Porthmadog is situated in the county of Gwynedd, North Wales. It is a busy little town situated on the Glaslyn Estuary on the edge of both the Snowdonia National Park and the Llyn Peninsula. A short walk to the edge of the town in either direction delivers some of Wales' finest scenery, with both the Glaslyn Estuary and the hills of Snowdonia inviting further exploration.
Most of the town is built upon land reclaimed from the sea by William Madocks, and this led to the town's name, which translates from the Welsh into "Madock's Port.”
There is a wide variety of small, locally owned shops and restaurants in Porthmadog, from bookshops and antique shops to music shops, where you can find almost everything you need. Moreover, there is no shortage of pubs and good restaurants. A stroll down the high street leads to the attractive harbour with boats bobbing on the waters of the Afon Glaslyn. Walk a further half a mile along the Porthmadog cob for some of my favourite Welsh views. The view of the Snowdonia Mountains from the cob is simply tremendous.
Walks, Cycle Trails and Other Activities
Walkers will be spoilt for choice in the countryside around Porthmadog, with walks across the cob to Portmeirion and alongside the beautiful Glaslyn estuary. Many will plump for the Llyn Coastal Path and head out west through Borth-y-gest, Morfa Bychan, Black Rock Sands, Criccieth and beyond.
The history of the town revolves around the harbour, the slate trade, and the Ffestiniog Railway. For many years, the town's prosperity owed much to the slate trade, which exported roofing slate all over the world from the harbour at Porthmadog.
The Ffestiniog Railway (originally horse drawn) opened for freight traffic in 1836 and transported the slate from source at Blaenau Ffestiniog to the harbour via a 21km journey through meadows, woodlands, lakes and waterfalls within what is now the Snowdonia National Park.
However, the commercial future of Porthmadog as a harbour began to decline with the arrival of the Cambrian Railway in 1867, offering an alternative means of transport to the growing industrial towns in England. The last of the fleet of ships had disappeared by 1945 ending with it an important chapter in the history of the town. At about the same time, the Ffestiniog Railway closed down, and the future looked bleak for the town.
However, the value of the railway purely as a tourist attraction and means of passenger transport was recognised before it was too late and dedicated railway enthusiasts rescued the rail track from dereliction. By the 21st century, Porthmadog had become an increasingly popular holiday destination and today the Ffestiniog Railway carries hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
Indeed in 2005 the Welsh Highland Railway, received grant aid from the Welsh Assembly Government to reopen another narrow gauge railway that had once provided a railway link from Porthmadog all the way to Caernarfon on the north coast of Wales.
Attractions nearby include: a modern Leisure Centre; a small Maritime Museum; the harbour and Marina; the Brynkir Woollen Mill in Garndolbenmaen; Portmeirion Italianate Village; Plas Brondanw at Carreg Llanfrothen; The Ropeworks at Greenacres Holiday Park; and last but not least the fine views of Snowdonia from the Cob at Porthmadog.
Heritage Railways: Porthmadog can now boast (2011) not one but three heritage railways: the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway within the town; the Ffestiniog Railway running from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog; and the Welsh Highland Railway (Porthmadog to Caernarvon) which as its name suggests runs from Porthmadog to Caernarfon.
Two miles down the estuary in Morfa Bychan is Black Rock Sands, a popular wide sandy beach with a rocky headland at the western end of the beach and a backdrop of sand dunes that are a site of special scientific interest. When the tide recedes you can explore the rock pools, exposed caverns and multi coloured rock face (the rocks are not black!). The two-mile stretch of sands is popular with kite-buggies and kite surfers. It is convenient for picnics too, as you can drive your car right onto the beach.