The Talyllyn Railway runs through the beautiful Fathew valley in southern Snowdonia. From Tywyn on the Mid-Wales coast it climbs 7. miles to Nant Gwernol, where visitors can explore a range of way-marked forest trails. On the way, the trains stop at Dolgoch, with its cascading waterfalls, and the village of Abergynolwyn. The Talyllyn, originally built to carry slate, was the first preserved railway in the world; saved from closure in 1951, it has operated continuously since 1865. All the trains are steam-hauled, often by one of the original, 150-year-old locomotives.
Romanesque St Cadfan’s church at College Green, a short walk from Tywyn Pendre station, dates from the 12th Century and houses the Cadfan Stone, which has the earliest known Welsh writing inscribed on it and is thought to be as much as 1300 years old. The church is open 9am to 5pm and admission is free. Atmospheric, ruined Castell-y-Bere, an hour’s walk from Abergynolwyn station, was once an impressive 13th-century castle built by Llywelyn the Great. It is open 10am to 4pm and is also free to visit. www.cadw.gov.wales/daysout/castell-y-bere
For the serious walker, there are paths that take you into the hills from Rhydyronen, Dolgoch and Nant Gwernol stations, with spectacular views across Cader Country and southern Snowdonia. You can even walk across the hills down into the Dyfi Estuary, and then catch the Cambrian Coast train back to Tywyn.
Shoot your friends and family at Laser Fun near Tywyn Wharf station. A variety of battle scenarios, using remote technology to score the hits so no one gets bruised or splattered, offer the fun of paintball without the paint. From £15, booking required. www.laserfunwales.co.uk
Tywyn boasts one of the most vibrant cinemas in the area, The Magic Lantern, showing new releases using the latest visual and sound technology. There are also regular streamings of productions from the National Theatre, English National Opera, Royal Shakespeare Company and others. www.tywyncinema.co.uk
On the Rails
There are cafés at Tywyn Wharf and Abergynolwyn, serving snacks, cakes and drinks. The licensed Kings café at Tywyn also offers hearty main courses, like hunter’s chicken or lasagne, while the Quarryman’s Caban, in Abergynolwyn does tea, coffee and sandwiches.
Off the Rails
The Salt Marsh Kitchen in Tywyn is a Michelin-listed restaurant with locally-sourced gourmet food, like lobster bisque or steamed Welsh mussels, at sensible prices (mains around £14). www.saltmarshkitchen.co.uk
If you stop at Tywyn Pendre station, don’t miss the Holgates Ice Cream Shop, where you can buy honey ice cream, freshly made each day with real honey. www.haloshop.co.uk
The Narrow Gauge Railway museum at Tywyn Wharf station tells the story of narrow gauge railways in Britain and overseas. It is filled with unique artifacts, many from railways that no longer exist. The museum is open when the Talyllyn trains are running and admission is free.
BudgetThe Dolgoch Falls hotel, beside the beautiful ravine, is handy for Dolgoch station. Doubles from £80, B&B. www.thedolgochfalls.co.uk
Preswylfa guest house, very close to Tywyn Station, has a range of rooms and distant views of Cadair Idris. Doubles £110, B&B (discounts for longer stays). www.preswylfa.net
Tynllwyn Caravan and Camping Park is next to the Talyllyn line at Rhydyronen station and offers static caravans and pitches in a beautiful rural setting. Two nights in a four-person caravan from £130; spaces for tent and car from £9/night. www.tynllwyncaravanpark.co.uk
Hendy Farm Holidays run a set of self-catering cottages, for two to six people, beside the line, a mile from Tywyn. The farm even has its own halt on the Talyllyn railway. Four-person cottages from £275 per week. www.hendyfarmholidays.co.uk
Catch the first train from Tywyn Wharf to Nant Gwernol and return to Abergynolwyn. Walk into the village for lunch at the Railway Inn and then catch the bus to Talyllyn Lake, where you can walk through the lovely scenery or simply have a drink by the lakeside. Return by bus to Abergynolwyn, walk up to the station and catch the train home. Bus times: www.bit.do/30bus
Tywyn’s blue-flagged beach, an easy stroll from Tywyn Wharf station, is a place to relax and catch the sun. You can sometimes see dolphins in the ocean, there are views of the Llyn Peninsula and frequent spectacular sunsets over Cardigan Bay. It’s also an excellent beach for surfing.
(On days when more than two trains depart Tywyn Wharf): Catch the first train to the beautiful ravine at Dolgoch. Spend a pleasant hour or so exploring lower and middle falls before returning to Dolgoch station and continuing by train to Nant Gwernol to explore the forest paths. Either travel back from Nant Gwernol, or walk down to Abergynolwyn village and station to catch the train back to Tywyn. Insider tip: From Nant Gwernol, you can also walk up one of the original inclines that brought slate down from the quarry, then along the old horse tramway and up the next incline to the remains of the quarry itself, getting a sense of the isolated life the quarrymen once lived in the hills.
Your ticket is a Day Rover so make full use of it by breaking your journey along the way.
Tywyn Wharf station is 1/3 mile walk from National Rail station in Tywyn, on the Cambrian Coast Line.