Travel throughout the UK with a BritRail Pass is one of the easiest ways to see England, Wales, and Scotland. Purchasing a BritRail Pass gives you the ability to travel across the entire National Rail network of Great Britain.
On a recent trip to the UK, I took advantage of this superior product to visit Gloucester and Cardiff. I flew into Birmingham and used my pass to travel south to my first destination.
Gloucester has its roots stretching back more than 2,000 years to Roman times. The country’s most inland port, Gloucester is charming and welcoming. In the mid-1990s, the city center was pedestrianized making it easy to find Roman ruins, Tudor architecture and Medieval relics.
Over the years when I visit Gloucester to see my friends, I always find myself back at Gloucester Cathedral. The church was a wealthy and powerful institution with extensive landholdings in Gloucestershire and South Wales. It also had significant royal associations. In 1216, Henry III was crowned here and, in 1327, King Edward II was buried here.
The cathedral is considered one of the finest medieval sites in the nation.
I always enjoy exploring the more than 1,000 years of architectural styles—from Norman to the present day.
The cathedral has extraordinary fan-faulted medieval cloisters and beautiful stained glass windows. A lovely English garden fronts the glorious church adding, even more, color and beauty.
Close by on College Court is a small Beatrix Potter shop and museum. It is here Potter visited and ultimately wrote “The Tailor of Gloucester.”
I enter and check out the many Beatrix Potter items for sale and visit the kitchen area where a volunteer tells the story of the tailor. Upstairs are more exhibits helping to bring the story to life.
Just across the court is Lily’s Restaurant and Tearoom where I stop for a delicious lunch of fish and chips before shopping throughout the afternoon.
Cardiff is an easy one-hour train trip from Gloucester.
I walk from the train station along pedestrian-only streets toward Cardiff Castle, my first stop.
The castle and its advantageous location can be traced back 2,000 years to the Roman era. The Roman fort was probably established just after the death of Jesus Christ. After the Norman Conquest, the Castle’s keep was built, re-using the site of the Roman fort.
The castle passed through the hands of many noble families until in 1766, when it passed by marriage to the Bute family. The 2nd Marquess of Bute was responsible for turning Cardiff into the world’s greatest coal exporting port. The Castle and Bute fortune passed to his son John, the 3rd Marquess of Bute. By the 1860s he was reputed to be the richest man in the world.
From 1866 the 3rd Marquess employed architect William Burges to transform the Castle lodgings. Burges created lavish and opulent interiors with murals, stained glass, marble, gilding, and elaborate wood carvings.
When the 3rd Marquess died in 1900, his son, the 4th Marquess, completed many of his father’s restoration projects and the family continued to stay at the castle until the 1930s.
Following the death of the 4th Marquess of Bute, the family decided to give the Castle and much of its parkland to the city of Cardiff.
I first walk to the castle’s keep. The massive round stone structure is perched on a hill. After walking up a steep staircase, I enter the keep where I find more stairs, this time leading to the top of the keep. From here I have an excellent view of the city and the rest of the castle.
The second part of my tour was the home of the Bute family. Gloriously decorated from ceiling to ornate floors, the tour is an invitation to imagine life here during the past centuries. I slowly walk through the dining hall, library and parlors.
From the castle, I wander through many of the city’s arcades created by adding roofs—many glass—over the areas between two buildings. Small locally-owned shops, cafes and restaurants line the arcades.
For a late lunch, I enjoyed spinach ravioli at Giovanni’s Italian Restaurant before strolling back to the train station.
The beauty of the BritRail Pass is the pass is good for the whole day within the number of days purchased, so I didn’t have to worry about purchasing a ticket for my return trip.
My adventures continued, but all too soon it was time for me to once again board the train to Birmingham and the airport.
I always enjoy my wanderings in England, Wales, and Scotland. Whenever I travel here I always make sure I have a BritRail Pass to make my travels that much easier. The pass is the most convenient way to travel by train.