Railroads and Waterways of Britain

Railroads and Waterways of Britain

This unique tour takes in some of Britain’s Canal Waterways and Welsh Railways.

The UK is criss-crossed with incredible canals and waterways that meander through stunning countryside and skirt past quaint towns and villages. A beautiful by-product of the industrial revolution and a testament to human engineering, these canals would have been heaving with cargo and people when they were first created. Now they make for a calm, quiet and relaxing way to explore Britain’s varied landscapes.

Likewise, the Great Little Trains of Wales are a very special way of seeing some of the best scenery in the British Isles. While each of these narrow gauge steam railways are unique in their own way, all of them have a history spanning well over 100 years, and so they have the charm of old-time steam trains with plenty of polished paintwork and brass. The special attraction of narrow gauge railways lies in their modest size compared with mainline trains, and their leisurely speed gives time to take in some of the splendid scenery.

Tour Highlights:
• Kennet and Avon Canal
• Gloucester and Sharpness Ship Canal
• Grand Union Canal
• Shrewsbury – one of England’s finest medieval towns
• Medieval Stokesay Castle
• Ludlow – a thriving medieval market town and an architectural gem
• Ride on the Talyllyn Railway – the world’s first preserved railway, and enjoy its vintage locomotives
• Ride on the Vale of Rheidol and Ffestiniog Railways, featuring dramatic scenery
• A journey on the Welsh Highland Railway (stunning!)
• The immaculate seafront town of Llandudno

*** Those joining any of our tours to Europe must be able to walk fairly long distances and climb stairs easily.

Tentative Itinerary

Day 1: Depart

We depart for London.

Day 2: Oxford / Bourton-on-the-Water

We arrive and head to Oxford, the ‘City of Spires’. We will have some free time before we continue on to Bourton-on-the-Water for our 4-night stay. This town is known as the 'Venice of the Cotswolds' because of the lovely small bridges that cross the gently flowing river that runs through the centre of the village. Our hotel is centrally located in the town.

Day 3: Kennet and Avon Canal and Caen Hill Lock

We travel to Kintbury on the Kennet and Avon Canal for a horse-drawn boat trip. Then on to the Crofton Beam engine, now restored to working order, lifting water to this thirsty canal. We follow the Kennet and Avon River through the Vale of Pewsey and visit the impressive Caen Hill flight of locks.

Day 4: Cotswolds Canals, River Severn and National Waterway Museum

At Stroud we visit a restored section of one of the Cotswolds Canals, then on to Saul Junction where it meets the Gloucester and Sharpness Ship Canal. We proceed to Gloucester Docks to visit the National Waterway Museum and take a boat trip on the Ship Canal.

Day 5: Grand Union Canal and Blisworth Tunnel

We go to Northamptonshire, and at the Grand Union Canal we visit the canal museum and enjoy a boat trip to Blisworth Tunnel. In the afternoon we visit Braunston where the Grand Union and Oxford Canals meet. See the boats moving to their locks, the workshops and basins, all in a rural idyllic setting.

Day 6: Ludlow / Stokesay / Shrewsbury

We fist visit Ludlow, nestled in an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ in the heart of the Shropshire Hills. The town is surrounded by almost 500 listed heritage buildings. Then we visit Stokesay Castle - the finest and best-preserved fortified medieval manor house in England. With a great hall unchanged for over 700 years, the Castle is a timeless treasure. We end in Shrewsbury for an overnight.

Day 7: Dolgellau

Morning at leisure in Shrewsbury, birthplace of Charles Darwin. This town is renowned as one of England’s most splendid heritage towns (with over 600 listed heritage buildings!) The historic cente is packed with great shops and cafes. Later we arrive in Dolgellau, Wales for a 6-night stay.

Day 8: Corris, Talyllyn and Fairbourne Railways

We will ride on three narrow-gauge lines today. First, the section of the Corris Railway that has recently re-opened. On to the Talyllyn Railway which has managed to keep running since 1865. Finally we go to the Fairbourne Railway for a journey to the Barmouth estuary and return.

Day 9: Aberystwyth Cliff Railway and the Vale of Rheidol Railway

We go to Aberystwyth to ride on the Cliff Railway which should give excellent views if the weather is favourable. Then to the Vale of Rheidol Railway which opened in 1902, for a trip through beautiful scenery to Devil’s Bridge and return.

Day 10: Snowdon Mountain Railway and Llanberis Lake Railway

Today, weather permitting, we will ascend Snowdon by the unique rack Snowdon Mountain Railway which dates from 1896. Then we take the narrow-gauge Llanberis Lake Railway along the shores of Llyn Padarn, with the opportunity to visit the National Slate Museum

Day 11: Welshpool and Llanfair Railway and Bala Lake Railway

We head over to the charming Welshpool and Llanfair Railway, and travel through delightful pastoral scenery. Then it’s on to ride the Bala Lake Railway - a narrow-gauge line re-opened on the former Great Western main line from Ruabon to Barmouth.

Day 12: Ffestiniog Railway and the Welsh Highland Railway

We take a journey on the two lines centred on Porthmadog. First, the Ffestiniog from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Porthmadog, which includes dramatic scenery and a spiral curve at Dduallt. Then on the Welsh Highland Railway, which passes through picturesque country with views of Snowdon (hopefully!) on its way to Caernarfon.

Day 13: Llandudno / Ruthin

We head to the seaside town of Llandudno, for some free time before we reach our final destination, Ruthin, with its fine collection of black-and-white medieval buildings and a ghost story for every corner. Tonight we enjoy our Farewell Dinner at the Ruthin Castle Hotel.

Day 14: Home

We fly home from Manchester (direct to Toronto).

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Cost per person: $5197
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