Swindon is a large town in Wiltshire, south west England, with a fast-growing population of around 220,000 in its urban area in 2021, making Swindon one of the largest towns in the UK to be without city status. Swindon is also historically known for its railway-town heritage and links with the British railway system in which it played a central part during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Swindon is now known for being a regional centre for business, and is home to many technological and pharmaceutical companies, aswell as having national headquarters for international companies Nationwide, Intel, and Zurich. The town is also a regional retail and leisure hub of which it boasts several facilities.
Swindon continues to be an economically attractive town, with an ever-growing private,knowledge-intensive sector. This is aided by the town’s central location, in close proximity to other regional powerhouses such as Reading, Bristol, and Oxford.
The town has always suffered with a poorer reputation and outlook from those living outside Swindon, particularly regarding the town centre, of which has suffered due to several decades of under-investment and a failing to compete against neighbouring towns and cities, of which have benefited from inward investment. However, as of 2021, several regeneration projects are underway in the town centre, including a £30m upgrade to the town’s major bus station and central business district. A further £80m is being invested in creating a new cultural quarter on a large brownfield site adjacent to the existing central bus station, known as Kimmerfields.
As mentioned, Swindon also has a strong railway heritage and was home to the extensive Great Western Railway works in the 19th Century, the site of which is still standing today as a designer outlet shopping centre. This introduction of industry led to a boom in the town’s population and ultimately led Swindon to become the larger town it is these days.
The town began its existence as a Saxon village, and it is likely that its name is derived from the Saxon words swine dun or swines down, possibly meaning "pig hill". The small hilltop village subsequently expanded around the site of a quarry, with a 19th-century canal facilitating trade.
During the mid-19th century, the introduction of the Great Western Railway and the associated railway works fully transformed Swindon from a village into a thriving industrial town, which drew workers from across the United Kingdom. The older settlement on top of the hill remained independent until 1900, when it was annexed by the newer industrial town - today it is known as Old Town and still retains a somewhat separate feel.
Swindon experienced a population boom after World War II. New housing areas were built due to a shortage of housing in London following the mass destruction caused by the war. This population growth has continued and the town remains one of the fastest growing urban areas in the United Kingdom and Europe.
Swindon is served by international airports in the south of the United Kingdom. For travellers coming directly to Swindon, the following airports are most convenient:
|Heathrow Airport (LHR IATA)||1 hour 10 minutes via the M4 motorway||1 hour and 25 minutes using National Express coach service NX403|
|Bristol Airport (BRS IATA)||1 hour 10 minutes via Bristol city centre, the M32 motorway and the M4 motorway||1 hour and 20 minutes, using the shuttle bus to Bristol Temple Meads railway station and the train to Swindon thereafter.|
|Southampton Airport (SOU IATA)||1 hour 10 minutes via the M3 motorway, the A34 and the M4 motorway||1 hour and 15 minutes by train, via Reading railway station.|
Wikivoyage has a guide to Rail travel in Great Britain
1 Swindon railway station (immediately north of the town centre). Is on Station Road with four platforms.
- From London and the South East of England – Swindon has a direct rail connection to London Paddington, a major railway terminus in Central London, a short distance north of Hyde Park. Services from Paddington take approximately 1 hour to reach Swindon, travelling via Reading (the journey's halfway point). Some services also call at Didcot Parkway.
- From South Wales and the West Country – Services arriving into Swindon from the west originate at a number of stations, such as Swansea, Cardiff Central and Bristol Temple Meads.
- From Gloucestershire and the West Midlands – Arrivals from Kemble, Cheltenham Spa and Gloucester.
National Express Coaches are available from the central bus station. Tickets can be purchased from the bus station office for all major cities and airports (bus transfers may apply - visit the website for more information).
If you are travelling to or from Oxford, there is no direct train service. While it is possible to change at Didcot Parkway, it can be quicker and easier to take the S6 bus which runs between the bus station and Oxford city centre every 20 minutes. There is also an hourly service to Salisbury, which has only a very limited direct train service to Swindon.
Driving along the M4, take junction 15 or 16 into Swindon. There are no direct Park and Ride depots near the junctions, one is available is entering Swindon via Wroughton (traveling from Devizes or Avebury) National Park and Ride Directory.
