Snowdonia Mountain Railway (Shutterstock.com. See main credit below)
List Words : Wanderlust team | 04 March

Slow travel: 5 stunning narrow-gauge railways in Wales

The timeless narrow-gauge railways of Wales are the perfect way to soak up the country's glorious scenery – and enjoy travel as it used to be

1. Ffestiniog Railway

Built in 1832 to service the local slate industry, the Ffestiniog is the world's oldest narrow-gauge railway and uses lovingly restored carriages and locomotives that are over 150 years old.

Heading into the hills (Shutterstock.com) Heading into the hills (Shutterstock.com)

Starting at the harbour in Porthmadog, the train travels 13.5 miles to the slate quarrying town of Blaenau Ffestiniog. Along the way it climbs over 700 feet into the mountains past forests, lakes, pastures and waterfalls, clinging to the side of the mountain or tunnelling through it.

The line is popular with railway engineers, apparently. But that could be because of the craft beers served in the dining carriage. More information


2. Snowdon Mountain Railway

Described as one of the most unique railway journeys in the world, the Snowdon Mountain Railway has been offering visitors an awe-inspiring and enchanting way to reach the top of the highest mountain in England and Wales since Victorian times.

A carriage on the Snowden Railway being pushed up a steep incline (Shutterstock.com)A carriage on the Snowdon Railway being pushed up a steep incline (Shutterstock.com)

Starting in the tiny village of Llanberis, in the heart of Snowdonia National Park, your carriage will be pushed to the top by a heritage locomotive, past thundering waterfalls, to Eryri, the land of the eagles.

Railway buffs will want to book the Heritage Steam Experience on the Snowdon Lily, a period carriage built from the original chassis and bogey used when the line first opened. Pushed by one of three working steam locomotives, it offers the opportunity to ride up the mountain like the early pioneers did, but with a little more leg room. More information

3. The Welsh Highland Railway

At 25 miles long, the Welsh Highlands Railway is the longest heritage train line in the UK.  It's also the most luxurious, with a First Class Pullman carriage and freshly-cooked food brought to your seat.

The Welsh Highland Railway (Shutterstock.com)
The Welsh Highland Railway (Shutterstock.com)

The scenery is first class too. The line runs past the foot of Mount Snowdon, from Caernarfon to Porthmadog, taking in the picture postcard village of Beddgelert and the stunning Aberglaslyn Pass. Check the Loco roster on the Railway's website to see which restored steam engine is pulling the carriages on the day of your visit – the Earl of Merioneth or Linda. More information

4. Talyllyn Railway

Another Welsh line built originally to carry slate, the Talyllyn Railway is still very much the railway it always was, a rural byway where the pace of life is gentle, the average speed of the train is still less than nine miles per hour.

Talyllyn Railway (Shutterstock.com) Talyllyn Railway (Shutterstock.com)

Set in the heart of mid-Wales, the train runs from from Tywyn to Abergynolwyn and Nant Gwernol, along the unspoilt Fathew Valley and past the Dolgoch Falls. Both the original locomotives and all the original carriages remain in regular use. More information

5. Llanberis Lake Railway

Situated in the heart of Snowdonia, this line offers a relaxing five-mile ride past the 13th century Dolbadarn Castle and along the shores of Lake Padarn to Penllyn, offering stunning views of Mount Snowdon along the way.

Llanberis Lake Railway (Shutterstock.com)Llanberis Lake Railway (Shutterstock.com)

Although the journey is short, there are plenty of opportunities to break your journey along the way. At Gilfach Ddu, where you can visit the National Slate Museum. (It's also where the train stops to take on water for the engine and the driver stokes the fire.) Or alight at Cei Llydan, a tranquil spot that is ideal for a lakeside picnic. More information

Main image: Snowdonia Mountain Railway (Shutterstock.com)