An hour long scenic journey beside Lake Padarn in the Snowdonian mountains starts at the foot of Snowdon itself in the little village of Llanberis. The narrow-gauge steam trains pass thirteenth-century Dolbadarn Castle, before entering Padarn Country Park and joining the historic 1845 lakeside slate railway. Superb mountain views open up as the train nears the end of its outward journey at Penllyn. Little Hunslet steam engines, which spent the earlier part of their working careers at the nearby Dinorwic Quarries, will pull sightseers on this timeless journey.
A bus ride from Llanberis, lots of kids will enjoy Electric Mountain, the First Hydro Company’s visitor centre in Llanberis and starting point for tours of this huge power station, with 16km of tunnels deep under Elidir mountain. There’s also an indoor playzone. www.electricmountain.co.uk. Padarn Adventures has a pre-bookable high ropes course for kids over eight (£22) and, for younger kids, an adventure course (£10) with wobbly bridges, tunnels and zip wires as well as lots of other activities. www.padarnadventures.com
Boulder Adventures in Llanberis provide lots of activities including climbing, water sports and coasteering, www.boulderadventures.co.uk. The Vivian Diving Centre is a well-equipped facility, supporting divers of all abilities, in a flooded former quarry, with 3-hour introductory courses £45. www.viviandivecentre.co.uk. Surf-lines, on the south-western shore of Lake Padarn offers 2 hours canoeing and kayaking for £30. www.surf-lines.co.uk
The Llanberis Lake Walk takes 2 to 3 hours and includes forest tracks, views across beautiful Llyn Padarn to Snowdon and the Llanberis Pass, and the historic Welsh Slate Museum. The road climbs for 1½ miles to reach Fachwen and an undulating woodland path. There some tricky stone steps so you need walking boots and raincoats might be useful. As long as you can see the lake you can’t get lost!
The medieval Welsh prince Llywelyn ap Iorwerth (Llywelyn the Great) built solid Dolbadarn Castle above Llyn Padarn in the early thirteenth century. Owain ap Gruffydd (Owain the Red) was imprisoned here by his younger brother Llywelyn the Last. The brothers were fighting for control of North Wales in the 1250s and Owain spent 20 years as a prisoner on the castle’s upper floor.
On the Rails
Although food and drinks are not available on our trains, we do have a 60 seat café with patio and picnic area at our main station in Gilfach Ddu open during service hours. Food hygiene rating of 5. Snacks are also available at our Llanberis station.
Off the Rails
Famous Pete’s Eats, locally described as “possibly the best caff in the world” serves pint mugs of tea, generous portions of chunky chips and homemade cakes, but also healthy, vegetarian dishes like spinach and chickpea curry or provençale casserole. www.petes-eats.co.uk The Pen-y-Ceunant Isaf café is a hidden gem on the Llanberis path up Snowdon, serving tea, coffee, mulled wine, hot chocolate and local beers. www.snowdoncafe.com
YHA Snowdon at Pen-Y-Pass, at the foot of Snowdon with dramatic mountainous views, is a restored mountain lodge, where George Mallory stayed while using Snowdon to train for Everest. Dorm beds from £13.00. www.yha.org.uk
The Alpine Lodge Hotel on the High Street in Llanberis is a comfortable guesthouse with mountain views. Doubles from £56, B&B. www.alpinelodgehotel.co.uk
The Gallt y Glyn, ½ mile outside Llanberis village, is a welcoming restaurant with rooms and a bunkhouse, serving home-cooked food and a free pint with each main meal. Doubles from £60, B&B. www.gallt-y-glyn.co.uk
The quarry hospital at the National Slate Museum is worth a visit. The pioneering hospital for men who worked at the Dinorwig Quarry in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is now a museum, housing some of the original equipment, including an old x-ray machine, a restored operating theatre and other bits of gruesome medical equipment! www.museum.wales/402
Did you know?
On its journey the steam railway crosses one of Britain’s shortest rivers and passes between Llanberis’ twin lakes as it negotiates the 2003 extension to Llanberis village.
Enjoy the train ride from Llanberis to Penllyn at the head of the lake. On the return journey, get off at tranquil Cei Llydan, mid-way along the lake, to use the lakeside tables, or visit the (independently operated) children’s adventure playground nearby. Visit Wales choose this spot as one of the country’s top ten places for a picnic, combining “the fun of an old-fashioned picnic with the romance of a ride on a vintage train”.
Alternatively, break your journey at Gilfach Ddu to visit the fascinating Slate Museum or go for a stroll along one of the Country Park’s many way-marked woodland or lakeside paths. Dinorwig Quarry, which closed in 1969, is now a museum about the Welsh slate industry, an insight into the lives of quarrymen and engineers. There are reconstructed courtyards and slate-splitting demonstrations, www.museum.wales/slate. You can also watch the train driver as he fills the tanks with water and stokes the fire ready for the next journey and visit our café for a drink or a bite to eat.
Your ticket is a return to the station of your choice. You can get off at any stop and catch a later train back!
There are regular buses from Bangor and Caernarfon (and Snowdon Sherpa bus links from Betws-y-Coed and Porthmadog) to Dol-y-Goden Interchange in Llanberis, right beside Llanberis Lake Railway.