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public transport in Wales

I'm splitting this from my post in the England forum (which was subsequently eaten by the forum software. Grrrr. Apologies to those who read and perhaps attempted to reply to it. ).

I have 3-4 weeks in the UK, of which I'd like to spend about 10 in Wales, if the weather (and logistics) permit. My accommodation is hostel, so I have not booked ahead yet, though I check availability daily. I will be anchored in London. For transport, I would like it to be as flexible as possible schedule-wise; slow and slow/local is fine. I am 55+.

I have three options: all public transport, car hire from somewhere outside London, or a mix, picking up a car in Wales.

In south Wales, I plan to base in Cardiff and spend 2-3 days there and nearby towns (Llantwit Major, Ewenny, Brigend, Porthcawl). Not sure yet how I am going to get to Cardiff with some schedule flexibility. but am I correct in assuming that once there, I can buy a day-pass for local buses that will cover Glamorgan? And if I want to explore up to Merthyr Tidfil and Brecon?

From south Wales, I'd like to move on North, ultimately basing out of the hostel in Llanberis or Conwy. Again, I'd like to then explore the area using a day pass of some sort for local buses.

What (interesting) options do I have for getting from Cardiff area to Llanberis or Conwy? bus or trains through the heart of Wales would be lovely; again slow and local is fine. Adventure is good.

Arriva has a North Wales pass, as well as a North-Mid Wales pass. However, I don't think it would cover my transport from Cardiff area northward.

Please point me in the right direction for figuring all of this out. I need to learn how to do it for myself, as I am sure i will be doing some planning on the fly.


Posted by
77 posts

I'm buried in ArrivaTrainsWales website, trying to sort out the various passes.

I have a syntax question:

Each Valley Lines Day Explorer allows one day train and one day bus travel.

Does this mean that I can use the pass on trains on Tuesday and bus on Wednesday, or does it mean that on Tuesday only I can travel by bus, train, or some combination?


Posted by
1887 posts

I do not think that the Valley lines Day Explorer = the Valley Lines in the Cardiff area, would be worth getting. I would be inclined to pay as you go on these local lines. Bridgend is simply not worth bothering with - to be blunt, it is a 'dump' - as is Merthyr. Ewenny has nothing to interest the tourist so cross that off your list. The town of Porthcawl is not up to much but 1 mile west of the town are some nice beaches - but not really worth the journey out from Cardiff. Of the places you mention, only Llantwit Major would I consider is worth a visit - but not a priority. (Trains every hour from Cardiff). Try & find the old part near the church. It is nearly a 2 mile walk to the beach from where you can walk on top of the cliffs going west.

If based in Cardiff and using public transport, I would do the following:>
1. Stagecoach bus 26 from Cardiff to Tongwynlais > walk up hill to visit Castell Coch. Then walk back to Tongwynlais to catch another 26 to Caerphilly > visit Caerphilly Castle.

You could return to Cardiff by 26 bus but I would take the train (every 20 minutes or so - less on Sundays). So you purchase a 1 way ticket from Caerphilly (ask someone to point you in the direction of the station) to Cardiff Bay. To reach Cardiff Bay, you change once - at Cardiff Queen Street
After visiting Cardiff Bay, return to the city centre (Train or Bus 6 every 10 minutes - make sure you have coins as they don't give change on Cardiff Bus) and maybe visit Cardiff Castle or Museum? ;

  1. Train to Chepstow from Cardiff Central. See Chepstow Castle and then take bus up Wye Valley to Tintern Abbey.
    You could then either return to Chepstow for train back to Cardiff or continue up the Wye Valley (quite scenic) by bus to Monmouth before returning to Chepstow for the train.

  2. Visit St.Fagans Castle (really like a Manor House) about 4 miles W of Cardiff City Centre. Bus 32 or 320. (Allow about half a day as the grounds are quite extensive)
    Return to Cardiff and maybe wander around the shopping centre or go into Bute Park = just on W side of Castle. (The flower borders will be going over in September).

  3. Other areas that you could visit from Cardiff include the Brecon Beacons National Park - which is about 30 miles N of the city - use route A470. Also worth a visit is the Gower peninsula which is west of Swansea. You could do this by train to Swansea and then local bus. (I would head for Rhosilli but make sure you have good weather as it is very exposed). For these places, it might be best to try a tour such as (or hire a car). A hire car would also be most useful for seeing the interior of Wales. If going to north Wales by car, you could see the BBNP on the way. (You could even do Castell Coch prior to heading north)

Also consider >
(First Bus X2 very 30 minutes from Cardiff. Get off at St.Nicholas = first village W of Cardiff. 1 mile walk.

I really can't see much point in returning to expensive London when trying to visit different parts of the UK. You mention Hereford - maybe from Oxford? You could see Hereford if going by train from Cardiff to north Wales. (Hereford is 1 hour from Cardiff on the main line from south to north Wales). Also worth a stop on this line is Ludlow & perhaps Shrewsbury. (A through ticket might not permit you to have stops en-route). Through trains run from Cardiff to north Wales. Check ATW site around 9th Sept. to see if over 55 deal is on.

Posted by
77 posts


Thank you for the detailed suggestions. After considerable time last night on the web, I too had concluded that the best way to get around Glamorgan is pay-as-I go ticketing rather than a Valley pass.

Tonight I will sit with maps and the ATW website and have a good look at your other suggestions.

Thanks again for taking the time and effort to make the detailed reply.

Posted by
27709 posts

Hereford and Shrewsbury, while both county towns in England are so wound up with Welsh history and so close to the border that they can very easily be wrapped up in trips in Wales.

The Mappa Mundi and the Chained Bible are well worth seeing in Hereford Cathedral.

MJ, are you visiting these various parts for historical reasons, maybe heritage, or for sightseeing?

Wish I was carrying your bags....

Posted by
77 posts

Hi Nigel --

All of the above: tourism and personal missions.

Glamorgan is purely personal -- and James is right, the places I will visit are not tourist destinations. My father was a boy in Ewenny, and using photos from the 1930s I will attempt to find his house, "The Grange." Not tourist worthy. I am trying to arrange returning my paternal grandfather's Masonic kit to his lodge in Porthcawl -- again not tourist-worthy. His father's family grave is at St. Illtyd's, in Llantwit Major and I am working on arrangements to add some of my father's cremains to the family grave. Again not tourist-worthy. (The Old Swan in Llantwit was run by a great-great aunt in the 1930s, and that is tourist worthy!)

Hay-on-Wye and Merthyr Tydfil were home to his mother's family.

So it's not "two museum, one castle and a garden in a day" tourism. But this sort of travel -- driven by interesting tasks and taken slowly -- often leads to the most interesting conversations and new opportunities. And that's part of why I am reluctant to tie myself to transportation reservations.

Hereford is both tourism and personal. In addition to seeing the cathedral etc, (and sampling cider) I want to have a look at the Cathedral School: my father was Head Boy there in 1940, and took his turn at watch on the roof at nights, scanning the sky for fires and German planes. I can't imagine doing that at age 17.

North Wales is pure tourism :-) But slowly.