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 Ddu.
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.