Web log beg: travel 2

Last time I did this, it worked very well, so I'm going to try it again! As mentioned recently, I'm going to holiday in the UK for three weeks in September. I've pretty much done next to no organising for this, so it's time I did. Where should I go?

The constraints are that I'm starting out in Exeter, and ending up with a week in London. I wanted to go to Cornwall last time but didn't make it, so that's a good direction to head in to begin with. Then I'm thinking up to Wales (and castles!) and maybe after that Portsmouth, for the old warships. But where in Cornwall would be a good base, given that the sights (Tintagel, St Michael's Mount, Eden Project, etc) are pretty spread out, and I'd be taking a bus around -- Newquay, perhaps? Where should I go in Wales? Cardiff? Conwy? What sights should I see? What shouldn't I bother with?

Thank you in advance!

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19 thoughts on “Web log beg: travel 2

  1. Chris Williams

    Newquay is the Gold Coast of Cornwall. I'd stick to the south coast if I were you - MInnack, Penzance, then St Michael's Mount, Looe Bar, RNAS Culdrose, the Lizard (Marconi memorial), Falmouth (biiig ships, plus secondhand books). Then if you must, head north to Tintagel and Boscastle. Probably the best places to stay from are Helston, then Camelford.
    Seat61.com will give you the gen on the sleeper to Penzance.
    On the way to Wales, if you can, check out the bookshops of Hay-on-Wye.
    Wales. Remember that Wales is pretty much two countries, one of them (south) much the same as England and best accessed from Bristol, the other one (north) a bit different (East Tazzy with ruins, essentially) and best approached via Liverpool. Of the North, it has been said (by me, just now) "Seen three castles, seen them all". Caernafon, plus one of Dolbadarn or Dolwyddylan, and one of Harlech or Conwy will do you. Conwy is easy to get to, and is additionally Telford-tastic. You can now get the Welsh Highland narrow-gauge railway from Caernarfon most of the way to Portmadoc, and that will be well cool.

    I will now go off and defend myself from DoS attacks from at least four different tourist boards.

  2. Post author

    Thanks, Chris. I had heard that about Newquay, but I really only care about it has a transport hub (and a place to sleep) -- I won't have a car and will be on the buses (so to speak). I must do Tintagel as I'm a bit of an Arthurian (or at least was before becoming overspecialised). But I'll keep your comments in mind! (Though you shouldn't enable my bookaholism by telling me where the good bookshops are ...)

    Thanks, Ricardo -- I'll keep an eye on it

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  4. If you are going to the south coast of Cornwall, then my recommendations would be:

    - The National Maritime Museum (small boats and Cornwall are the twin themes. Full disclosure: my father-in-law runs it and would never forgive me for not plugging it... but it is a brilliant museum, really).

    - Prussia Cove. The website is for the holiday cottages there but it is a stunningly wild and beautiful bit of Cornwall.

    - Trebah and Trelissick gardens.

    - The Eden Project.

  5. Post author

    Thanks for the tips! I do like nautical things (despite being a complete landlubber) so the Maritime Museum could be the go.

  6. If you do go to the NMMC, ask after Jonathan Griffin and say you know his son-in-law on the internet... :)

    (he is also a blogger so knows all about internet acquaintances!)

  7. Nicholas Waller

    Conwy area's good for castles. Also, if you're minded to climb up things, there's Snowdon and Tryfan. And not far away is jet training base RAF Valley on Anglesey, right next to Rhosneigr, which has a railway station (on the route to the Holyhead ferry). I went there once, with family and to go on the beach, not to planespot, but it is easy enough to get to a vantage point to see the runway.

    Depending on luck, there might be Hawks flying about. It was a bit surreal when I was there, on the afternoon at the seaside in 2005 listening to the Ashes, kids playing on the beach, little sailing ships out to sea, and above us a school of jet trainers gambolling like dolphins in the vasty sky.

    Plus I saw a passing-through B1 take off.

    I didn't get any pics of that, but see http://www.nawaller.com/gallery/walesplanes/ for some pics of Hawks and Hercules scudding through the valleys.

  8. A good base to stay in Cornwall would be Penzance or Truro. They both have excellent transport links, and plenty of places to eat of an evening.

    From Penzance, you have easy access to the archaeological sites (stone circles, standing stones, quoits, hillforts, etc) of West Penwith, as well as the Minack Theatre (perched on a cliff - a must see!), and regular busses to St Ives, and down to the Lizard. And of course, you can see St Michael's Mount from much of the town. Penzance railway station has regular services up to the rest of the county and beyond.

