Welsh Highland Railway: Journey Through Snowdonia National Park in Style

Train going through Snowdonia National Park

There are many ways to explore Snowdonia National Park in Wales. You can hike the trails to the top of the mountains, drive around, or do what I did and take a ride on the Welsh Highland Railway. You can sit in a comfortable train car while enjoying the spectacular Snowdonia landscape while being pulled by a historic steam engine. Here is everything you need to know about the Welsh Highland Railway and some gorgeous photos of the journey. WHR Caernarfon Train Station

Starting Your JourneyWelsh Highland Railway Engine and Train at the station

Your journey can start either in Porthmadog or in Caernarfon. I chose to start the train ride in Caernarfon at their new Gateway Station. There is a cafe, gift shop, and exhibit area displaying old train memorabilia. You can also buy your train ticket here. I purchased a round-trip ticket to Porthmadog. You can check the timetables for the trains here.  Fares are dependent on which route or which stop you choose to get off the train (see here for the latest prices). The journey from Caernarfon to Porthmadog takes you through 25 miles of the stunning scenery of the Snowdonia National Park. I wouldn’t change your plans if you find the weather is not perfect. My day started with sunshine but ended up raining on and off. I still enjoyed my journey and stayed in the open-air train car for the majority of the ride.

There is also another route you can travel, which is with the Ffestiniog Railway. This train ride takes you from the harbor side of Porthmadog to the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog. This route is 13.5 miles and is on the world’s oldest narrow-gauge railway going through pastures, forests, or clinging to the side of the mountain. You can make the train rides a full day event and go on both railways.WHR train engine

Welsh Highland TrainEngine getting coal

The train engines used are some of the orginal steam engines from over150 years ago. If you arrive early, you can watch the steam engine get loaded with coal then back up to get hooked up to the other train cars. Some of the train cars are orginal, giving you the feeling you are stepping back in time when rail travel was for the elite and quite the event. The journey takes around 2.5 hours, from Caernarfon to Porthmadog. You can even bring your dog or bike on the trip with you.

You can buy tickets for different classes which will give you seats in certain cars. The luxurious first-class seats are in the Pullman car. It doesn’t matter where you choose to sit as you can order food to be brought to your position in all the cars. I chose the cheaper version since I wanted to be able to take photos unobstructed. Sitting in the open-air car was quiet as I was the only courageous person to sit there while it was raining eventually, though more people joined me outside.

Empty Train Cars at the stationPullman train car

Heather on the Welsh Highland Train

Snowdonia National ParkSnowdonia National Park shadowed in mist

Snowdonia National Park was the first national park in Wales and has the highest mountain peaks in the United Kingdom outside of Scotland. As the train rides through the park, you can choose to get off at any of the stops if your ticket allows it. The stops are Waunfawr (great for walks or visiting the local pub), Rhyd Ddu (has a great path up Snowdon or visit the local pub or tea room), or Beddgebert (a small village with stone cottages and inns and plenty of walking trails). Maybe on future trips, I can get off one of those stops to explore, but for the first time, the full route is ideal.

Unfortunately, the Snowdonia mountains were shrouded in mist for most of my trip. I kind of like it. The weather lent it to a peaceful contemplation of the scenery and allowed me to do some deep thinking. By the end of the trip, I was extremely relaxed and ready to do more exploring. Which I did by spending more time in Caernarfon before heading back to where I was staying in Llangefni.River going by houses in Snowdonia National Park

Animals Seen from the TrainCows and sheep by the tracks

As the train rides by the foot of the Snowdonia mountains, you will go past pastures filled with cows and sheep. It was cute to watch a few of them look up and know that their photo was being taken when the train goes by. There are some iconic views of stone cottages, fences, barns, and animals grazing with the Snowdonia mountains in the background.Stone hut and wall ruins

PorthmadogPorthmadog marina

Porthmadog is a small harbor town that contains the junction of both railways. I had a choice for the return time and decided because of the weather to take the earlier train back to Caernarfon. If the weather had been nicer, I would have stayed longer to explore the town. I did manage to grab a take out lunch from Spooners at the station to eat on the ride back. If you do take the later train, there is the Maritime Museum and tons of shops and cafes for you to try. The coolest thing to watch is when the train goes through the town of Porthmadog. If you are in town, it is fascinating to watch the train cross the road on a flat track. I have never seen a train cruise on down a road like this before. Train crossing the street in Porthmadog

SummaryRed dragon Wales symbol

Snowdonia National Park has some stunning scenery, and I have to come back and ride the Welsh Highland Railway when the weather is less misty and rainy. The value for the price you pay is worth taking this journey. And if you haven’t seen the Snowdonia mountains before, nothing beats seeing them while in an old-fashion steam engine train. All aboard!

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Further Reading

If you are coming to Wales for a visit, check out these posts for further travel inspiration:

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