Our first morning in Wales was just like the previous day – cold, wet and generally miserable. Still, undeterred, we decided to keep with our original plan which was to ride the historic Ffestiniog Railway to Blaenau Ffestiniog – despite the rain we thought the one hour and fifteen minute train journey sounded fun. Plenty of options regarding train times, we chose one at ten o’clock, bought our tickets and waited. Not cheap by any means – it cost £21.50 each for us but Son went free and they have to upkeep the railway and the trains somehow. The ticket allowed us to break our journey at intermediate stations – a great idea.
We found an incredibly busy platform and the train already pretty full by the time we got close but did still manage to get seats together in one of the little carriages. Red velvet seats, lots of wood, old fashioned and quirky – I loved it.
Some of the world’s first railways were built in Wales, at first hauled by horses to carry coal and slate from pits and quarries in the mountains to the coast. Ffestiniog Railway was established in 1832 and is the oldest independent railway company in the world. Originally it too was horse-drawn and built to transport slate from the nearby mountain mines down to the port. The line fell into disuse with the decline of the industry but is now used for tourists. You definitely do not need to be a railway buff to enjoy this trip.
We puffed out of Porthmadog slowly on those narrow guage tracks and made our way past the harbour. Especially gorgeous as the sea laps right at the base of the railway. We climbed steadily for the 19 mile journey and passed through woodland, lakes and ascended 700 feet into the mountains.
The train loops, twists and stops at various halts en route. The weather, bad enough when we left just got worse. Misty and pouring with rain the views were not what they should have been. We did though love the huge waterfall just before we arrived in Blaenau.
The scenery was varied – the estuary at Porthmadog, the green valley and the grey slate hills – just shrouded in mist we really struggled to see much. We had planned to get off at a couple of the stations on the way – one in particular had a waterfall walk but the driving rain put us off that idea.
A couple of hours in Blaenau then it was back on the train again. Empty this time for the return leg, we chugged back to Porthmadog, soaked through and very chilly. We enjoyed our expedition on this lovely old train, just need to do it again someday when we can actually see the views.