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Wales in October

New York
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Wales in October

We're planning to travel to Wales in October and are mainly interested in castles (and the like) and scenery.

1) What's the weather likely to be? A bit chilly is fine, but a high likelihood of heavy rain might cause us to rethink things.

2) We'd fly into Heathrow. Choices seem to be First Great Western rail or National Express coach to Cardiff. Which would you recommend? Advance purchase seems chancy, given the possibility of flight delays, so would walk up fares be the right thing?

3) How best to get around - trains and buses or rent a car?

4) What highlights would you recommend visiting? I see some nice recommendations at tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g186456-i308-k5279…

5) About how many days would you stay?

Please feel free to comment on the other parts of Wales besides Southern Wales.

Edited: 16 May 2012, 15:37
Milford, New Jersey
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1. Re: Wales in October

Well, before the Cymraeg have their say:

1) October is the beginning of what might be called the "rainy" season in Wales - then again one could argue that Jan to Dec is the rainy season in all of the UK! Seriously though, you run the risk of rain and mist practically at anytime, but it certainly adds to the atmosphere of medieval ruins and green hillsides. That time of year though, September would be a better choice - are your plans somewhat flexible?

2) Can't help you there - I've always flown in to Heathrow (or Bristol) and hired a car - doesn't take very long to get to Wales via Interstate type highway. Of course, that type of road pretty much disappears once you cross the border (other than the M4 for a bit)

3) Unless you restrict yourself to the city, you really can't beat the convenience of a car - especially if you wish to extensively visit coast and some of the best castles.

4) On this one, I can't even begin to summarize. Everyone has their own "best" lists, and my Welsh one is pretty extensive. Rather than bore you here, when you have the time, you might want to take a look at my Forum posts - a lot of stuff on various places in Wales in there. Especially a extremely long (sorry) multipart trip report for a September visit in Pembrokeshire back in 2009. Other than that, and whatever other suggestions you get from others, I recommend getting the "Rough Guide to Wales".

5) At least a week - and that's for one section of Wales. Based on what you find interesting from my stuff, or other suggestions that are given - you really should pick a section - like North (Snowdonia), SouthWest (Pembrokeshire), South (Cardiff and the Valleys), and then there's all of Mid-Wales, and . . . you get my point. I've seen others try to "do" the country in a few days. Don't. Among other things, while the road system is a fine one - like I said before, these are not Interstate highways - it's going to take time to get around. And your stops are going to be more than a couple of minutes.

Lots to do and see here, and based on what you mentioned - take a look:

http://www.castlewales.com/

Enjoy

New York
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2. Re: Wales in October

October is pretty much locked in. Normal UK atmosphere is fine, while a constant downpour would be another matter

Driving on an unfamiliar side of the road after an overnight flight is not my favorite thing to do. Hiring a car in Cardiff, especially after a night's sleep, would seem better. If there's a better place to start than Cardiff, that would be fine.

We're thinking of 7 or 8 days in Wales. I'll look at your forum posts and others and will check out the Rough Guide to Wales, but it would be great if you or anyone else had a few suggested itineraries (although I suppose that's what trip reports are).

Thanks!

Edited: 16 May 2012, 21:24
Wales, United...
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3. Re: Wales in October

Noswaith dda Richard.

In reply to your post;

1.The weather-us Brits are not just being awkward when we say you cannot predict the weather-it's true! It could be dry and mild or dry and cold, rainiy and mild or rainy and cold!. You stand a good chance of showers and wind but, I went to North Wales two years ago in early October and it was glorious, mild, sunny and gorgeous. The year before, freezing cold and rainy. It's unlikely that it would pour down without stopping, you're more likely to have showers, and it can depend on where you go. The weather can be so variable from region to region. Best advice is to come prepared and wear layers. A waterproof coat and sunglasses are and essential part of my N Wales October trips!!

2. From Heathrow you are right about the FGW train. Advance fares can be really cheap and I prefer the train to the coach. However, delays can be costly. Last time I flew back from the US I left four hours between landing and getting the train from Paddington and was fine. (Heathrow is currently experiencing long queues at immigration which, hopefully will have been sorted.) You could risk it and claim on your insurance if you miss your allocated train or, as I have done in the past, speak to one of the reps at the station and they may let you on anyway. Sometimes you encounter a 'jobsworth' who sticks to the letter of the law but most are fine. Walk-on fares are very expensive especially at peak times (after about 2-30 until 7:45 on a weekday) National Express offer more flexibility as you only have to pay £5:00 to change yoyur ticket. Do Continental still fly into Bristol from NY? If so, it's worth checking out.

3. Transport. I agree with you about leaving the car hire until you've had a night's sleep, we do the same in the US. The best way to tour Wales is by car. You won't need to hire it until you're ready to leave Cardiff. From Cardiff you can get to Caerphilly within 10 mins by train (Huge castle built by Normans, leaning tower). You can catch a bus to Tongwynlais, number 26 to go to Castell Coch. From Cardiff you can catch a bus to St Fagans, a 'must-see' in my book. Free entry and a good day out.

4. Highlights - St Fagans, Cardiff Castle, The Brecon Beacons.

Driving up through the Rhondda Valleys via The Rhondda Heritage Park in Trehafod to see what life was like during the Industrial Revolution.

Big Pit in Blaenafon, then the 'Coal house' then the mountain road towards Abergavenny to see the difference between the industrial valleys and the more rural areas. (Not too narrow and plenty of room for a car both sides on 99%of the route)

Carreg Cennen Castle - carregcennencastle.com. Fabulous setting near Llandeilo about 1 1/2 -2 hrs west of Cardiff.

Snowdonia National Park- Stunning.

How about looking at the Welsh castles such as Dolwyddelan not just the Norman ones . There is a website which lists all castles 'www.castlewales.com'.

Tenby and Pembrokeshire.

5. Days to stay? Don't try and cram too much in as travel between places outside of the M4 corridor can be slower than it first appears. It depends what you want to see. if you plan on visiting North Wales then allow at least half a day to get there from Cardiff.

Hope this rambling e-mail helps in some way. I am sure that some of the more expert TA members will be able to give you advice too.

Pob hwyl

KB

Milford, New Jersey
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4. Re: Wales in October

Looks like Kathleen did a heck of a better job of summarizing the possibilities than I could - you should pay attention.

However, I still think you're going to have to make a hard choice. With only 7-8 days to work with - you're going to have to make a choice: after Cardiff: North OR West - trying to do both would be a sprint/marathon.

Based on what you've said so far - especially re: castles and scenery - as a first visit, I think your choice should be North. (as much as it pains me to say that, since we REALLY like West!). For what it is worth, here's a crack at a plan:

Day 0 - Leave NYC area on overnight flight to LHR (unfortunately United/Continental no longer flies to Bristol).

Day 1 - Land - take train (understand that desire. Driving right after a transatlantic flight is not everyone's cup of tea) - arrive Cardiff by afternoon sometime. Time to check in - and maybe take in a bit of the city - like Mermaid Quay for dinner - then rest up.

Day 2 and 3 - Plenty to do locally (as mentioned) - Cardiff Castle, Caerphilly Castle, Castle Coch, St. Fagan's (a must - at least half day), the Valleys. Don't need the car until Day 3 for a Fagan's and Valley explorations. True, there is transport to St. Fagan's, but, if you had the car at the start of Day 3, you could leave from a morning St. Fagan's visit for a Valley/Big Pit, etc. visit in the PM.

Day 4 Head North on the A470 through the Brecon Beacons and Mid Wales towards Snowdonia. It's about 160 miles to Betws-y-Coed (175 to Conwy). At least 4 - 5 hours. But, it's pretty scenic country and there's no reason to rush.

Day 5 and 6 - From whatever base you use in Snowdonia - there's more than enough to see and explore: Besides the scenic beauty of the entire mountain region, you have Conwy Castle and walled town, Caernarfon Castle, LLanberis Pass in the shadow of Mt. Snowden, Dolbadarn Castle, Dolwdyddelan Castle, Beddgelert village, the slate mines of Blaenau Ffestiniog - and a bit further afield, but certainly within reach, Harlech, Cricieth, and Beaumaris castles, Menai Strait, etc. etc. (just look closely at the Snowdonia Chapter in the Rough Guide!)

Day 7 - I'm guessing you have to be heading back towards Heathrow for a Day 8 morning flight back to NYC. This is going to take the better part of a day - probably your best bet is to head for England and one of the M-Routes south. Not particularly scenic, but certainly quicker.

Of course, if I have mis-calculated and "cheated" you out of day, I'm sure you can put the time to good use - there's so much else to see in the country. But, I am certain that you can't head West from Cardiff to the delights in that direction and then get up North to do justice to either place in the time you have available.

I guess you're just going to have to come back!!!

Enjoy.

New York
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5. Re: Wales in October

Thanks Kathleen & Mike!

I'll contemplate for a bit and likely revert with some more questions

Wales, United...
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6. Re: Wales in October

I am a Valley Girl through and though but agree that North Wales is lovely and NX's itinerary sounds very good.

7. Re: Wales in October

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