Railways & Castles of Wales
NO SINGLE SUPPLEMENT*
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. The fantastic Great Orme Tramway is another option; this excellent transport system takes passengers up to the top of the Great Orme, an impressive headland which stands watch over Llandudno and offers some striking views across the bay. Originally opened in 1905, this is the only cable operated tramway in Britain and is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.
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.
Departures WDS1801, WDS1804 and WDS1810 Days 3 and 5 have swapped around.
Departure WDS1807 Days 2 and 5 have swapped around.
Departure WDS1812 Day 2 is now Day 5, Day 3 is now Day 2 and Day 5 is now Day 3.
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
This tour may be suitable for reduced mobility passengers, please call for further information.
of travellers would recommend this tour
based on 31 verified reviews
Very good in all respects
This was most enjoyable holiday. Good organisation. Pleasant company. Failing to reach the top of Snowdon was not the company's fault. Menus were good, but not with very wide choice.
Spledid Itinary & Exellent Hotel
Dunoon Hotel was very good in most ways but the Victorian plumbing meant that the hot water supply was erratic in our room. The coach travel and driver were very good and tour leader Karen Austin was excellent. The biggest disappointment was the visit to Snowdon on Saturday 15th. The summit was beyond packed, not only was it a Saturday which is obviously a popular day but it was also the day of a triathlon.It was standing room only, shoulder to shoulder in the summit cafe and outside. Out of the four days available it was a poor choice of day for our visit. The other visits were varied, well planned and enjoyable We have given very positive reports to friends and family and hope to travel with Great Rail Journeys again.
Hotel -food and accommodation very good, organised trips were well planned.
Rexcellent from start to finish, hotel, tours, tour manager all 100%. A perfect short break
Very good itinerary ,great food ,nice hotel ,good planning and a very good ,friendly tour manager
hotel was in a good location,food was excellent, excursions were well chosen and we were fortunate that the weather was favourable
An enjoyable holiday, well organised, good hotel.
Very well-organised holiday with interesting itinerary that was enhanced by good company and nice weather. The Dunoon was particularly good, the meals were excellent. Would definitely recommend, have done already!
Scenic tours through the Welsh countryside