Including the Heart of Wales Railway and the Welsh Marches Railway.
Newport – Cardiff – Swansea – Heart of Wales Railway – Llandrindod Wells – Knighton – Shrewsbury – Welsh Marches Railway – Ludlow – Hereford – Newport
There are three airports either on this route, or very close:
Cardiff Airport (CDF), Bristol Airport (BRS) and Birmingham Airport (BHX).
However, if you are based in the UK, then I would simply take a train to the nearest start/end point on this route for you. If you are based in the south of the UK, then the easiest start/end point will most likely be Newport. However, in this case, I would simply travel all the way to Cardiff initially, and visit Newport at the end of the tour.
For points further north, Shrewsbury is probably the place to start/finish this circular route of Southern Wales by Rail.
Of the three airports, Cardiff Airport is by far the easiest option, as this is actually on the route. So you would start/end the Wales by Train – Southern Circuit from central Cardiff.
Of the other two airports which are not on the route, Bristol Airport and Birmingham Airport, Bristol Airport is the easier (as there is a direct airport bus from Bristol Airport to Bristol Temple Meads Railway Station, and from there you can take a direct train to Newport, and start the circuit from central Newport – although, in this case, I would also recommend that you travel all the way to Cardiff and visit Newport at the end of this circular rail route).
If you are arriving at Birmingham Airport though, you will have to travel into central Birmingham, and take the train from Birmingham New Street Railway Station to Shrewsbury – and start the circuit from central Shrewsbury.
This circuit can be made in either direction, and there is no difference in which direction you travel (it will all depend on your own itinerary). However, as Newport is the most popular entry-point, I have started from there, and have traveled in a clockwise direction.
1. Newport to Cardiff (train).
A top day out in Newport (photo: VisitWales)
From Newport, it is just a short (less than 20-minute) train ride directly to Cardiff (Cardiff Central Station).
2. Cardiff to Swansea (train).
Cardiff Castle from Bute Park (photo: Visit Cardiff)
A direct train from Cardiff (Cardiff Central Railway Station) takes you to Swansea in just under 1 hour.
3. Swansea to Shrewsbury (the Heart of Wales Railway Line).
After spending some special time in Swansea and the surrounding area (as much time as you have – personally, I would spend an eternity in the Swansea Bay area, especially The Mumbles), it is time for an even more special treat:
The most spectacular rail journey on this circular route of South Wales by Train:
The Heart of Wales Railway Line.
Crossing the Cynghordy viaduct (photo: Heart of Wales Line)
The single track railway line between Swansea and Shrewsbury passes right through the scenic heart of Wales, and is without a doubt, the highlight of this route.
There are countless places along the line to stop for a day (or two). The interactive map on the Heart of Wales Line website should definitely be your #1 resource.
Once you finally reach Shrewsbury, you will find that there’s even more to come.
4. Shrewsbury to Newport (the Welsh Marches Railway Line).
Unlike the single-track Heart of Wales Line, the Welsh Marches Line is a double-track railway, and passes through slightly less-spectacular scenery. Slightly.
Pontrilas Railway Station – closed in 1964 (photo: picturesofengland.com)
The line ends at Newport (Gwent), completing this circular tour of South Wales by Rail.
For all train timetables and railway line maps, see: www.arrivatrainswales.co.uk
These “virtual” journeys are just my way of continuing to see the world, now that the progression of my ataxia means that lengthy travel is no longer a possibility for me. Hence the detail. By planning the journey in such detail, I end up knowing the route so well that I feel like I have been on it myself. Although in this case, I have.
So if this article has inspired you, saved you some valuable time (or even just saved you a few pounds/euros/dollars), please show your appreciation by making a donation to Ataxia UK (registered charity), by following this link:
100% of your donation goes directly, and immediately, to Ataxia UK (plus an additional 25% if you are a UK-taxpayer and have ticked the “Gift Aid” box).
And a personal request?
Share a photograph, that you take at some point on your journey, with me on Twitter. Not necessarily your “best” photograph, but the one photograph that will forever remind you of your journey.
That way I can live a little piece of the journey through your eyes.