The town centre is small enough to walk through on foot, as are the shopping areas of Old Town, the Great Western Designer Outlet Village, the Orbital Retail Park and the Shaw Ridge Leisure Park & West Swindon Shopping Centre. Although it is a great way of seeing Swindon, it is not recommended as most attractions are more than 45 minutes walk from the centre of the town - it is advisable to travel by bus. The attractions within 15 minutes walk of the town centre include the Steam Museum, the Railway Village, the Wyvern Theatre, the civic council offices and central Public Library, the Swindon Hydro Centre, the main bus station, the railway station, and some hotels.
Swindon has an extensive local bus network, with the vast majority of routes radiating outward from the town centre (either from the bus station or the Fleming Way bus stands).
A full list of routes can be found at the Swindon Borough Council bus information website
Swindon has extensive support for bikes, with paths following major roads split between pedestrians and cycles.
For more detailed information about cycle routes to and from Swindon, see the Swindon Travel Choices website].
The road network in Swindon is comprehensively signposted. To get from one side of Swindon to the other, locals have the option of driving through town, or jumping on the motorway from junction 15 to 16. This method of getting across Swindon has been somewhat superseded by the almost unused link between Drove Road/Wroughton and the Rushy Platt junction.
One of the major attractions when driving around Swindon is the Magic Roundabout, named after the 1960s television show. This sprawling junction contains five mini-roundabouts, each situated around a bigger, but less obvious, central counter-clockwise roundabout (which houses a very bright street light for night driving). Each mini-roundabout has three junctions, two leading on to the next and previous mini-roundabout, and one acting as an entry/exit junction. Many visitors are immediately intimidated by local drivers who use it proficiently, but the local secret is to treat each mini-roundabout as normal, rather than looking at the daunting mass of concrete and cars.
- 1 Cotswold Water Park. The United Kingdom's largest water park has over 150 lakes which were formed by filling old gravel quarries. It is about 8 mi (13 km) north-west of Swindon and offers many water sports and activities.
- 2 Steam: The Great Western Railway Museum (Steam Museum), Fire Fly Ave, SN2 2EY (From rail stn, signage is patchy: turn R up Station Road, then R into underpass, then L around Historic England archives and L again (1 km). Parking: Designer Outlet, then pick up signs to Steam), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su 11AM-4PM. The museum is in a restored railway works building, which is a treat in itself. As well as having a wealth of information about the railways, it also is an invaluable source of social history. Highlights of the collection include former fastest loco in the world Caerphilly Castle, and one of Queen Victoria's personal carriages. There are plenty of events for children, model railways, vintage arcade games, and - best of all - a steam train driving simulator! Adults £11, children £8, concessions £8.70, infants free; booking essential.
- 3 Museum of Computing @ Swindon, 6-7 Theatre Square, SN1 1QN, ☏ . F 10AM-4PM, Sa 9:30AM-5PM. Educational museum with excellent collections of what are now antique computers and games consoles. Guided tours depending on number of visitors. Adults £2, children £1.
- 4 Swindon Museum, Bath Rd, SN1 4BA. M-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su 2PM-5PM. Interesting displays on local history, geology and archaeology. It is run by the local council. Free.
- 5 Swindon Art Gallery, Bath Rd, SN1 4BA. M-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su 2PM-5PM. Very important collection of 20th-century British art and includes works by Henry Moore and L.S. Lowry. Admission is free.
- 6 Railway Village. A remnant of Swindon's past glory involving Brunel and the steam railways, these three rows of houses are Grade II listed gems, hidden away between the railway station, the Great Western Designer Outlet Village and Swindon central shopping plaza. Although the cottages are still private property, the streets have public access; and the two pubs in the centre of the village (the Glue Pot and the Cricketers) serve local ale and food, from lunch time until late.
- Former Great Western Railway Works Now turned into the McArthur Glen Designer Outlet shopping centre, it features architectural and mechanical reminders of days gone by.
- Renault Distribution Centre, designed by Sir Norman Foster. Although the building is now owned by Spectrum, it is still popularly called "the Renault building" by Swindonians. Similar in design is the Link Centre, a sports and leisure centre in the west of Swindon, opposite Shaw Ridge Leisure Park.
- Wood Street, Old Town. This features original 17th-century buildings, modernised with shop fronts, bars and restaurants. Considered a more upper class area than the current centre of Swindon, it is semi-pedestrianised.
