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North Wales itinerary via train?

Hi -- I'm starting to build our itinerary for a 2-week trip to North Wales in May. We want to see castles and do some hiking, and we have to take public transportation (I can't drive), so we're planning on taking the Cambrian Coast railway via Arriva Trains Wales. Here's where we want to go -- any suggestions/feedback? Other places we should visit?

Day 1: London/travel to Birmingham
overnight in Birmingham
Day 2: Travel to... (somewhere in mid-Wales)
Then, in whichever order makes sense:
Harlech (castle)
Machynlleth
Portmeirion/ride Ffestiniog railway
Conwy (castle)
Caenarfon (yet another castle)
Beddgelert (home base for Snowdonia?)
Isley of Anglesey (more castle)

Other possibilities:
Aberystwyth
Barmouth

On return, one day in Bristol, then fly out from London.

Thanks for your suggestions!

Posted by
4 posts

Ed -- thanks, but that's odd, because I'm pretty sure Harlech is on the Arriva Wales rail line: http://www.arrivatrainswales.co.uk/StationsMadeEasyList/. (I know I've passed it before while en route to Portmeirion.)

And did you mean Barmouth? We don't absolutely have to see every castle; I'm just looking for interesting places to go that are accessible via public transportation.

Posted by
9110 posts

You've screwed up really bad. You should have gotten me into a betting contest on Harlech. You'd of had me hat, ass, and overcoat. It's not like I haven't been there a few times, but for the life of me I can't picture neither a station nor tracks anywhere.

On Anglesey I was thinking about Beaumaris. Barmouth never crossed my mind about anything.

If it helps sort things out here's my list of the best castles anywhere in the Principality in descending order: Harlech, Chepstow, Caernarvon, Kidwelly, Caerphilly, Pembroke, Beaumaris, Conwy. Counting bad ruins, there's probably a couple hundred. Of the others still sort of intact, none come close to displacing those eight.

Regarding the mountain railroads (which I've never ridden but have walked the full length of the beds): Snowdonia can get clouded in fast and unpredictably so you might not get to see much if you're tied to reservations. Conversely, when I've passed the lower termini they appeared very crowded.

One thing you might not have come across is South Stack. It's one of the best biting rocks in the world. I think there's public transportation out from Holyhead but I've only ever driven.

If you need more bum scoop, let me know.

Posted by
1834 posts

It would be easier to travel from north Wales to Cardiff rather than Bristol and then go direct from Cardiff to London. Stay in Cardiff at least 1 night and see Cardiff Castle and the National History Museum at St.Fagans. If you want to throw in another medieval Castle, take the 20 minute train ride to see Caerphilly Castle. Check out CADW website.