Llanberis, Gwynedd, LL55 4TY
Main Telephone: 0870 458 0033
Main Fax: 01286 872518
Main E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org „
The Snowdon Mountain Railway, when I realised what I'd signed up for, wasn't the thing I looked forward to most about my trip to North Wales. A double-trouble fear of heights and anxiety regarding train journeys made me slightly nervous, let's put it like that. I do, however, love the views in Wales - a bit of an uphill walk can lead you to the most amazing places, and where better than Mt Snowdon? A compromise (read: challenge) was struck up - we'd catch the train up and walk down, after running it by the kids it was decided and I made a telephone booking for the Sunday of our trip. We'd actually hoped to ride the train on the day before but it was fully booked; it's possible to turn up and hope for the best on a weekday but I'd recommend you book if you want to visit at the weekend, especially if you are travelling a distance.
When you arrive you'll be given your tickets, we arrived an hour or so early so wandered around a well stocked souvenir shop and had a walk around the local area. There's a small bar and cafe next to where you queue up to get on the train - we bought the kids an (overpriced) tray of chips and an ice cream each, while Mark and I shared a cheese sandwich. The food here is nothing special really and added nothing to our visit, in fact the sandwiches I'd packed for our picnic were much nicer than those at the foot of Mt Snowdon!
When our turn to embark the train arrived I was surprised to see how old the trains looked, a quick flick through the guide book told me that this was one of the original 1895 trains - a fact that made me sweat a little considering how nervy I am of trains at the best of times! Inside the carriages are obviously 'of the age' too - hard benches and sitting literally shoulder to shoulder with other passengers. It's not a particularly comfortable ride, but once you get going the beautiful scenery will take your mind off the fact that you're sitting so close to a stranger!
And the scenery certainly is beautiful, from the moment the train begins moving you can feel the upwards gradient and once you're clear of the station (around five minutes into your journey) the whole of Snowdonia seems to open out in front of you. The incline is fairly steep to begin with with a few hair-raising drops to the side of the train tracks - not great for a height hater like me, but the landscape and way the track has been designed means I can just look the other way when I spot something scary on one side or another!
You'd think the best scenery would be when you get towards the summit of the mountain, but you'd be wrong. On the first section of your journey you'll see a stunning waterfall, plenty of beautiful greenery, sheep (of course!) and even a small disused chapel built on the mountain which was in use until the 1950s. The clear commentary on board the train tells you where to look to see the various sights on your trip up Mt Snowdon; I felt there was a little too much anecdotal history in this commentary, but it has apparently been the same for years so most passengers must enjoy it!
There are a couple of stop-off points on the way up the mountain, mainly for the steam trains to take on water in order to continue their journey. At these 'stations' you can disembark the train and continue your journey on foot, or simply stand in the fresh air and take in the views before hopping back on board. In very windy (or 'worrying', as our train driver put it) weather the locomotives stop at Rocky Valley rather than going all the way to the summit - they should be able to advise you of this when booking your ticket, but weather changes so quickly when you're out in the open that you must be prepared for the possibility of not reaching the summit by train.
As it was a warm, sunny day when we rode the Snowdon Railway it carried on all the way up the mountain. While the gradient is fairly gentle (considering you're going up a mountain!), be prepared for a very sharp incline as you reach the summit - this comes on you quite suddenly and you feel yourself pushed back into your seat in a similar manner to if you were on a fairground ride. My daughters' found this highly amusing, although I suspect they were giggling at the terror on my face rather than the experience!
Once you reach the summit of the mountain you are given a set amount of time to walk around before having to get back onto the train for the return journey. As I've already mentioned we had decided to walk down so had as long as we wanted, but I heard one group being told that the train would leave in thirty minutes which is time enough for a wander around taking in the views but you wouldn't get chance to look round the super-duper new visitors centre if you had to be back on the train in half an hour.
An exhausting four hours later we reached the base of Snowdon, and all of us wished we'd taken the train for the return journey! We watched the various locomotives pass us while completing our arduous trek and they're a grand sight from a viewpoint of several hundred feet away, looking majestic and colourful (being painted red) against the stark greenness of Mt Snowdon.
Using the Snowdon Railway isn't a cheap excursion, with an adults return ticket costing £25 and a child of three and above £18. Obviously the 'one way' tickets are cheaper, but there's only a few quid in it so don't be planning to walk down the mountain just to save on the return fare as you'll probably find it wasn't worth it! There are some very tiny discounts for disabled adults and children, although not all of the steam trains are equipped to carry disabled passengers anyway - again, this is something you'll have to check while booking your tickets. Children under three years go free providing they're sitting on your lap, personally if my under three had been with us I'd have rather paid for a seat for him as a two and a half hour train journey with a wriggling toddler on my lap would not have been my idea of fun!
