The Welsh Highland Railway (WHR) or Rheilffordd Eryri, runs 25 miles from Porthmadog to Caernarfon on the north-west coast of Wales, making it the UKs longest heritage railway.
It’s also arguably the most scenic railway in Wales, taking in the Aberglaslyn Pass, Beddgelert, the foot of Snowdon, Llyn Cwellyn, before arriving back on the coast in Caernarfon and it’s majestic castle.
You can travel in comfortable third-class or luxurious Pullman carriages (plus an observation carriage). Each full one-way trip from Porthmadog takes around 2 hours 15 minutes with a stop of around 1 hour 15 minutes in Caernarfon. There are two full return trips per day in peak season and one in off-season (please check their website at festrail.co.uk for a full timetable).
The line originally ran from Porthmadog to Dinas near Caernarfon, the extension being built on the trackbed of the former standard gauge railway. The trains run on a single track line with passing loops at Pont Croesor (the Glaslyn Osprey viewing centre), Beddgelert, Rhyd Ddu, Waunfawr and Dinas.
There are currently five steam locomotives running on the WHR.
Visit their Ffestiniog & WHR website at festrail.co.uk of their Facebook page at facebook.com/festrail.
Caernarfon Castle and Town Square
Caernarfon is 20 miles away from Porthmadog by car and is also is the end of the line of the Welsh Highland Railway which starts at Porthmadog (although this is slightly longer at 25 miles).
A brute of a fortress. Caernarfon Castle’s pumped-up appearance is unashamedly muscle-bound and intimidating. Picking a fight with this massive structure would have been a daunting prospect. By throwing his weight around in stone, King Edward I created what is surely one of the most impressive of Wales’s castles. Worthy of World Heritage status no less.
Most castles are happy with round towers, not Caernarfon! Polygonal towers were the order of the day, with the Eagle Tower being the most impressive of these. You will also note the colour-coded stones carefully arranged in bands.
The site of this great castle wasn’t chosen by accident. It had previously been the location of a Norman motte and bailey castle and before that a Roman fort stood nearby. The lure of water and easy access to the sea made the banks of the River Seiont an ideal spot for Edward’s monster in masonry.
Edward wasn’t one to miss an opportunity to tighten his grip even further on the native population. The birth of his son, the first English Prince of Wales, in the castle in 1284, was a perfect device to stamp his supremacy. In 1969, the investiture of the current Prince of Wales, HRH Prince Charles took place here.
Whilst you're visiting this formidable fortress, don't miss the opportunity to see the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum, which is housed in two of the castle’s towers.
Along with Harlech Castle, Conwy Castle and Beaumaris Castle, this monument has been part of the Castles and Town Walls of Edward 1 World Heritage Site since 1986.
Text courtesy of CADW.