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Three Welsh railways in Which? top 10 most scenic European rail journeys

Welsh Highland Railway, rebuilt by volunteers at a cost of £28 million. Image by Chris Parry.

The chief executive of an independent Mid Wales tourism organisation has congratulated three Snowdonia railways for being named in the top 10 most scenic European rail journeys.

In a survey by consumer advice magazine Which?, 1,400 rail passengers were asked to rate their favourite rail journeys, scoring each for scenery, comfort, facilities, cleanliness, food and drink, service and value.

Ffestiniog Railway, which runs from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog, came out top, scoring 91% and Talyllyn Railway and the Welsh Highland Railway from Porthmadog to Caernarfon shared sixth place with 86%.

Val Hawkins, chief executive of Mid Wales Tourism (MWT Cymru), congratulated all three Welsh railways and welcomed the international spotlight on the picturesque region.

“To not only have Ffestiniog Railway recognised as the most scenic rail journey in Europe but also two other railways in the top 10 is fantastic news for the region,” she said. “It really puts Southern Snowdonia and Wales on the international map.

“More visitors are discovering that this beautiful part of Wales has so much to offer as a destination in its own right.”

Stretching 13.5 miles between the harbour at Porthmadog and the slate mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog, Ffestiniog Railway is the world’s oldest narrow-gauge railway.

Clare Britton, commercial manager for the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways, said: “We are thrilled to have both railways in the Which? top 10 against very stiff competition.

“We already know that Snowdonia is a beautiful place, but it now seems Which? readers have arrived at the same conclusion. I think it’s great for Ffestiniog Railway to come out on top because it’s iconic and one of the oldest preserved lines.

“We are also delighted that the Welsh Highland Railway has been recognised because it also travels through the most beautiful scenery.

Talyllyn Railway, the world’s first preserved railway.

Talyllyn Railway is a narrow-gauge railway which opened for goods traffic in 1865 and for passenger services soon after. Trains have run every year since between Tywyn, on the Cambrian Coast and Nant Gwernol, seven miles inland.

In 1951, operation of the line was taken over by Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society and became the world’s first preserved railway. The line is operated primarily by volunteers, with a small paid staff.

Stuart Williams, the railway’s general manager, said: “We are delighted that the world’s first preserved railway has been recognised as a great attraction for a global audience. For a little railway like ours to be named in the top 10 scenic rail journeys in Europe is amazing.”

Welsh Highland Railway, which runs from beneath the castle walls in Caernarfon to the foot of Snowdon before dropping again to sea level at the harbour in Porthmadog. The original railway closed in 1936 and has now been completely rebuilt by volunteers at a cost of £28 million.

With the 25-mile line now complete, together with a new £1.25 million two-platform layout at Harbour Station, Porthmadog, it is now possible to connect with the Ffestiniog Railway and experience 40 unbroken miles of spectacular narrow-gauge steam.