On Wednesday, we set off on a rail excursion to Wales, an area I have never visited before in my life. It’s been quite a while since we enjoyed one of these excursions, our old providers Green Express railtours are sadly no more. This particular excursion was being run by Compass Tours, a new company to us. Picking up from our station at 06.10am meant that Kerri and I were trundling through town with all of our gear in the early hours of the morning. There were plenty of other early travellers who turned up on the platform eventually, including many familiar faces from the old Green Express tours days.
The train arrived on time and we all knew the drill by now, get on and then walk down to your assigned coach (in this case E.) All carriages were well looked after, and our steward for the day Dave introduced himself and then promptly disappeared. We had lot’s of stops to do in order to pick up other passengers all the way down to Crewe, but eventually we began the journey along the single line track known as ‘The Heart of Wales’ railway. On this line, the driver had to obtain a token at various stretches of the line in order to continue along the route. The vista viewed as we travelled along was breath-taking, with high hills and valleys spread out before us on both sides of the train. Fields dotted with sheep and their lambs scampering away as our train passed them by. Babbling brooks meandered along the same route as ours, twisting this way and that. I did makes some attempt to take plenty of shots of it all through the window which thankfully had been thoroughly cleaned, but as always its not easy and many were very blurred.
We arrived at Cardiff approximately on time at 14.30pm and it was a relief to disembark the train and stretch our legs. Now where to go? It’s always difficult whenever you visit a strange venue to know where to go and which direction to set off in. Unlike our previous tours, there had been no brochures on our tables to help you plan a route around your intended destination. As you never have a lot of time to explore on these day excursions, this small detail was always an aid for planned exploration of a strange venue, and was therefore sadly missed by everyone who had done these journeys previously. We headed off in the same direction as everyone else seemed to be heading and then spent the next hour or so wandering aimlessly through shopping precincts and malls and the like before finally asking someone the directions to Cardiff Castle.
We have visited many castles the length and breadth of the UK, and Cardiff Castle has to rate amongst one of the best. Firstly after making our way through a door in the left side of the castle wall, we toured around some beautifully decorated rooms complete with ornate carvings especially around the fireplaces. One room in particular was breath-taking in its carvings which adorned the walls and ceiling. Trouble is having wasted time previously, we couldn’t linger around to admire it all or visit every attraction in the castle, so we made our way across to the central tower, passing some birds of prey demonstration along the way.
The central tower was surrounded by a moat, currently occupied by a few ducks. Its foundations were covered in golden daffodils and the entire sight looked absolutely fantastic in the sun. Kerri was none too keen to climb all of the steps up to the tower, but she managed it and also some of the steps inside the tower, eventually calling a halt to sit inside one of the many archer slits whilst I continued on to the top of the tower to enjoy a magnificent view of the surrounding parkland. Ever mindful of the time, we both descended into the grounds where many were making the best of the sunshine. We were enjoying a spectacular day weather-wise and I remarked that we had not seen one cloud in the sky all day so far.
We had already purchased our souvenirs at the Castle gift shop but as we exited the castle gate and crossed the road we spied another gift shop where Kerri could have bought a t-shirt that wouldn’t bury her and I saw a much greater choice of fridge magnets. Patience is a virtue! We slowly made our way down the road towards the railway station, where we enjoyed a Burger King meal for our tea. Arriving in the station with some time to spare, I found the next book in the ‘Game of Thrones’ series that I am busy ploughing through and bought it alongside a packet of Randoms for the journey home. We made our way up to Platform 4 to await our train. At approximately 18.10 it pulled in and we all clambered on board to take our seats.
Everyone began to swop tales of where they’d been and what they had done and seen. The lady sat opposite had lost her husband and went to look down the train for him. When on a train excursion, staff always remind everyone that they will cannot wait and if anyone misses the train because they turn up late, they would have to make their own way home. Thankfully he arrived in the nick of time and we set off on the long journey back. Once it became dark outside the return journey became tedious. There was no longer any glorious countryside whizzing past to grab your interest, but at long last we began to drop off other travellers along the way and eventually after what seemed a journey of eternity, we arrived back at our little station at 23.36pm. Two of our friends from previous train excursions offered to kindly give us a lift home from the station and we gladly accepted their offer.
We had enjoyed a wonderful day out visiting an area I had never been to before in my life. I do hope you enjoy the photos I took along the way, and I also hope its not long before we are once again setting off on another train excursion to somewhere as equally exciting.