We join the Welsh Highland Railway for a
wonderful journey by narrow gauge steam train* through the
beautiful Snowdonia National Park. The line originally opened to
passengers in 1923 but closed in 1937, having never achieved
commercial success. From the early 1960s onwards a group of railway
enthusiasts have been working to restore the line and in 2003 the
13-mile (20.9km) section from Caernarfon right the way through to
Rhyd Ddu was opened for service once again.
Our journey begins in Caernarfon, close to the quayside, and as
we leave the town we pass alongside the imposing Caernarfon Castle.
Shortly after leaving the town the train begins to climb up onto
the Arfon Plateau, offering us fantastic views of the mountains on
the left and Caernarfon Bay and the Lleyn Peninsula on the right.
We pass through Dinas and continue through an area once renowned
for its slate quarries to the village of Waunfawr, the gateway to
the mountains. From here we can see the first peaks of the Snowdon
ridge, Cefn Du and Moel Eilio, on the left and Mynydd Mawr on the
opposite side of the valley.
The train continues to Bryn Gloch, where we enter the Snowdonia
National Park. Here the previously broad valley narrows
dramatically as we pass between mountains Moel Eilio and Mynydd
Mawr. As the valley broadens once again we travel past the lake
Llyn Cwellyn and the peak of Mount Snowdon appears on the left. We
pass the Snowdon Ranger youth hostel and embark on a series of
sweeping curves. The views of tumbling waterfalls and mountain
vistas become even more spectacular as we travel towards Rhyd
From Rhyd Ddu we pass the waters of Llyn-y-Gader and climb to
the summit of the line at Pitts Head. We then begin our descent to
Beddgelert and as the train zig-zags down the hillside, we enjoy
fabulous views of the surrounding mountains. After a brief stop in
Beddgelert we head towards the Aberglaslyn Pass, travelling
alongside then above the Afon Glaslyn river before plunging into
the tunnel which takes us through the hillside. On emerging at the
other side of the hill it is just a short distance to Nantmor
village. From here we continue along the newly completed stretch of
track between Hafod y Llyn to our destination, Porthmadog.
* Journeys are usually by steam train and we utilise these
services where available but occasionally the locomotive hauling
the train may be diesel.