My husband and I will be staying in Llandudno for 5 days to explore North Wales. Then we'd like to get to Exmoor in southwest England, possibly using Dunster as a base for 2 days there. We will be depending on train/bus, but I am having trouble figuring out any possible way to do that. After reading many helpful discussions on this site about getting around Wales on public transportation, I haven't seen anything about getting to that area in England. Any suggestions? If Exmoor is unrealistic, is there any other place you'd recommend to stay for 2 days in Wales that we could get to from Llandudno/Conwy by train or bus before heading by train to Moreton-in-Marsh in the Cotswolds? We would prefer someplace that is not touristy.
Thanks so much for this useful response! Ludlow sounds interesting, on the way, and a much better choice for this trip given our time constraints.
Dunster is very touristy but quaint - not tacky. Exmoor is also lovely but Minehead is the main town. However, it is too far out of your way and has already been said, Ludlow might fit your bill as it is sort of mid way between north Wales and MIM.
In the llandudno area, note that all trains stop at Llandudno Junction as it is on the mainline. Conwy is also on the mainline but fewer trains stop (by request) as it is a smaller place. Llandudno is down a short branch line. You can go by direct train from Llandudno Junction (LLJ) to LUDlow in about 2 hours 18 minutes. If you pay on the day, it will cost about £44.10. Looking at fares for tomorrow - you get the price down to £25.50 by pre-booking a specific train. Looking well ahead, the pre booked price can be had for £19.50. (I would advise visiting Chester - which is on this route. You can’t hop off with the Advance purchase specific train ticket).
You could go from Llandudno to Ludlow taking most of the day - using a longer more scenic rail route. This involves going from Llandudno / Llandudno Junction to Blaenau Ffestiniog on Arrival Trains Wales. Then taking the narrow gauge Ffestiniog steam railway to Porthmadog where you can with to ATW for a train to Shrewsbury. A special ticket (£36) can be purchased for doing this:> http://www.railrover.org/pages/ffestiniog-round-robin.html - but you would simply not complete the whole circuit. From Shrewsbury, you would simply add on the one way fare to Ludlow - which is about 30 minutes to the south.
If you are going from Porthmadog to Shrewsbury without the special ticket - the fare is £21.60 pay on the day (3 hours 18 minutes) but you can almost halve this by advance booking a specific train.
If staying in Ludlow, Shrewsbury is worth a visit but you may also like to head a little way west to visit Powis Castle at Welshpool = 1 mile walk from station. Stokesay Castle = a medieval manor - is just to the north of Ludlow. Hereford is also with a visit.
To get from Ludlow to MIM, you need to firstly take the short train ride to Hereford. A direct train leaves for MIM at 12.09 though there are many other services where you change - probably in Worcester. The fare is about £19 and no advantage in advance booking.
James, I really appreciate the detailed info, suggestions, and links you gave. I was going to look into taking a steam train in Wales, so the information about ATW is very helpful. I'll look into Hereford and the castles you mentioned. Our trip isn't until September, so we have a bit of time to work out the side trips and transportation.
Thanks to both replies. You got me out of a dilemma and I'm so grateful!
Click this map and you will see blue symbols that mark the narrow guage steam railways in Wales. http://www.greatlittletrainsofwales.co.uk/map.htm
Forget about the one by Barmouth - though the ‘normal’ railway through Barmouth is very scenic. Look at the furthermost easterly marker and click on it. This is the Welshpool & Llanfair steam railway. Not the best & rather short but it is very near to the previously mentioned Powis Castle - so you could do the 2 in one day trip from Ludlow.
If you wish to visit a full size steam railway (expect 25 mph), then may I suggest the Severn Valley Line - which starts from Kidderminster in the English midlands. www.svr.co.uk
It is easier to reach this line from Moreton-in-Marsh than from Ludlow. From MIM - it is about 1 hour on the train to Kidderminster with 1 change at Worcester. see www.nationalrail.co.uk (Pay on the day return is £19.10).
This is a full size heritage railway (steam/diesel) in the north Cotswolds. Toddington is the nearest (present) station to MIM - but is looks like it is difficult to reach by public transport. http://www.gwsr.com
For local buses use www.traveline.co.uk or in Wales >https://www.traveline.cymru
Wonderful to have these links and information. Thank you, James!