Look out for the Good Journey Mark – where car-free visitors are welcome and enjoy a discount
Car-free adventures aroundBarmouthGwynedd
Seaside Barmouth, with its Victorian cottages and steep, winding alleys, its classic waterfront promenade and spectacular viaduct, is a perfect base for adventures by train, ferry, bike or foot. A long sandy beach on the coast of Snowdonia – what could be more spectacular? If that’s not enough, there’s the glorious Mawddach estuary to explore, there are castles and wildlife reserves dotted along the coast and fabulous visitor attractions like The Ffestiniog Railway.
1. Arrive by train on the Cambrian Lines
The epic 120-mile ride from Shrewsbury to the Welsh coast is one of the great scenic railway journeys of Britain, crossing the border between England and Wales and passing some spectacular scenery. Trains run every two hours from Birmingham and Shrewsbury to the Cambrian Coast. Running through hills and mountains towards the sea, the line divides at Dovey Junction station, with the shorter mainline heading south to historic Aberystywth, and coastal line running north along the sea to Barmouth.
- From the medieval market town of Shrewsbury, your journey takes you through the rolling sheep-speckled hills of mid Wales and on to the Cambrian Coast.
- Next stop is Welshpool, home to a steam railway and a thirteenth-century castle with lovely gardens.
- Welsh rebel Owain Glyndŵr established the first true Welsh parliament at Machynlleth in 1404. Today “Mach” is a friendly market town with a bohemian feel, where you can find everything from male voice choirs to meditation. Welsh designer Laura Ashley opened her first shop here in 1961.
- About three miles north of town you can visit the Centre for Alternative Technology and see solar or hydro generators, wind turbines, filtering reed beds and other sustainable systems, all set in pleasant organic gardens. Buses leave from Machynlleth, roughly every half an hour Monday to Saturday.
- As the train heads on towards Barmouth, look out for wildlife. There’s even an osprey’s nest on a pole right beside Dovey Junction station! The line runs beside the Dyfi Estuary, its saltmarshes, sandbanks and mudflats teeming with birds.
- The Cambrian Railway Partnership have some great suggestions for days out by train.
2. Coastal path and coastal railway
The Cambrian Coast railway runs alongside the Welsh coast path, passing dunes and marshes, woods and waterfalls. This makes it easy to sample short sections of the route, from a 2-mile stroll to a hilly 8-mile hike.
- Huge, grey-sandstone Harlech castle, rising from its rock above the sea, is linked to legends of the Welsh princess Branwen and inspired the rousing song “Men of Harlech”.
- From Minffordd station, where the line turns west, it’s a mile’s walk to the to the fantasy Italianate village of Portmeirion, colourful location of cult 1960s TV series, The Prisoner.
- Next stop is Porthmadog, home to the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways – two spectacular narrow gauge steam railways, running through the mountains of Snowdonia to the slate capital of Blaenau Ffestiniog and the famous castle town of Caernarfon.
- The train goes on past Criccieth Castle, perched on a hill above the beach, to reach the end of the line at Pwllheli, on the Llyn Peninsular, with staggering views over Cardigan Bay.
- Half of the 26 stations on this line are request stops: to catch a train at these smaller stations, you’ll need to stick out your arm in time for the driver to brake and, if you want to get off at one, make sure you ask the guard well ahead.