Cambrian Coast Railway

The Cambrian Coast Railway

The Cambrian Coast railway consists of two branches from Machynlleth to Aberystwyth and Pwllheli. Hugging the coastline, the line offers spectacular views and interesting places to see, making it a cheap but interesting day out.

Hop aboard to visit towns and villages all the way up the Gwynedd coast, explore the area's many steam railways, or just tour up and down enjoying the scenery.

Times and Fares

There are two useful types of 'rover' ticket that give unlimited travel on the line.

A Cambrian Coaster Ranger costs about £11 and is valid on all trains between Aberystwyth, Machynlleth and Pwllheli, except early on weekdays.

Alternatively, the North Wales Rover is available for unlimited travel on trains and buses across a wider area with no time restrictions. The cost varies depending on how big an area you want to explore - from £10 to £27.

Trains are usually clean and comfortable and can be either completely empty or jam-packed depending on when you're travelling. Sunday services are quite infrequent so days out are best planned for weekdays or Saturdays.

Station-by-Station Guide

Machynlleth

A typical small Welsh market town with all sorts of specialist shops selling crafts, antiques, souvenirs and most other things you'd expect, as well as a couple of cafes.

Other visitor attractions here include the Tabernacl gallery and the various challenging mountain biking routes centred on the town.

Dovey Junction

Convenient for nowhere, this lonely station is good for bird-watching and not much else! If you do fancy exploring, the station path leads to tiny Glandyfi three-quarters of a mile away. Turn right and 20 minutes' further walking takes you to the Ynyshir nature reserve and the picturesque Dyfi Furnace.

Penhelig and Aberdovey

These two stations are located at either end of Aberdovey (or Aberdyfi), a small seaside resort very popular for sailing and with a couple of good places to eat.

The sand dunes by Aberdovey station and the large sandy beach have superb views across the estuary to Ynyslas and are great on a sunny day.

Also worth a few minutes is an estuary path which clambers along the rocky banks of the River Dovey from the small gardens by Penhelig station.

Tywyn

Another resort town, but quite a bit bigger than Aberdovey with lots of houses and a busy high street. The beach is a few hundred metres from the station.

The main tourist draw here, apart from the caravan parks, is the Talyllyn Railway - a preserved steam railway which chuffs off into the hillside towards Abergynolwyn.

Tonfanau

Almost closed in 1995, Tonfanau doesn't really serve anywhere now. Indeed, it's rural enough that it was easier to put up a wind turbine to power the platform lights than try to connect to mains electricity.

What you can see, aside from the pleasant view of Tywyn, are the remains of a long-gone army base. Built in 1938 and demolished in the mid 1980s, a couple of walls and some foundations remain.

Llwyngwril

Another of Gwynedd's small coastal villages - some houses, a school and a couple of shops. A climb up onto the hill behind the village offers a wonderful view out to sea, with the mountains of north Wales stretching into the distance.

If you want to get off the train here and go for a wander, you'll find that Fairbourne's just under 3 miles' walk away. Tonfanau is around 5 miles away - the walk is sometimes pretty and sometimes dull - but never unpleasant.

Fairbourne

Quieter neighbour to Barmouth. The 2-mile stretch of sandy beach is still edged with concrete wartime fortifications.

Fairbourne is the terminus of the Fairbourne and Barmouth Steam Railway. This runs from the mainline station, along the seafront and then along a pier sticking out into the Mawddach Estuary. From the pier, there's a ferry you can catch across the water to Barmouth.

Morfa Mawddach

There isn't much to see here, although if you had a bike you could follow the Mawddach Trail along the estuary to Dolgellau.

You can also walk across the toll bridge shared with the railway as an alternative way to arrive in Barmouth. The views inland are lovely and walking gives you a bit more time to take everything in than when on the train.

Barmouth

One of the most popular destinations on the Cambrian Coast and, during the holiday season, very busy with tourists from the Midlands.

It's not a huge resort, but it boasts the usual attractions such as a big sandy beach, lots of fast food and ice cream places and amusements. There are a couple of interesting shops, such as the antiques housed in an old chapel.

Away from the bustling seafront, the town seems to be built almost vertically up the rocky hillside and there are lots of paths that lead to impressive viewpoints.

Llanaber

Llanaber is just past the northern end of Barmouth. It's further than most of the tourists get, but is within walking distance along the sea wall and beach.

It's not a great beach for exploring as it's all huge rocks - no good for stretching out on, but perhaps a nice quiet alternative to Barmouth for exploring. A cemetry just above the station has memorials to many former Barmouth residents.

Harlech

The well-known castle at Harlech is a magnificent landmark, perched high up on the hillside looking out to sea. If you wish, you can pay to go inside and explore the remains, as well as admiring the exterior from outside.

If you've made the steep climb up to the castle, you can also explore the village - there are a couple of places catering for visitors and there's also a viewpoint looking out over the Irish Sea that is mentioned in the Welsh 'Mabinogion' legends.

Tygwyn, Talsarnau and Llandecwyn

Three tiny stations - no real reason to get off the train at any of them, but all are within walking distance of each other using the public footpaths in the area.

Tygwyn is just a house, level crossing and a road to the sea a mile away. Talsarnau serves the village of the same name, and a walk towards the waterside reveals a view of Portmeirion clinging to the hillside across the water. Llandecwyn offers an alternative to Penrhyndeudraeth for viewing the estuary.

Penrhyndeudraeth and Minffordd

These stations are within easy walking distance of each other, either end of the village of Penrhyndeudraeth.

Penrhyndeudraeth is just a large village, but the sandy estuary it is located by is rather spectacularly punctuated by the huge electricity pylons which originate at nearby Trawsfynydd power station.

Minffordd station has an interchange with the Ffestiniog Railway from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog. It is also the closest station to the colourful, dream-like village of Portmeirion - well worth a visit (and they may give you a discount if you show them your train ticket).

Porthmadog

Small town with a marina and harbour and a busy high street.

Porthmadog has two steam railways: the Ffestiniog Railway to Blaenau Ffestiniog, and the Welsh Highland Railway which runs as far as Caernarfon.

Also to be found here is a maritime museum, and a museum of vintage cars and motorcycles.

Criccieth

Pleasant, large village neighbouring Porthmadog.

Try a walk along the seafront and beach, remembering to pick up an ice cream from locally-famous Cadwalader's (also found in Porthmadog).

Criccieth Castle is perched on a hill above the beach and although somewhat smaller than Harlech's it's quite a nice little place.

Pwllheli

Busy little market town featuring a marina and a large sandy beach.

There's much more information in the printable guide to the Cambrian Coast Line:
coastguide2014.pdf (3.0MB)

Places to Stay

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