Unhurried travelers with a serendipitous sense of exploration will find an unlimited array of railway diversity in Wales, and one of the most scenic trips is the Cambrian Coast.
Don’t expect to get anywhere fast discovering the rich and varied Gwynedd coastline. Forget schedules and deadlines. Sit back, relax and enjoy the adventure.
Village names like Aberystwyth, Machynlleth, Lhwyngrill or Pwllhell may leave you wondering who took all the vowels.
Some stops along the route are “request only.” If you are unsure whether the train stops at a particular station, inform the conductor where you want to get off in advance.
Passengers boarding a train from a station where there is no regular stop simply flag the engineer, just as they would hail a taxi.
One delay factor is that much of the line is single track. Two trains traveling in opposite directions must wait until one reaches a place where double tracks allow them to pass.
Once armed with the proper mental attitude, you are set to embark on a journey filled with seaside resorts, tiny coastal villages, sandy beaches and rockbound coasts that disappear into the sea.
Some more important stations en route include:
• Aberystwyth: The main seaside resort in mid-Wales ( www.aberystwyth.org.uk) features the Welsh National Library and a sweeping promenade along the beach.
• Machynlleth: A typical mid-Wales market filled with traditional shops such as bakers, butchers and a variety of unusual specialty shops.
• Barmouth: One of the most popular destinations on the Cambrian Coast. The main attraction is the beach.
• Harlech: Famous for its towering castle that can be seen from the train as you approach town. For the best view, sit on the right when traveling from Aberystwyth.
• Criccieth: For the castle experience plus ice cream, Criccieth is the place. Cadwalader’s ice cream is locally famous.
• Pwllheli: This is the end of the line – or the beginning, depending on which way you go.
The line is served by both steam and small contemporary trains that are frequently crowded, but may also be virtually empty.
For day trippers, rail lovers and travelers who just enjoy quaint villages and breathtaking scenery, the Cambrian Coast Railway is hard to beat.