What are the best railway journeys in Wales for experiencing scenic landscapes and historic towns?

11 June 2024

As you plan your next adventure, consider the unique experience of a train journey. Wales, a country known for its stunning landscapes and rich heritage, offers some of the most captivating railway journeys in the world. The Welsh rails have a unique blend of history, scenic beauty, and culture that will make your travel unforgettable. This article will guide you on some of the most beautiful train journeys you can embark on in Wales, from the nostalgic steam trains of the Ffestiniog Railway to the great north railways showcasing breath-taking views.

The Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways

A journey on the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways is a must-experience for any railway enthusiast. These heritage railways showcase some of the most stunning landscapes in Wales.

The Ffestiniog Railway, the world’s oldest narrow-gauge railway, takes you on a 13.5-mile journey from the harbour town of Porthmadog to the slate-quarrying town of Blaenau Ffestiniog. Not only will you be travelling on a piece of railway history, but you’ll also be treated to gorgeous views of the Snowdonia National Park, with its mountainous terrain, lush forests, and sparkling lakes. The beautifully restored steam trains add an authentic touch to this nostalgic journey.

Neighbouring Ffestiniog is the Welsh Highland Railway, which offers a beautiful 25-mile journey from Porthmadog to the medieval town of Caernarfon. This route, stretching across the foot of Mount Snowdon, offers spectacular views of the Welsh countryside, featuring a great array of flora and fauna, and passing through quaint villages en route.

The Heart of Wales Line

For those looking to explore the rural charm of Wales, the Heart of Wales Line offers an engaging journey. This railway line, one of the longest in the UK, stretches for 121 miles, taking passengers from Swansea in South Wales to Shrewsbury in England.

The Heart of Wales Line is well-renowned for its scenic views. As the train meanders through the Welsh countryside, you'll witness a wide variety of landscapes, from valleys and forests to rivers and farmlands. This journey also presents an opportunity to spot wildlife in their natural habitat, making it a favourite among nature enthusiasts.

Apart from the captivating natural landscapes, the Heart of Wales Line also passes through charming Welsh towns and villages, offering glimpses into the local life and heritage. Llandeilo, Llandovery, and Knighton are among the quaint towns you will pass.

The North Wales Coast Line

If you are looking to combine the beauty of the Welsh countryside with the allure of the sea, the North Wales Coast Line would be an ideal choice. This important rail route connects the cities of Manchester and Crewe in England with the seaside towns of North Wales.

The journey begins in the bustling city of Chester before crossing the border into Wales. The train then travels along the coast, offering magnificent views of the Irish Sea and the Isle of Anglesey. Key stops along the line include the coastal towns of Rhyl and Llandudno, where you can enjoy a stroll along the beach or sample some traditional Welsh cuisine.

The North Wales Coast Line is not just about beautiful views. It also serves as a gateway to North Wales’s rich history and culture. The city of Conwy, home to the Conwy Castle, and the historic island of Anglesey are two of the most notable destinations on this rail journey.

The Cambrian Line

The Cambrian Line is another fantastic railway journey that showcases the diverse beauty of Wales. This railway line stretches from Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth and Pwllheli, passing through the Cambrian Mountains and along the Cardigan Bay coastline.

The ride on the Cambrian Line is a visual feast, with stunning views of the rugged mountain terrain, serene rivers, and expansive coastline. One of the highlights of this journey is crossing the Barmouth Bridge, a wooden viaduct that offers panoramic views of the Mawddach Estuary.

In addition to the enchanting landscapes, the Cambrian Line also takes you through several historic towns and villages. From the market town of Newtown to the seaside resorts of Barmouth and Aberystwyth, you'll get a glimpse of the Welsh way of life in these charming locales.

Wales's rich railway heritage offers travelers an unparalleled opportunity to explore the country's scenic landscapes and historic towns. Be it the nostalgia-evoking steam trains of the Ffestiniog Railway, the picturesque views from the Heart of Wales Line, the coastal allure of the North Wales Coast Line, or the diverse landscapes of the Cambrian Line, each journey promises an unforgettable experience. As you plan your next day out, consider taking a rail journey and let Wales's beauty and heritage enchant you.

Snowdon Mountain Railway

For an unmatched mountain railway experience, the Snowdon Mountain Railway is an absolute must. This narrow gauge railway takes you to the peak of Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales and England. As you ascend, you'll be treated to panoramic views of the stunning Snowdonia National Park.

Starting from the idyllic village of Llanberis, the rail journey climbs over 1,000 metres to reach the summit of Snowdon. The ride takes you through a variety of terrains, from lush forests and crystal-clear lakes to rugged cliffs and wide-open expanses. On a clear day, you might even see as far as Ireland!

To add to the uniqueness of the experience, the Snowdon Mountain Railway uses both traditional steam locomotives and modern diesel engines. The steam-powered journey, in particular, provides a nostalgic feel, transporting you back to the golden age of rail travel.

Once you reach the summit, you can explore Hafod Eryri, the visitor centre at the peak, offering refreshments and panoramic views. On your descent, you can capture more breathtaking views and soak in the vastness and beauty of the Snowdonia National Park.

Vale of Rheidol Railway

Another railway journey that beautifully captures the essence of the Welsh landscape is the Vale of Rheidol Railway. This narrow gauge heritage railway covers a 12-mile stretch from Aberystwyth to Devil's Bridge, offering captivating views of the Rheidol Valley.

A ride on the Vale of Rheidol Railway is a journey back in time. The historic steam locomotives, some dating back to the early 20th century, and the vintage carriages add a touch of nostalgia to the trip. As the train chugs along the Rheidol Valley, you can enjoy the picturesque scenery of rolling hills, deep valleys, and dense woodland, coupled with the tranquil sound of the steam engine.

Devil's Bridge, the final stop, is a site of unique natural beauty and fascinating legend. Here, you'll find a set of three bridges stacked upon each other and a beautiful waterfall. You can also explore the walking trails around the area, offering more opportunities to appreciate the Welsh countryside.

With such diverse and memorable train journeys, Wales offers a rich palette of experiences for rail enthusiasts and casual travellers alike.


Embarking on a rail journey in Wales is not just about reaching a destination; it's also about appreciating the journey itself. The Welsh railways, with their diverse routes and unique heritage, offer a different perspective of the country. As your train meanders through impressive landscapes, past historic towns, and into the heart of the Welsh countryside, you'll get to experience the true essence of Wales.

Whether you're a railway enthusiast or someone looking for a unique way to explore Wales, the Welsh railways promise an unforgettable travel experience. From the stunning landscapes of the Snowdonia National Park on the Ffestiniog Railway and the Welsh Highland Railway, the charming countryside along the Heart of Wales Line, the coastal vistas on the North Wales Coast Line, to the rugged beauty of the Cambrian Line, each journey offers its own unique charm.

So, the next time you plan a trip to Wales, consider taking a train journey. Let the beautiful landscapes, charming towns, and rich heritage of Wales captivate you and leave you with lasting memories.

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