CARDIFF, Wales, June 13, 2015 – Riding the railways of Wales is one of the great joys of travel. Other than Switzerland, there is perhaps no 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.
Don’t expect to get anywhere fast discovering the rich and varied Gwynedd coastline. Forget schedules and deadlines. Sit back, relax and enjoy the adventure.
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 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.
Passengers boarding a train from a station where there is no regular stop simply flag the engineer just as they 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 20-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 one reaches 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.
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 Sea embrace 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.
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 check the Cambrian Coast Railway link.
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 which 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 for the views.
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 that are often crowded, 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.
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About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
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