Vacationing in the UK - Wales edition

The wife and I are headed back to the UK in hopefully late March or early April of this year. Getting suggestions and advice here on MS worked well for our 2019 trip, so I’m back to ask again! We are looking at spending about a week in Wales, and a week in Yorkshire area. The order of that is yet to be determined.


If we start with Wales, is it easier to fly into one of the major airports and take the train over to Wales (ie Heathrow or similar), or fly into some place closer like Cardiff or Bristol?

How is the transportation situation in Wales? Last time we didn’t get a car, as we spent our time in London, York, and Edinburgh, we could get around on foot and by public transit just fine. We are looking at being out and about a bit more in Wales. I am fine driving a manual (my welding truck is a stick), though the left hand shifting and driving on the left will be interesting. However, if public transit is good, saving on the expense of the rental is definitely preferrable.

Follow on to that, how is navigating the roads? With a reasonable ability to terrain associate and google maps, will the tourist make it alright? I can pack a protractor and compass, though I will admit I haven’t verified my pace count in about 20 years.

Is it doable to stay in one place and day trip most of the places? We’re looking at starting in Cardiff, and then shifting up to somewhere around Snowdon mid week. The fact that this would happen to put us right next to the Mach Loop is entirely coincidental…

Is late March a good time to go?

Anywhere/thing the MS brain trust recommends to check out in Wale?

Any recommendations on getting from somewhere around Snowndon to York? If we have a car, it looks to be about 3.5-4 hour drive? By train it looks like going to about the same.


If we start in the York area, is it easier to fly into one of the major airports and take the train over to York (ie Heathrow or similar), or fly into some place closer like Leeds? On our last trip we took the train up from London, and I thought it was a pretty decent way to travel.

Last time we spent about 3 days in York, and the bus was plenty to get around. If we get out from the city of York, is having a car recommended or should public transportation suffice?

How is late March/early April for the York area?

Anywhere/thing the MS brain trust recommends to check out in Yorkshire area? We did the usual touristy things in York last time, and we’re looking at getting a bit more out into the surrounding area this time (though I am definitely blocking out at least a half day to visit the railway museum again).

If we’re doing York first, any recommendations on traveling down to Wales? Car and train again appear to be about the same travel time.

Thanks all in advance!


Personally… I would not use trains (yes I know) at the moment we are having a national rail dispute (on average 3-4 strikes per month) also the cost of train travel over any extended distance is expensive to say the least. driving over here is probably better than public travel, also if you use trains to go somewhere, then you need public transport to travel around that area … most phones these days have google maps which works as a pretty good sat nav. the only time i would suggest public transport is for travelling around London.


I am not from the US and although I am also not from the UK, driving in the ‘right’ seat is ingrained, but…

I have driven in the US - If you are a half decent driver, don’t worry it won’t take long to adapt to driving from the other side of the car (even with a stick). Easiest way to think about it is, especially turning at intersections: you (the driver) need to be next to the centreline.

I have driven in the UK - If you stick mainly to A roads it will be easy, but you will miss a lot of what is worth seeing. Some of the B roads in Wales and the Cotswold area can be narrower than you are probably used to, but if you take it easy you will be fine… I wouldn’t worry about driving too slow, depending on the time of year you will be stuck behind a caravan (trailer) anyway :stuck_out_tongue:


Oh yeah. I forgot to mention that while you are driving in the UK, make sure you take a slight detour to Swindon and have a go on the ‘Magic Roundabout’ :wink:



I may go watch, but no way am I going to drive through that.


My thoughts exactly… at least I gave you forewarning.

On one of my trips to the UK I had to spend a few days in Cheltenham. The place I was visiting was kind enough to send a car down and pick me up in London.

The driver was a sweet young lass and as we were walking to the car complained of a headache and asked if I would mind driving. I guess my ‘fatherly instincts’ kicked in, that and I must have been getting rusty/had my guard down. Normally I would have spotted a set-up like this a mile away.

You guessed it. Instead of sticking to the freeway and bypassing Swindon, I am directed through the centre of Town and the magic roundabout.

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A lot of questions…… I live in Wales and have done for 5 years.

Firstly I’d ask what do you want to do?

Outside of the major cities, Wales is very rural. Where I am, the question isn’t “How far is your nearest….”, but “How long does it take to get to…” this may seem odd, but an example is that 30 miles will usually take an hour. Anywhere in England it’s usually 30-40 minutes.

Trains…. Not a chance that is going to work. Thanks to Dr Beechings, the rail network now only remains to/from major cities and tends to run to towards the west coast mainline in England. There is pretty much no railway north to south.
E.g. The Heart of Wales line is Swansea to Shrewsbury. You’d then need to change go north towards Crewe before going back west.

Honest answer, no. Cardiff to Snowdon is going to take you around 4 hours.

If it was me, I’d fly to London Heathrow, train to Cardiff, the pick a car up there and stay in multiple places closer to what you want to see/do.

If you want to keep the costs down, driving will be cheaper as well. Rail travel in the UK is expensive.

Get a car with a satnav. That said Satnav has problems in Wales and will take you through farm tracks and places you are not allowed to go. Google maps is better but relies on a mobile signal. Mobile coverage is ok in most of Wales where there is people but you may not get data coverage, or a 4G signal. 5G is limited to major cities.

Warning: they’re are parts where you will get no signal at all. Make sure you download the Google maps into your mobile before you intend to go exploring.

Wales is wet. Compared to other areas of the UK, we get around 3 times as much rain. e.g. where I used to live in England, we’d get around 6-700mm of rain. Where I am now 1700mm. It’s a lot.

