Wales: A Railway Lover's Dream
Wales is often on the sidelines for traveling the British Isles, as many tend to visit England, Ireland, or Scotland. However, Wales has a diverse and beautiful landscape that is just waiting to be explored.
This Welsh itinerary is a railway lover’s dream, as you will have the chance to travel on authentic steam trains across the green and mountainous scenery, as well as along the coast.
Price Range: $$$
Recommended Days: 10-14 Days
Riding Hours: Approx. 11.5 hr
Distance: 207 miles
Cardiff: Millennial Modern
Cardiff, the capital of the little country of Wales has become a leading urban center with its modern waterfront and universities. But there is still a lot of history within the city, as you can visit the famous Cardiff Castle, wander through the forts, and learn about the medieval era that swept across the nation.
The first stop should be Cardiff Castle, which was reconstructed in the 1800s and is still immaculate to this day as it is perched in the heart of the city center. Once you head inside you will see extravagant decor fit for the Marquis for which it was built for. Cardiff’s National Museum is set next to Cathays Park and is home to a collection of contemporary art and natural history. The exhibits are exciting and different and look out for the woolly mammoth skeleton.
Take a walk or bike along the Taff Trail that begins at the Roald Dahl Pass in Cardiff Bay and to reach the beautiful Brecon Beacons National Park. Rent a bike and follow the trail out of the city where you’ll be surrounded by green vistas and get a few miles out of your pedals.
Aberystwyth: Coastal Joys
Aberystwyth, set in the west of Wales is a coastal town that has beautiful views and well-priced food. The pier offers expansive views over the ocean, as well as amusement rides. Head through the many little side streets to find boutique shops and restaurants to enjoy before you head off onto your next stop along this route.
Climb up to Constitutional Hill in time for sunset and you will get to see incredible views over the town and the sea as the orange glow hits every nook and cranny of the town. Explore Aberystwyth Castle, which is one of the oldest structures in the town and is set right on the seafront. Although in recent years it has fallen to ruins, it is still wonderful to walk through and roam the towers and grounds, better yet, it’s free!
Before completing your journey to Porthmadog, take a quick trip to Tywyn where you will be able to set off on the Talyllyn Railway. Truly a highlight on this Welsh itinerary, you’ll be pulled along the track by a historic steam engine passing waterfalls, valleys, and streams.
Aberystwyth Railway Station → Porthmadog | Duration: 3:15 h |
Transfers: 0 – 1
Porthmadog: Railway Delight
For those who love the history of railways, Porthmadog is a haven due to its different forms of train travel that can be enjoyed in this little town. Porthmadog is also a harbor town with a rich maritime history. Set on the Glaslyn Estuary, there is a lot that this little town has to offer other than vast vista views.
Explore the Porthmadog Treasure Hunt Trail where you will be able to solve clues along the way. The treasure hunt is a 2.5-mile walk that gets you to explore the town in a fun and exciting way. Take a visit to the little village of Portmeirion, which overlooks Cardigan Bay, surrounded by woodlands and sandy beaches to be enjoyed. Plus why not head to one of the little cafes that overlook the peninsula.
Criccieth Castle is a great place to stop at with beautiful views over the two beaches that it stands between. You can wander through the fortress and learn about the deep history of the castle.
Head to the next stop on the itinerary via the Ffestiniog Railway where you will be able to enjoy train travel from Victorian times. Buy tickets for this special train here.
Blaenau Ffestiniog: Zipping Away
Famed for its slate mining, Blaenau Ffestiniog is an interesting little town for a stop on this Welsh itinerary. It is surrounded by the views of the Snowdonia National Park and has a lot of attractions to be explored within the town and the slate mines.
Head to Zip World Slate Caverns where adventures can begin. Explore the underground caverns on a zipline course that will keep you on your toes, or you can even have a go on the underground trampolines. Take a trip to Ty Mawr Wybrnant that is a historic stone farmhouse set in North Wales. You can learn about how the Welsh once lived whilst looking out over the Conwy Valley with its expansive views.
Don’t forget to take a little trip to the garden, which is still beautifully looked after and is the home to many little critters that can be spotted on the animal puzzle trail.
Betws-y-Coed: Fairytale Fantasy
Betws-y-Coed is often a starting point for exploring the mesmerizing Snowdonia National Park, but the village has its own little character that invites visitors to enjoy. There are plenty of other activities to be relished within the village and the surrounding areas that will keep you busy.
Snowdonia National Park is one of the highlights when visiting Wales, having the largest mountain, Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa), in the area. You can either climb up the mountain or head out on one of the other trails that wind through the national park or past Ty Mawr Wybrnant. You have a great view of the mountain nonetheless, or even some other great views.
Just two miles outside of the village is the famous Swallow Falls where you can walk up to the viewpoint that looks out over the falls. Betws-y-Coed has fairytale groves hidden all around the village. None like the exquisite Fairy Glen where you will wander through the woodland and up the River Conwy.
Llandudno: Seaside Resort
Wales’ largest seaside resort town Llandudno, has long sandy beaches and great places to explore. You can travel to the wilderness of the Great Orme, soak up the sun on the beach, sporting activities, and have the chance to learn about the history and culture of this exciting town.
Great Orme has a flurry of activities to be enjoyed, climb up to the summit on the aerial cable cars so that you can have the chance to explore the Bronze Age copper mines. You will be able to learn and observe the traditional methods of smelting copper.
If you want a unique experience, enjoy a round at the Great Orme 9 Golf Course for a pitch and putt. If you have a sweet tooth you can visit the Llandudno Chocolate Experience to learn about the history of chocolate and also enjoy a delicious tasting experience.
Bangor: Bountiful Beauty
Set in North Wales, Bangor has a lively arts scene as well as a deep history due to it being the oldest city in Wales. You can enjoy beachfront activities, cultural hotspots, music, theatre, and some delicious dishes at the local restaurants. Bangor is a great finish to your Welsh adventure.
Garth Pier is a wonderful spot to stroll along within the city and has great views out onto the coast as well as of the city. Right by the pier is the Whistlestop Cafe, which has won many awards and is a great spot to stop for a bite. Penrhyn Castle is a National Trust-owned property, which housed Lords and Ladies. You are able to wander through the castle and its grounds, learning about the nobility of the area.
Treborth Botanic Gardens is run by the university and consists of grassland and orchards. Pack a picnic and sit beneath the trees and before heading through to the greenhouses that house a variety of tropical plants.
You can then end your trip by train to Cardiff. Or if you’re looking for more adventures, catch the easy journey to Manchester, England, or if you fancy a visit to beautiful Ireland, hop on a ferry to Dublin via Holyhead.