Classic Scenic Railways: Cambrian Coast, Wales

Wales is famous for its trains. One of the best and most scenic in Great Britain is the Cambrian Coast Railway which runs beside the Irish Sea. Photo: Arriva Trains

WALESJanuary 6, 2013 – Riding the railways of Wales is one of the great joys of travel. Other than Switzerland, there is perhaps no other country with more narrow gauge train excursions in the world.

For an unhurried traveler with a serendipitous sense for exploration, there is an unlimited array of railway diversity in Wales, and one of the most scenic train trips in Great Britain is along the Cambrian Coast. (www.arrivatrainswales.co.uk/Cambrianline/)

Don’t expect to get anywhere fast discovering the rich and varied Gwynedd coastline. This is rail travel as it used to be. Forget schedules and deadlines. Sit back, relax and enjoy the adventure.

The scenic Cambrian Coast

There are several things to know before embarking on your journey. First, you don’t have to be the winner of the National Spelling Bee, but it helps. Villages with names like Aberystwyth, Machynlleth, Lhwyngrill or Pwllhell may leave you wondering if the Italians didn’t sneak in during the middle of the night and steal all the vowels.

Promotional materials will tell you that trains are “fairly infrequent” so it is important to check timetables before setting out. The relatively limited service combined with other factors can cause delays so it does take a bit of patience to travel the Cambrian Coast.

While there are many stops along the route, some are by “request only.” That means if you are not certain whether the train stops at a particular station inform the conductor where you want to get off in advance.

Dyfi Furnace, Cambrian Coast

For passengers boarding a train from a station where there is no regular stop, simply flag the engineer just as you would hail a taxi or signal a bus.

For example, Dovey Junction is little more than a platform in the middle of a field. It once had a station buffet, but today it is more of a novelty to disembark the train there.

If you do get off, it is a twenty minute walk into the village of Eglwysfach where you can visit the Ynyshir Nature Reserve. Walk a bit more to view the picturesque Dyfi Furnace.

Another delay factor is that much of the line is single track. Consequently when two trains are traveling in opposite directions they must wait until they each reach a place where there are double tracks so they can pass.

The adjustments are part of the fun, but it helps to be aware of them in advance so you don’t find yourself suffering from traveler’s anxiety due to delays or uncertainty.

Departing Dovey Junction

Thanks to modern technology there are a couple of ways to check schedules to find the location of particular trains. One is to use your smart phone by visiting www.nationalrail.co.uk   

Another is text. Text “dep” then a station name (if you can spell it) to 84950 for details of the next trains and how they are running.

Once armed with the proper mental attitude and all necessary precautions, you are set to embark on a journey filled with seaside resorts, tiny coastal villages, sandy beaches and rockbound coasts that disappear into the sea.

Here the railways snuggle beside breathtaking vistas where breezes from the Irish Seaembrace the landscape and caress the coast.

From Aberystwyth take a seat on the left side of the train for the best views of the majestic coastline that spreads out before you. Rugged, untamed shorelines yield to tiny fishing villages and romantic hideaways.

East of Penhelig

Some of the more important stations along the route include:

Aberystwyth: The main seaside resort in Mid Wales is a university town featuring the Welsh National Library and a sweeping promenade along the beach. For more details about this beginning or end point for the Cambrian Coast Railway go to www.aberystwyth.org.uk

Machynlleth: A typical Mid Wales market village with unique character. The main square is a bustling place filled with traditional shops such as bakers and butchers mingled with a variety of unusual specialty shops.

Barmouth: One of the most popular destinations on the Cambrian Coast. The main attraction is the beach and, though not a large resort, it does feature numerous shops, cafes and amusements plus it has the advantage of being halfway along the route.

Harlech: Famous for its castle perched high on a cliff. It can be seen from the train as you approach. For the best view sit on the right side of the train when traveling from Aberystwyth. The fortress is worth a visit, not only for its history but also the views.

Exterior of Harlech Castle, Wales

Criccieth: If you want the castle experience and ice cream too, Criccieth is the place. Though not as large at Harlech Castle, Criccieth is a picturesque village that offers the locally famous Cadwalader’s ice cream.

Pwllheli: The end of the line or the beginning depending on which way you go. If you think you had trouble understanding the language before, you can forget it in Pwllheli. There are two beaches, a marina and plenty of shops including a market.

The line is served by both steam and small contemporary trains which are frequently be crowed, but may also be virtually empty.

For day trippers, rail lovers and travelers who just enjoy quaint villages and breathtaking scenery, the Cambrian Coast Railway is hard to beat.

Peabod is Bob Taylor, owner of Taylored Media Services in CharlotteNCTaylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club, which creates, and escorts customized tours to SwitzerlandFrance and Italy for groups of 12 or more.

Inquiries for groups can be made at Peabod@aol.com Taylored Media has produced marketing videos for British Rail, Rail Europe, Switzerland Tourism, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council, the Finnish Tourist Board, the Swiss Travel System and Japan Railways Group among others.

As author of The Century Club book, Peabod is now attempting to travel to 100 countries or more during his lifetime. To date he has visited 71 countries. Suggest someplace new for Bob to visit; if you want to know where he has been, check his list on Facebook. Bob plans to write a sequel to his book when he reaches his goal of 100 countries. He also played professional baseball for four years and was a sportscaster for 14 years at WBTV, the CBS affiliate in Charlotte.

 

 


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Bob Taylor

Bob Taylor has been travel writer for more than three decades. Following a career as an award winning sports producer/anchor, Taylor’s media production business produced marketing presentations for Switzerland Tourism, Rail Europe, the Finnish Tourist Board, Japan Railways Group, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council and the Swiss Travel System among others. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com) and his goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.

 

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