So it depends on what you want to do and see. If your thinking of walking up and down Snowdon, in March you could end up in snow. March is still very much winter. April at the earliest, May/June would be better.

Snowdon…… if you intend to get to the top, make sure you have proper footwear and appropriate clothing. It’s a mountain, close to the coast and weather can change in 20 minutes. Snowdon has a quaint railway which runs up to the top, hence you get idiots walking down in all sorts. I’ve seen people walking down a steep scree slope in flip flops, t shirts and shorts carrying their baby in a papoose. :man_facepalming:

It depends on what you like to do/see.

Wales is stunning. It is an amazing place to live with different landscape throughout. If you like hiking, the coastal path is fabulous along most of its length. I’d recommend the Brecon Beacons. Most tourists do Pen Y Fan, the same with Snowdon. Be prepared if the weather is good to see lots of people.

If you’re driving, you’ll be on the A470 heading North. You won’t see much, unless you decide to venture to various known viewing points. Research is key, but it’s going to involve hiking up a hill and then sitting there in the rain (did I mention the rain?) hoping something goes through.

By now your travelling companion is contemplating two things…
1: Can she borrow the nerdy photographer’s long lens, who is staring at you both, to batter your face in?
2: How best to get rid of your body and where can she get large quantities of quicklime?

I’d say more like 5 hours. The reason would be the rural bits will slow you down massively. You’d get towards the motorway near Warrington, get round Manchester ok, then head towards Leeds. Once you head towards York, you’d slow down a lot when you leave the main roads.

That has never ever been said before outside of the Swindon tourist office.

Keets top tip… Swindon - avoid. Even for the roundabout.


Plenty to do around bristol airport. Close to M5 and M4 motorway for easy travel in any direction.

Agree with everyone else, Swindon is an absolute ***hole of a place.

Gimme a shout if you are near oxford,

Oh and dont go on the trains. Trains are awful. Especially in wales


I have nothing useful to add. But WTH! We’re all friends! My 2nd day working in the UK I found myself in Newcastle and had to get back to my home base of Manchester. Back then there weren’t as many domestic airline options as there are now so my company asked me to “hire” a car. I said, “Won’t that be extremely expensive?” This started several awkward minutes of misunderstanding before we realized that I was confused about the word “hire” which everyone knows is how the rest of the world says “rent”. I had no idea. I thought it meant that I was to be chauffeured to MAN in a Rolls! When I got the car I was asked if I had ever driven on the left before. I lied and drove away. It was a total non-event except for roundabouts. I’d slow and let someone else be the first and follow him clockwise. Seems obvious. I don’t know why I let it confuse me. The other ongoing embarrassment was attempting to re-enter my car through the passenger side after taking a break or getting gas. 30 years later I still make that mistake sometimes with the crew bus.

Driving around Wales and the Lake District is a joy. Looking back on that year, it is probably what I remember most fondly about exploring the UK. Manchester, by the way, is a terrific city even by the high standards English cities already set. If you can fly there directly and avoid Heathrow, the drive to Wales will be much shorter.

Also, be careful asking Brits about the UK (as you have unfortunately done here). They are often too blasé about the beautiful place where they reside. Whatever gene gave us “Don’t F… With Texas” exists nowhere among those people.


other “magic roundabouts” in the uk … there also used to be one in Hemel Hempstead… but its seems the local council came to its senses and removed it …EDIT just checked google maps and it seems to still be there …

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I love this…. So very true.

Except for Swindon. :rofl:


Definitely still there.


@Keets thank you very much for the detailed reply. My wife and I love history, so castles, museums, historical steam trains (well I want to do this one more than her…), so any suggestions in that vein would be appreciated.

I’d be the guy with 50lbs of camera gear at the Mach Loop, so I’ll probably hold off on that particular excursion for another trip where the wife can do her own thing for the day.

Thanks for heads up on the weather we are looking at bumping our trip back to April.

So it seems like driving is definitely the better option. Well, I guess I need to spend some time in ETS2 in the UK getting used to seeing things on the other side of the road. I am minorly tempted to try one of the magic roundabouts, though I will heed everyone’s advice to avoid Swindon.

@Victork2 I’ll definitely give you a holler if we end up by Oxford!


That was a good post why delete?

Yes Sir!
Then I read @keets reply hmmm

Are you still thinking March?

We haven’t booked anything yet. Based on @Keets advice on the weather we are thinking about moving our visit back to April, but nothing set in stone yet.

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Check out this website, there’s a ton of info on history and suggested places to visit based upon your interest. Cadw (Cadw - pronounced “Cadoo”). I forgot to mention the lack of vowels in Welsh… you’re going to love that. :rofl:

Cardiff Castle is in the city, I’ve never been, but it’s also a concert venue as well.

If you like historical railway, definitely do the Snowdon Mountain railway - good job you’ve moved the date, it opens on April 1st having been closed for winter.

In the Snowdonia area you’ve also got the Conwy railway musuem at Betws-y-coed (pronounced “Betsy coid” - I know, how the heck does that say that?) it’s not massive, but the village it’s in is lovely.

It will pail into insignificance against the York railway museum though, which is epic.

I’ll post a bit more later….

Edit: later….

This is a good resource for historical sites in Wales, castles etc.

If you go to Beaumaris castle, which is on Anglesey, you’ll go across the Menai strait across the Menai Bridge built by Thomas Telford. Whilst in Anglesey you could do the typical tourist thing and visit the place with the longest name in the UK called: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch pronounced “nope, not going there, you first” and get a picture at the train station sign.


Thought I was straying off topic? :worried:

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This could/should be the Mudspike motto…. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: