

You have to book single tickets by calling the booking office. They do try and run full trains with prebooked tickets so if you just turn up at the station on the day there may not be any availability.

Regarding the Round Robin Ticket mentioned by James - have a read of this thread on Trip Advisor for information what you need to do...

Given the choice of Conwy/Llandudno area v Porthmadog/Criccieth (Cricceth is much nicer place to stay than Porthmadog) my preference would definitely be for Conwy/Llandudno. It’s easier to reach from Chester. It is a good base for public transport. Conwy Valley has some attractive small towns. You have the Victorian Tramway to the top of the Great Orme with some really good and easy walking from the top. There is also Conwy mountain too. Bodnant Gardens are delightful. You have the ruined castle and town walls in Conwy plus also Plas Mawr which is one of the best examples of an Elizabethan Town House...

Portmadog gives easy access to Portmeirion and you also have Beddgelert and the Llyn peninsula on the ‘doorstep’.