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Bucket list experience:

Last updated: 16 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: David Atkinson

A must for train lovers, the Ffestiniog Railway is the world’s oldest narrow-gauge railway. But even for non-train buffs, it’s an enjoyable and atmospheric way extraordinary way to see and appreciate some of Wales most beautiful landscapes.

The 13.5-mile journey from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog snakes past lakes, waterfalls and the forests of Snowdonia National Park as it climbs 700ft into the mountains.

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Price from: £25
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 4+
When: All year around
Duration: 1-3 hours

Getting there & doing it

Driving to Porthmadog or Caernarfon from London takes around six hours. Trains from London Euston to Porthmadog take around six hours, changing at Birmingham International.

Porthmadog mainline station is a 10-minute walk from the terminus at Porthmadog Harbour station. It’s a 3-hour round trip (Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog), though you can hop on hop off. Tan-y-Bwlch (the fourth station) is a good stop-off point for a short nature walk to Llyn Mair and a cuppa at the platform-side tearoom. Book tickets in advance on the website.

There is also the option to connect with the Welsh Highland Line at Porthmadog, travelling a further 2 hours on to Caernarfon, home to the impressive Caernarfon Castle.

When to do it

Trains run spring to autumn with some winter services according to maintenance works. Times and dates vary, so check the exact timetable and schedules on the website.

Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay near this experience, closest first

Plas Weunydd

Snowdonia National Park, Wales, United Kingdom (UK)[6.4 miles]

A boutique property with a real sense of history, it offers a stylish, central base to explore both the industrial heritage and the ever-expanding adrenaline activities of the region. It sits amid Wales’ latest UNESCO site.

Official star rating:

Olif Guesthouse

Snowdonia National Park, Wales, United Kingdom (UK)[19.6 miles]

Homely, cosy and fuelled by local produce, Olif is a rare find in an area besieged by coach trippers come high summer. Adults only.

Official star rating:

Plas Dinas Country House

Snowdonia National Park, Wales, United Kingdom (UK)[23.8 miles]

An elegant country house hotel, located between the mountains and the sea, Plas Dinas is underpinned by a timeless love story of a Royal princess. Expect genteel surrounds and elegant nostalgia from the new Judge’s Room to the Gunroom Restaurant.

Official star rating:

Penmaenuchaf Hall Hotel

Snowdonia National Park, Wales, United Kingdom (UK)[24.9 miles]

A grand Victorian mansion, set in its own country-estate grounds, this is a family-run bolthole with a welcoming, cosy ambiance. Located towards the quieter southern end of the Snowdonia National Park, it’s a rural haven.

Official star rating:

Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

Snowdonia National Park

Wales, United Kingdom (UK)

Snowdonia’s national park is the rural heartland of North Wales — think mountains, glacial valleys, and sparkling waterfalls. But there’s also plenty here for families, history buffs and Sunday strollers.

Website >
Overview >

Our writer’s recommendations of other bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination, closest first

Welsh Highland Railway

Snowdonia National Park, Wales, United Kingdom (UK)[11.9 miles]

Rail buffs, wannabe train drivers and anyone who appreciates spectacular scenery will love this gloriously scenic route through the landscape of the Snowdonia National Park.

Best for ages: 4+ | £25 | 2+ hours

National Slate Museum

Snowdonia National Park, Wales, United Kingdom (UK)[18.6 miles]

This industrial-heritage museum celebrates the international significance of Welsh slate in ‘roofing the 19th century world’. There are plenty of hands-on exhibitions for families and history buffs alike, plus regular talks and workshops.

Best for ages: 10+ | Free

Zip World Penrhyn Quarry [Zip-lining]

Snowdonia National Park, Wales, United Kingdom (UK)[22.7 miles]

Hard-core adrenaline lovers will make a beeline for this adventure-packed quarry site near Bangor. It’s home to the world’s fastest and longest zipline, with speeds of up to 100mph.

Best for ages: 13+ | £12 | 2+ hours

Other worthwhile experiences near this experience if you have time or interest..

Zip World Llechwedd

Snowdonia National Park, Wales, United Kingdom (UK)[6.3 miles]

History and high jinks combine for a family day out at this quarry site near Blaenau Ffestiniog. It’s home to adrenaline adventures like Titan 2 but also offers an insight into the mining heritage of the region.

Best for ages: 7+ | £25



Snowdonia National Park, Wales, United Kingdom (UK)[8.3 miles]

The fairy-tale village, located outside Porthmadog, was the labour-of-love lifework of the architect Clough Williams-Ellis. His visionary collection of Italianate-style buildings makes for an eccentric family day out. Join free daily walking tours.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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Overview >
Harlech Castle

Harlech Castle

Snowdonia National Park, Wales, United Kingdom (UK)[13.6 miles]

Picture-postcard Harlech is most fairytale of the four castles, its imposing towers set atop a 200ft rocky outcrop overlooking the Cambrian coastline. An exhibition in the visitor centre explores the story of the castle’s military history.

Best for ages: 4+ | £8

Website >
Overview >

Walk to Swallow Falls

Snowdonia National Park, Wales, United Kingdom (UK)[18.7 miles]

A 2-mile walk through the forest to this cascading falls is the most popular day-walk trail in the region, moderately strenuous but accessible by all.

Best for ages: 4+ | Free | 1.5-2.5 hours

Round-ups that include this experience