The Power of Steam

Tallyllyn Railway

Our part of Wales is famous for heritage narrow-gauge steam railways - and Isfryn is centrally located for almost all of them. The best, The Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways, is near the bottom of this list.

Here's our mini-review, in order of distance from Isfryn:

Corris Railway & Museum (7 Miles, 20 minutes):
We totally recommend the quirky and tiny Corris railway and museum, which claims to be Wales' oldest, dating back to the 1850s, when it was horse-drawn. Scheduled passenger services run on selected Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays through the summer and including a selection of weekday running too. There is currently around 2km of track, but work has been underway since 2020 to extend the railway further along  its original route. A visit only takes an hour or two, including a ride out to the Maespoeth sheds, where more rolling stock is being built. You could combine it with a visit to the pub at Corris or nearby Esgairgeiliog, or a trip to Corris Craft Centre.

Best For: A quirky short trip out.

Tallyllyn Railway (20 miles, 30minutes to Abergynolwyn Station)

Tallyllyn, Wales' first heritage railway is also one of the best-known. Regular trains run between Abergynolwyn and Tywyn from 1st April into November. The return journey takes 2.5 hours but there are several stations where you can hop off and on to explore waterfalls and slate heritage, to extend your trip. We recommend alighting at Dolgoch and doing the short walk to Dolgoch falls, especially if there has been recent rain, when they can be quite spectacular. There are station cafes at both end of the railway and The Ty'n y Cornel Hotel on the banks of Talyllyn lake, back towards Corris, is a very pleasant spot for a pint or lunch. There are several cafes & pubs in Tywyn too.

Best for: Local rolling stock & waterfall walk.

Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway (20 Miles, 30 minutes to Llanfair Caereinon)

The WLLR is a scenic little 2'6" gauge railway that runs 2 hour or longer round trips along the rolling valley between Llanfair Caereinion and Welshpool. Open April-December with trains running several times most days during the summer season. Originally built in 1903 to provide access for farm produce to Welshpool and closed in 1956, it was re-opened by enthusiasts in 1963. There are snacks and drinks available at Welshpool Station and a Cafe at Llanfair Caereinion. The newly refurbished Raven Inn, close to Welshpool station also comes highly recommended.

Best For: Pub lunch at the Raven, Welshpool.

Vale of Rheidol Railway (28 Miles, 40 Minutes to Aberystwyth)

This scenic railway climbs 12 miles steeply up the Rheidol valley from Aberystwyth to Devil's Bridge station. The train takes 1hr each way with a 1hr stop at Devil's bridge for a minimum of a 3hr round-trip. Trains run throughout the day, so longer trips are easy too. Devil's Bridge station itself has a small cafe and the Hafod Hotel is 150m down the road and does a good lunch. The rather lovely Sarah Bunton Chocolate shop is also opposite the station. Just beyond the Hafod Hotel is the Bridge itself, or rather a unique set of 3 bridges one built on top of the other - the oldest being medieval and the newest built in 1901. It is well worth taking the steps down either side of the bridge to get a view of the bridges, the gorge and waterfalls. For fans of the TV Detective series Hinterland, the Bridge and the Hafod Hotel were key filming locations.

Best For: A half or full day scenic ride combined with an Aberystwyth visit.

Bala Lake Railway (29 Miles, 45 Minutes)

The Bala Lake Railway runs, as you might image, alongside Bala Lake (It's Welsh name is actually Llyn Tegid, reputedly home to the Loch Ness monster rivalling 'Tegi'). Trains run the 25-minute trip from one of the lake to the other several times every day during the summer. It's a pretty route, and you can hop off and on at various points. There are refreshments at both end stations. Pen-y-Bont Station, at the North End is on the edge of Bala, which is well-supplied with shops and cafes (not to mention a distillery that does one of our favourite gins). Llanuwchllyn Station is at the South end of the lake and the highly-recommended Eagles Inn is only half a mile from the station.

Best For: A relaxed lakeside experience.

Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways (32 Miles, 50 minutes to Porthmadog)

This is the longest and best of the local steam railways, with two days worth of routes available. Trips are between 2 and 7 hours. Starting from Porthmadog you can either take the line to Caernarfon, via Beddgelert and the stunning Aberglaslyn Gorge, or the super-scenic route to the slate mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog. Whichever you choose it's a great day out. Food and drink is available at the stations and on the trains, and you can even book a posh cream tea. If you only do one railway, this is the one to pick.

Best For: Stunning scenery, great trains and service. A must do.

Llangollen & Corwen Railway (50 Miles, 75 minutes to Llangollen)

The Llangollen Railway runs between Llangollen and Corwen and is the only standard-gauge railway on this list. A return trip is 2 hours, or with a rover ticket you can hop off and on at the intermediate stations. The towns of Corwen and Llangollen are well-supplied with places to eat and drink. We can recommend Riverbanc cafe, which overlooks the river. For lovers of industrial heritage we also recommend visiting the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct World Heritage Site, which is only a few miles from Llangollen.

Best For: A combined trip including Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Snowdon Mountain Railway (55 Miles, 90 Minutes from Isfryn)

The Snowdon Mountain Railway runs to the summit of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) from the town of Llanberis. A return journey to the summit takes 2.5 hours including a 30 minute stop-over at Hafod Eryri, the UK’s highest visitor centre. Trains are scheduled to run from April until the end of October, though during April-May trains will run to Clogwyn Station ¾ distance up the mountain, where the unsheltered viewing platform offers spectacular views to the valleys below.

Best For: Summit of Yr Wyddfa