Rosslare Harbour – Fishguard – Carmarthen – Swansea – Crewe – Stone

I was up very early for the ferry over the Irish Sea. I’d arrange with the hotel that I could simply leave the key and slip away. They’re quite used to, as as ferry passengers are pretty much all they ever see. I wasn’t at all surprised to see a deserted street 6:30am. I can’t imagine it ever gets busy here, expect with traffic rushing on by as it heads to or from the port.

I retraced my steps from last night back to the station and onward to the tiny terminal. Foot passengers are not a big part of their business; there were a dozen of us.

We were asked to board a minibus and to leave our luggage in a transit parked next to it. Both were then driven onto the ferry. Unlike the outward journey at Stranraer, the minibus left after dropping us off, but the transit was the baggage store so that travelled with us.

The journey was uneventful. I passed the time writing up bits of this diary, and also had an extortionately expensive , but in fairness quite acceptable, breakfast.

By 10:45am we were docked at Fishguard Harbour. I had quite a long wait for the train and contemplated walking the mile or so into the town, but decided to stick it out as this was the only time I was ever likely to do this journey. The station has a huge waiting area, but there were only a handful of passengers, several of whom went exploring to see if there was a cafe, or any interesting views. There was neither.

After an hour and a quarter the train turned up. Somewhat improbably it was running late. Given that it was only doing a relay to and from Carmarthen and was the only train on the line, I’m not quite sure how this had happened. The othe oddity about this trip was that the driver got off the train near to Clarbeston Road station to swap tokens. You don’t see that too often these days.

The train was only going to Carmarthen because there was a rail replacement bus from here as far as Swansea. We were all turfed off the train to the bus stop across the road, and waited half an hour for our coach. It started to drizzle and a number of passengers took shelter under the station awning.

I had a front row seat on the coach which meant I could see the views as we made our way, via Llanelli, to Swansea. Much of this landscape is post-industrial and still finding a new identity. The crossing over the River Loughour which divides the Gower peninsula from the mainland was the most attractive part of this journey, but on a grey Sunday morning was not at its best.

We left the bus and returned to the railway in Swansea, a station I’d visited towards the end of the second trip. Then, as now, I wasn’t able to get up the most westerly route via Llandovery due to closures so it was a direct service to Crewe from here and that one will have to wait for another time.

I’ve used the Swansea – Manchester service before and it has always been busy. On a day of reduced services due to closures it was heaving. I was lucky to get a seat and felt sorry for those who had to stand for 4 hours. Every station was full of people waiting for delayed or merged services.

By Crewe I was more than happy to escape and board the local service to Stone. By complete contrast, I was the only person in the carriage on this train until it reached Stoke.

At Stone we waved goodbye to the 142nd and final train of the whole adventure and headed home.