I completely recommend a trip on the Snowdon Railway, if scenery is your thing - and honestly, if you're visiting North Wales then it probably is. The beauty of it is that this, for a lot of people, is the only way of getting to the summit of this amazingly beautiful mountain.
I have just returned from a short and much needed, break in North Wales. It was my first trip to the area, booked very last minute (just after midday on our day of departure!) so my partner and I hadn't really looked at what there was to do in the area, we just packed up our bags and embarked on the adventure!
Our hotel offered lots of leaflets to peruse, including one on the Mountain Railway. The leaflet gave lots of details about the route the train took and how to book, however failed to mention the price (gulp, see further on) or train times. Both of us thought it seemed like a good idea, and planned to take the train up then walk down so we could explore all the little details we would miss from the train. We were warned the journey would take an hour each way by train, and walking down would take around 2hours 30mins.
On the leaflet it mentioned an "Early Bird" special - if you pre-book the 9am trip, you got tickets half price. You needed to book by phone, which incurred a £3.50 booking fee, at least a day in advance. Despite loving the idea of saving some money, we were staying about an hour away and the combination of comfy bed and hotel breakfast was too luring for us to make the first train, so we decided to take a leisurely drive there and get the first train we could.
On arrival to Llanberis, a big sign indicated the car park to use for the Mountain Railway, at a whopping £5 parking fee (although we were assured this was for the whole day, and we could leave and come back if we wanted). The man on the gate was quick at offering information about the next train, and had taken our money and given us a ticket before we'd had time to say we just wanted to turn round and investigate the other car parks first (there was one just down the road for £3.50).
The day we chose had terrible weather, and the concept of walking downhill for 2.5hrs in the rain and wind became completely unappealing, so we opted for a return ticket instead. We got quite a shock on seeing the prices: £25 each for a return ticket, £16 one-way! Having grown up just outside of London I have been use to extortionate prices, but for a steam train trip, this just seemed too much. There was a train leaving in 10mins, and as we were there and pretty unconvinced at the practicalities of walking either way, we bought 2 tickets and joined the queue to board. The leaflet advises arriving 45mins before departure, however there were no problems with the time we got there. In peak times they advise pre-booking due to crowds, and even on this wet September day, the train was full up.
There were two trains boarding, each divided into 7 sets of seats (two rows facing each other, with a door) each row seating 4 people, so 8 people per section, in theory. We boarded in section G, and were the only 2 people in there at first. The rows are quite close together, so there isn't a lot of leg room, We sat opposite each other, put our bag under our legs and maneouvered our feet so the were interwined but comfortable. When 5 other people were added to our section, it became pretty squashed. I could see how with 8 children or small people there would be adequate room, but with slightly larger people it became a tight squeeze - certainly not the seat I expected for £25!
The journey up was enjoyable. There is an audio commentary which points out interesting sights along the way. We had purchased the souvenir brochure for £3.50 in the ticket office, and found some of what was said was in the brochure anyway. We were sat on the right-hand side on the way up, which was a fortunate choice as much of the commentary focussed on sights on that side. Along the route, the train stops at several places to allow other trains to pass coming down the mountain, and at these times the commentary usually pointed out some more things of interest or told a tale about the mountain.
Once at the top there is a cafe and visitors' centre, with souvenirs and toilets. Visitors can continue the short walk up to the summit, where it promises amazing views on clear days. Sadly, on this day the mist was especially dense, and we found ourselves staring into a white oblivion getting very wet. We did climb to the very top tho, taking care on the slippery steps, and were pretty amused by the sight of a dozen or so tourists stood upon this mound of stones, trying not to be blown away, huddled around the marker on the top showing in which direction you can view different places!
The journey back down was less enjoyable. Passengers are advised to change sides so they can have a different view on the way down. Sadly for us our compartment-sharers had got back in first and had taken up the majority of the seats. We ended up squashed together at the end of a row, legs pulled in and barely touching the floor (due to the traveller opposite taking up the floor space) with Steve pushing into my right side and the window soaking my other arm in condensation. There is no commentary on the journey back down, and as on the way up there are points when we had to stop and wait for trains to pass. Visability improved as you went down, but due to the rain photos weren't great. Windows were covered in condensation and rain drops, and although the middle window opened, our fellow passengers had been greatly unimpressed when I did open it to take a picture!
