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‘Find Your Epic’ on a fabulous fortnight on the rails in Wales, with specially chosen accommodation and the very best local guides and experiences.
With intimidating castles seemingly at every turn, framed by vast, gasp-inducing scenery alongside the cutest of pocket-size villages, wonderful Wales has every ingredient required to cook up a holiday full of adventure, discovery and relaxation. From North to South, we’ve taken time and care in creating this unique itinerary, with train journeys by BR service and steam, seamlessly coupling with private and small-group tours to deliver one of our most varied holidays.
Head out of bustling Manchester towards Chester and in the blink of a dragon’s eye you’re crossing the border in to Wales, travelling through Flintshire and along the Irish Sea coast via Prestatyn and Rhyl, to the classic Edwardian seaside town of Llandudno. From the station here it’s a short taxi-ride to your accommodation, where we suggest dropping your luggage and heading on to the impressive Great Orme peninsula via the UK’s only surviving cable-drawn tramway.
Your accommodation in Llandudno
Centrally located, just a block or two from the sea, your accommodation in Llandudno is the very friendliest of traditional guest houses, whose owners have a gift for putting guests immediately at ease. Unfussy, comfortable rooms ensure a restful night, while the breakfast of local produce and homemade bread and preserves sets you up for a full day’s exploration.
Take the 20-minute bus-ride from Llandudno to Conwy this morning, where you’ll be met by our friendly and enthusiastic local guide and taken on a fascinating and fun private guided tour of Conwy Castle, the threatening medieval fortress that dominates the skyline here. Stepping down from the battlements, you’ll make your way to the impressive city walls – some of the most complete in Europe – to see the town from their elevated perspective. Later, you might like to drop in to Conwy’s famous 1920s ale house for a private ale-tasting session, before a stop at Plas Mawr, the beautifully preserved Elizabethan townhouse at Conwy’s centre.
Wave goodbye to Llandudno this morning and take the short train-ride to the centre of Wales’s ancient slate-mining industry, Blaenau Ffestiniog. Here, pick up the first of your steam experiences on the Ffestiniog line service to Porthmadog. Travel in first-class style in original Pullman carriages, attended to by bright Welsh-speaking staff serving a full lunch menu with drinks as you chuff through some of the country’s most evocative vistas.
Upon arrival at Porthmadog Harbour station, you’ll be met by a driver from your Portmeirion hotel and transferred there in comfort by road.
Your Hotel in Portmeirion
Little can prepare you for your first sight of Portmeirion, the eye-popping ‘idea village’ created by maverick architect and philanthropist Clough Williams-Ellis in the early-to-mid 20th century, and on which he continued to work until his death in 1978 at the age of 94. Modelled on the precipitous ancient towns of Italy’s Amalfi coast, Portmeirion is a riot of colour, seemingly spread across the cliffs overlooking the gaping Afon Dwyryd estuary. Not only the village, but also the extensive Gwyllt (Welsh for ‘wildwood’) featuring a superb collection of exotic trees, plants and flowers, Japanese and oriental gardens, secret temples and pagodas and even a dog cemetery. You could make your own way through the 16 miles of private footpaths, heading to the coast for some of the best views in Wales.
The hotel features comfortable, unpretentious accommodation, coupled with opulent lounging and a striking art-deco restaurant (redesigned by Sir Terence Conran in 2005) where a fine menu of Welsh classics is served by friendly, Welsh-speaking staff.
Enjoy breakfast this morning – weather permitting on the terrace – before you’re transferred to Porthmadog Harbour station to catch the train to Harlech. Travelling by regular service, it’s just a short hop to Harlech, home to one of Wales’s most famous castles – and the world’s steepest street! Discover the history of the fortress overlooking the Irish Sea, then take a stroll and lunch before the return journey to Porthmadog. From here, you’ll enjoy a private transfer back to your hotel.
You’ll be transferred to Minffordd after breakfast, to catch the train to Abergavenny. Travelling on the scenic Cambrian Line, the train makes its way down the gorgeous coast of Cardigan Bay before skirting the Cambrian mountains on the way to Shrewsbury, where you change for the short hop to Abergavenny. Here, you’ll be met by a taxi and transferred the short distance to your hotel in the heart of town.
Your Hotel in Abergavenny
With history dating back to the 16th century, your accommodation in Abergavenny blends an ancient heart with modern comfort and service. Friendly local staff put guests immediately at ease, ushering you to your just-refurbished room. Many feature original architectural elements skilfully integrated alongside contemporary details, with new bathrooms throughout as well as super-comfy beds and appealing lighting. Downstairs, the bar is always buzz with locals and visitors, with an ever-changing menu of Welsh flavours on the menu.
After breakfast, you’ll be met by a local driver-guide, heading out for a day of discovery in this most enthralling part of Wales. Before setting off, you and your guide will have a chance to discuss any particular areas of interest you may have. You’re bound to want to climb the Black Mountains (by car, of course) and explore the Brecon Beacons National Park, and your guide will be sure to bring to life hidden corners that visitors otherwise struggle to find.
This morning, take a taxi back to Abergavenny, where you’ll catch your train to Cardiff, proud seat of the Welsh Assembly and capital of the kingdom of Wales. Once here, it’s a short taxi-ride to your accommodation in the smart Pontcanna district, just a 15-minute walk from the city centre and Cardiff Castle.
Your Accommodation in Cardiff
In one of Cardiff’s leafiest locales, overlooking Caeau Pontcanna Fields, the huge grassy space that really has no place this close to a busy city, your accommodation here is a small, family owned hotel, whose owners have done much to singlehandedly lift the level of service expected of local establishments. Spotless and supremely comfortable, each of the rooms feature all you need to relax after a long day’s discovery, while the cosy bar is the perfect place to take refreshment ahead of an evening out.
Compact and easily navigable on foot, Wales’s capital city features striking modern architecture alongside fine historic buildings (including its terrific eponymous castle) glorious parks and gardens, several world-class museums and galleries, and an ever-growing number of innovative dining options. We’ll provide our hand-selected recommendations to help you make the most of your time in this fun and fascinating city.
Take a taxi this morning, back to Cardiff Central to catch your train to Swansea. Here, you’ll be met by the very friendliest of local driver-guides, and taken on a private guided tour of this most captivating corner of Wales, whose hidden beaches, soaring cliffs and secret coves could easily come from some faraway land. Your guide, a lifelong native of the Gower, will help you uncover some of its best-kept secrets, stopping at an out-of-the-way inn for lunch as you go.
Your Accommodation on the Gower Peninsula
Set just off the main thoroughfare in the town of Mumbles, your accommodation here is a family owned guest house whose modest exterior hides the very essence of Welsh charm within. Just five cosily appointed bedrooms feature, while the enthusiastic owners are only too keen to share their knowledge and love of Mumbles.
Spend today at leisure uncovering the delights of charming Mumbles at your own pace. The seafront and marina are a few short steps away from your accommodation, where you’ll find quirky shopping, friendly bars and inviting cafés and restaurants that are sure to tempt you inside.
After breakfast this morning, you’ll be met by your driver-guide again and transferred back to Swansea for your train to Penally, a unique ‘request-stop’ on this line, built to serve your hotel here. When you arrive, friendly staff from the hotel will meet you off the train and transfer you up the hill to your accommodation.
Your Hotel in Penally
Recently saved by the current owners from near-dereliction, your accommodation in Penally is a remarkable property, where Georgian and Victorian features blend seamlessly with more modern elements to create a very relaxing place to stay. As well as the beautifully appointed bedrooms – many with vast picture windows looking out across the gardens to the coast – the in-house restaurant has quickly risen in acclaim to become one of the best in the region, serving a tempting menu of reliable Welsh classics given a Pembrokeshire twist.
