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Bucket list experience:

Last updated: 07 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: David Atkinson

The Welsh Highland Railway is the UK’s longest heritage railway line and an engineering gem for steam enthusiasts and sightseers alike.

It’s a stunning 25-mile route running from the station near Caernarfon Castle, via Beddgelert, onto Porthmadog. The journey builds to a dramatic crescendo through the Aberglaslyn Pass, the train edging along the rock shelf above the River Glaslyn. Head to the open-air carriage for the best views here.

The route is designed as a hop-on, hop-off service with regular stops along the way – make a stop at the village of Beddgelert, one of Snowdonia’s picture-postcard highlights, for coffee and ice-creams. You can walk along the river to Gelert’s Grave, a place of Welsh mythology. Also combine it with a visit to Caernarfon Castle.

If 25 miles is not enough, it also connects with the Ffestiniog Railway at Porthmadog to complete 40 steam-powered miles through the rural heart of Snowdonia.

Recommended itineraries by our writers that include this experience

Price from: £25
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 4+
When: All year around
Duration: 2+ 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.

You can travel in either direction, stopping en route. Porthmadog station, at one end of the line, is a 10-minute walk from Porthmadog Harbour Station. At the other end, the route starts beneath the town walls near Caernarfon Castle.

The journey one way take just over 2 hours, though you can opt for a ‘full day’ package, which includes the return trip and a 2-hour stop-over. Book tickets in advance on the website – you can also select your specific train.

When to do it

Trains run spring to autumn with some winter services according to maintenance works. Times and dates vary, so check the timetable on the website. Some train feature open-air carriages for the best views. Check the website for exact times and schedules.

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

Plas Dinas Country House

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

Plas Weunydd

Snowdonia National Park, Wales, United Kingdom (UK)[15.8 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:

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.

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Overview >

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

Ffestiniog Railway

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

The world’s oldest narrow-gauge railway offers the chance to travel deep into Wales’ most spectacular mountainscapes.

Best for ages: 4+ | £25 | 1-3 hours

National Slate Museum

Snowdonia National Park, Wales, United Kingdom (UK)[14 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)[20.1 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..



Snowdonia National Park, Wales, United Kingdom (UK)[11.1 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 >

Zip World Llechwedd

Snowdonia National Park, Wales, United Kingdom (UK)[15.9 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

Harlech Castle

Harlech Castle

Snowdonia National Park, Wales, United Kingdom (UK)[16.4 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

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Overview >
Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle

Snowdonia National Park, Wales, United Kingdom (UK)[16.7 miles]

This imposing medieval fortress was originally built in the 11th century, then enhanced by King Edward I at the end of the 13th century. The scene of many a siege and sacking, and then increasingly unnecessary, it fell into disrepair so that only the shell walls remain today.

Best for ages: 4+ | £11

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Overview >