Exploring Snowdonia by Rail1st May 2014
When it comes to rail travel in the UK, many of us think about stuffy commuter trains, or gliding along valley bottoms and gazing at the hills all around you. In Snowdonia, however, the railway takes you to the very rooftop of Wales itself – Yr Wyddfa, otherwise known as Snowdon. The famous tracks were laid in the 19th Century, and run from Llanberis each day every hour or half hour between March and October. The ride is about 90 minutes, and includes a 30-minute break at the summit.
The Snowdon Mountain Railway is no ordinary scenic route. The region is steeped in ancient lore and history. It is the burial place of the mythical giant ogre, Rhita, who was allegedly killed by King Arthur. There are also multiple train types that one can take. The most frequent train (as mentioned above) is a Hunslet Engine Company diesel locomotive from 1985 with brand-new carriages that can carry up to 74 passengers in total. Besides this fine model, there is the “Snowdon Lily,” which is built on the chassis of an 1896 model locomotive. Relive the age of steam and relax as the train draws you up the mountain smoothly allowing you to take in the breathtaking scenery of northern Wales.
Before taking your ride from historic Llanberis station, you might want to enjoy a hot drink or a snack. Why not try the Village Bakery in Llanberis, or even Platform Grill right by the station. You’ll need to keep your energy levels up when you reach the summit and are faced with the most stunning views in all of Wales. The visitor center by the summit cairn — Hafod Eyri — is open all day from late spring until the end of October, and has a café, gift shop, and lots of information on the history of the center and Snowden itself.
Remember that if you are staying at Barmouth Bay and also are planning a hike in Snowdonia, safety should be your primary concern. Plan your route thoroughly, bring the right gear, practice your map and compass skills, stay flexible and don’t be afraid to turn back if things look like they might turn sour. Better yet, take the easier route and enjoy Snowdonia by its historic railway!