Europe > Britain and Ireland > United Kingdom > England > West Country > Wiltshire > Swindon
Swindon is a large town in Wiltshire, in southern England, with a population of approximately 200,000 people. It doesn't have very much to offer from a historical perspective, although it does have a great deal of heritage from the British Railway system in which it played a central part during the 19th and 20th Centuries.
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' 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.
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||1 hour 10 minutes via the M4 motorway||1 hour and 25 minutes using National Express coach service NX403|
|Bristol Airport||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||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.|
Arrival points involving greater travel times include London Gatwick Airport, London Stansted Airport, London Luton Airport, Bournemouth Airport, Birmingham Airport and Cardiff Airport.
- Wikivoyage has a guide to Rail travel in the United Kingdom.
Swindon has one railway station, located centrally within the town - Swindon Station. It is located on Station Road, immediately north of the town centre, offering four platforms for arrivals and departures.
- From London and the South East of England - Swindon has a direct rail connection to London Paddington, a major railway terminus in Central London, situated a short distance north of Hyde Park. Services from Paddington take approximately 1 hour to reach Swindon, travelling via Reading (the halfway point of the journey). 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).
Driving along the M4, take junction 15 or 16 into Swindon. There are no direct Park and Ride depots near the junctions, one one is available is entering Swindon via Wroughton (traveling from Devises or Avebury) National Park and Ride Directory.
The town centre is small enough to walk through on foot, as is 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 SwindonWeb Cycle Route 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 recently been somewhat superseded by the recently built and 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 1960's 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 Whitehorse Hill. The site of an Iron Age hill fort and Uffington White Horse. The site sits on the ridgeway long distance footpath, which follows the line of a chalk ridge which separates the berkshire downs to the south and the vale of the white horse to the north. The horse has been cut into the chalk downs can be seen from miles around. It has been "cleaned" by local communities about every 20 years continuously since it was first made about 2000 to 3000 years ago. The hill fort consists of a large circular bank and ditch about 1 km to 1 mile in circumference, with grass all over and inside. There are great views from the site, which is fantastic for pic-nics on a sunny day. Also nearby is the Dragon's hill which appears to be man made and could somehow be associated to the site.Access is feasible most easily by car - with two car parks. (one of which is nearer the horse and recommended only for visitors requiring easier access) The lower car park includes some signage explaining the Whitehorse, and ridgeway. There are picnic tables near by. One could also easily take in the White Horse and Hill Fort, on a walk along the ridgeway.
- 2 Cotswold Water Park. The United Kingdom's largest water park consists of over 150 lakes which were formed by filling old gravel quarries. It is located about 8 miles north-west of Swindon and offers many water sports and activities.
- 3 Steam: The Great Western Railway Museum (Steam Museum), Fire Fly Ave, SN2 2EY (Follow directions to the Designer Outlet Village, then pickup signs to Steam), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 10am-5pm every day except Christmas (check website). The museum is located in a restored railway works building. The building 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. There are plenty of events for children, and it is right next to the Great Western Designer Outlet Village and the National Trust Headquarters, so anyone in the family who doesn't want to visit the museum has plenty of other options. Adults £8, Children £6.
- 4 Museum of Computing @ Swindon, 6-7 Theatre Square, SN1 1QN, ☎ . Friday 10am-4pm, Sat 9:30am-5pm. Educational museum with excellent collections of what is now antique computers and games consoles. Guided tours depending on number of visitors. The museum has even been visited by Google Street View: http://goo.gl/maps/bvbyp Adults £2, Children £1.
- Swindon Museum and Art Gallery. Interesting displays on local history, geology and archaeology. It is run by the local council, and admission is free.
- 5 Wroughton Science Museum, Red Barn Gate, ☎ . Situated just outside Swindon, and based on the old RAF Wroughton Airfield, the science museum features numerous display on various science and engineering topics.
- Swindon Museum and Art Gallery. Very important collection of 20th century British Art and includes work by Henry Moore and L.S. Lowry. Admission is free, Open: Mon-Sat: 10AM-5PM; Sun: 2PM-5PM.
- 6 Railway Village. A left over remnant of Swindon's past glory involving Brunel and the steam railways, these three rows of houses are Grade 1 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 center 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 still 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 Renualt building" by Swindonians. Similar in design is the Link Centre [dead link], 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 an "Access Only" street.
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.
- 1 Swindon Town Football Club, The County Ground, County Road, SN1 2ED. The football season runs from August to May. Matches are usually played on a Saturday at 3pm or a Tuesday at 7:45pm. The local football team are known as 'The Robins' (or 'The Reds'). The club participate in League One of the English Football League hierarchy (which is two leagues below the Premier League). To fit in, wear red and occasionally voice your dislike of Oxford United F.C.
- 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 both 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..
- Swindon Karting, Hanger C2, Area 1, Hackpen Lane, Wroughton Airfield, SN4 0QJ, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Based in a hangar at the former RAF Wroughton airfield, you can race on a 550 metre indoor track using a 270cc Go-kart. From £40 per driver.
- 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.
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 metres from the bus station and approximately 300 metres from the railway station.
The Brunel Centre is accessible from Canal Walk, comprising a two-story 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 south-east of the town centre is Old Town.
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.
There are plenty different types of places to choose from, including traditional English and Irish pubs, Chinese and Indian restaurants, and cafes and bars.
- JRC Buffet (previously Cosmo), Linden Ct, Holbrook Way (opposite Holiday Inn Express in the town centre), ☎ . 12pm-3pm,5:30pm-22:30pm. Chinese and pan-asian all-you-can-eat buffet. (Old domain name not been renewed, and Swindon is not mentioned on their new website).
- Los Gatos (The tapas bar), 1-3 Devizes Road (At top of hill in Old Town), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
- Bistro Les Chats, 19-21 Wood Street, Old Town (Up Victoria Road from town centre), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 12-14.30; 18.00-22.00. Small independent French bistro using fresh ingredients; menu changes regularly; sister restaurant to Los Gatos tapas bar; well-regarded locally; closed on Tuesdays.
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, although that's not saying much.
- 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), ☎ . 12.00 - 12.00. 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 ultimately benefits you, with reduced room rates on offer.
- 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: .
- Hilton Hotel, Lydiard Fields, Great Western Way, SN5 8UZ, ☎ .
- Holiday Inn Express, Frankland Road, Blagrove, SN5 8UD, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 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, one large hotel does exist:
- 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.
Other places to sleep include:
- 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 and 23 metre indoor swimming pool, as well as health and beauty spa. Special Spa Break from £75.00 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.
|Routes through Swindon|
|Cardiff ← Bristol ←||W E||→ Reading → London|
|Bristol Temple Meads ← Bath Spa ←||W E||→ Reading → London Paddington|