UK / WALES

The Ffestiniog Railway in North Wales – our review and top tips

The Ffestiniog Railway in North Wales – our review and top tips

We take our children on the Ffestiniog Railway which runs through Snowdonia National Park

What is it?

The Ffestiniog Railway is a vintage railway which has been running for nearly 200 years through the beautiful Snowdonia National Park.

Where is it?

It runs between Porthmadog’s harbourside and the former slate mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog – 13 and a half miles away.

What did we think?

This is one of the country’s best preserved vintage railways with wonderful scenery and child-friendly stops en route.

Highlights

*The steam engine. Harry Potter fans can imagine they are on the Hogwarts Express as the train starts off. The noise, smell and sensation of a steam engine is unique for children.

*Its history. The Ffestiniog Railway is the world’s oldest narrow gauge railway. This line was originally built to take slate from Snowdonia’s quarries to the harbour at Porthmadog from where it was shipped around the world.

*The carriages are original but despite their age are fairly comfortable and reasonably spacious.

A carriage on the A child points at the Ffestiniog Railway

*Table service. Attentive staff regularly come round offering drinks, snacks or guide books. They serve homemade cakes and a selection of alcoholic and soft drinks.

*The views. The journey starts along the water at Porthmadog harbour before chugging up into the mountains. It is a narrow route with some houses right by the railway. As you climb, the railway goes past rocky walls and woodland but it barely goes a few minutes without a great view of Snowdonia’s mountains, streams and valleys.

*Tan-y-Blwch walk. Getting off at Tan-y-Blwch is the best option with children. You have over an hour before the train comes back for the return journey. That is enough time to walk the 1/4 mile down through woodland to Llyn Mair and wander around the lake, possibly with a picnic, before heading back to the station.

*Tan-y-Blwch station. The station has a small but fun playground, cafe and hut showing some of the railway’s history. There is also a bridge over the railway where you can get a good view of the steam trains arriving and departing.

Our top tips

*Sit on the right hand side of the train on the way out of Porthmadog and the left on the way back for the best views.

The Ffestiniog Railway travels through the beautiful landscape

*The toilet is in the middle of the train so if you have little ones who might need to pay a visit, sit near that carriage.

*With younger children, consider riding to Tan-y-Bwlch rather than all the way to Blaenau Ffestiniog. The journey is 45 minutes each way instead of 1 hour 15 minutes. There is a playground and walk at Tan-y-Bwlch.

Ffestiniog Railway information

Food: Drinks and snacks menu served on-board. Cafes at Porthmadog and Tan-y-Blwch stations on the route serving cakes, ice creams and cooked meals.

Opening hours: For most of the season there are four trains per day. The first train leaves Porthmadog at 10.05am. Other departures are 11.25am, 1.35pm and 3.50pm with the last one getting back at 6.30pm. In the summer holidays there is also an 8.50am departure.

Cost: Adult all-day ticket £25.60, half way return to or from Tan-y-Blwch £16.50. One child free with every paying adult. All under-threes travel free.

Best for: Ages three upwards

Time needed: three hours

Access and restrictions: There are accessible toilets and baby changing facilities at all the main stations. The train itself has a toilet but it is small.

Address: Porthmadog Harbour Station, Glaslyn Bridge, LL49 9NF.

There is a small car park at Porthmadog which costs £2 per day.

Have you been, let us know what you thought?

Fun for all the family at GreenWood Forest Park in North Wales

Fun for all the family at GreenWood Forest Park in North Wales

We take our children to review GreenWood Forest Park near Caernarfon in North Wales

What is it?

GreenWood Forest Park is a family adventure park which has been voted the best family day out in North Wales for seven years.

Where is it?

It is between Caernarfon and Bangor near Snowdonia National Park.

What did we think?

It’s a fantastic family day out for younger children, especially those aged three to 10.

We visited on a grey, drizzly day and still had a wonderful time. The wet weather meant it wasn’t busy, plus, although it was our school holidays, local children were back at school.

Our highlights

Great Green Run

An exhilarating 70-metre sledge run loved by our three and seven-year-old children and we parents alike. It is the longest sledge run in Wales.

A child sledges down the slope of the Great Green Run

The Great Green Run

And little ones don’t need to miss out on the fun. Next to it is the Little Green Run for toddlers to enjoy.

A girl rides a sledge down The Little Green Run

The Little Green Run

Green Dragon Roller Coaster

This is the world’s only people-powered roller coaster.

Children and families ride the Green Dragon Roller coaster

The Green Dragon Roller coaster

You walk up a hill, get into a people carrier which travels down an incline, pulling the cars up to the station. You then walk up another hill and get on the ride which is gravity driven.

It’s not a ‘scary’ roller coaster, no loop the loops. Perfect for children, although you have to be 97cm. Our three-year-old loved it.

Magic show

There were two shows at 1pm and 3pm (same entertainer, different show) and we went to both. He really made the children chuckle.

Jungle boats

You have to work as a family to navigate the canal using one paddle and ropes to propel you along.

Solar Splash

This is the first solar-powered ride in the UK and is for braver visitors to the park. You climb up a 12 metre tower and take an inflatable boat down one of two wave shoots or a spiral tube.

