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From Caernarfon to Cardiff to London

Hello everyone,
on the last day of my trip to Wales I will be in Caernarfon and I have a flight at 18:00 in London but before that I have to go to Cardiff to return the rental car, so my plan is:

1 - leave Caernarfon at 06:00 AM, drive 4h to Cardiff airport to return the car

2 - go to Cardiff Coach Station, get a bus at 12:25 to Heathrow, arriving at 15:45

3 - flight home at 18:00

Is that possible? Am I missing anything?

Thank you.

Posted by
2139 posts

what you propose is logical if all goes to plan

however, google often underestimates driving times if that's where your 4hrs to Cardiff Airport comes from

if you can get up an hour earlier, and get an earlier coach, it would give you more leeway for unforeseen delays

Posted by
21302 posts

Further to ramblin' on's point: ViaMichelin (thought usually to be optimistic) estimates the driving time between Caernafon and Cardiff International at 4 hours 51 min. So much could go wrong here: traffic delays on your drive, a delay at the car-rental counter, more traffic delays on the bus trip. There's no way I'd do what you're planning.

Also, if your flight from Heathrow is taking you back to Canada, the recommended check-in time is 3 hours (not 2 hours) in advance.

This is one of those "How lucky do you feel?" situations.

Posted by
13 posts

Yes, it's risky if something goes wrong. OK so I guess I could increase the odds in my favor if I leave Caernarfon at 4:30 AM and get an flexible bus ticket, I can aim to get the 11:30 AM bus which would give me 7 hours to get to the Cardiff Coach Station, arriving at 14:30 in this case. If it takes even more time the plan B would be to get the 12:30 bus and arrive at 15:45.

About the airport, I won't check bags so it shouldn't take too much time to get to the gate.

Posted by
11292 posts

"About the airport, I won't check bags so it shouldn't take too much time to get to the gate."

Heathow is a humongous airport and is always hopping, so you can't count on getting through security and to your gate quickly. Again, how lucky do you feel?

Posted by
1934 posts

You won’t get from Caernarfon to Cardiff Airport in 4 hours. I have actually timed my driving time between Caernarfon and Cardiff as 4 hours - on a good run with no stops - and I know pretty well every twist and turn in the road - and there are many in the mountainous regions. You could not do such a trip non stop. Then we have the fact that Cardiff Airport is located about 12 miles SW of the city. Now, coming down the A470 from north Wales, you would join the M4 at junction 32 for a short hop W to J33 and then down the A4232 to come off at the next interchange - known as Culverhouse Cross. You are then faced with the A4050 down to the Airport - and this road can be very slow going with numerous roundabouts and traffic lights along with heavy traffic. Even I, would not be able to reach Cardiff Airport from Caernarfon in less than 4hrs. 30 minutes - without any breaks to the journey.

Are you sure that you can not leave the hire car somewhere more convenient? The quickest way from Caernarfon to London is to catch a train from nearby Bangor to London (Euston). Virgin Trains do the run in around 3 hours 20 minutes with a walk on ticket costing £92.70 off peak. (Chester would be the last convenient place to turn in the car and switch to this route of Virgin Trains). If you pre-book a specific train in advance, the fare will be much lower.

I would have also have thought that a flight from Manchester to Toronto would have been more convenient - I think Air Transat do this route - though there may be others.

Are you visiting London first? Would it not be better to do London last so that you are well placed for your flight home?

The Cardiff Coach Station - by the Central Rail Station is closed while they build a new one. This means that National Express now operate from a temporary coach station in Sophia Gardens - which on the west side of the river upstream from the stadium. The buses that link Cardiff Airport go nowhere near to this temporary National Express terminal but do stop near the Cardiff Central Rail station.
It would probably be quicker for you do go by train from Cardiff Central station to Reading & then use the Railair bus link into Heathrow. (I think you can purchase a through ticket from

Posted by
13 posts

How about returning the car at the Manchester airport and then getting a 4h train to Heathrow? In that case, maybe leaving Caernarfon at 5 AM, driving 3h to the Manchester airport, get the 10:30 AM train to arrive at 14:40 (or, a virgin train leaving at 11:30 and arriving at 14:40)?

The flights I find from Manchester to Toronto at either very early in the morning or very long.

Posted by
13 posts

I have found a fight leaving Manchester at 14:00 with a 3h layover in London then getting the 18:00 flight to Toronto. I guess that should be good enough, right? I can leave Caernarfon at 8 AM to Manchester and have enough time to catch that flight.

Posted by
1934 posts

If going from Caernarfon to Heathrow, you are still going out of your way by going to Manchester. The main issue is where will the car hire company let you return the car? Llandudno Junction is a place where some car hire companies may have bases. (This is a station where the Virgin trains stop in north Wales on their way to London).

Don’t forget, that whether getting a train from north Wales or Manchester to London (Euston), will involve going on the underground in London from Euston to Paddington to catch the train out to Heathrow. It would probably be cheaper to pre-book the leg down to London separately from the bit out to Heathrow. Obviously, flying from Manchester to Heathrow might be more convenient.

Are flights available from Birmingham Airport to Toronto? (You can go by train from Bangor to Birmingham International Airport in around 3 hours 15 mins. Direct trains also go from Porthmadog to Birmingham International - though this route is slow going at first and takes around 4 hours 45 minutes. (A book ahead ticket can be as low as £21).

Some visitors to north Wales from N. America fly into Dublin as the air taxes are lower = lower prices. They then go as foot passengers on the ferries to Holyhead.