Parks and woodland
- Town Gardens
- Queen’s Park
- Lawns Park
- Faringdon Road Park
- Lydiard Country Park
- Coate Water Country Park
- Hagbourne Copse
- Shaw Forest Park
- Peatmoor Lagoon
- Mouldon Hill Country Park
- Festival of Literature. May (annual). Created in the early 1990s, this event is for those who enjoy readings, poetry and talks from a wide range of authors, performers and speakers. Highlights from previous years include Sir David Attenborough, Will Self, Richard Dawkins, and the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Sir John Major.
- Film Festival, Hosted at a number of venues. March (annual). 10-day programme showcasing the latest independent films from Britain and abroad. £5 (£4 for concessions).
- Mela, Town Gardens, Old Town. August (annual). A celebration of Indian culture. Free.
- Old Town Festival, Various locations in Old Town. June (annual).
- Swindon and Wiltshire Pride, Town Gardens, Old Town. August (annual). The main annual LGBT event in Wiltshire. Accessible and free for all to attend. Free.
- Shuffle. August (annual). Music festival packed with upcoming and established bands from Swindon and the wider region.
- Watch football at 1 Swindon Town, The County Ground, County Road SN1 2ED. "The Robins" were relegated in 2021 and now play soccer in League Two, the game's fourth tier. Their stadium, capacity 15,700, is half a mile east of the railway station.
- Jungle Parc, Lydiard Park, West Swindon, SN5 3PA. Adventure park in the 'tree-tops', with zip lines, rope bridges and cargo nets. Aimed at children 3yrs or over.
- Swindon & Cricklade Railway, Blunsdon Station, Tadpole Lane, SN25 2DA. Standard gauge heritage railway located on a portion of the former Midland & South West Junction Railway (M&SWJR). Rides are available on carriages hauled by steam and diesel locomotives. The line is operated by a dedicated team of volunteers, with the track length increasing year on year. Child £5, senior £6, adult £7, family (two adults + two children) £20..
- 2 ATBShop Skate Warehouse, Unit 1 Newcombe Drive, Swindon SN2 1DZ, England, ☏ . Enclosed skate park for children - let your kids skate in safety! protective clothing and equipment hire available, events and partys available for booking.
- 3 Oasis Leisure Centre, North Star Avenue, SN2 1EP, ☏ . M-F: 6:30AM-10PM, Sa: 8AM-6PM, Su: 8AM-7PM. Concert hall and leisure centre with a swimming pool, waterslides and rapids of which the band Oasis took its name.
Swindon town centre contains the main retail core of the town, primarily served by four pedestrianised shopping streets (Bridge Street, Regent Street, Canal Walk and The Parade). The shops are around 150 m from the bus station and approximately 300 m from the railway station.
- 1 Brunel Centre, SN1 1LF. It is accessible from Canal Walk, and comprises a two-storey indoor shopping area.
At the end of western end of Canal Walk is the Swindon’s Tented Market .
Two shopping destinations exist within walking distance of the town centre. 0.8 km west of the town centre is the McArthur Glen Designer Outlet, Europe's largest indoor designer outlet in the unique setting of restored Victorian railway engineering buildings. 1.1 km (0.68 mi) south-east of the town centre is Old Town.
- 2 McArthurglen Swindon Designer Outlet, Kemble Dr, SN2 2DY, ☏ . M-F: 10AM-8PM, Sa: 9AM-7PM, Su: 10AM-6PM.
Further afield are Greenbridge Retail Park, the West Swindon Shopping Centre and the Orbital Retail Park. These are accessible from the town centre by bus, taxi or car.
- 3 Greenbridge Retail Park, Drakes Way, Greenbridge SN3 3EY, ☏ . M-Sa: 8AM-10PM, Su: 10AM-6PM.
- 4 West Swindon Shopping Centre, Tewkesbury Way, SN5 7DL, ☏ . M-F: 7AM-10PM, Sa: 7AM-9PM, Su: 10AM-4PM.
- 5 Orbital Retail Park, Thamesdown Drive, SN25 4AN, ☏ .
There are plenty different types of places to choose from, including traditional English and Irish pubs, Chinese and Indian restaurants, and cafés and bars.
- Los Gatos (The tapas bar), 1-3 Devizes Road (At top of hill in Old Town), ☏ , email@example.com. 11AM-11PM. A real, independently-owned Spanish tapas bar which uses fresh ingredients. Always busy and good atmosphere.
- Jewel in the Crown, 14-16 Victoria Road, ☏ . Indian restaurant in Old Town.
