Given the unusually-hot weather this summer (2018), the ‘staycation’ approach seemed like a good idea so what better place to start than in West Wales where we live. I am sure lots of people miss out on exploring their own region, so we decided to be tourists and explore Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and on to Cardiff using local bus services and booking accommodation ahead.
Our starting point is half way between Aberystwyth and Cardigan in the harbor town of Aberaeron in Cardigan Bay. Just four miles down the road on the T5 reaches the popular sea-side town of New Quay from where the summer service Cardi Bach mini-bus takes you along the coast to Cardigan (the service runs from June to September). Be prepared for a very bumpy 2-hour ride along narrow, twisting lanes following the coast via Cwmtydu, Llangranog, Aberporth and Penbryn – ask the driver nicely and he/she will hang on while you nip to the loo here – then on to Gwbert just outside Cardigan.
Finch Square is the bus terminus, so off the Cardi Bach and onto the Poppit Rocket to carry on along coastal lanes to Newport for afternoon tea. Unfortunately, nowhere was available to stay on this day so we went back on the normal T5 service – we would have stayed here overnight otherwise. Early start the next day on the T5 again to continue down to Fishguard. It isn’t a very big town, but the 100ft tapestry depicting The Last Invasion of Britain by the French is a masterpiece worth stopping to view (see www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/191015 ).
The next bus is the 404 Strumble Shuttle – I love these names! – leaving at 11.10am, it follows another picturesque route down to St David’s for a stroll around the stunning Cathedral and lunch before catching the quicker service-bus 413 back to Fishguard to vary the scenery. Just a few minutes wait there to catch the T5, our favourite bus – onwards to Haverford West.
We enjoyed a welcome overnight stay at the 4* Wolfscastle Hotel and Spa on this main road before you reach Haverford West, the bus driver was very helpful and dropped us off opposite the hotel (see www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/190997 ). It is a very comfortable, relaxed atmosphere in the bar and restaurant with excellent dinner and breakfast so a good choice.
Back on the trusty T5 next morning to Haverford West (the birthplace of artists Augustus John and his sister Gwen) bus station, then around the corner for the 349 service-bus to Tenby, taking in Neyland, Pembroke Dock, Pembroke with the castle where Henry VIII was born, and into Tenby by mid-afternoon. The hotel we booked wasn’t quite as planned as it is half-way up a steep hill out of town on the Narberth Road, not an issue if you are driving, of course. This is a very popular seaside town, , lots of shops and restaurants as well as a beautiful sandy beach and harbor. Such a perfect day, it was wonderful to see children actually enjoying being in the sea without shivering and turning blue!
We had a really good ‘sharing’ dinner but returned quite early to the hotel, deciding to take a stroll around before bed, perhaps to find a friendly local pub. Alas, not so – the two we passed were both closed. But fortunately, as it happens, we found the walk up to the top road to catch our bus the next day was shorter than back down to the terminus.
We weren’t sure if the plan for the next day would work as it involved 3 buses with very little time to spare in between, but it did work perfectly – phew! The 8.35am local bus 351 arrived in Pendine at 9.35am, with the 222 to Carmarthen arriving 10 minutes later at the same stop. This was another fascinating journey along the coast road and through lots of small villages, getting us to Carmarthen bus station with 20 minutes to spare, so time to get a take-away coffee and use the public facilities. What more can you ask for?
This is the last leg of our journey now, taking the T1c coach direct to Cardiff for our 2-night stay at Jury’s Inn, one of our favourite hotels to stay in when visiting the capital city of Wales (see www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/190995 ). We could have just stayed for one night rather than two, but we made the most of our trip with a murder-mystery play at New Theatre, Sherlock Holmes’ The Final Curtain on the first night, and a 5-mile walk around the Bay before watching the latest film “Ocean’s 8” the next day, finally leaving for home on Saturday morning. Rather wait for the direct T1c coach back to Aberaeron which didn’t leave Cardiff until 4.45pm, we relaxed on the train to Carmarthen to finish the last stage on normal service bus T1.
Did the trip live up to our expectations? Absolutely. It took a lot of planning, checking timetables, deciding route options, booking accommodation beforehand, but it was such a wonderful way to see some of the quieter rural and coastal lanes that you often miss when one of you is driving. It was cheaper for us, of course, as we have the Travel Wales bus pass and all the journeys were free, but you can get day travel passes that cover all of Wales so that is an option rather than paying fares to the driver. We did have a small rucksack each, but it is amazing how much you can cram in there if you really try.
Whether you want to visit Wales or explore your own area, I think trying all the public service routes during the summer, when extra tourist buses are often available, is a great way to do it.