With so much to do in Barmouth you may not have time to explore further afield, but if you fancy a trip out there are plenty of options within a short car, train or bus ride.
Days out by Train
Whether you want to walk, cycle, explore history or simply take in the gorgeous scenery of the Cardigan Bay coast, then why not leave the car behind and take the train?
Walk: Take the train south to Llwyngwril and walk the coast path back to Barmouth and across the iconic Barmouth Bridge. Take the train north to Talybont and walk the Ardudwy Way back to Barmouth for stunning views over the bay and Lleyn Peninsula. There are several stretches of the Welsh Coast Path that can be accessed by train. Just check the timetable to make sure you can get back again!
Cycle: Take the train to Porthmadog and cycle the National Cycle Route 8 back to Barmouth - watch out for the hills around Harlech, but the views are amazing and worth the effort.
History & Heritage: The train will take you to visit castles at Harlech and Criccieth as well as the site of the first Welsh Parliament at Machynlleth. All these are a longish walk from the station.
Scenery: The entire route from Machynlleth to Pwllheli is glorious, and often features in ’most scenic railway’ top tens, so take a look at the timetable and plan a return visit, maybe stopping in Aberdyfi or Criccieth for lunch.
Great Little Trains
This part of the world is famous for “The Great Little Trains of Wales”. Within easy access of Barmouth there are at least 10 narrow gauge and restored railways, many running steam trains. There are old quarry lines, parts of an old standard-gauge route, plus Britain’s only rack and pinion railway running to the summit of Snowdon.
The nearest is at Fairbourne, just the other side of the Mawddach Estuary - you can hear the steam engines regularly. When the trains are running you can get to Fairbourne by ferry from Barmouth Harbour, by train on the Cambrian Coast line from Barmouth Station, or walk/cycle over the railway bridge and take the coast path to Fairbourne.
Further down the coast at Tywyn (also accessible by train) is the Talyllyn railway, The line runs for seven and a quarter miles through the beautiful Fathew valley. Running from Tywyn to Abergynolwyn and Nant Gwernol, the line passes the delightful Dolgoch Falls and there are excellent forest walks at Nant Gwernol.
Many of the other railways are accessible for days out by train, bus or car. Train rides can be easily combined with visits to castles, beaches, woodland walks, visits to gardens or slate mines.
Explore the turbulent history of Wales by visiting some of the castles in the area. The Welsh ones tend to be smaller and have more varied locations and buildings. They were developed over a longer period of time. The English ones were built in a much shorter period of time and were designed to be imposing to remind the rebel Welsh just who had won the wars. Many of them have interpretive information and hold special events in the season.
The slate mining history in the area has left some exciting sites behind it. You can go underground at several of them to explore the caverns and see how the miners worked to extract the slate that roofed the world. Llanfair and Llechwedd offer tours of their caverns, whilst King Arthur’s Labyrinth at Corris combines a tour of their caverns with Arthurian legends and an underground boat ride.
For a closer look at the majesty of the caverns left by the industry visit Corris Mine Explorers. Mark takes small groups into the caverns to explore 17 miles of old workings and tunnels. He is very knowledgeable, friendly and clearly loves his job. Each trip is unique as he will decide what route to take based on the individual group and how adventurous they are! Mark will regale you with information about the mine and stories of the men who worked it – his enthusiasm is contagious. Various tours are available, but must be booked ahead to avoid disappointment.
It is sometimes suggested that it rains a lot in Wales. This may be true, but the benefits can be seen in a variety of stunning gardens with world class collections of plants, cosy intimate spots and lots and lots of colour. Just 19 miles up the coast is the fantasy Italianate village of Portmeirion. With formal gardens set around an eclectic collection of buildings from all over the world and extensive woodlands that tumble down the hillside to the sea, there is something to see here all year round. Portmeirion was created by Sir Clough Williams Ellis, and not far away is Plas Brondanw, his home. This small, intimate garden has architectural references to Portmeirion and some wonderful topiary along with stunning views into Snowdonia.
Bodnant Garden, near Conwy, is a bit further away but worth a day trip to visit. The garden covers more than 80 acres and has a variety of habitats - formal terraces with rose gardens, an acer wood, the “Dell” with the river Hiraeth at the bottom, shrub borders and a winter garden. Visit in springtime for stunning colours and more rhododendrons and azaleas than you can imagine!