For really good pubs it is advised you head out of town into the countryside a bit, however several of the more popular pubs are:
- The Glue Pot, 5 Emlyn Square, ☏ . Probably one of the better places to find good real ale in Swindon. They also have a large and constantly changing selection of ciders.
- Groves Company Inn, 22/23 Fleet Street. The ubiquitous Wetherspoons: Cheap beer, no atmosphere.
- The Victoria Pub, Victoria Hill. Great food, a brilliant laugh free pub quiz on Wednesdays which involves snakes and ladders and cheating is encouraged! They are also a great music venue for all types of music encouraging unsigned bands. They also show films and have a great atmosphere.
- The Old Bank, 18 Wood Street, Swindon. The Old Bank comprises a bar and brasserie on the ground floor and on the upper floors, bar areas.
- McKenzies Bar, Wood Street. Reasonable bar; food served.
- Longs Bar. Reasonable bar with good drinks selection, conservatory and outdoor areas.
- The Hop Inn, Devizes Road, Swindon (Old Town), ☏ . noon-midnight. Small, friendly, independent bar serving real ales and craft beers. Beer list changes very frequently. Crisps, etc., but no kitchen.
The hotel sector in Swindon has seen increased growth in the past decade as the town continues to urbanise and establish itself as a base for tourism in the centre of southern England.
For many years there was only one hotel in the town centre but competition arrived and there are now three main players, with more rumoured to be on the way. This increased competition benefits you, with reduced room rates on offer.
- Holiday Inn Express, Bridge Street, SN1 1BT, ☏ , fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Leonardo Hotel (formerly Jurys Inn), Fleming Way SN1 2NG, ☏ .
- Travelodge, Princes Way, Princes Street, SN1 2SF, ☏ , fax: .
Bed & Breakfasts can be found on Manchester Road and County Road.
Another cluster of hotels can be found in West Swindon, a convenient stopover point due to the proximity of the M4 motorway at Junction 16.
- De Vere Village, Shaw Ridge Leisure Park, Whitehill Way, SN5 7DW, ☏ , fax: .
- DoubleTree (Hilton Hotel), Lydiard Fields, Great Western Way, SN5 8UZ, ☏ .
- Holiday Inn Express, Frankland Road, Blagrove, SN5 8UD, ☏ , fax: , email@example.com.
- Premier Inn, Great Western Way, SN5 8UB, ☏ , fax: .
The pace of life in Old Town is much slower due to its distance from the railway station and town centre. However, there is one large hotel:
- Marriott Hotel, Pipers Way, SN3 1SH, ☏ , fax: .
Bed & Breakfast accommodation can be found on Bath Road and Victoria Road.
- Goddard Arms, 1 High Street, Old Town, Swindon SN1 3EG, England.
- 1 Mercure South Marston Hotel, Old Vicarage Lane, South Marston (from Exit M4 (J15) and follow A419 to Cirencester, straight over roundabout, then take exit on left signposted Oxford (A420), turn right at next two roundabouts, stay on A420, cross the roundabout, pass the police station on left, pass the Esso garage on left, hotel is next turning on left, signposted to South Marston), ☏ . Hotel just outside Swindon with fully equipped gym, 23-m indoor swimming pool, and a health and beauty spa. Special Spa Break from £75 per person for one night including three-course dinner, full English breakfast and choice of beauty treatment. From £55.
- Stanton House Hotel, The Avenue, Stanton Fitzwarren, Swindon SN6 7SD, ☏ . Cotswold stone house overlooking Stanton Lake and park just outside Swindon. Mt. Fuji Yakiniku-style Japanese restaurant is on the grounds of the hotel, and the hotel also hosts a Japanese market from time to time.
- 2 Helen Browning's Royal Oak, Cues Lane, Bishopstone SN6 8PP, ☏ . Pub with 12 charming annexe bedrooms on an organic farm. B&B double £100.
- Whitehorse Hill, Uffington, Vale of White Horse
- Head towards Cirencester, Bath, Bristol, Salisbury or Reading
|Routes through Swindon|
|Bristol Temple Meads ← Bath Spa ←||W E||→ Reading → London Paddington|
|Cardiff ← Bristol ←||W E||→ Reading → London|
|merges with and ←||N S||→ Ogbourne → Marlborough|
|Banbury ← Burford ←||N S||→ merges with|
|merges with ←||W E||→ Cumnor → Oxford|
|Cirencester ← Cricklade ←||N S||→ merges with and|