Please sign in to post.

Gatwick Airport to North Wales using public transport?

Help!
My husband and I are planning a ten day trip to Great Britain in early May of 2018, flying into Gatwick Airport. We're thinking of spending several days in North Wales, then the Cotswolds, ending with a couple of days in London. We plan to use public transportation due to our reluctance to drive on the left side of the road. We originally thought we would hop a train from Gatwick to North Wales but I don't find any direct rail routes. Would it make more sense to book a short flight from Gatwick to Liverpool and take the train from there to, perhaps, Conwy? Alternately, our itinerary could start in the Cotswolds, taking a train from Gatwick to Moreton-in-Marsh and, after several days, find a rail route to Wales, then, back to London. We prefer North Wales, we think, for the scenery and castles. We're willing to hire local guides or taxis where needed. We hope to organize our itinerary and transportation in a way that will allow us to see as much as possible. Of course, the areas that interest us offer far more to see than the time we're able to spend at this time and we hope to return in the future.
Any and all advice or suggestions would be appreciated!
Nancy

Posted by
25587 posts

Train from Gatwick to North Wales by train is actually very easy.

Trains work on a network so connections to complete the journey are common.

Thameslink train from Gatwick station under the airport to London St Pancras International station. A 10 minute walk to London Euston station. 2 hours on the Virgin West Coast train to Chester, 14 minutes to walk from one platform to another, then 1 hour on the Arriva Trains Wales train to Conwy. You have to tell the Conductor that you want to get off at Conwy because it is a request only stop.

Straightforward...

Posted by
1838 posts

I would consider going from Gatwick to Oxford for your first night as this would be a shorter journey than going to N.Wales following a flight. I would pre-book an Advance ticket (for a specific train) from GTW > OXF via Reading (change trains). You should be able to get a ticket for £14.70 if you pre-purchase about 11 weeks out. This journey should take you around 2 hours. You may like to stay in Oxford for maybe 4 nights as this could be a base for going to The Cotswolds as well as nearby Blenheim Palace. If you don’t wish to do this but want to go to Moreton-in-Marsh - DO NOT buy a through ticket from Gatwick as the price rises to £45.90 with no advance purchases available. Purchase a ticket as advised to Oxford above and then on the day, purchase a £10 ticket from OXF > MIM from the guard or from the ticket office at Gatwick - you don’t have to get off at Oxford to do this. (If you stay in Oxford, you can purchase on the day a return to MIM for £10 in order to visit The Cotswolds.

Getting around the villages can be difficult without a car. You might like to consider a tour with a company such as:> https://www.cotswoldtourismtours.co.uk
Also check out:> http://www.cotswoldsaonb.org.uk/visiting-and-exploring/cotswolds-train-station/
https://www.blenheimpalace.com
http://www.experienceoxfordshire.org

www.nationalrail.co.uk is the site you need to find trains. Click on ‘details’ will tell you where to change trains & what trains you will be on. So, for Oxford > Conwy (Conway) put OXF > CNW and it will show you the schedules & fares. Be sure to pre-book as the fares can be expensive for longer journeys when you pay on the day. (Chester is well worth a look on this route but you would have to split the ticket(s) as the Advance won’t let you hop off - I think).

When you leave north Wales for London, Euston (EUS) will be your arrival station.

For bus schedules try www.traveline.info
(Bodnant Gardens are well worth seeing & not far from Conwy). http://www.visitwales.com/explore/north-wales

PS> Should you find that you can catch an earlier train to Reading (for Oxford) than the one booked, just ask the guard/conductor - who will be at the back of the train, if it would be OK for you to use his/her train without penalty as your plane landed early. (Usually they will say it is OK).

