My son is steam train mad and if I’m honest, I also love the nostalgia of a bygone age and can appreciate what wonderful machines the locomotives are. When we went away for my birthday last month, I took one look at the map of the are and knew we would be spoilt for choice with train adventures in North Wales. The area is covered in old heritage lines and we could have spent a fortnight there, and still not have gone on every line running.
We had very mixed weather during our stay close to Conwy in North Wales and didn’t actually see a mountain for the first two days, the weather was that ‘interesting’. But we were determined to get out and about whatever the conditions and we all agreed that the first of our train adventures in North Wales would be on the Ffestiniog Railway. It’s a railway I’ve wanted to go on since I was probably the same age as my son.
The Ffestiniog Railway runs between Blaenau Ffestiniog in the mountains down to the coast at Porthmadog. We decided that we’d drive across country and catch the first train out of Porthmadog in the morning, for a return trip. Parking at the station costs £2.00 for the day but is limited, we got the last space when we arrived and we were early. But there is also an overflow car park available.
My son couldn’t wait to get out onto the platform and capture our locomotive as it came into the station to couple up to the carriages.
There might have been a few squeals of delight when he realised that the Merddin Emrys locomotive that we’d be travelling behind is a double engine, something he’s not seen in real life before.
This particular loco was the first one built on the line itself back in 1879. My eight year old was in his element, filming every second on his camera.
It wasn’t long before it was time to board and begin our journey along the 13½ mile line which would take us up to the slate quarrying town of Blaenau Ffestiniog. We looked back towards Portmadog to begin the first of our steam train adventures in North Wales.
The weather added to the atmosphere and we tried to imagine what vivid colours we would see on a sunny day. May be we’d even see a mountain or two.
Spotting the engine sheds on any steam train journey is always a highlight for my son. He has his heart set on working on them himself when he’s older.
The journey would see us travel over 700 feet up into the mountains and even on a misty day, you could still see the beauty of the line. It did look rather magical in the mist.
The weather certainly wasn’t stopping the local inhabitants from getting out and about.
Signs of the area’s strong ties to the surrounding slate quarries were to be seen from the carriage windows.
Steam Train adventures in North Wales on a less than sunny day was still a lovely experience. The countryside is beautiful whatever the weather.
My son is a huge fan of the Flying Scotsman and he got to ride on her last year, much to his surprise (a few Mummy points were earned that day!). He is a walking encyclopedia of facts about one of his favourite locomotives and was thrilled to see a plaque commemorating Alan Peglar, the man who saved Flying Scotsman from the scrap heap. He’d been telling me all morning that Peglar had been involved with the Ffestiniog Railway and here was his proof.
Another highlight of this trip was seeing the waterfalls, not something we see every day in Oxfordshire.
The train journey takes 1 hour and 15 minutes to go from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog.
As we were on a whistle stop tour of the area we didn’t get off at any of the stations to explore in more detail. The train stops at the end of the line for 15 minutes before heading back down the line.
When we arrived back at Porthmadog, we enjoyed lunch in the Spooner’s Grill Café & Bar before heading back to the car and onwards to Caernarfon to explore the castle. More on that in a future post.
The next day we woke up to beautiful blue skies and warm weather. What a difference a day made! Once we’d finished exploring Bodnant Garden we decided to travel through Snowdonia to really enjoy the mountains that had been covered in mist for the two previous days of our trip.
The weather was so wonderful we changed our plans slightly, parked up in Llanberis and headed over to the Snowdon Mountain Railway to see if we had any chance of catching a train that afternoon. As luck would have it we managed to get seats on the last train of the day. As we were visiting in April they were only running diesel and would only be running three-quarters of the way up the mountain. (steam starts this month along with the full run to the summit).
From May until the end of October the Snowdon Mountain Railway travels 4.7 miles up to the Snowdon Summit, the return journey takes two and half hours, including a 30 minute stop at the end of the line. There is a visitor centre at the top with facilities.
As we were travelling in April, our trip took us up to the three-quarter point at Clogwyn. It’s worth noting that there are no facilities at this stop and nowhere undercover to shelter if the weather isn’t at it’s best. The journey took us 45 minutes and we also got to enjoy a 30 minute stop at Clogwyn to admire the views before our descent.
The scenery was breathtaking as the train climbed up the mountain. You are allocated a specific row of the carriage to sit in but everyone gets to enjoy a good view.
We often passed close to the main trail path up to the summit and if we’d been better prepared I think we’d have walked from Clogwyn to the summit and then walked all the way down again.
But we had the wrong footwear on and not enough time left on our car parking ticket. We will return in the future to fully conquer Snowdon.
Train adventures in North Wales saw us travelling up to the 776m point at Clogwyn. What a view.
The trip was definitely worth it, and there was room for everyone to thoroughly enjoy the stunning landscape.
The Snowdon Mountain Railway is run on a rack and pinion system and it wasn’t long before my son and his Dad were asking the train driver all about the workings!
Whilst the boys enjoyed the engineering aspect of our trip, I spent time savouring the views.
When it was time to return to Llanberis we got to enjoy more waterfalls along the way.
We’d had two very different days having train adventures in North Wales and I have a feeling we will be returning to the area in the future to travel on more of the old train lines. Have you been? Which lines would you recommend?