Wales - Gwynedd

The biggest attraction in this north-west county of Wales is Snowdonia National Park but there is so much more to see if you are prepared to do a bit of driving on some narrow, though picturesque roads.


Blaenau Ffestiniog Railway

The “Bleanau Ffestiniog Railway” is a small restored railway that runs from the small touristy port town of “Porthmadog” to the former slate mining town of “Bleanau Ffestiniog” operated by Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways - A charming railway that runs a series of old locomotives that were formerly used to deliver slate from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Porthmadog to be loaded on boats. This railway winds it's way along the side of a number of mountains and through a few tunnels. You can get off at any of the many stations along the line (even though many of the stations are not accessible by vehicle – only by train) which is useful if you wish to hike in the area (a book is available detailing various walks from the stations along the route).

Ffestiniog Railway, Northern Wales

Mount Snowdon

Mount Snowdon - Looking Down

“Snowdon” is the highest peak in Wales and is climbed by many people every day. Most people choose to climb up following a trail from Llanberis though there is a train service operated by the Snowdon Mountain Railway which offers a charming service to the top during the summer, other times the service terminates about one mile below the peak (it is a TOUGH walk up from there – be sure to check the service provided on the day you visit). The view from the top is fantastic and well worth the climb. The path leading to the top is well worn and obvious though there is a lot of loose slate on the path in what seems to be the steepest parts. When the train travels to the top, there is a small canteen and post office. Parking at the bottom is available in a VERY small car park right at the train station but, on good days, this will be full unless you arrive early. Parking is also available elsewhere in the town.


Blaenau Ffestiniog

Blaenau Ffestiniog - Near Llechwedd Slate Caverns

This small city in the heart of the Snowdonia mountains is dominated by the former “Llechwedd” slate mines. It is very strange entering this area with the massive mountains of slate on either side of the road – even more astonishing to think that less than 200 years ago there was no slate on the service whatsoever. The former mine is now a tourist attraction (see for further information) which now includes zip lines. The exhibition is very good, offering one ride on a tramway that provides various displays about how mining was performed in the early days of the mine in the early 1800s. This tour combines an initial recorded section but the rest is by a tour operator who is very informative. Another tour, the 'Deep Mine' tour is more of an exhibit about the social life of the early miners with a recorded voiceover that guides you through a series of large caverns that are impressive in themselves. The outside exhibits are not nearly as impressive, offering a few small shops and a pub.


Criccieth Castle, Northern Wales

The small sleepy town of Cricceith on the Gwynedd coastline just north of Porthmadog is dominated by Criccieth Castle. Ok, so it is not exactly a great castle but really the surroundings are the thing. Criccieth is one of my favourite towns, sufficiently away from the hustle and bustle (if you can call it that) of Porthmadog and Portmerion so that you can enjoy the wonderful seaside and quiet B & Bs that line the shoreline. There is a nominal charge to visit the castle but often it is free (the gate is open). Parking is available at a small cost right beside the beach (again, free during certain days and during off-season).

Criccieth, Northern Wales


Caernarfon, Northern Wales

The north-west city of “Caernarfon” is a concrete jungle built around the impressive Caernarfon Castle. This is one of the four castles built by Edward I in the 13th century. This castle was never completely finished, evidence of this is the obvious future locations of various walls and structures. A tour is provided and is highly recommended. Great views of the surrounding Menai Strait and the rest of the town. Parking is available right beside the castle itself but signage is somewhat lacking after leaving the highway going into the town (advice: look for the castle and drive towards it), additional parking is available in the public car parks located and well sign-posted. A nominal entrance fee is charged though this is waived if you are a member of CADW (welsh historical society).


The small town of Porthmadog is dominated by the harbour which is where you can also catch the restored train to Blaenau Ffestiniog (see above for details). There are a number of small shops here as well including a few bookstores.

Nearby is Portmeirion a strange place that is as much an architectural oddity as a site of extreme beauty. Situated on the side of a cliff overlooking a bay, Portmeirion is a strange village of small stores and buildings nestled amongst themselves as well as the cliffs. Every time I visit I find something new and different. Do NOT miss the nature walks all around the site. Yes, this WAS the site used for filming of the television cult masterpiece 'The Prisoner' though only one small room is devoted to the show – the rest is to be enjoyed as it is…


Further Information

For further information, please see: