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North Wales

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MU3A HOLIDAY IN NORTH WALES:  From the 1st to the 6th of September, 14 U3A members from Meopham and Gravesend enjoyed a “Rail Discoveries” holiday in North Wales. We were part of a group of 41 on the holiday. The Tour Manager was David Denman, a Meopham U3A member. The holiday was based at the Kensington Hotel, located on the sea front at Llandudno. On 3 of the days we were transported by mini-coach to the bases for journeys on steam trains. Our coach driver, Arwyn, provided a continuous commentary on the villages and communities we passed through, tried to teach us a few words in Welsh and, on the first day only (!), also shared with us a few of his personal jokes!

DAY ONE:  entailed a coach ride to Ffestiniog to join the Ffestiniog Mountain Railway for a journey of 13.5 miles to Porthmadog. This line was originally built to transport slate from local quarries and evidence of this is still visible. It runs through the amazing scenery of the Snowdonia National Park and has magnificent views of valleys, cascading waterfalls, ancient woodlands and mountain peaks. From Porthmadog we made the short journey by coach to Portmeirion. All of the interesting buildings in the village are registered Grade 1 or 2 and are now either self-catering cottages or hotel rooms and suites.

DAY TWO (Tuesday): We made a return journey from Llangollen to Carrog. A good part of this trip was through the beautiful River Dee valley, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and of Special Scientific Interest. On our return to Llangollen we enjoyed a 45 minute ride on a horse drawn barge along a stretch of the famous Llangollen canal. On our FREE DAY, Wednesday, there were local attractions, notably the Great Orme. Unfortunately it was extremely windy and as a direct result the cable car to the summit was not operating. The tramway to the summit was extremely busy and some of our group did not make it to the top.Those who did were almost blown away! I think I was the only one who went down the Bronze Age mine, an extraordinary and memorable experience. Some members went to Conwy on that day and found it a very interesting city with many attractions.

DAY 4 (our final day): From our hotel we initially travelled by coach through stunning mountain scenery to Caernarfon. On arrival we were split into two groups and given a fascinating guided tour of the castle, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the afternoon we rode on the Welsh Highland Railway, a narrow gauge line running along the foothills of the Snowdonia Mountain range to Beddgelert. In this attractive small village, many of us enjoyed light refreshments alongside the nearby stream. Llandudno itself proved to be a very popular base. In the evenings there were walks along the promenade and a small number extended their walks to the pier and on one occasion were lured into the amusements area! Other evening activities included card schools and enjoyment, on two evenings, of concerts given by Welsh male voice choirs. All of the holiday arrangements ran very smoothly, largely due to the professional and efficient efforts of our Tour Manager, David Denman. Everyone enjoyed the holiday and learned a great deal about the outstanding railway heritage of North Wales.