Posted by
22 posts

Thank you for the excellent information contained in your replies. Since we arrive at 5 a.m. on a Sunday, we would probably prefer to find the trains and travel at least as far as Chester on the first day. Are Sunday train schedules any different from other days of the week? It seems as though there would be plenty to see in either Chester or Conwy by foot for the rest of the day and go farther afield in North Wales for the next couple of days. When we're ready to head to the Costwolds, do you suggest finding the train from Llandudno or Conwy to Reading? And, then, Oxford or Moreton-in-Marsh? What is most direct?
Nancy

Posted by
1838 posts

Yes, Sunday is different to other days and can be prone to engineering work sending trains on detours or even bus transfers. That said, when it comes time to book - say at 11 weeks out, the system will tell you if your chosen route is affected. (The odds are that it won’t be but right now, over Christmas, massive engineering works are taking place at numerous locations).

Now look at this map:>http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/static/documents/content/routemaps/nationalrailnetworkmap.pdf

It shows you the rail system in Britain with the thicker lines representing the major routes - which are also the fastest. If you want to go straight to Chester from Gatwick, I would suggest that you follow Nigel’s advice. Note that on Sunday’s in Britain, that some city centre shops may be closed.

As you can see from the map, Llandudno is down a branch line that meets the mainline at Llandudno Junction = 1 mile east of Conwy. You should play around with the National Rail website to check services from Llandudno Junction verses Conwy or Llandudno. You will see that to get to Moreton-in-Marsh (for Cotswolds) Oxford you can use various routes. The fastest way to Oxford is to go via Birmingham. For MIM, you could go via Birmingham or down to Hereford and then across from there. (If doing this, it may work out cheaper to split the ticket at Hereford). Again, all you need to do is put in your start point and destination and the National Rail website will work out what trains you should use and where to change as well as the fares. Then look again at the map and you can see which way you would be routed.

Posted by
25587 posts

we arrive at 5 a.m. on a Sunday, we would probably prefer to
find the trains and travel at least as far as Chester on the first
day. Are Sunday train schedules any different from other days of the
week? ... do you suggest finding the train from Llandudno or
Conwy to Reading? And, then, Oxford or Moreton-in-Marsh? What is most
direct?

I work on the trains. Sunday is our day to sleep in, so trains are less frequent and start later than in the rest of the week. That will give you time to gently get through passport control before the first one. Instead of Thameslink you might take the train to Victoria, then Victoria tube to Euston to Crewe, then onwards to Chester on a Sunday - no direct ones on a Sunday. Total travel time 4 and a quarter hours to 4 and a half on a Sunday, if there are no engineering works on the specific Sunday you are interested in.

Leaving Gatwick on the first connection at 6:49 you can be in Chester by 11. There are later ones around every half an hour or so.

Not Llandudno. Llandudno Junction is on the main line.

Posted by
22 posts

Thank you for your replies and the invaluable information they provide. Knowing where to go in order to make the best rail connections will help us get to North Wales and, later, to the Cotswolds. I'll experiment with the website to see if seems best to go through Hereford or by way of Birmingham to get there. Thanks for the links, too!
Nancy

Posted by
1838 posts

You might also like to consider using the very scenic rail line that goes west from Shrewsbury to what is known as the Cambrian Coast. (The trains run between Birmingham International (Airport) > Birmingham > Shrewsbury > Machynlleth (where they split the trains with one half going to Aberystwyth - but it is the northern bound section that is best) > Aberdovey> Barmouth> Harlech >Porthmadog (which makes a good base) > Pwllheli. Please note that this line only has 1 train every 2 hours and that they are slow going when on the coastal section - but the scenery all the way from Shrewsbury is very nice.
https://www.aberystwyth.org.uk/attractions/cambrian-coast-railway-line.shtml

From Porthmadog 2 narrow gauge steam railways go through the Snowdonia National Park:> www.festrail.co.uk

You could consider going to Chester & then to Conwy for a night or two. Then train from Llandudno Junction to Blaenau Ffestiniog where you change for the Ffestiniog Railway to Porthmadog (for a night or 2). (The other way of doing it is Conwy to Bangor by train, then bus to Caernarfon - see the castle - then Welsh Highland Railway to Porthmadog). Doing it this way, when you leave north Wales - take train from Porthmadog to Shrewsbury - then another train to Hereford - then another train to MIM. (The countryside on much of these lines is lovely though going via Birmingham may be quicker). Test out fares for through tickets as we’ll as splits at the change locations mentioned. Shrewsbury is worth a wander for an hour or 2. I would suggest that you check out places you are thinking of visiting on Google Maps/Earth > street view.

