This month’s family travel snap takes us to beautiful North Wales. Lonely Planet’s Editorial Director, Tom Hall, has recently visited Snæfellsnes in west Iceland, the Unclaimed Baggage Centre in Alabama and the end of the line in Jesenice, Slovenia. However, he is more often found exploring the world with his three children who may or may not love trains as much as he does.
What’s the story behind this photo?
We’re in Porthmadog in North Wales, about to board the Ffestiniog Railway. In the picture along with me are Winnie (2), George (8) and Harry (6). The boys are used to being dragged onto steam railways by me, while Winnie’s just starting to realise it’s an essential part of any Hall family holiday.
This photo is one of many memories from a wonderful week. I like that I am clearly trying to impart some important piece of train knowledge to my children while we are posing. Besides, it’s pretty much the law that before you get on a steam train you have your photo taken with it. Behind the camera was a man who had come all the way from America just to ride this line and the Welsh Highland Railway that also departs from Porthmadog. The train in question is double-headed, just like Mighty Mac from Thomas the Tank Engine, so that was an exciting find too.
Just driving into Porthmadog feels like an adventure, with steam trains crossing the main road and coming to rest by the sea. After the photo we took the train into the mountains south-east of Porthmadog and jumped off halfway along the line at Tan y Bwlch, which is a beautiful station surrounded by wooded hills. Here we followed the footpaths from the station through the woods down to a lake where we skimmed stones.
Winnie loved the playground at Tan y Bwlch so much she persuaded her grandparents to take her back later in the week while the rest of us climbed Mount Snowdon. The boys remember the train being ‘a bit scary’ as it hugged the hillside on its climb, but the cake in the station cafe got a thumbs up from everyone!
Tom’s tips for visiting North Wales with kids
1) Try seal-spotting at the tip of the Llŷn Peninsula. At Uwchmynydd, near Aberdaron, you can follow a short path to a headland overlooking the place where pilgrim boats used to leave for Bardsey Island. It’s a magical place for a picnic, and you might be lucky and spot a pair of seals playing in the waves.
2) Make sure you have more than a week! We are already planning our next trip: there are other train journeys we need to take, more mountains to climb and plenty of near-deserted beaches we didn’t get to this time. Oh, and trampolining through an old slate mine is definitely on the list.
Where’s next on your family travel bucket list?
We’re saving our pennies for a once-in-a-lifetime family safari to South Africa next year.
Lastly, complete the sentence:
When we shut the front door ready to go and travel as a family, we always…
…Make sure we have as many jam sandwiches as we can carry!
Follow Tom Hall on Twitter for inspiration on travel, trains and a love of London.