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Heart of Wales train

My husband’s family was from Llanelli and we were thinking of taking the train south from Shrewsbury and spending 2 nights in Llanelli. What is that train ride like? From Llanelli I assume that we will we be able to take a train to Cardiff, right? Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks.

Posted by
2444 posts

The Heart of Wales Railway goes through some lovely countryside and has stops at little stations where few people live. It is the cheapest way to travel by train from Shrewsbury to Llanelli and takes only around 25 minutes longer than trains going on the more faster easterly route via Hereford and Cardiff. (The Heart of Wales Line is a shorter route but with slower speeds than the easterly route - which is called The Marches Line as most of it follows the England/Wales border).

As the trains are usually every 4 hours, I would not suggest that you stop at any place on the route. Llandeilo has Dinefwr Castle and Newton House within walking distance (long) on the west side of the town, The views of the Towy valley from Dinefwr Castle (ruin) are wonderful. About 4 miles east of Llandeilo is the wonderful ruin of Carreg Cennen Castle but I don’t know of any public transport that would take you to this castle. So, if stopping anywhere, perhaps Llandeilo would be a suitable place to stay but beware that the main street has a main road going through it - a by-pass is planned.

The downside of the Heart of Wales Railway is the trains - which are usually 1 or 2 coach diesels from the 1980’s with no air con. That said, I would still suggest that you use that line to get from Shrewsbury to Llanelli. https://www.heart-of-wales.co.uk
The long train in the picture on the website is a special - not a regular service.

Llanelli is a run down former industrial town but I can understand your husband wishing to see it. It is not a place to send tourists!

Being as you are making a journey to SW Wales, I would suggest that from Llanelli that you take a train west to Tenby in Pembrokeshire as that place certainly is a tourist destination. (If stopping off in Llandeilo, you could take a *bus to Carmarthen and then train to Tenby and visit Llanelli on the way back east to Cardiff). See Google Maps to find where these places are.
* https://www.morristravel.co.uk

Also note that the Gower peninsula which lies to the south of Llanelli has a very attractive south and west coast. To reach this area - take a train or bus into Swansea. (Swansea city centre is not attractive). Then Adventure Bus from the bus station with preference being given to reaching Rhosilli at the western tip of the peninsula:> https://www.adventuretravel.cymru/bus-services/swansea/118/
As well as the 118, services 115, 117 & 119 also serve the Gower peninsula.
https://www.visitswanseabay.com/destinations/gower-peninsula/

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/wales/dinefwr/visiting-newton-house-at-dinefwr
https://www.visitwales.com/attraction/castle/dinefwr-castle-cadw-1231740
http://www.carregcennencastle.com
https://www.castlewales.com/carreg.html
https://www.visitwales.com/destinations/west-wales/pembrokeshire/things-do-tenby

Posted by
2444 posts

Cardiff > St.Fagans Museum of Welsh history is a 30 minute bus (Cardiff Bus 32) ride from the city centre.
Also note that The National Museum of Wales (free) is a 13 minute walk NE of Cardiff Castle:> https://www.visitwales.com/things-do/attractions/museums-galleries/national-museums-wales
Museum (free) about Cardiff right in the middle of the city:> https://cardiffmuseum.com
If you were to visit Cardiff and intend to go to St.Fagans (free entry as under museum service) - I would do that first to ensure that you have time over do see Cardiff Castle in the city centre. Likewise - if you want to see the large medieval fortress at Caerphilly - transfer at Cardiff Central to platform 6 (usually) & trains are every 15 minutes (less on Sundays). https://cadw.gov.wales/visit/places-to-visit/caerphilly-castle

https://walesguidebook.com/castles/south-wales/cardiff-castle/
https://www.visitwales.com/destinations/south-wales/cardiff/top-things-see-and-do-cardiff-bay
Trains = www.nationalrail.co.uk
PS. The Anglican Cathedral in Cardiff is at Llandaff = about 2 miles NW of the Castle. https://www.llandaffcathedral.org.uk
Castell Coch is yet another castle in the Cardiff area - located on a hillside on the northern edge of the city. https://cadw.gov.wales/visit/places-to-visit/castell-coch

Posted by
6101 posts

I don't know why no air conditioning is a negative. They have natural AC- windows which actually open, and generally the trains have far fewer passengers. A far better route in that respect than the often overcrowded Marches (main line) routes.
When the AC fails on the newer trains then there is no solution. And that is no help to anyone.

Posted by
1920 posts

I've always felt the Heart of Wales line is the 'forgotten' line and it is like going back in time to a more leisurely way of travel. It potters its way down through some of the best scenery and is a much more enjoyable experience than using some of the other routes.

If you are wanting to take photos, the opening windows in the doors are very good as you can be sure of no reflections from the glass that can mar so many photos taken oin more modern stock.

Posted by
2 posts

Thanks for your responses; I will check those links. My husband’s grandfather was born in Llanelli and we were thinking of looking for a birth record at a church, so we aren’t expecting a touristy visit — just nice to walk the streets ancestors walked. My husband’s father was a train buff so the slow train would be a way to honor him as well.

We like to walk and I wonder if there are places on the Gower peninsula that we should see. We won’t have a car so a town reachable by public transport where we could either do a 14 or so mile loop or a 7 mile out and back would be nice. I’ve looked at two walking tour companies that move your luggage and book rooms but they seem awfully expensive — $1200 for 4 nights. Again I’m open to any suggestions. Thanks.

Posted by
6101 posts

I'm always slightly nervous when someone says to "walk the streets their ancestors walked" for fear that the streets have vanished, or changed beyond recognition.
It would be a good idea, if you haven't done so, to look on Google maps first, to manage expectations.

I have seen both ends of the spectrum, from euphoria to disappointment, and actually experienced the latter on my own family tree.

Posted by
2444 posts

The Blue Pullman is a luxury train that made a special trip up the Heart of Wales line. If interested - click the You Tune video link and you can see some shots of the line. The first 2 scenes are it travelling fast on The Marches route between Shrewsbury and Newport. On the Heart of Wales line it conked out on a hot day while trying to climb to Sugar Loaf summit. Engineers eventually fixed it.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEjR4tqdKUM

This video shows the regular train on the Heart of Wales line. Goodness knows why had to film on a bad weather day?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ebxo_m57paE

The main south Gower road has buses run by Adventure Travel. You could stay at some place near this route and go walking the coast and then make your way back to the main road for a bus back to base. Rhosilli would be suitable location as you could hike north up onto the downland from which you will see hang gliders taking off - this is a very steep walk. From the village, you could take the easy walk to Worms Head and then go east along the south coast passing Fall Bay. (You would need to be a Mountain Goat to get down the gully to the beach). You could continue along the cliffs to *Mewslade Bay where you have the opportunity to go north back to the main road at Middleton. Alternatively - keep walking eastward all the way to Port Eynon and then bus back to base or bus out first and walk back. Be sure to zoom down on Google Maps to be sure what these trails are like. Note that this coast is exposed - not a place to be in bad weather.

  • Note that part of this path goes on a ledge on the cliffs with a big drop below. You can still reach Mewslade from Fall Bay by staying on the high ground until you reach the valley that drops to Mewslade Bay.