Welsh-based rail tour specialist Ffestiniog Travel has created three escorted tours that take you on a journey of discovery through its home country. Together the tours feature historic, scenic and cultural jewels that make Wales worth exploring.
General Manager Maria Cook explained: “As a company based in North Wales, located on the edge of Snowdonia National Park, we wanted to showcase our Wales and combine our rail expertise, connections and knowledge to really show travellers and tourists what Wales can offer.”
Wales is known as the ‘castle capital of the world’. With over 100 still standing, many of which can still be visited. Ffestiniog Travel’s tours include visits to Criccieth, Penrhyn, Conwy, Powis, Caerphilly and Cardiff Castles. A favourite landmark on the tours is the medieval fortress Caernarfon Castle, originally built in the 11th Century. It was replaced under Edwardian rule and was used as the administrative centre of North Wales. It has since been used for the investiture of the current Prince of Wales.
The North Wales region recently earned UNESCO World Heritage status for its slate mining industrial heritage. Llanberis is home to the National Slate Museum, based in the 19th Century workshops of the disused Dinorwic slate quarry. Re-opened as a museum in 1972, the visitor attraction showcases the largest working waterwheel in Britain, slate workers’ cottages, an impressive multimedia display about the lives and work of the quarry workers entitled ‘To Steal a Mountain’, and live demonstrations of slate splitting and dressing. Ride the Ffestiniog Railway through dramatic slate stacked mountains to Blaenau Ffestiniog and follow the railway route that transported mined slate to the sea at Porthmadog for export.
Wales is a treasure trove of heritage railways, including the Ffestiniog Railway – the oldest narrow gauge railway in the world still in use today and its sister line, the Welsh Highland Railway, which journeys through the stunning scenery of Snowdonia. There is also the Snowdon Mountain Railway – the only rack and pinion public railway still working in Britain today that takes you to Snowdon’s peak. The nearby Bala Lake and Llanberis Lake Railways offer scenic journeys along lakeside shores that look back at impressive mountain scenery. Travel from the north to the south of Wales by heritage railways including the Talyllyn and Vale of Rheidol Railways. So many steam gems to experience in one small principality.
An alternative to track travel is to enjoy the beautiful landscapes of Wales by experiencing a gentle voyage along the Llangollen Canal, traversing the famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. This impressive landmark was constructed in the late 18th/early 19th Century and is both the longest and highest aqueduct in Great Britain. It offers incredible views from its vantage point of 126ft above the River Dee.
These unique attractions together with brewery tours, trams journeys, museums and garden visits feature in one of three escorted tours in 2022.
Wales – Steam, Castles & Slate. The itinerary includes a walking tour of Chester, visits to Criccieth, Penrhyn, Caernarfon & Conwy Castles, excursions to the National Slate Museum, Great Orme Bronze Age & Llechwedd Slate Mines, journeys on six heritage steam railways, and cruises on the River Dee and Llangollen Canal. Also included is a tour of the award winning Purple Moose micro-brewery plus lunch and wine tasting at the unique Pant Du vineyard in the heart of Snowdonia.
From £1,990pp, the 10-day tour begins in Chester on Wednesday 11 May 2022 and includes all rail travel, excursions, heritage railways and cruises as stated, 9-nights hotel accommodation with daily breakfast, selected meals including 6 dinners, 3 lunches and 2 afternoon teas, and the services of a Ffestiniog Travel tour leader from Chester and throughout the tour.
Wales: From North to South – Journey on many of the ‘great little trains of Wales’ from Snowdonia National Park down the west coast to Cardiff. Explore some of the country’s most iconic and interesting castles en route including Powis, Caerphilly and Cardiff and discover Welsh heritage at the National Slate Museum, Big Pit National Coal Museum and St Fagans. Time also to enjoy the pretty seaside town of Aberystwyth, an Aqueduct Cruise through a UNESCO World Heritage Site and ascend to the top of Snowdon on board the Snowdon Mountain Railway (weather permitting).
From £2,185pp this 13-day escorted tour begins in Caernarfon on Thursday 15 September 2022 and includes all rail travel (mainline and heritage), accommodation in good quality hotels with breakfast, 4 dinners and 11 lunches, all excursions and the services of a tour leader throughout.
Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways – Behind the Scenes – as a sister company to these railways, Ffestiniog Travel has produced an ‘access all areas’ escorted tour of these wonderful heritage lines. This unique behind the scenes access includes workshop tours, a steam hauled private charter, footplate ride on a section of the line, run pasts for photographic opportunities, guided tours, insights from active staff and volunteers and a history tour of Caernarfon
Rail enthusiasts have two chances to join this 5-day tour, Friday 22 April 2022 or Friday 14 October 2022. From £840pp the tour includes all travel including special trains, accommodation in a good quality hotel with breakfast, 3 lunches and a 3-course evening dinner, guided tours and the services of an informed tour leader.