Just south of Porthmadog is Portmeirion:>https://www.portmeirion-village.com/visit/

Posted by
22 posts

Because our airline recently modified our flights, we think we need to adjust our timing in travelling from Gatwick Airport to North Wales. We now arrive at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday. By the time we get through customs, we expect it will be early afternoon. After checking the rail line schedule we think that rather than making our first destination Llandudno Junction, we should find a closer location on the way there where we can stay the first night. Perhaps Chester, but maybe that's not realistic either, by train. Any thoughts? On Sunday, we'll then want to continue by train to Llandudno Junction for a night, then on to Betwys-Coed and Snowdonia. Can anyone suggest a convenient place to stay for our first night and the best train connections to get there?
Thank you!
Nancy

Posted by
1838 posts

Yes, I would go with Chester. It has a lovely city centre full of black & white buildings. You will probably find some of the shops are shut because it is a Sunday. http://www.visitchester.com

When you go by train from Chester into north Wales - the first part is not up to much - just a boring bit of coast. Things change for the better as you proceed west!

Posted by
25587 posts

Since you will be arriving on the Saturday mid-day (rather than the original Sunday) getting to Chester shouldn't present much of a problem.

Posted by
22 posts

Thanks, this is very helpful. How long should we estimate for going through customs at Gatwick?

Posted by
1838 posts

Don’t forget to Advance book. You should be able to purchase a ticket from GTW >CTR for about £26. This will include the underground in London to get from Victoria to Euston. You will notice that some trains are very expensive. It looks like these are the Virgin Trains going into north Wales - where demand must be outstripping supply. The lower fare option will tell you to leave a Virgin train at Crewe and then change to on Arriva Trains Wales service to Chester. (Click ‘Details’).

If you clear immigration at Gatwick early, go to the station and ask the guard (at rear of train) if you can go on the earlier service (than the pre-booked) to Victoria. (It should be OK). However, trying this with Virgin trains at Euston might be more 'problematic’.

Posted by
22 posts

I see what you mean about the variation in ticket prices. What do they mean by "off-peak?" And, what is an "anytime" ticket? I assume that means you can change it without penalty?

Posted by
25587 posts

An Anytime ticket does what it says on the tin - it is valid on any train at any time on the date(s) on the ticket.

An Off-Peak ticket is valid on any train at any time on the date on the ticket - except not valid during the peak (rush hour) hours.

Different companies define off-peak differently - Virgin excludes more hours than most.

Posted by
22 posts

Thanks for your explanations. I'm assuming that the E-ticket option is just as easy and acceptable as using the kiosk or having tickets mailed?

Posted by
25587 posts

yup. Just be careful with Trainline and other third parties because sometimes they have been known to sell tickets on the wrong side of restrictions. I strongly suggest getting tickets from the specific train company on the route or at least another train company - being careful of third party (non train company) ticket sellers. The consequences to a traveler of using a ticket not valid at the time of use can be very expensive - and paid by the traveler not the company that sold them the ticket.

Another consideration with an e-ticket is phone signal. You will either have to be able to display the ticket during the journey when asked. Train wifi is not always perfect or always even available, and you will have to rely on 4G signal. That means having your data on and available. Or you could print it out, always a good idea. But then you may as well have a print-at-home ticket instead of an e-ticket.

Posted by
22 posts

I used the National Rail site today to attempt buying our train tickets from Moreton-in-Marsh back to London on the second Sunday in May. (It shot me over to the GWR website.) But it says that all reserved seats for this journey (morning departures) are already sold. If I purchase tickets without reserved seating, does it mean that we may be standing all the way? Or maybe I need to try purchasing an afternoon departure ticket to see if I can get a reserved seat. I had hoped to get to London by noon or so....Any suggestions?

