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Swindon: A Visitors Guide
Swindon in General
Member Name: Brooke3
Swindon in General
Advantages: Lots to do
Disadvantages: Poor public transport
This guide is written based purely on my experiences of Swindon (I lived there for a long time and still visit at least once a month) so it may not include absolutely everything that there is to do in Swindon.
As always for my long reviews I have written a contents:
-Travelling Around Swindon
-Where to stay
-Tourist Attractions (yes, Swindon does have some!)
You can get to Swindon in all of the usual ways, car, coach or train.
The bus station and the train station are both in the town centre, both within five minutes walk of each other so in terms of location there isn't much difference. As always I would recommend getting the train over a coach simply because it's more comfortable and the journey time is shorter. Another reason why I prefer to get the train is that I don't like the bus station much. In my experience there tend to be a lot of drunks around there and it doesn't feel as safe as the train station. In the train station you also have the bonus of being able to sit in a café while you wait for your train, at the bus station all you get is a cold bench.
Getting from both the train station and the bus station is easy. There are always taxi's at the train station (and sometimes at the bus station too) and of course always buses going from the bus station. They are both close enough that whichever you choose you can walk to the other station for either buses or taxis.
Travelling to Swindon by car is easy as there is access from the M4.
-Travelling Around Swindon-
My preferred method of travel is walking. In fact I think one of the bonuses of being in Swindon is that you can walk to most places, even though it may take an hour or more and the routes aren't always scenic. My reason for preferring to walk isn't just because of my love of walking but also because public transport in Swindon is awful and so is the traffic which makes other forms of transport less appealing.
Buses in Swindon are pretty expensive and bus drivers do not give out change. I find this very frustrating because it means that if you're travelling by bus you always have to ensure that you have the correct change before you get to the bus stop. I also find the bus drivers to be really rude and unhelpful. A couple of weeks ago I was using the bus to travel and I asked the bus driver if his bus went to a certain destination. You would think that would be a reasonable question to ask but he reacted as though I had asked the most stupid question possible and actually laughed at me before answering that yes it did go there. To make matters worse the bus didn't go to that destination and the bus driver had been confused.
This isn't a unique experience for me, bus drivers are often rude, and is one of the reasons why I avoid using the buses wherever possible.
Driving in Swindon is slightly better and in my experience although you sometimes have to spend a lot of time looking for a parking space you can usually find one eventually. Plus a lot of places, like the outlet village, have their own parking. However, there tends to be a lot of traffic in Swindon and it's always best to avoid driving during the rush hour and at the weekend.
-Where to Stay-
I don't tend to stay in hotels in Swindon very often because my family live there but I have stayed at the Swindon Marriott a number of times for various special occasions and I highly recommend it.
The Swindon Marriott is located in old town, which is a really good location, but it feels like you're in the middle of the countryside. I think the grounds are beautiful.
The bedrooms, like all Marriott rooms, are very comfortable and clean. The restaurant serves great food and if you're there at the weekend you should do their Sunday lunch-excellent value for money and the food is delicious.
They have a very comfortable bar area, although the service is not always great in the bar. I find that the bar is often left unattended for long periods but when you do get service it is very friendly.
They also have a leisure club with a swimming pool.
I've written a review of the Swindon Marriott: members.dooyoo.co.uk /hotels-national/hotels-in-swindon-in-general/1155 324
There are so many places to shop in Swindon.
The Swindon Designer Outlet Village seems to be the most popular with tourists and people actually travel from outside of Swindon just to go there.
I really like the outlet village because there is a great range of shops, although perhaps a bit lacking for teenagers and a great range of food outlets. The best part of a shopping trip for me is lunch and getting coffee (which I do as often as whoever I'm with will let me) and you can't beat the outlet village for choice of food and drink venues.
For those who have children it's a great family day out. I've been taking my sister there since she was about three and she loves it. The best thing for me is that Starbucks has tables in the outdoor playground so I can have coffee while she plays. It seems that the outlet was made with the intention of attracting families because their outdoor play area really is fantastic plus they have a crèche and you can hire little cars to push children around in. I think these things make a big difference when you're shopping with children.
I have written a review of the outlet village so I won't repeat everything I've said in it. members.dooyoo.co.uk/ offline-shopping-misc/ great-western-outlet-mall/1153737
Then there's the Brunel Shopping centre, located in Swindon's town centre. This is the place to go if you want to buy the latest fashions in the big named high street shops. In terms of shops I think it's better than the outlet village because the shops that you get here are the more popular ones and whereas at the outlet village you're somewhat limited as to what you can buy, at the Brunel Shopping centre you can buy pretty much anything.
