The Ffestiniog Railway
As the slate industry slowly declined, the Ffestiniog railway was closed to traffic in 1946. Luckily, railway enthusiasts were determined that the railway should survive and it was re-opened in 1954.
This world famous and oldest independent narrow gauge railway, originally built in 1836, is located by the Harbour at the beginning of the High Street, offering travel to Minffordd (for Portmeirion), Tan-y-Bwlch and Blaenau Ffestiniog.
Take a 13 mile long trip climbing to over 650ft through some magical countryside and mountains to Blaenau Ffestiniog with its great mountains of grey slate. The town is the home of the Welsh slate mines rather than the quarries at Bethesda.
The Welsh Highland Railway
The Welsh Highland Railway (Caernarfon) was a three staged project led by the Ffestiniog Railway to rebuild and operate the Welsh Highland Railway, a neighbouring line running through the mountains of Wales and closed in the 1930s.
The journey is behind the most powerful 2' gauge steam locomotives in the world through the fabulous scenery of the Snowdonia National Park.
The railway runs from alongside the awe-inspiring Caernarfon Castle, snaking around seemingly impossible bends, up hard gradients and around the foothills of Snowdon to arrive at Rhyd Ddu, about 12 miles from Caernarfon and high up in the Snowdonian mountains. From Rhyd Ddu to Beddgelert, around tight curves, through forests and hugging the side of the famous Aberglaslyn Pass; this is a journey not to be missed.
With the 25 mile line now complete - including a flat crossing over Network Rail, some street running through Porthmadog, and a new two-platform Harbour Station (complete with a substantial semaphore signalling installation) - it now connects with the Ffestiniog Railway, enabling (should time allow?) 40 continuous and spectacular miles of narrow gauge steam from Caernarvon through Porthmadog all the way to Blaenau Ffestiniog.
Welsh Highland Heritage Railway Porthmadog
This is just three minutes walk from the hotel, opposite the Cambrian Coast main line railway station, it operates a regular service of steam and diesel hauled trains and heritage carriages along a 3/4 mile long narrow gauge line, with views towards the Glaslyn Valley.
On the return journey, the train stops in the restoration shed for a free guided tour and the works at Gelert Farm. Climb into a cab and sit at the controls of an engine! In April 2009, the engine sheds were doubled in size to create a new interactive museum.
The Harbour ...
Porthmadog (the town's name translates as "Madog's Port after William Madoc) developed after the reclamation of the wide Glaslyn estuary, the building of an embankment (known today as the Cob) between 1808 and 1811, followed by the harbour between 1821- 1825.
With the building of the narrow gauge railway, as a gravity and horse drawn line, to transport slate from the quarries in the mountains around Blaenau Ffestiniog, this was to bring prosperity to the little town. As the slate industry flourished, so did the railway and the town of Porthmadog.
... and Cob
In the 1870’s, it was estimated that over a thousand vessels used the harbour in any one year and, at its peak in 1873, over 116,000 tons of Blaenau slate left Porthmadog for all parts of the world many in ships built in Porthmadog.
Glaslyn Estuary from Llyn Bach
To the north and East the wide expanse of the Glaslyn estuary, renowned as a haven for migrating birds and wildlife, extends dramatically towards the Snowdon range.
William Madoc was responsible for the reclamation of the land on which Tremadog still stands, an almost perfect example of early 19th century town planning with its charming cobbled square.
On London Road coming out of Tremadog is a very grand nonconformist chapel with an imposing classical style portico built in 1810. "Snowdon Lodge" almost opposite is the birthplace of T.E.Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia).
The magical Italiante village, open all year, is set in its own beautiful estuary. This wonderland, created by the architect Clough Williams-Ellis between 1926 and 1976, is set in magnificent botanical style gardens and designated a conservation area.
It provided the setting for the cult television series, "The Prisoner" which still draws many visitors.
Located behind the tourist information centre overlooking the harbour, the museum is a fascinating place to while away the time.
The curator will regale you with the town's history and tell you of the last ship to be built in the port in 1913 that was lost on its maiden voyage, many said because when she was launched the champagne bottle failed to break on her bows.
Meaning the Big Steps which were built to connect Pen Cei with the Garth where many houses were built to house ship owners and sea captains.
The steps were constructed, probably in the mid-1800s, to connect the harbour with new houses on Garth Road. They were part of Williams Maddocks' original designs for the town which took his name.
The steps are Grade II listed by CADW as a "distinctive historical townscape feature contributing to the historical integrity of Porthmadog harbour". They provide a handy short-cut for people travelling between the two areas, avoiding a half hour walk.
The views looking down onto the harbour and the surrounding area from the Garth are well worth the climb.
A pretty, unspoilt village with its beautiful sandy coves and cliffs, reached on foot via a winding path at the far end of the quay or a three minute drive from the centre of town.
Ships were built here before Porthmadog was established and Borth had four very busy yards. Houses were built in the mouth of the harbour for the pilots so that they could keep a look out for ships that needed their attention. These houses are still known as pilot houses.
It is still a favourite place for those who love the sea more than simply lying on the beach.
Black Rock Sands
One of the few beaches in Britain where you can step out of the car, straight on to the sands which stretch as far as you can see.
The surrounding sand dunes are a site of special scientific interest affording spectacular views to the whole of Cardigan Bay.
Glaslyn Osprey Project
The RSPB's Glaslyn Osprey project is only a few miles from Porthmadog. Since 2004, the Glaslyn Valley has been the home of the only pair of ospreys breeding in Wales.
Visitors can enjoy views through high-powered telescopes at the hide and via three large, widescreen plasma monitors in the hide. These broadcast live images directly from the nest, getting you even closer to the nesting family as the ospreys carry food to their developing chicks. You may even be lucky enough to catch the youngsters first flights.