Newest Review: ... south) in 10-15 mins, but they clearly decided that was too efficient and are scrapping it at the end of this month. There are also bu... more
Hell on Earth
Swindon in General
Member Name: jennikitten
Swindon in General
Advantages: See review
Disadvantages: Almost everything
If you've heard of Swindon recently, it's probably because Radio 1's Big Weekend was hosted there.
I grew up in Manchester and Nottingham, and have been all over the country for day trips, holidays, short breaks and otherwise.
And I would be hard-pushed to find anywhere worse in the UK to stay longer than a day than in Swindon.
Firstly, I should point out here that I don't have a car, and if you do have a car you will have a slightly different perspective (and will also be able to make your getaway quicker, a definite advantage). You might be thinking my opinion is partly based on a city girl's experiences, but not really. I like the countryside, I like cities, what I hate is sprawling surburbia with nothing to see or do.
It has all the disadvantages of living in the city (grey, concrete, dismal) with all the disadvantages of living in the countryside (difficult to get anywhere, nothing to do).
Swindon's public transport system is the worst I've seen of any country I've visited, including some in North Africa. Where I live, I'm incredibly lucky if I can get a bus anywhere after 6pm. And the journey to town which takes 10 minutes by car is half an hour on the bus as it goes via every. single. road. possible. I wouldn't mind if people actually got on or off on these obscure roads, but they don't. The best bus in Swindon, the Groundwell Park and Ride, gets from north Swindon to the town centre (2.5 miles south) in 10-15 mins, but they clearly decided that was too efficient and are scrapping it at the end of this month. There are also buses which go to Cheltenham, Oxford and similar areas. Again these are very restricted and take at least double the time of trains or driving.
The train station is reasonably good, but again trains don't go very late. It's good if you are travelling east (London, Reading etc.), or west (Bath, Bristol etc.), but anywhere else and the journeys are more restricted and complicated. The trains are, however, efficient. You can get from Bristol Parkway to Swindon station (approx. 40 miles) in about half an hour. If you're keeping track, that's the same amount of time it takes a Swindon bus to drive 2 miles. As a place to live, Swindon is good for day trips to these cities, and also (if you're driving), you can get to the countryside. But then you could live in Cheltenham or somewhere with more advantages.
I do like shopping, and Swindon town centre is a mediocre place. You won't find anything but chain stores here, other than the occasional fancy dress shop. And there aren't even many chains. Even Burger King couldn't handle the pressure and closed down. There is a Spoons, Yates and Walkabout if you hate visiting places with people in. There is a House of Fraser discount store, which can be really good for makeup bargains, and nothing else worth mentioning other than the Sue Ryder, which is massive and has a good stock of stuff.
The Outlet Centre further up is, in my opinion, a much better place for shopping even though a lot of the discounts (for example the Cadbury shop) aren't particularly good, or even any cheaper than the supermarkets. The food court is pretty good though. Also, outside on Sundays there is a mini farmer's market selling fruit, veg and homemade things like doughnuts.
Handily, if you're into trains, the railway museum is also just outside. I've never been so I can't comment - it's not my thing at all.
Old Town is the place to go for food and drink, and there are some quite nice restaurants and bars. Few chains (other than pubs) - if you're looking for something like Nando's, the nearest one is 25 miles away in Oxford. However, I rarely get the chance to go to Old Town anyway as there are no buses! Great planning there.
Taxis are hideously expensive. To compare, a black cab in Nottingham costs me £5 to go 2 miles (including initial charge). In Manchester, to go 2.6 miles costs me £10. In Swindon, the non-city, poor man's south, it costs £15+ to go the same distance. So that's why I'm rarely in Old Town, or in fact the cinema. Sorry to harp on about public transport so much, but it's actually more convenient to go to the cinema in Reading than it is Swindon.
People in Swindon seem to get excited about the Oasis, which is a swimming pool with slides and stuff. It's almost impossible for me to get to, so I can't comment on that.
The one thing (other than endless pubs, which I'll cover in a second) I can get to is the Orbital Retail Park. It has a giant Asda, bigger than any I've ever seen anywhere, a Borders with a Starbucks, a new M&S, a couple of electrical goods shops, Blockbusters, a library and a few other things. The Asda is 24 hours except Sunday, which is useful. It's a good place to just wander round in general. Borders is your average Borders. Nothing really too exciting, just a bit of a change and convenient for lugging shopping home.
There are about 5 pubs in my local area. If you go to anywhere in Swindon like a pub, restaurant, bar, etc., you can expect to be stared at. It's quite unnerving in my experience, especially in smallish pubs, because people stare at you for a good few minutes. I'm not sure why, I'm assuming it's because they have nothing better to do. However, it is weird and annoying. The pubs are quite good, and have very cheap food as they are all competing. Hence you can get a full English breakfast for £2.75, or an all you can eat Toby carvery (excluding meat) for £5. The takeaways are quite expensive though, I've seen a single sausage at the local chippy for about £3.
In general, I really hate Swindon. Unless you're passing through to get to somewhere else or you're going to a specific event like Big Weekend, there is absolutely nothing you won't get somewhere else in the UK. And that somewhere else will be one or more of the following: cheaper, nicer, friendlier or prettier.
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