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.
Trains, lots of 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 the 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.
Other railways can be visited by train: the Talyllyn Railway in Tywyn, the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways in Porthmadog, the Welshpool and Llanfair Railway in Welshpool. By bus you can visit the Bala Lake railway or the Llangollen railway.
Slate mines, underground exploration and adventure
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. Corris, Llanfair and Llechwedd all offer tours of their caverns. The National Slate Museum at Llanberis is also a fascinating day out showing the everyday life of the quarrymen and their families, and high in the hills around are many remnants from the heyday of quarrying.
At Corris is King Arthur’s Labyrinth, a magical day out where you will be taken by a mysterious hooded guide, through an enchanted waterfall back in time to the Dark Ages to hear epic tales and legends of King Arthur and maybe find out where he is sleeping, awaiting the day when he and his knights are needed again…..
Castles - small Welsh ones and big English ones
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.
Gardens, glorious gardens
It is sometimes suggested that it rains 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, famous as the location for “The Prisoner”. With formal gardens set around an eclectic collection of buildings from all over the world and of all architectural periods, 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 Gardens, 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! In recent years new areas of the garden have been opened up so now there is even more to explore.