Friday, 9 May 2014


If you are a fan of heritage railways, Porthmadog makes an excellent base for a break in North Wales.  The town is the terminus of not one, but two heritage railways, both of which run through some of the country's most spectacular mountain scenery.  The Welsh Highland Railway, which we previously met at its other end in Caernarvon, follows a beautiful route past the foot of Mount Snowdon, stopping off at the pretty village of Beddgelert, and scattering nervous sheep and lambs in its wake.  The Ffestiniog Railway heads inland, crossing the Glaslyn Estuary and climbing up through the mountains to the old slate mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog.  The Porthmadog Harbour railway station has recently undergone an expensive revamp, and there will be an official opening ceremony on 22 May, although the first trains from the two heritage railways have already started running from the station.

Porthmadog gets its name from William Madocks, who built a sea wall in 1811 in order to reclaim land for agricultural use.  The wall, known as The Cob, is the one used by the Ffestiniog Railway to cross the estuary.  The building of the wall led to the formation of a natural harbour, and this became an important port for the export of slate from Ffestiniog, as well as a shipbuilding centre.  The Maritime Museum tells the story of this seafaring past.  The estuary is a haven for wildlife, including migrating birds, and the view inland from The Cob is breathtaking, with the mountains of Snowdonia gracing the horizon.  There is a waterside arts centre called YGanolfan for cultured types.  

Map of the area. 

File:Afon Glaslyn - - 221533.jpg
View from The Cob. Photo by R Haworth, via Wikimedia Commons

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