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The halfway point between London and Cardiff is the market town of Swindon. As an important hub of life in Wiltshire, Swindon has a solid array of historic attractions, parkland and amenities in its pedestrian Old Town. Often overlooked by tourists, this friendly little place makes an interesting base for exploring Wiltshire by car. Whether you drive here or hop the train and pick up a rental car at the station, this is one town that is benefitted by having your own wheels.
Who to Book With
Choose from a handful of well-known car hire companies such as Avis, Europcar or Budget in Swindon. Offices are situated near to the train station, bus station and the city’s larger industrial parks. An advance online booking is always a good idea to make sure you get the car you want at the best rates going.
Best Time to go
Swindon experienced typical English weather, making the summer months of June to August the prime time for a visit. This is when the days are long and the rain infrequent, aspects that lure many visitors here and typically result in higher rental rates. May can also be very pleasant, however, with minimal rain and lots of greenery.
Need to Know Essentials
You need to provide these documents to pick up your rental:
- A valid UK or EU driving license or International Driving Permit
- Another piece of photo ID like a passport
- The credit card used to book your rental
- A printed confirmation sheet
Swindon is not a major tourism destination, so the traffic here is very manageable. The city centre has a pedestrian Old Town area, with dozens of city-run and private car parks to make parking safe and easy. There are also a few pay-on-street parking lots that use meters and have a maximum stay of one hour. The average rate for the car parks is £1.20 per hour, bumping up to £38 for a stay of 8-24 hours.
The free Wroughton Park and Ride lot on the edge of the city centre is another convenient affordable option for drivers. A bus runs to the Old Town and Fleming Way between 06:45 and 19:15, Monday to Saturday, with adult fares of £1.40 per trip. Swindon lies just north of Junctions 15 and 16 of the M4 motorway, ensuring easy access from most of the south. The A419 road along the east provides easy access to the West Midlands and the Cotswolds.
Swindon has a decent public bus network, managed by Thamesdown, which runs through the city centre for easy access to the pedestrian Old Town as well as the surrounding suburbs. Taxis are the other option for transport here, while a rental car is always useful for anyone planning to move around a lot or explore the attractions in the neighbouring countryside.
The Thamesdown bus network has several ticket options. A single adult fare costs £1.20 for a ride within a single zone and £1.80 for two zones; kids pay £1.10. The DayRider pass is also a good deal at £3.50 for unlimited travel on all Stagecoach and Thamesdown buses within a single day. Tickets can be purchased directly from the bus driver or at kiosks at the main stations.
Swindon lies along the major London/Paddington to Bristol/Swansea line, so several trains pass through the city every hour. First Great Western trains come from every direction because Swindon is an important rail junction. The train station is located in the centre of town, just 200m from the bus station. A few car rental companies are on site for those who take the train here and then want the flexibility to explore the area by road.
A couple of taxi outfits, such as A1 Taxi, provide cab service from ranks at the train and bus stations and from key spots around the city centre. They can also be called for a pick up 24 hours a day.
Thamesdown operates the public bus network in Swindon in conjunction with Stagecoach, using a two-zone system to determine the fare. Its routes cover both the town centre and the surrounding suburbs, offering a good transport option for travellers without their own vehicle.
The Wiltshire area is a pretty piece of English countryside dotted with small market towns, vast rolling farms and plenty of natural and historic attractions. However, this is one part of England where a car is really an essential if you want to see and do everything. From the Cotswolds to Stonehenge, there are a dozen or more pleasant and engaging driving excursions possible from Swindon.
Stonehenge - One of England’s most famous and mysterious monuments, set just outside the charming town of Avebury. It takes little more than an hour on scenic country roads to reach this inspiring prehistoric circle of stones. Other sites, such as the West Kennett Long Barrow and Silbury Hill, are also in the area.
Salisbury Cathedral - This is just one of the historic highlights in Salisbury, boasting Europe’s oldest working clock and Britain’s tallest steeple. A Tower Tour is the perfect break after driving the hour-long journey from Swindon, while the town itself offers loads of ambiance and great restaurants.
The Wiltshire Cotswolds - This is quintessential England, with some real gems to explore, such as the medieval town of Lacock with its beautiful abbey and charming old lanes. Castle Combe, which you may recognise from several movies, is just outside this village.
The White Horses - These are fascinating historic pictures carved right into the hills of Wiltshire; they are white because of the chalk that lies beneath the surface of the earth. There are eight of them to check out in the countryside around Swindon. These huge horse images provide a great excuse to get out on the back roads for a day of scenic driving.