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. And great for staycations - scroll to the end and find more tips on buses, trains and places to stay. There are glorious walks like the Mawddach Trail to explore, 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, through hills and mountains, to the Cambrian Coast. The line divides at Dovey Junction station, with the shorter mainline heading south to historic Aberystwyth, and the 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 leader 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. 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.
- As the train heads on towards Barmouth, look out for wildlife. The line runs beside the Dyfi Estuary, its salt marshes, sandbanks and mudflats teeming with birds.
2. Coastal path and coastal railway
Long sandy beaches on the Snowdonian coast – what could be more spectacular? The Cambrian Coast railway runs alongside the Wales 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.