This beautiful walk through the remote Cwm Prysor in Snowdonia, close to the village of Trawfynydd is a beautiful combination of breathtaking countryside and mind-boggling engineering that created the railway.
I had wanted to do this walk because not so long ago I saw an amazing photo of a disused railway viaduct somewhere in North Wales. I just knew I had to seek it out – as I am from Snowdonia I was a bit disappointed that I was unaware of this hidden gem.
I needn’t have worried though, with the help of Google, an OS map and helpful advice from fellow hikers on Facebook’s ‘Walking for Pleasure’ group I soon had all the information that I needed to set off on an epic day out with my little kiddies eight and six.
This trail is a liner walk unless you’re up for a very long day. We took two cars leaving one parked next to the cemetery close to Ardydwy Terrace in the small village of Station, and the other we left park in a pull-in/lay-by situated on the brow of a hill on the A4212.
This walk is a permissive right of way along the disused railway line which ran from Bala Junction to Blaenau Ffestiniog. Opened in 1882 it was built by the Bala and Ffestiniog Railway and closed in 1961. In its day it must have been a breath-taking journey and if this railway line were open today it would surely be featured on the Great British Railway Journeys on TV.
To start the walk, proceed from the parking spot through the gate continuing a little while on the forestry road until the track forks. It’s the left-had trail you need to follow, through a slight cut where the trains once rolled, very quickly after this point you come upon the Cwm Prysor Viaduct, also known as Blaen-y-Cwm Viaduct.
The curved line of the viaduct is a sight to behold, the height is daunting but the view of the Afon Dwyryd from on high, flowing down to a lonely farm makes it well worth the wobbly legs. Children do need supervising here; 1960s health and safety measures don’t extend to highwalls and a safety fence!
It’s hard to imagine that such an investment could ever have been justified in a sparsely populated area. But, it’s easy to forget that back then Blaenau Ffestiniog attracted people from all over the world to work in the slate industry and North Wales roofed the world. The railway was used to transport dressed slate and service the rural area.
After the viaduct, the trail continues in the same spectacular vain. The track bed hugs the mountainside gives open wide views towards Arenig Mawr and the surrounding countryside. There are several places where ‘cuts’ have been created for the train to travel. We wondered how this had been done – by blasting or manpower alone? Creating a ledge wide enough for the train into the side of a barren mountain must have been tricky.
The mountainside section of the path gives way to lower ground where the path passes through arches of wizened trees and before reaching pastures and levelling out completely.
About a mile or two before reaching the hamlet of Station the trail is bisected by a single-track road. As the road was built across the railway track here we lost access to the disused railway, we had expected to be able to re-join the track just by crossing the road, however there was no way down on the other side and the track bead was clearly over-grown and completely impassable. Not wanting to walk along the A4212 with the children we headed off into the hinterland.
Where the road peters out at Bwlch-gwyn-uchaf we followed a bridal way which took us through farmland and backtracks ending up very close to where we’d left the husband’s car.
We did the walk on the 3rd of January in the bright sunshine, for the whole 10 kilometres we didn’t see a soul, just a couple of grumpy cows who didn’t like us being on the path close to their feeder.
The walk has a gentle downhill gradient the whole of the way. It’s super soggy in places so waterproof shoes are essential unless you’re walking on a warm day after a long dry spell.
This a great walk for anyone who likes the idea of walking a precipice along the lines of Dolgellau’s ‘Precipice Walk’ or to a lesser extent Penmaenmawr’s Jubilee Walk, the width of the track means that walkers do not feel exposed and on the higher sections – my husband who doesn’t at all have a head for heights was perfectly happy.
A map to our route is available here – though it’s no substitute for having an OS map for proper route finding.