The Ffestiniog Railway at Tan-y-Bwlch
The station at Tan-y-Bwlch opened in July 1873, replacing the old station at Hafod y Llyn. It closed to passengers in September 1939, resuming again in April 1958.
It was the terminus of the Ffestiniog railway until Dduallt was reopened in 1968, although Tan-y-Bwlch continued as the main station for eastern side of the line as Dduallt had no road access.
The Ffestiniog Railway at Tanygrisiau
Tanygrisiau is a stop on the Ffestiniog Railway. It is situated on the southern side of the Moelwyn mountain range, which shelters the village from northerly winds.
The name means: Tan = Beneath / Y = The / Grisiau - Steps (Referring to the stepped hills above the village).
Construction of the Ffestiniog Power Station at Tanygrisiau started in 1957 and was completed in 1963. Water is pumped from the lower reservoir, “Llyn Ystradau” (Tanygrisiau Reservoir) to the upper reservoir “Llyn Stwlan” at times of low demand (usually at night) and the water is then released through pipes to power its four generators. The resulting electricity is then provided to the National Grid at times of high demand. Stwlan Dam was built to hold the water in the upper reservoir, increasing the size of the lake that was already there.
Ffestiniog Power Station is currently owned by First Hydro.
Cwmorthin is about 45 minute’s drive away, but well worth a visit. There are several places to park at Tanygrisiau; there is a large car park as you drive towards the station, a small station car park, one by the popular Café and one at the quarry entrance. What’s more, they are all free. Tanygrisiau is also a station on the Ffestiniog Railway, near Blaenau Ffestiniog.
You may think a slate quarry is the last place to spend a peaceful afternoon wandering around, especially with the high-energy goings on at nearby Llechwedd and its trampolines, zip-wires and and downhill mountain bike tracks, but Cwmorthin has a tranquil charm with its abandoned buildings and beautiful lake all sitting in a slate-lined mountain bowl. It’s the perfect place to bring your camera for those atmospheric shots.
Slate extraction began at Cwmorthin in 1810 with work carrying on right up to 1997, although there were long periods when the site fell silent during its latter years with various transfers of ownership.
Only around 10% of the slate made it out of the quarry, so the other 90% can be seen all around (and high above). With around 96,000 tons of slate leaving between 1861 and 1876, this makes around a million tonnes of waste in just those fifteen years.
It was a dangerous place to work with 21 deaths out of a workforce of 550 between 1875 and 1893 alone. This gave the quarry the nickname of “The Slaughterhouse”.
Read about Cwmorthin at cwmorthin.org.
The Ffestiniog Railway at Dduallt
Dduallt (meaning “Black Wooded Slope”) is the most remote station on the Ffestiniog Railway as it can only be reached by public footpaths, having no road access. It was first mentioned as a passenger station in 1880. It closed in September 1939 and reopened to passenger trains in April 1968.
Campbell’s Platform near Dduallt was built in 1965 to serve the 15th century Manor House “Plas Dduallt” where Oliver Cromwell is said to have stayed during his campaign against the Royalists.
Colonel Andrew Campbell bought the house in 1962 and completely restored it and also built road access. He kept his own locomotive in a siding at the halt which he ran to-and-from Tan-y-Bwlch. As a licensed explosives handler he also did the rock blasting needed to build the spiral. Campbell’s Platform is a private halt which is ONLY available for use by residents and visitors staying at Plas Dduallt.
Between the Platform and Tan-y-Bwlch (and over half a mile from the nearest road) is “Coed-y-Bleiddiau”, a private cottage built around 1860 for the Ffestiniog Railway’s ‘Inspector of the Line’. It was used as a holiday home in the 1930s, one of whom was Kim Philby, the Russian spy.
The house was on the UK TV programme “Most Haunted” in 2008.
Antur Stiniog at Blaenau Ffestiniog - Photo © Visit Wales
Blaenau Ffestiniog is 12.6 miles away from Porthmadog and can be reached by car or by boarding one of the beautiful steam trains on the Ffestiniog Railway at Porthmadog. The railway was built to carry the slate from the nearby mines including Tanygrisiau to the ships at Porthmadog where it was taken all over the world.
Blaenau Ffestiniog has a population of just under five-thousand people (which was twelve-thousand at the height of the slate mining trade). The town has made a name for itself in recent years, firstly with it’s Llechwedd Slate Caverns (with its underground tours of the mines), followed by the quarry’s transformation into one of the most popular mountain bike trails in Wales. Now the adventure-driven tourists are turning to the adrenaline of zip-wire travel with Llechwedd offering two experiences; “Zip Wire Titan” which consists of three separate lines and the recent unveiling of the world’s largest totally underground zip line, “Zip World Caverns”.
Zip World Titan opened in 2014. It is a four-person zip line (the first in Europe) where riders have three individual zip lines to complete (named “Anarchy”, “Bedlam” and “Chaos”):
Zip Line 1 “Anarchy”: You are taken by vehicle to “Anarchy”, which offers panoramic views of the whole of Snowdonia as you travel over moorland.
Zip Line 2 “Bedlam”: A specialised off-road vehicle takes you to “Bedlam”, the fastest of the three lines with a huge 500ft drop.
Zip Line 3 “Chaos”: A short pretty walk from the finish of “Bedlam” takes you to the start of “Chaos” which ends at the top of the hill, overlooking the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog.
Please note that “Anarchy” does not run from November to February.
Participants should allow two hours in the summer and one-and-a-half hours for the winter experience.
Zip World Caverns is the world’s largest totally underground zip line and adventure course. Travel through caverns that been inaccessible for nearly two-hundred years.