UK Rail Journeys

Central Wales – Trains, Ales and Gardens

Tour Date: 7 to 12/14 June, 2024
Location: United Kingdom

Over the years, many of you have traveled with us to North Wales’ railways and mountains. The Central Wales, Trains, Genuine Ales, and Gardens Tour is what I’d want to introduce to you right now. From Shrewsbury, we ride through stunning scenery on the charming Heart of Wales line. Along the Knucklas viaduct to the summit at Sugar Loaf. Through the Sugar Loaf tunnel and along the Cynghordy viaduct. Swansea is the next stop. We will stop at one of the tiny market towns in Carmarthenshire, Llandeilo. From here we travel out to the Teifi Valley railway and the Gwili Valley railway. Visit the gardens of Aberglasney and the National Botanical Gardens of Wales. What else is there to ask for? An icy glass of real ale perhaps? Evan Evans Brewery is here in Llandeilo, where better to sample this, than the local pub.

From: Shrewsbury or any UK rail station

Tour Itinerary

Today we head to Brecon (09:15) via the town of Llandovery. Located on the western border of the National Park. Early travel writer George Borrow described Llandovery as "the pleasantest little town in which I have halted".

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Today's visit begins at Tretower Court and Castle, a medieval fortified manor house set in a beautiful countryside between Brecon and Abergavenny.

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Tretower Court

Here we will have a guided tour before moving onto our canal boat for our journey on the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal with a light lunch provided. From here we travel back to Llandeilo to our hotel. Overnight in Llandeilo.

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Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal

After breakfast, meet up for a transfer (09:00) to the Gwilli Steam Railway in Carmarthen (believed to be the oldest town in Wales). The Gwili Steam Railway operates an standard gauge railway from Bronwydd in South Wales (near Carmarthen) along a short stretch of the old Carmarthen to Aberystwyth railway, which closed for passenger traffic in 1965, the track being lifted in 1975.

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Gwili Railway

The Gwili Railway was established in 1975 and by 1978 had purchased and salvaged approximately eight miles of trackbed. While we're here, you can tour the engine sheds with a local volunteer of the railway before heading out on a journey along the line. A Sunday lunch will be served on the train during the journey. After steam rail experience, visit Aberglasney. A medieval house and gardens set in the Towy Valley.

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Aberglasney Gardens

This beautiful property set in 10 acres of gardens was opened to the public in 1999. Here we will have our stop to visit this spectacular property and gardens. If we have time and the weather is kind to us, we can stop again, on our way back to our hotel, to admire Newton House (a National Trust property) set in Llandeilo.

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Dinefwr Park and Newton House (NT)

Although it will be too late to entre Newton House those of you who still have some energy left, there will be an optional walk around the grounds and to Dinefwr Castle where there are stunning views overlooking the Towy Valley. Overnight in Llandeilo.

Take the 09:00 train from Llandeilo to Llanelli in the morning. This completes the Heart of Wales line from Shrewsbury to Llanelli. At Llanelli the line joins the main line to Swansea. We will be picked up in Llanelli by a coach and taken to the Mynydd Mawr Railway. This is a heritage railway intended to reopen much of the former Llanelli and Mynydd Mawr Railway, which closed in 1989. The original line was a tramway powered by horses transporting coal to the sandy area of Llanelli Docks. Throughout the 20th century, the railroad was the main artery for coal distribution from the Gwendraeth Valley until the Cynheidre Colliery in 1989. After our visit here we will transfer back to Llanelli Station for our train to Carmarthen. This journey is very picturesque passing the coastal towns of Pembrey & Burry Port, Kidwelly & Ferryside.

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Local train at Burry Port

If you're lucky, you might spot a Welsh cockle picker at Ferryside. Our coach will meet us at Carmarthen and take us to the White Heart pub and brewery for lunch and a brewery visit.