Posted by
1838 posts

It shot you over to the GWR website because it is GWR trains that operate the route - so it is directing you to book with them direct.
Now, I have just done a test for your date and find a fare of £37.40 > which also so happens to be the fare that you would pay today if you walked into MIM station & bought a ticket. When I click the little i alongside the fare, it tells me that reservations are available.

Now, what is happening is that you are trying to pre-book too far in advance and the cheap advance fares have not yet been loaded for your date. In fact, as of now, the furthest out Sunday with the cheap fares loaded is 22 April - with prices as low as £6 > which indicates that demand for these trains on a Sunday from MIM to Paddington is low - so you will get a seat. However, if you do test out the GWR site for Sunday 22 April, you will see a red triangle. This is warning people that this will not be a ‘normal’ journey - the reason being engineering work - which often takes place on Sundays due to fewer people travelling. So, it then tells me that on Sunday 22 April, part of the journey will be made by bus in order to get around the engineering works.

What you should do now is hold off for a bit & then go back to the GWR site in a week or two - until you see fares that are not the £37.40. It may still tell you that you can’t make a reservation - but this might be because of engineering works requiring a bus transfer.
DO NOT WORRY - you will get a seat and they will look after you. Be careful about pre-booking other journeys by train that you plan to make using advance purchase. You may be pre-booking too soon before the cheap fares are loaded. Some routes stay the same and you can pay on the day. The way to find this out is to check for fares about 5 weeks out compared to today. If the fares for 5 weeks out are cheaper - then advance purchase about 10 to 11 weeks ahead should give you the lowest prices.

Posted by
22 posts

Thanks, James, I think I understand. You've clarified the booking process and I appreciate your advice about how to get the least expensive ticket. Had no idea there could be that much variation in price. And it's good to know we should have no trouble getting from MIM to London on a Sunday--with a seat on either a train or bus.

Posted by
1838 posts

The price variation is one of the odd things about the British Railways system - as is the fact that different train companies operate the services. Even the Brits are confused by this!

Be sure that you are ready to disembark any trains promptly on arriving at stations as they don’t hang about - unless it is a terminus such as Paddington. Also note that some longer trains have what they call a ‘quiet carriage’ = a coach where nobody speaks or uses mobile phones. Usually, people who don’t want to be disturbed choose such coaches.

PS. I would ask someone at your hotel to go on the GWR website on the morning of departure and check that your intended train is running normally - or check on a smartphone. This site will also tell you:>http://www.realtimetrains.co.uk/search/advanced
(put MIM in the location box > search).

Posted by
22 posts

Thanks for the helpful tips. It will be handy to check online to see if our train is running on time.

Posted by
22 posts

I found a good price on the ticket we need for our May 13th journey from Moreton-in-Marsh to London. But, when attempting to make the purchase, the GWR site gives me the choice of picking up the ticket from a machine at the station or having it mailed. Except for the limitation that it can only be mailed to a UK address (I'm in the US.) And, there is a drop down menu of what stations I can pick up the ticket from but the Moreton-in-Marsh station is not listed. Apparently, it is not open on a Sunday. Please advise. How do I get the ticket I need?

Posted by
1838 posts

Don’t worry! When you go on the GWR website to purchase the ticket, it will ask you for your debit card details - and take the money off your account. You will then get a booking number - I would print this off as proof. Now, when you get to the UK, you can go to any* station that has a ticket machine, tap in the booking number and insert the SAME debit card on which the advance purchase was made. Out will come your tickets - make sure that they have all appeared. * The website is asking you which station you would like to collect the tickets. I would just put in one of the main stations that you know you will be near during your trip. In practice, it has been found that the ticket machines seem to issue the tickets for the booking at any station. If you were to go to a mainline station that is staffed - preferably at a quiet time - show the clerk your booking number(s), and he/she MAY issue the tickets for you. It does not have to be one operated by the GWR.

If you still encounter problems booking via the Great Western Railway website, try this one >https://www.virgintrains.co.uk
Even though it is a different train company, all the train companies will sell tickets on the behalf of the others. (On some journeys, people must switch trains from one company to another). The prices you see on the Virgin website should be the same as those on National Rail & GWR and no fees will be added.