The whistle came first, then steam clouds above the trees, and finally the little train clickety-clacked into the rural station at Beddgelert in Snowdonia, North Wales. I felt like a child again, enjoying old-fashioned fun on the narrow-gauge Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways (F&WHR).
Fortified with cake and coffee from Spooner’s Café at the Harbour Station, I had caught the 9:40 train from Porthmadog, riding in an open railway carriage on the 40-minute journey to the pretty village of Beddgelert. While you can ride in the £250,000 luxury Pullman observation car 150, the semi-open carriage option seemed more authentic to me – open to the sights, smells and sounds of a train hauled by one of the oldest steam-breathing locomotives in the world. And, my Labrador dog could enjoy the ride, too. Along the route, walkers smiled and waved as we went by – the thrill of these little trains is catching!
F&WHR train journeys include the leisurely 50-mile round trip, coast-to-coast from Porthmadog to Caernarfon (think castle, picturesque harbour), and a 60-minute journey to the slate-mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog (more recently, home to adrenalin-rushing zip wires, deep mine tours). The Ffestiniog Railway is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest independent railway.
I chose to stop off in Beddgelert (on the Porthmadog-Caernarfon trip) to have the best of both worlds – the train experience, and explore a village. Arriving in Beddgelert at 10:40 gave me, and my happy dog, time to walk alongside the chattering river to the Sygun Copper Mine, and enjoy an award-winning ice cream from Glaslyn Ices, before catching the return afternoon train to Porthmadog. I was careful to check the return train schedule as it would be a long walk back if I had missed it. A history-laden, and fun day!
First published: Flight Centre Travel Group. October 2017. Page 68.