After our visit we will return to Llandeilo where you will have free time, perhaps, if you are National Trust members you may wish to visit Newton House set on the Dinefwr Estate. Shop in our local shops or take a walk to the band stand where there are spectacular views of Llandeilo and surrounding countryside. Overnight in Llandeilo.

Today we retrace our journey to Brecon for our visit to the Brecon Mountain Railway.

60C5EB52 8843 47CE 9CAF AD9E3A9398E1Your journey continues through the Brecon Beacons to Swansea. There you can see where the Swansea and Mumbles Railway once ran. The Swansea and Mumbles Railway was the world's first horse car railway, originally built to transport limestone from Mumbles to Swansea. The museum may be closed, but you can see a restored model of a double-decker tram through the windows. At 16:00, we'll have a boat trip on the Copper Jack to explore the history of the Tawe River. After this visit you have the option of taking our coach back to Llandeilo or taking the train from Swansea to Llandeilo to complete the Heart of Wales Line from Swansea (own expense). Overnight in Llandeilo.

This is the end of the first section of the tour and you may, if you wish, leave today or stay on for the add-on the Aberystwyth. 

This morning we say goodbye to Llandeilo and transfer to Aberystwyth. At 09:30 we will leave the hotel with our luggage. Our first visit today is the National Botanical Gardens of Wales. The gardens are set in the beautiful countryside of Carmarthenshire.

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The Walled Garden at the National Botanical Garden of Wales

Here you'll find themed gardens, the world's largest single-span greenhouse, the British Birds of Prey Centre, tropical butterfly houses, walled gardens and nature reserves, all in the Regency landscape. After the visit, travel to Cenarth for lunch at a local pub along the River Cenarth. The river is known for its falls and salmon fishing on coracle boats. These are small rounded light boats traditionally used in Wales. After lunch, travel to Henllan to the Teifi Valley narrow gauge railway.

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Teifi Valley Railway

The Teifi Valley Railway was created from a branch line of the Great Western Railway which served the West Wales rural area. The railway is situated near the market town of Newcastle Emlyn between Carmarthen and Cardigan. Overnight in Aberystwyth.

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Our first visit today will be the Vale of Rheidol Railway a narrow gauge heritage railway in Ceredigion between Aberystwyth and Devil’s Bridge, a journey of 11 ¾ miles.

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Vale of Rheidol Railway

The original main purpose of the line was to carry timber (for pit props in the South Wales valleys) and lead ore from the Rheidol Valley to the sea and the main railway at Aberystwyth. We will have an hour break at Devil’s Bridge before our return journey to Aberystwyth. On our return we will break for lunch and join up again for our short trip on the Aberystwyth Cliff Railway.

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Aberystwyth Cliff Railway

The railway is a 778ft long funicular railway, the second longest in the British Isles and opened on 1st August 1896. The funicular was originally a water balance system but was electrified in 1921. It’s now run by Constitution Hill Ltd., a registered charity. At the top of the hill you'll find a café and the world's largest camera obscura, and of course, great views of the bay and surrounding countryside. We finish our tour here so if you wish to stay longer you may travel back to the hotel when you wish. Overnight in Aberystwyth. Farewell dinner.

After breakfast we take the train from Aberystwyth back to Shrewsbury where we started our tour. Option to stay on for longer in Aberystwyth should you wish.

Prices & Options

Prices (per person)

  • From Shrewsbury: £965 in a twin/double, £1,085 in a single use room
  • From any UK rail station: POA
  • Three night add-on to Aberystwyth: £440 in double/twin, £550 in a single use room

Price Includes

  • 4 nights at the Cawdor hotel in Llandeilo with breakfast (5 nights with add-on)
  • 2 nights in Starling Cloud, Aberystwyth
  • all excursions listed in the itinerary
  • services of our tour manager. Holiday is fully escorted from Shrewsbury

Transport & Accommodation


  • The Cawdor, Llandeilo (4-star)
  • TBC, Aber