I arranged a two-night visit to North Wales from 29 November to 1 December so my wife could claim I was away for two months. Staying in the small town of Llanrwst (pronounced Thlan-roost) at the Eagles Hotel, I took to opportunity to visit Llandudno, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Betws y Coed and the village of Dolgarrog.
This has a very impressive Hilton Garden Hotel, but rather a long walk (30min) along unlit footpaths to the railway station of the same name. After dark when I was going back to my hotel, I was not prepared to trust the torch on my phone not to conk out along the route, so I took the unusual step of hitchhiking back to Llanrwst, and was picked up luckily by the third vehicle which came along, since local people are well aware of the deficiencies of public transport in the area, and the complete dearth of taxis.
On the way there, everything was going swimmingly until a broken rail caused my train to be terminated at Huddersfield. I had been looking forward to a break at the fine Victorian resort of Llandudno and a walk on Wales’ longest pier, since there was a 1h 43m connection at Llandudno Junction. I boarded another train towards Liverpool which was due to call at Newton le Willows, and the conductor on the train advised that the Llandudno service was just behind us. Sure enough, two minutes after leaving the train, along came the one I wanted and I had my time in Llandudno after all.
From then on I was in the hands of Transport for Wales on its Conwy Valley line south into Snowdonia, and the roughly hourly bus service no.19 of Llew Jones. Combining the rail timetable with the 19 bus enabled me, without too much difficulty, to plan a walk in the Welsh hills between Roman Bridge station and Dolwyddelan to visit the Castle there. Highlight was probably the visit on the 19 to Zip World, an adventure centre, where I took a ride on the toboggan on wheels called Fforest Coaster. There are huge queues for this in the summer and I arrived just after 1100 for my timed 1130 ride. By 1150 with no queues I had done the descent on this innovative roller coaster three times, had a camera fitted to the toboggan and bought the video which entitled me to a fourth ride free before I walked into Betws y Coed.
Whilst waiting for the train south, I was phoned by the Llechwedd Slate Caverns to say their underground railway was out of order so could I attend tomorrow? No, unfortunately, so I went to visit Dolgarrog where there is a memorial park dedicated to the dam disaster.
On 2 November 1925 the failure of two dams caused a flood that swamped the village of Dolgarrog, killing 16 people. The disaster was started by the failure of the Eigiau Dam, a gravity dam owned by the Aluminium Corporation. The water released from the reservoir flooded downstream, and overtopped the Coedty Dam, an embankment dam. This dam also subsequently failed, releasing the huge volume of water that flooded Dolgarrog. Many more villagers could have been killed had they not been in the local theatre watching a film that night.
The fare from the North East, with a railcard, was only £20.95 each way. Out-of season hotel rates are low, and there’s plenty of cosy hospitality businesses to enjoy in the hours of darkness. Take your walking boots, and enjoy the winter weather. Last train back home is after 1800 from Llanrwst.