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Itinerary critique and advice sought: 9 nights in Wales (or nearby)

First time poster, long time reader.

I would like to ask for advice on the itinerary below, especially regarding public transportation options (Nigel? James? I have learned a lot from your help to others.)

I am traveling with carry-on (36L) backpack using public transport. I have the following roughed out but not yet booked (must act this week!).

Sept 19: morning train London to Llandudno Junction; arrive early afternoon, visit Conwy castle (sleep: Conwy YH)

Sept 20: Plas Mawr; Conwy Valley Rail. Disembark in Betws-y-Coed and Blaeneau Ffestiniog. No activities planned, just exploring and people watching. (sleep: Conwy YH)

Sept 21: morning transfer to Caernarfon. Caernarfon Castle, explore town. (sleep Caernarvon)

Sept 22: local bus day pass: Llanberis (slate museum), Pen y Pas, other scenic bus route? We will do some gentle walking if weather permits. Not interested in the cog rail trip. (Sleep Caernarvon)

Sept 23: unscheduled day -- Angelsy? Day trip to Harlech? Random bus riding? (sleep Caernarvon)

Sept 24: Caernarvon to Brecon (Bwlch). This will take much of the day. (Sleep Bwlch)

Sept 25: bus through Wye Valley to Hereford, return (Sleep Bwlch)

Sept 26: bus: Big Pit Coal Museum; explore CRT (sleep Bwlch)

Sept 27: open. (Sleep: ???)

Sept 28: return to London

Without a car to store backpacks, there are planning challenges. I am trying to move from A to B in the morning so I can stash luggage at the new accommodation and get on with the day. This also means some backtracking: I originally thought to return to London as Bwlch::Hereford::London, but there is no left luggage in Hereford. Also, I wanted to explore Chester en route from London, but there is no left luggage in Chester. Sigh.

With a combination of scenic and inexpensive, what is the best way to get from Caernarfon to Bwelch? I have found Caernarfon::Bangor (bus), Bangor::Abergavenny (Rail), bus (Abergv::Bwlch). Is there an alternative, say Caernarfon::Aberrywyth::Brecon::Bwlch, and would it be better for long hours gazing out windows?

For Sept. 27, thoughts? I would like to see Chepstow Castle and overnight at St. Briavels YH near Lydney (moated Norman Castle!) but I am stumped figuring out reasonable transport for that day, and the next day on to London.

Many thanks in advance for suggestions for the itinerary, and help with the transportation options.

Carole

Posted by
4 posts

UPDATE. Sigh.

The second half of this has fallen apart, as bus services are almost non-existant around Brecon on Sundays, and scarce on Saturdays.

Sept 19 - 23 is fine. I am now considering returning from the North directly to Cardiff, and from there making a daytrip to Hereford/Wye valley, and a second daytrip to the Big Pit (or if I can't manage the buses, to St. Fagan's, which I visited a few years ago. I haven't seen the Big Pit museum).

This would mean that another year I have to make a trip to Brecon Beacons NP, etc. :-)

I'm still looking for help on getting from, now I suppose Cardiff, to Chepstow Castle and St. Briavels before returning to London.

Many thanks,
Carole

Posted by
1834 posts

Hi Carole,

The first bit of advice I would give is to try and avoid long journeys on Sundays as services are fewer. Rail lines can also be disrupted by engineering work. Should this happen, you will be bussed past the blockage. Now look at the map of Welsh rail routes:> http://www.arrivatrainswales.co.uk

You can get from north Wales down to Cardiff on 1 train that operates every other hour between Holyhead > Bangor > Conwy> Chester > Wrexham > Shrewsbury (worth a look) > Ludlow (worth a look) > Hereford (not brill but worth a look but station is about a mile from centre) > Cardiff. It could be that the through ticket does not allow hopping off and then getting a later service. If you pre-book a specific train at a low price, you are usually not allowed to hop off and then back onto a later service. You might wish to check the cost of a Britrail pass which would allow you to do this. (You cannot buy this in the UK). www.britrail.com
However, these passes are not cheap. Look at the cost (on the Arriva Trains Wales site) of Welsh passes only. One way travel is often the same price as returns so a pass might be the answer? You can check the prices for rail travel here:> www.nationalrail.co.uk
Remember that on longer journeys - such as those you plan to /from London, if not using a pass, it is nearly always cheaper to pre-book well in advance to get the cheapest prices.

Another thing to watch out for is events at the stadium in Cardiff. Accomodation prices will rocket (or be fully booked) and trains will be packed. Here are the dates:>http://www.millenniumstadium.com/events/index.php?PHPSESSID=d8757748578eeeeaf14cb5ae2126bc80

Now look again at the Wales rail map. You will see a line that runs from Pwllheli, down the west coast via Harlech to Machynlleth & then crosses Wales to Shrewsbury. This line is VERY scenic and you might wish to consider using that in your southward journey. You could perhaps board at Porthmadog having used a bus from Caernarvon? So, you could go from Porthmadog to Cardiff by train with 1 change at Shrewsbury - and have a look around Shrewsbury en-route. (A through ticket might not open the ticket barrier - just show it to the staff and they will let you through).

If you get off a train at Betws-Y-Coed, bear in mind that for onwards travel, the trains are infrequent. You might like to consider staying on the train to Blaenau Ffestiniog - which is surrounded by slate heaps so not a pretty site. Anyway, the Ffestiniog narrow gauge steam railway starts from here & goes to Portmadog. You might like to use this as far as Minffordd & then walk the 1 mile into Portmeirion (Italian style village which you pay to enter). Another steam railway goes from Portmadog to Caernarvon via the Aberglasyn Pass.http://www.festrail.co.uk

Why Bwlch? It is a small village with a main road running through it. The countryside around Bwlch is lovely but you might be better off staying in Brecon. The nearest rail station to Bwlch is Abergavenny (on the line that connects north & south Wales via the English borderlands) . If you left the train at either Hereford or Ludlow, I think you will see a Tesco supermarket near the stations. The odds are that this has lockers where you can leave your 'shopping trolley' while using the toilets/cafe - so, you could leave your baggage in such a locker for free while you go around the town.

I would favour visiting Castell Coch (north Cardiff- at Tongwynlais) and then back to bus for Caerphilly Castle. Then, train back to Cardiff with 1 change at Queen Street for the shuttle that will take you to Cardiff Bay (Waterfront).

Getting from Cardiff to Chepstow (Castle) by train is easy. Consider then taking a bus up the Wye Valley to Tintern (Abbey ruin). I have seen the St.Briavels Youth Hostel from outside and it is really old (Norman). You might well like staying here but are likely to find buses infrequent. I suggest you check on http://www.traveline.cymru (Try from Chepstow)

Posted by
1834 posts

I ran out of word allowance so now continue.

If you are going down to south Wales from north Wales & heading for Chepstow area, change trains in Newport.

These are the long distance buses that cross Wales. (The trains are likely to be more comfortable). http://www.trawscymru.info
Here are bus/ coach routes linking Aberystwyth. https://www.aberystwyth.org.uk/transport/coaches.shtml
http://www.visitshrewsbury.co.uk
http://www.ludlow.org.uk
http://www.royalforestofdean.info/herefordshire/hereford.shtml

Getting to Big Pit* by public transport is not easy. Although buses go to Blaenavon, the Pit is quite a way out of the town - but the occasional bus does go to the mine. Consider going on a tour from Cardiff with >http://www.seewales.com
* Check that no strike is taking place - museum staff are in a dispute. (Same applies to St.Fagans).
Explore CRT? What is that?

Hope this helps.