Overall, on a clear day I can imagine the views would be amazing, and even with bad weather we still had the sense of being very high up. Visability was only very bad near the top, so on the journey there were points when you could see a drop right beside the train, and look out over vast valleys, which was amazing. The novelty of travelling a steam train was limited for me - it was great to be travelling up Snowdon on the mountain railway, and the commentary and souvenir brochure gave lots of interesting tidbits of information about the trains - however, the squashed carriage and price didn't seemed fair.
During the summer before last, I took my sister and two nieces on the "Snowdon Mountain Railway" to the summit of Snowdon. I've always wanted to do this journey and was really looking forward to it.
At 3560 feet high, Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales and England. It is also the most accessible mountain top in England or Wales since the train takes the strain! There's hardly any walking at all to do at all.
The Snowdon Mountain Railway trip is not cheap. An adult ticket is an eye watering £23, with a child's ticket being £16. Fortunately, there is an offer of an 'early bird' journey, i.e. the first train of the day at 09:00 of half price. So, despite the 80 mile journey, my nieces were packed into the car, early in the morning so that we could get there for 08:30 and save me £39!
The railway station is at Llanberis, above picturesque Llyn Padarn, and is quite quaint and scenic. The ticket office and waiting platform have an almost 'alpine' look to them.
I was a bit disappointed with the train itself. I was expecting a steam train, but the engine we had was a diesel locomotive. Examination of the website, later at home highlighted that both steam and diesel locomotives are used. The steam engines look much nicer! They are, of course, narrow gauge.
The carriages hold 54 people in reasonable comfort, but here we found the biggest drawback to our day out. You cannot choose who your fellow passengers are! We were unfortunate enough to share our carriage with a group of loud, rude, rowdy, girls. These girls must have been all of 11 years old, but acted like teenagers after a night out! This spoilt it for us, somewhat, but we found we could just ignore them and concentrate on the journey.
The length of the railway is 4 miles. Now a modern train, on the level, would complete the trip in about 5 minutes. Fortunately, to enjoy the trip, the Snowdon trains are a tad slower than British Rail (although they do keep much better time!). The average speed is a whopping 5 miles per hour! If the speed exceeds 7.5 miles per hour, something happens, the brakes come on! Seriously, this is not a problem. Travelling up the steep incline, at just above walking place gives plenty of time to enjoy the fantastic scenery.
One of the biggest problems with this journey is that you cannot plan for the weather. Even on a relatively clear day, the summit of Snowdon can be wreathed in cloud. It was like this on the day we went. Lower down, it was clear and bright, but the last 1000 foot was cloudy and misty. This did give the view a really eerie look, with the sharp bare rocks rising out of the mist as we approached, but did limit what we could see.
The journey to the summit lasted about an hour. We then disembarked and made our way to see the summit. Here the temperature was much colder than at sea level. Despite being July, it was bitterly cold. The top of the mountain is extremely bleak. There seems to be nothing living at all, and all is just bare rock.
There's a small walk to make to get to the true summit which we did quickly. True to form, as soon as we reached the top, my youngest niece wanted to get down again!
The train stays at the top for 30 minutes, allowing you to get a drink and something to eat in the café. We visited the old café, which has now been demolished. I believe the new one is much better than the old.
Back at Llanberis station, we had a quick look in the shop. This is a standard tourists shop selling mainly souvenirs of the day. Not bad, but nothing to get excited about.
Overall, we all thought the day a success. We'd been to the highest mountain in Wales and stayed dry and warm the whole time.
If you want to see what it's like at the roof of Wales, I'd encourage you to give this a go. Try for the 'early bird' trip, realise that the weather's a lottery, and you might really enjoy it.
