Happy Sunday and welcome back to our family road trip in Wales. This week, we travel the route Harlech – Portmeirion – Blaenau Ffestiniog.
From Harlech, we carried on towards Portmeirion, a seaside village on the Welsh coast, and one of our favourite places. I won’t say too much about it, since we’ve covered this crazy, beautiful place before. Just one photo…
This is the image I had of Wales before I was ever here: a slightly drab country, grey as the slate industry it relied on for so long, and eternally overcast.
Or, as Edmund, Lord Blackadder the Third, would say:
It’s a ghastly place. Huge gangs of tough sinewy men roam the valleys terrorising people with their close-harmony singing. You need half a pint of phlegm in your throat just to pronounce the placenames.
Just a ruse, I suspect, to keep people out. What I’ve seen of Wales is every bit as beautiful as Scotland.
But the slate industry was real and Blaenau Ffestiniog was its capital – in Victorian times. These days slate isn’t much in demand. Today, the town relies on tourism, with the Ffestiniog Railway and the Llechwedd Slate Caverns as the main attractions.
The Ffestiniog Railway is one of Wales’ narrow gauge railways, running through the very pretty Vale of Ffestiniog, between Porthmadog (nearest town to Portmeirion) and Blaenau. Better, I’m sure, than seeing the landscape from a hire car, as we did.
At Llechwedd Slate Caverns you can take the Miners’ Tramway and/or descend 150 m/500 ft underground (via cable car) to explore the quarry and learn about the slate industry and experience life as a miner. Although you’ll have electricity and other mod cons; the miners had candles.
If, like us, you arrive after 5 pm, you’ll have to settle for hiking or biking, checking out the old-fashioned pubs (and hear locals speak Welsh) or just wandering around town, taking in the gorgeous surroundings.
Blaenau Ffestiniog practicals
We arrived in town too late for both the slate mine and the heritage railway. Next time we’re in Snowdonia, we’ll plan better.
- opening times in 2013 from Mid-March onwards: 0930 – 1730 (last tour at 1645)
- entrance fee: tramway or deep mine tour: £10.50/£8.50/£9.50 for adults/children/seniors and students. £17/£13/£15.75 if you want to do both
- a timetable can be found here
- fares: £20.20/£18.20 for adults/concessions for a third-class round-trip, all-day ticket – or add £6 for a seat in the first-class observation carriage.