Railway’s world top 10 status boosts Mid Wales tourism potential

A spectacular view of Harlech Castle from the Cambrian Coast Railway.

Tourism businesses have been urged to capitalise on the international publicity generated by the Cambrian Coast Railway being named in the world’s top 10 epic train journeys.

A spectacular view of Harlech Castle from the Cambrian Coast Railway.
A spectacular view of Harlech Castle from the Cambrian Coast Railway.

The recognition came from The Guardian newspaper who picked the Machynlleth to Pwllheli line, also known as the Cambrian Coast Railway line as one of the world’s most spectacular railway trips. This fantastic publicity followed hot on the heels of Lonely Planet naming North Wales in the world’s top 10 regions to visit in 2017.

Now Rhydian Mason, Rail Development Officer for the Cambrian Railways Partnership, is calling on everybody connected with tourism in the region to work together to use the publicity as a springboard to attract more tourists to visit attractions and book accommodation along the rail routes in Mid Wales.

He argues that whilst the Machynlleth to Pwllheli Cambrian Coast Railway, which hugs the Cardigan Bay coastline, is stunning, the Cambrian main line from Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth is equally spectacular.

“We have known for a long time that the Cambrian Coast Railway is one of the most spectacular journeys in the UK, but now we have The Guardian categorically saying that it is in the world’s top 10,” he said.

“It’s great news for tourism attractions and accommodation providers along the line in the region, which relies heavily on the tourism industry. The real challenge now for the industry is to work together to respond to the challenge that has been set by The Guardian recognition.

“We need to ensure that people who come to see our fantastic railway line are encouraged to stay in the area to make new memories. Rail enthusiasts will visit to experience one of the best train journeys in the world and we need to get others to come to Mid Wales by train.

“We have been given a perfect opportunity to step on to the wider stage and by working together with MWT Cymru and Visit Wales, we can make the most of this opportunity.”

In its top 10 listing, The Guardian states: “From the lonely request stop at Dovey Junction, the Cambrian Coast line clings to the shore of Cardigan Bay so closely it is often damaged by sea storms. Chugging for the best part of 2½ hours along one of Britain’s most scenic railway lines, trains traverse the half-mile-long, 150-year-old Barmouth bridge, which spans the Mawddach river. They then pass lovely Portmeirion on the far side of the sandy Dwyryd estuary, and offer up choice views of Harlech and Criccieth castles.”

Mr Mason said the region has so many attractions, including the Wales Coastal Path, the magnificent castle at Harlech, the spectacular Snowdonia National Park as well as a host of renowned TV and film locations for Hollywood Blockbusters, cult 60s dramas and the multi-award winning Hinterland series.

From Porthmadog, train passengers can take their choice of narrow gauge steam trains to visit Caernarfon Castle, Beddgelert and Blaenau Ffestiniog as well as other new attractions, such as Zip World. The region is also well served by quality hotels, including Portmeirion and the Trefeddian in Aberdyfi and there are many welcoming inns and seaside villages to explore.

MWT Cymru, which represents around 600 tourism businesses across Mid Wales, has developed ‘Moving Adventures’, a project to promote sustainable transport options and car free adventures in the region.

“We want to persuade more visitors to consider alternative modes of travel, including trains, to be the start their adventure when visiting Mid Wales,” said Val Hawkins, MWT Cymru’s chief executive. “MWT Cymru has developed a range of itineraries to give visitors ideas how to travel to and explore the region.”

Cabinet Secretary for the Economy and Infrastructure, Ken Skates, said: “The recognition from the Guardian is sure to inspire many more to visit this area and see that Wales’ railways give visitors a different perspective to an area which might be familiar to them.  By taking the train, the journey itself becomes an adventure and experience that many will remember. As we look ahead to the Year of Legends in 2017, our railways are part of the legendary tours which can be had in Wales.

“Machynlleth itself is the historic original seat of parliament in Wales under Owain Glyndwr in 1404. Other stops along the line have a wealth of connections to our history, culture and legends such as the burial chamber at Dyffryn Ardudwy and the world famous Harlech Castle.”

It’s now possible for international visitors arriving at Birmingham Airport to catch a train directly to Aberystwyth or Pwllheli. The number of passengers using the Cambrian lines has increased by around 40 per cent this year, the resurgence helped by the introduction of eight new return train services from Aberystwyth to Shrewsbury and one extra train from Machynlleth to Pwllheli, thanks to the efforts of local campaign groups.

Mr Mason said it was a very exciting time for the Cambrian lines with many positive developments underway at community supported railway stations across the region.