A few years ago I wrote a list of all the things that I wanted to do before I shook off my mortal coil so to speak. The list included things such as a ride on the Orient Express and a climb to the top of St Paul’s Cathedral, both of which I have since done. It also still has many things yet to be achieved and taking the mountain railway up to the top of Mount Snowdon was one of them. As you may well know I have just been to Anglesey for a week’s holiday and as we toured around North Wales we found the mountain railway at Llanberis. We decided to return later in the week and take a ride up Mount Snowdon. The railway station is on the main road through Llanberis, which is the A4086 from Caernarfon to Capel Curig. It is also easily accessible by bus from either Bangor or Caernarfon. The Snowdon Mountain Tramroad and Hotel Company began building the railway in 1894 completing it in 1896. They used Swiss engineered rack and pinion systems to cope with the steep gradient. The railway runs every day between 15th March and 4th November each year, weather permitting. The trains go right up to the Summit Station from mid to late May until mid October given normal weather conditions but they usually terminate lower down the mountain at other times of the year. No guarantees are given as to the running of the trains, the termination point of the journey or the view when you get there as the weather can be very different high up the mountain from what it is at sea level. It can also change dramatically and suddenly. The first train runs at 9am providing there is a minimum of 15 passengers to make the journey worthwhile, and they then run at approximately half hourly intervals after that until 5pm at the latest. It is advisable to book your train ride as soon as you arrive in Llanberis as each train only carries a maximum of 59 people and the places soon get filled. We arrived at 10.30am and got the last r
emaining tickets for the 11.30 departure. There is plenty to do while you’re waiting in Llanberis. There is a souvenir shop, complete with a railway exhibition telling more about the building of the mountain railway. There is also a café and plenty of seating both indoor and outdoor. You could also walk the few hundred yards into Llanberis itself if you felt energetic, but you’d need to keep your eye on the time as the train will run on time whether you’re on it or not! The prices were £16.90 for adults and £11.90 for children for a return journey, and we got concessions of £2 per ticket for the two senior citizens and one student in our group. In fact I was the only one to pay full fare – typical! We could have purchased single tickets for £11.90 for adults or £8.90 for children and walked back down, but it was far too hot for that. Besides mom and dad couldn’t have walked down, they’re in their 70’s after all. Look – that’s my story and I’m sticking to it, OK? There are some journeys for which an early bird reduction of £3 for adults and £2 for children applies. These are the first two or three journeys of the day depending on the time of the year. It would be worth checking out the website or giving the station a call if you were intending to take advantage of this to make sure it was available on the day of your journey. We paid by Visa, but could have also used Switch, cash or cheque so that was all very easy. We were advised to be on the station platform a quarter of an hour before the train was due to depart, so that we would have more chance of being able to sit together in a group. The ticket reserves a seat on a particular train but it is not a specific seat, as there are no seat numbers as such. We actually got there just as the previous train left and there were already quite a few people waiting. The train is one of five steam or four diesel
trains running on this railway and there can be up to eight trains on the mountain at any one time. The train is pushed up the mountain by the locomotive running chimney first behind it. The journey took us up the north west slopes to the terminus 3,494 feet above sea level and 3,140 feet above Llanberis Station. It travels along just over four and a half miles of track in about an hour at an average gradient of 1:7.8 which equates to 12.85%. The maximum gradient is 1:5.5 equating to 18%, which is achieved over the final stage of the journey and I have to admit I was less than comfortable at this point. The train was rising steeply and looking from the windows the drop looked pretty hair raising too! As I said earlier it took us about an hour to reach the Summit Station, taking in three stops on the way where the track splits into two in order for trains travelling in opposite directions to pass one another. We then had half an hour at the summit to walk around, admire the views and take photographs. There is also a souvenir/gift shop, toilets and a café at the top too. The Summit Station isn’t quite at the very top of the mountain, but there is a relatively easy climb of a few metres to the actual top of Snowdon. There is also a post box up here so that you can send a postcard bearing the Railway Postal Label and it will be franked with the words ‘Summit of Snowdon – Cop’r Wyddfa’ Providing you return on the same train that you went up on you are guaranteed a seat for the return journey. You can however, choose to return on a later train but you have to take potluck as to whether there will be any seats available. It would obviously depend on whether anyone from that particular trip had chosen to walk back down. I am scared of heights but, apart from feeling a bit uncomfortable towards the top where the gradient was at its steepest, I had no problem with this journey at all. The w
alkways at the top all have strong railings along them so I didn’t feel unsafe up there either. The view from the top more than compensated for any doubts that I may have had. It was a little hazy the day we were up there, but we were told that on a clear day you could see as far as the Isle of Man and the Wicklow Mountains in Ireland. I have now ticked that one off my list of things I want to do and I am very glad that I was brave enough to do it – it was brilliant! One thing that did surprise me was the fact that it was just as hot at the top as it was at sea level. I expected it to be considerably cooler and had got everyone carrying fleeces just in case! I was well popular! The details you will need to contact the Snowdon Mountain Railway are as follows: Snowdon Mountain Railway, Llanberis, Gwynedd. LL55 4TY Telephone: 0870 458 0033 Fax: 01286 872518 www.snowdonrailway.co.uk