Children ride the Solar Splash water slides

Solar Splash

More fun

There’s also a barefoot trail, den building, a crocodile maze, Tree Top Towers tree house with slides, zip wires, Moon Karts, crafts, archery and a soft play area for under-threes.

Tree Top Towers tree house

Tree Top Towers tree house

And there is a bigger soft play area with a great cafe/restaurant where I was thrilled to find a wood burner to sit next to, to warm up at the end with a cake and a cup of tea!

In conclusion

We all leave with a smile on our faces feeling like we’ve had a thoroughly lovely day.

Our top tips

*If it is wet, the magic show is undercover and the soft play areas will be open. Also if it is raining it would be handy to have a towel or cloth to wipe seats/sledges etc so little ones don’t get too wet and uncomfortable.

*Dogs on leads are allowed.

*Be warned, the exit is via the shop!

*Some of the rides don’t open at certain times of year or in certain weather so check first.

GreenWood Forest Park information

Food: Picnics are welcome. There is a restaurant and snack bars.

Opening hours: 10am to 5.30pm.

Cost: It is cheaper in low or mid-season, rising at peak season to £16.20 for adults and children, seniors and students. Free for children under three. It is cheaper to book online.

Best for: Ages three to 10.

Time needed: At least three to four hours or a whole day.

Access and restrictions: It has partial disabled access but some areas and rides are difficult or impossible to access for disabled visitors. There are height and age restrictions on some rides.

Address: GreenWood, Y Felinheli, Gwynedd. (For sat nav use the postcode LL55 3AD).

We take our children on a fairy tale family holiday staying at a castle in Anglesey, Wales

We take our children on a fairy tale family holiday staying at a castle in Anglesey, Wales

We review Chateau Rhianfa in Anglesey and explore the surrounding area, beaches and attractions with our young children

It is not every day you wake up in a castle.

And the spectacular sight from our ridiculously comfortable bed through a large picture window means getting up is not appealing.

We are in Anglesey and our view takes in the waters of the Menai Strait, framed by majestic Snowdonia.

Other families we know holiday in Anglesey yet we had never been so we had decided to visit the beautiful island off north Wales for a half-term break.

Chateau Rhianfa

Chateau Rhianfa is more decadent than your average venue with its grand decor and tiered gardens sweeping down to the water (click here for our full review of Chateau Rhianfa).

Fans of ITV’s Cold Feet will recognise it as it recently featured in an episode for the wedding of Spanish nanny Ramona.

It was built in the mid-1800s in the style of a French Renaissance chateau as an aristocratic country retreat.

This fairy tale venue is impressive from the outside and fascinating on the inside.

The lounge area at Chateau Rhianfa

Inside Chateau Rhianfa

Our children loved exploring the grand drawing and music rooms and were excited to discover cosy cubby holes in turrets.

And we were all happy to find an atmospheric wine cave among the rabbit warren of spaces.

The hotel rooms and suites are lavishly finished.

Inside a hotel room at Chateau Rhianfa

A hotel room

The Gate Lodge

Or you can stay in equally beautiful self-catering accommodation in the grounds.

We were in the Gate Lodge, a two-storey cottage with arched entrance and miniature turrets, where attendants of visitors to the chateau would once have stayed.

It has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen/diner and lounge area.

The exterior of the Gate Lodge self-catering accommodation

The Gate Lodge self-catering accommodation

With the space and the large grounds to enjoy, I could have stayed there all day. But there was an island to explore and two children eager to get going.

Surrounding area

We were spoilt for choice for beaches and our favourite was Newborough, a wide sweeping bay backed by sand dunes and woodland walks.

We also liked Lligwys Beach near Moelfre – quiet and good for rockpooling – and the more rugged and windy Rhosneigr which was home to kitesurfers and kayakers.

Our daughter never tired of throwing stones into the water and our son loved hunting for crabs among the rock pools and paddling in the sea.

And we discovered exactly how crashing waves worked through clever replications at Anglesey Sea Zoo.

Everything in this aquarium is found around the British coast, and we found out plenty thanks to the friendly staff as they fed the fish and lobsters.

You can enjoy a feed too at the well-priced cafe and outside there’s a playground, bouncy slide, crazy golf and more.

Food

Back at our castle, trying the food is a must as it has previously won Hotel Restaurant of the Year (Welsh Food Awards).

We had a delicious breakfast on our last morning and also risked our young children in the quiet and refined dining room for an evening meal.

Thankfully they behaved. Or at least, nobody was looking when they didn’t.

It was a small, thoughtfully put together menu. There were no separate options for children. But the chefs were happy to adapt one of the dishes to suit them. And my steak was the best I have ever tasted.

The food lived up to expectations, as did the venue, as did Anglesey itself.

We are one more family won over by its charms.

Chateau Rhianfa on the Menai Strait

Chateau Rhianfa on the Menai Strait

Have you been to Anglesey? Where do you recommend for children?

RELATED CONTENT: We review Chateau Rhianfa castle accommodation in Anglesey, Wales

(We stayed as guests of Chateau Rhianfa. All views are our own).