For more information please read my review on the Brunel Shopping Centre members.dooyoo.co.uk/ shopping-national/ brunel-shopping-centre/1198003/
Many people go to the Greenbridge Retail Park to shop but I honestly can't recommend this as a good place for shopping in general. I guess the attraction is to the specific shops that are there, like mother care and boots but unless you want to buy something specific to those shops you're much better off going to one of the other shopping centres. What Greenbridge does offer is a great cinema and some restaurants (like Pizza Hut and Frankie and Benny's). I think one of the things that would put me off shopping here the most is that it's basically one big car park that you have to walk across to get to shops and sometimes from shop to shop. I just don't think it's the safest way to shop. It's also not the most convenient or comfortable. I much prefer having everything under one roof.
One of my favourite days out in Swindon is to Orbital Shopping Park, or more specifically the Borders they have there! Those of you who have read my reviews know how much I love books and you will not get a better selection of books than in the Borders at the Orbital Shopping Park. Plus they have a starbucks, so that's my two favourite things- coffee and books. If books aren't your thing they have a number of other shops, like Boots, Walmart and Next.
Like with Greenbridge Retail Park it's not all under one roof so if it wasn't for the borders I would probably have the same complaints with this as I do with Greenbridge...it's the books that sway it for me.
I do think though that it has a much safer feel because you can get to all of the shops without having to keep going across the car park.
In the summer it makes a great day out with the family. There's an outdoor play area that I love taking the children in my family to and there are a few places to get lunch, my favourite being pizza hut.
There are two cinema's in Swindon but one is far superior to the other! Cineworld have a cinema in West Swindon and Empire have a cinema at Greenbridge. I wouldn't bother with the one in West Swindon unless you can't tickets at Greenbridge.
The Empire Cinema is big and shows all of the latest films. It has stadium style seating so you don't have to hurt your neck every time you watch a film. Although I find that sometimes the service there can be really slow the staff are friendly and helpful. In the past whenever I've had complaints, usually about things that were beyond their control, they've refunded me the cost of the cinema ticket. I think that good customer service is really important and you will certainly receive that here (and if you don't just talk to the manager who is usually really good at sorting these things out).
I don't even bother going to cineworld anymore because I can't stand going to cinema's where the seats are all on one level. Plus it's smaller and older (not always a bad thing but in this case it means that everything feels a little bit more run down).
Swindon also has a theatre called the Wyvern Theatre that is located in the town centre. This isn't of course up to the standards of cities like London or Bristol but I think considering that Swindon is just a town (admittedly a big town) it is pretty good. It was recently refurbished, although I personally don't think it's much different to how it was before. I find it to be quite comfortable but think that they could stock a much better range of food.
In December I went to see a 3D pantomime at the Wyvern and I really enjoyed it. Like most pantomimes it was aimed more at children and I actually began to find the whole thing of putting the glasses on and taking them off again a little bit tedious but over all it was a very enjoyable experience and if they do the same thing next year I would recommend taking children (that is your own children or those of people you know...not just random children who you find on the street).
There are plenty of places to swim in Swindon but none of them beat the Oasis. The Oasis has slides and a wave machine which in my opinion makes it much more fun than the boring swimming pools you get in other places in Swindon. The only complaint I have is that the pool tends to be quite crowded and it is expensive for such a short period of time that you get to swim.
There is an ice skating ring in the link centre in West Swindon. I don't ice skate so I can't comment on this.
Also in West Swindon is a bowling alley. I really enjoy bowling and think that this is one of the better bowling alleys that I've been to. It's big so you don't usually have to wait very long to get a lane. Like in most bowling alleys there is also an arcade and a burger bar which are both pretty average.
I'm afraid that at the old age of 25 I am no longer as enamoured of going out clubbing as I once was. However, I still get out often enough to form an opinion on Swindon's night life.
There are two area's of Swindon that I would recommend if you want a night out pubbing and clubbing. The first would be Swindon Town Centre. At the bottom of town there are loads of pubs, most of them chains like Yates and O'Neils.
I think that some of the pubs in this area are quite nice to drink in, as long as you don't mind crowds. I've always quite liked The Grove, a wetherspoons pub. I find it to be quite comfortable, the drinks are of course very cheap and if you go there during the week it's quiet enough to hold conversations. I like that there isn't any music because it means that you don't have to shout to be heard.
If you want to dance then I would recommend going to walkabout. The music always seems to be quite eclectic to me which I think is a good thing when you're going out with such a diverse crowd as I tend to do when I go out in Swindon. I particularly like that they play some really cheesy songs that you can just have fun with. My only real complaint would be that it gets too crowded in here but that is probably the same everywhere.
The downside to going out in the town centre is that it can get quite rowdy when all of the pubs kick out. Seems to be that it's young people (I would guess some of them under age) who hang around in these pubs and I have witnessed a number of fights outside of these pubs. The door staff are fairly useless and just stand around watching. I don't really feel very safe when I go out in this area.