Staff at your hotel will arrange a taxi to take you the short ride to Tenby, one of the most historic and picturesque places in south Wales. You’ll be met here by our specially chosen local guide and taken on a unique ‘chronological’ history tour, telling the story of the town’s pre-history, inception, medieval growth and Victorian heyday via its streets, houses, churches and monuments.
You’ll be dropped at Penally Station this morning in time to catch the train to Haverfordwest. Here, you’ll be met by a taxi and transferred to your hotel in St Davids.
Your hotel in St David’s
Just a few minutes’ walk from the city centre, your hotel in St David’s is a recently created hotel, whose unfussy exterior gives no indication of what awaits inside. Owned by an acclaimed local architect, every possible detail has been carefully considered, from the extensive collection of locally sourced art, to the very finest fixtures and fittings that feature throughout, this is an indulgent treat of a place at which to spend the last two evenings of your holiday.
St David’s centre is just a stroll away, and what a surprise this place is. The UK’s smallest city, with a population of just 1800 or so, on the face of it St David’s seems little more than a hamlet. However, the city holds more quality dining options per head than anywhere else in the UK, and its community of artists and artisans help fashion a unique atmosphere, where innovation in creativity lives side-by-side with tradition. Moreover, within a stone’s throw you’ll find the fabulous beach at Whitesands, a surfers’ paradise where you might be lucky to see a classic Welsh midsummer sunset.
Set off from St David’s this morning with our specially chosen and hugely experienced local guide, for an evocative boat-trip off the Pembrokeshire coast. Weather permitting, you’ll head for one of the offshore islands where, at specific times of year, puffins, gannets and Manx shearwater gather in astounding numbers. Along the way you’ll enjoy views of the coastline as good as any in Europe.
Enjoy a final Welsh breakfast this morning before your hosts transfer you to Haverfordwest in time for boarding your train to Cardiff – we’ll be happy to facilitate onward travel to anywhere in the UK.
This holiday is part of our ever-growing collection of public transport based holidays, enabling you to reach destinations around Wales without the need to drive. We feel strongly that true sustainability also means promoting and helping to maintain a way of life in areas where the economic benefit of tourism can make a genuine difference to the local community, which is why we have used locally-owned small accommodation and local guides on this holiday.
This comprehensive 14-night rail tour begins in Llandudno then includes stays in Portmeirion, Abergavenny, Cardiff, the Gower Peninsula, Penally and St. David’s.
£2650 per person in March & November, £2745 per person in April & October and £2895 per person in May to September.
Price is based on two people sharing a double or twin room for 14 nights on a B&B basis. Train travel from Manchester to Llandudno and all train travel within Wales ending in Cardiff – both on regular scheduled service and special steam services – is also included. Private tour/transfers from Swansea to the Gower Peninsula and Penally to St David’s are included, as well as station transfers to and from your accommodations in Portmeirion, Abergavenny, Penally and St David’s. A private guided tour from Abergavenny is included, as are private walking tours in Conwy and Tenby and a boat tour from St David’s as part of a small group.
Before your departure, you will receive personalised holiday information including full directions, recommended routes, and suggestions on places to visit depending on your interests and our local knowledge to help you get the most from your holiday.
All itineraries and room types are presented subject to availability at specific hotels.
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This holiday can be arranged from March until the end of November.
Availability is individually checked for a hand-picked selection of smaller hotels, guest houses and other independent businesses, so please bear with us and we will respond in 1-2 working days.
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All our holiday prices include a service charge of £9 per person per night towards the costs we incur in researching, planning and designing your holiday.
We guarantee to refund this service charge if you believe that arranging your holiday through McKinlay Kidd has not met your expectations for value. All we ask is that you write to us within 7 days of your return and explain your reason for claiming the refund. This will ensure that we can improve the experience for all our future guests.
“You’ll either love it or hate it.” That was the advice of a relative when I told him we were heading to Portmeirion for an overnight stay and a...
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