Ride through Snowdonia with the Welsh Highland Railway
Having travelled by steam with the Vale of Rheidol Railway and the Ffestiniog Railway, I had big expectations when I boarded the Welsh Highland Railway, taking off from the recently rebuilt Porthmadog Harbour Station in North Wales. Same station from where I caught the steam train to Blaenau Ffestiniog the previous day.
The WHR is owned and run by the Ffestiniog Railway Company, and its route between Porthmadog and Caernarfon was officially re-opened in 2011, after decades of hard work that was initiated way back in the 1960’ies. The actual work on the restoration of the tracks didn’t take off before 1997 though, and it involved an impressive amount of voluntary hours to complete.
This means that today we can enjoy a spectacular steam train ride through the Snowdonia National Park and all the way to the harbourtown of Caernarfon. The distance of more than 40 kilometers in total makes it the UK’s longest heritage railway, after the route was extended compared to the original.
I’m excited to take my seat in a carriage beautifully clad in wood and dark red up holstery, and I’m happy about the big windows allowing for great views throughout the trip. It’s even possible to book a seat in the specially designed first class observation cars, offering extended panoramic views and extra comfort.
No matter where you sit, you’ll have the option to order a range of hot food and drinks, and I try not to let my eyes miss much of the landscapes sliding by, while enjoying my bacon roll and a coffee.
The route is dotted with several smaller stations where you can get off, lace up your walking boots and take on the wild wild Wales by foot, but I choose to sit back in my comfortable seat and admire the mountain tops, the rural farm houses and the thousands of sheep we pass by. My favourite part comes shortly after our stop at Rhyd Ddu station, when reaching the Snowdon Ranger station beside the large lake ‘Llyn Cwellyn’. Simply glorious!
My high expectations were fully met and as the train pulls into our final stop in Caernarfon, the town’s mighty castle rises in front of me and makes promises for new Welsh adventures.
INFO: The full train ride from Porthmadog to Caernarfon – or the opposite way – takes around two hours and fifteen minutes. The adult price for a full ‘third class’ single ticket (like I travelled on) is £25.50, while a full return ticket costs £38.
Official website: www.festrail.co.uk