My second recommendation for a night out would be old town. To me it has a much more mature feel to it, although you do still have some of the problems of the town centre when it comes to closing time. I actually haven't been to a club in old town in almost a year. The last time I went clubbing in old town I went to suju. I would not recommend it. I couldn't identify what kind of music they were playing but it just sounded like noise to me (see what I mean about being old?) There was plenty of seating but I didn't find it particularly comfortable. I'm not saying that this is a bad club, it just wasn't to my tastes.
Longs is always a pleasant place to drink and if I was going to recommend anywhere to drink in Old Town it would be longs. I think one of the bonuses for me is that the clientele are not all under the age of 20.
I'm obviously not going to review every single restaurant that I've ever eaten at in Swindon. Instead I will just make recommendations.
There are a lot of Italian restaurants in Swindon but I think the one that stands out for me is Capricorno's. Every time I go in there the waiting staff greet me in a very warm and friendly manner. Service is always efficient, although as the food is fresh it's not really speedy but it's worth waiting for the food. The food is consistently of excellent standard. It's also a very comfortable restaurant that has a really authentic feel to it. It is Italian run and most of the staff are Italian too.
It seems that in recent years there has been a sharp increase in the number of Chinese Restaurants but the Swindon Rendezvous maintains its top spot. I love going in there for their all you can eat menu. It is expensive (around £20) but for your money you get to order as much as you want to eat from the menu (not all dishes are included but most of them are). I much prefer this to going to a buffet where the food is on display because it feels like the food is less likely to be contaminated.
I think that the service could be improved significantly. Service can be very slow and the staff aren't very helpful at all. You occasionally get a friendly member of staff but most of the time they seem very stressed and it often feels like they don't have time to answer any questions that you have.
However, the quality of the food more than makes up for this.
I don't often eat Indian food in Swindon but when I do I always go for the Jewel in the Crown. I can't say that this is the best in Swindon because I don't have anywhere to compare it to but I certainly find it to be very satisfying. The food tastes good and the restaurant looks quite impressive. I know it's probably shallow but that's the thing that always attracts me to this restaurant. When I was a child I loved that it had chandeliers and it felt really fancy to me...and that still manages to impress me now, even if I think in some ways it does look a bit tacky.
I know that it's a chain but I have to recommend harvester. The food isn't anything special, although it is very cheap but the service is excellent. I would go in there just for the fact that the waiting staff are very friendly, very helpful and without a doubt the best waiting staff in any of the restaurants in Swindon that I've ever been to.
I do like that you get to go to the salad bar for free but then there's the problem that I eat so much bread that I'm not hungry when my food arrives.
Frankie and Benny's. I feel that I should warn people about this Frankie and Benny's because my dining experience there is consistently bad. So bad that I have stopped going there (even though it's right next to the cinema and the most convenient place to eat when I'm going to see a film). The restaurant is always cold, no matter what time of year it is. The food isn't very good either. It always either comes out burnt or just tasting very bland.
I bet most of you don't think that Swindon has any tourist attractions. Well, you're wrong.
First of all we have the very exciting Railway Museums. That's right, a whole museum about the railway! It's actually not as boring as it seems. I often take my younger sister there (she's eight) and have been doing so for a number of years and she loves it. The first time I took her there I thought she would be bored but there are just so many interactive activities for children to do that it would be impossible for her not to enjoy. I particularly like that you can go onto old fashioned trains. I can't say that I've really learned much about trains or railways, even though the museum contains a lot of information, but I do have a good time every time I go there.
http://members.dooyoo.co.uk /sightseeing-national/ steam-museum-of-the-great- western-railway /1153832/
Then there's Lydiard House which is surrounded by Lydiard Park. Lydiard house is a restored stately home and for a fee you can walk around it. It's really not a very big house but I personally do like going there. You can't go into every single room but I really feel that the rooms that have been restored give you a real feel for the history. I love looking around old houses and I love history so I'm a little bit biased.
I think that Lydiard house and park is a great place to take the family. There is plenty of space for picnics and barbeques and there is possibly the biggest playground in all of Swindon. I used to love (I say used to but even now I still love) the Tarzan trail. It basically takes you from one section of the children's play area to another.
http:// www.lydiardpark.org.uk/lydiard/ lyd-houseandgrounds-2.htm
There are also plenty of places just outside of Swindon for you to visit.
I would personally recommend Cotswold Wildlife Park, especially for families. It's a place that's very much aimed at children with play area's and plenty of space to run around but even as an adult I've enjoyed visiting Cotswold Wildlife Park. I don't know much about animals and I haven't visited any other wildlife parks or zoos that I can remember (I'm sure I did when I was a young child) so I really have nothing to compare it with but the animals seem to be in good conditions.
If you do find yourself in Swindon I hope that you enjoy your stay and get to see the brighter side of the town.