Scenic tours through the Welsh countryside
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Enjoy a fantastic tour of North Wales, based in charming Llandudno. From here we explore the historic steam railways and impressive castles found along the coastline of this beautiful and mountainous region of Wales.
Our holiday begins as you meet your Tour Manager in Llandudno, where we stay at the Dunoon Hotel. This fabulous seaside resort, sometimes referred to as the 'Queen of the Welsh Resorts', is the ideal base from which to enjoy our explorations of Wales, thanks in part to its marvellous history in welcoming travellers and guests to its delightful sandy beaches.
Tonight we meet for a drinks reception ahead of our first dinner together in the hotel's award-winning restaurant.
Today we head along the coast to Caernarfon, and join the narrow-gauge Welsh Highland Railway* into the foothills of the Snowdon Mountains to Porthmadog. Here we coach to Portmeirion. This excellent line was opened in what is considered to be the 'Golden Age of rail travel', the roaring 20's. Although it closed only 15 years later, a marvellous effort has come to restore the line, and in 1980 it began running again, to the great pleasure of anyone that has had the fortune of travelling on it.
The particular stretch of line that we are travelling on today was restored and re-opened in 2011, and takes us through the spectacular rolling hills and dipping valleys that are so synonymous with Wales. The windows in the marvellously restored carriages are large, perfect for watching the breathtaking views that sail past just outside them, and the seats are extremely comfortable, giving you no better way to see the countryside as it is meant to be seen.
On arrival in Porthmadog, we transfer to Portmeirion, which we get acquainted with on a short guided tour. This tiny tourist village started construction in 1925, after being designed by architect Clough Williams-Ellis in a rather successful attempt to re-create a village the likes of which you would see in the Italian Riviera: something that has been achieved to a marvellous effect. Portmeirion finished construction 52 years later, and now enjoys numerous visitors who come to enjoy the calming sea views, the lovely architecture, and verdant greenery.
After some time here at leisure, perhaps perusing the quaint souvenir shops, we return to Porthmadog to join the narrow-gauge Ffestiniog Railway* to Blaenau Ffestiniog. The second heritage railway that we travel on today is owned by the same company as the Welsh Highland Railway, and it boasts the title of being the oldest railway company in the world.
This particular line is short but sweet, and has a history dating back nearly 200 years. There are a number of locomotives that operate on this line, some of them steam, but the oldest of the locomotives is over 150 years old, and has been impeccably maintained to guarantee a marvellous train riding experience.
* Steam hauled where possible
We begin our day with a guided tour of the impressive Caernarfon Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Marvel at the iconic polygonal towers of this famed attraction. As we wander through the sprawling ancient complex, it is easy to imagine what life must have been like for the soldiers that lived here - from the legions of Rome to the armies of Edward I.
After the tour of the castle, we then travel over the rather dramatic scenery of the Llanberis Pass to Llanberis, where we visit the National Slate Museum which outlines the history of quarrying and slate in Wales since the original quarry was opened in 1870. Later, we board the Snowdon Mountain Railway's diesel service†, which climbs to the summit of Snowdon at 3,494 feet.
Enjoy travelling up the rugged sides of Wales' highest mountain in the comfortable, and rather modern, carriages of this wonderful service. Mingled with the everunchanging scenery of Snowdonia National Park, it can be all to easy to lose yourself in the amazing and immersive experience of this fantastic mountain railway. Hopefully, if the weather is good, you are able to reach the summit† and marvel at the spectacular panorama that is laid out before you, as you enjoy a scene that was just this year voted 'the best view in Britain'.
This evening, we return to our hotel and enjoy a talk on the history of Llandudno ahead of dinner by special guests from the Llandudno Museum.
†Please note the first two departures are unlikely to reach the summit as it is too early in the season. Reaching the summit is dependent on weather conditions.
Today you are at leisure to explore Llandudno. The nostalgic Victorian pier is well worth a visit. Built in 1878, this charming attraction provides excellent views of the seafront promenade. It also has the lovely title of being the longest pier in Wales, taking you out into the sea and giving you a delightful view of Llandudno behind you.
This morning we visit Conwy Castle, a wonderfully preserved 13th century castle. A guided tour reveals its intriguing history, from its initial and somewhat humble beginnings as a Cistercian monastery, to its part played in the War of the Roses, to its eventual ruin in the 17th century. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, a title which it shares with many of the Castles of King Edward that are scattered throughout Wales.
We also visit Plas Mawr, the best-preserved Elizabethan townhouse in Britain. Constructed over the course of 9 years, what is perhaps most striking about this whitewashed house is it's lovely crow-stepped gables and the heraldry that stands out above the door. It has stood unchanged since the 16th century, and is therefore an incredible insight into how life was in the 1500's.
We then continue to Bodnant Garden, which spans 80 acres, including a beautiful wild garden, an explosion of colour and scents that is the perfect outing on which to end the final day of the holiday. This evening we enjoy a 'Taste of Wales' farewell dinner at the hotel.
The tour concludes after breakfast this morning, and you are free to depart Llandudno at your leisure.
Please note ** Diesel service in April & October Itinerary and excursions may vary on some departures.
On many of our UK & Ireland tours, you may check in at the first hotel on your itinerary anytime after 14:00; your Tour Manager will be available between 16:00 and 18:00. You will receive a welcome drink at 18.00 just before dinner at 18.30.
An escorted experience and all travel arrangements
Comfortable accommodation in your destination
Delicious meals included
Exciting excursions and free time to explore
Enhancing your tour
of travellers would recommend this tour
based on 31 verified reviews
Good programme, well organised, good hotel, very good tour manager
Excellent company, and very smooth arrangements
Very good considering the wet weather
It was varied, well organised and hotel comfortable and well situated.
as usual well organised excellent choice of hotel
Let down by the hotel room, small, dark, cluttered. Twin beds too short for 6'2" person to sleep in. Bathroom very tight for space and plumbing in need of some TLC.
Wonderful trip, everyone was very helpful and kind.
As ever, the trips, manager and driver marvellous. Unfortunately, though we had requested a twin room, this did not seem to have got through to the Dunoon. Upon arrival, two days before the tour started, we had been allotted a double room and there were no rooms to swap to. In order to avoid this situation, I phoned a week before to check that we had a twin room. The person I spoke to said that had not been requested by Great Rail, but that he would rectify the matter. As he was not there to discuss the matter with, I have no idea why de did not. Another couple who had just arrived agreed to swap from the family room to a double room. All this was very stressful for my 92 year old mother in law and myself. We paid for a superior room and we're allottec No. 27. The room was fine, beautifully decorated, clean, beds comfortable. The bathroom, however, could only be described as inadequate. The only shelf was over the toilet, away from the wash basin. The shower worked if you were dextrous enough. I can appreciate the niceties of the Dunoon. The staff, the ambiance of the public areas, the position in Llandudno etc, but the bathroom could be dramatically improved for very little expenditure and a little thought. The holiday itself was, really enjoyable, well organised and relaxing. The manager, Roz, was helpful and friendly, as were all the staff at the Dunoon, and they finally dealt with the mistake well.
Everything ran smoothly and perfectly with a
Good value for money holiday. Hotel and transport were very good. The itinerary only had two castles and some rather tangential visits - Port Merion, Bodwythm and Slate Museum didn't really fit as railways or castles.
Scenic tours through the Welsh countryside