    From Truro (which is as central as you can get), there are trains up and down country, to Falmouth, Penzance, and a big bus station with busses going everywhere. It's a very pleasant city (a town-sized city). St Austell (for the Eden Project) is 25 minutes away by train, and you can even get a boat down to Falmouth if you tire of bus and train.

    Have fun!

  9. Brett your best bet is probably Truro as a base in Cornwall if you are planning to try and see most of the county. If you are thinking more West Conrwall then Penzance is good. Hey if you get really stuck I have a futon if you need it!! Though I am in St Just in West Penwith. Lovely are though.

  10. Ian Evans

    South Wales is good for a visit if short on time and using public transport. No more paddle steamers across from North Devon alas (and I think September is a bit late fot the Waverley). Fast train from Bristol (lots of Brunel) to Cardiff. National Museum of Wales is close, they had the Watkins Monoplane on display, Morane-ish first Welsh aircraft. Cardiff Castle nearby is mostly fake (fun though), but the old central keep is unmucked about, you can go below the modern walls to the excavated Roman wall below and there is a regimental museum (welsh, not legionary) in the grounds. The reinvented Cardiff Bay area is worth a wander round, even a boat trip. There's a fast train service to Swansea for the Welsh Shipping and Industrial museum. I haven't seen it since it was enlarged and rebuilt but it absorbed the museum that was in Cardiff docks as well as the original Swansea collections. Lots of steam, rail, shipping and mining, not sure if there's any aviation beyond a few aero engines. If going for the Dylan Thomas option, Brain's bitter is excellent; but I used to find the Red Dragon (well, several) gave me stabbing pains behind the eyeballs.
    I believe there is a train service to North and Mid Wales, but probably only one a day, taking all day. Very scenic though. It's a long time since I tried travelling from South to North using public transport.
    Ignore rude comments from the other side of Offa's Dike ("Nuclear strike on Cardiff; several pounds' worth of damage done"), and it doesn't rain every day in South Wales (though I suppose you might find that an interesting novelty).

  11. Post author

    Thanks for all the advice! Okay, I'm persuaded that Truro would be a good base in Cornwall. Cardiff and Conwy look like goers for Wales. (Nice action shots, Nicholas!) I like the sound of a scenic train ride through Wales too. As for Portsmouth, I think I can probably do that as a day trip from London, which simplifies matters.

  12. Nicholas Waller

    Thanks! Those pics were all taken around Llyn Ogwen, a lake on the A5 overlooked by Tryfan. I wasn't planespotting - these were all shots I happened to take during walks I was on. Basically the aircraft zoom down the A5 from the west, then turn right (not quite a right-angle, but it looks like it from the ground) and follow the road northish.

  13. Nicholas Waller

    As for trains, thetrainline.com shows, for instance, eight no-change trains on a weekday (about every couple of hours) between Cardiff Central and Llandudno Junction, which is the station for Conwy (or you could go on to Bangor or Holyhead on the same train, and catch a jet cat for Dublin).

    Takes about 4 hours as it winds through the countryside (I did it the other way once, well, as far as Newport, where I was changing for Bristol). Also, there are another 8 or so trains with one stop.

  14. JDK

    Hi Brett,
    We usually use the 'Book a Bed Ahead' (the great acronym 'baba'!) service by popping in to the Tourist Information bureaus in each town as we travelled around. (About the only thing we don't do online.) It's intended primarily for the Bed & Breakfast market, but we've rarely had a problem, and it generally works well - you can specify your budget and where you are aiming to stay. The TI staff are knowledgeable about their local market, and in my experience (having worked with one team) very professional - you get the benefits of local knowledge.

    Just a suggestion, not often found.

  15. Chris Williams

    I tend to use laterooms.com or Smooth Hound for rooms. You can also sort the trains through the Network Rail site. The mainline train to Conwy via Crewe and Chester is the quickest, but for premier Welshness, go up from Cardiff via Abergavenny and Hereford to Shrewsbury and then turn left onto the slow train for Pwhelli. Savour Dovey Junction - a station which it is impossible to leave, save by train. Get off at Portmadog, get the Ffestiniog to Blenau Ffestiniog, then transfer back to standard gauge to get to Conwy. It'll take about a day and cost a packet (esp the Ffestiniog) but look really nice.

    How are Britrail passes? I think that you (unlike us poor saps, who each give the various collections of shysters who run it about £60 a year in subsidy) can get 4-day ones which are quite a good deal.

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