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.
- Kennet and Avon Canal
- Gloucester and Sharpness Ship Canal
- Grand Union Canal
- 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.
Day 1: Depart
We depart for London.
Day 2: Bourton-on-the-Water
We arrive and head 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 river that runs through the centre of town. Our hotel is centrally located in the town.
Day 3: Kennet and Avon Canal
The Queen reopened the Kennet and Avon Canal in 1990, after it had been extensively refurbished by dedicated waterway enthusiasts and local volunteers. It runs through spectacular scenery between the Thames at Reading and the Avon at Bristol. We’ll enjoy a horse-drawn boat trip down Kennet and Avon Canal, then we’ll return to Bourton-on-the-Water for free time in the village for exploring and shopping.
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 / Snowdonia
We bid a fond farewell to the Cotswolds and our waterway excursions, and we head to Snowdonia in Wales stopping first in Ludlow. Nestled in an area of outstanding natural beauty in the heart of the Shropshire Hills, the town has a history of over 800 years and is surrounded by almost 500 listed buildings. From it's ancient Castle to its peaceful back streets with many cafes, bars, shops, and beautiful, fascinating architecture, exploring Ludlow is a real pleasure. Later we arrive at our Country House hotel for a 7-night stay.
Day 7: 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 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: At leisure
You may want to visit the nearby historic market town of Dolgellau, or venture further to Portmeirion - a quaint Italianate village well-known as the setting for the cult 1960’s TV series “The Prisoner”.
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 / Chester
We head to the seaside town of Llandudno, for some free time before we reach our final destination, Chester. The striking beauty and unique atmosphere make Chester one of Britain's most popular destinations.
Day 14: Chester
On our walking tour of the city we see Britain’s most complete city walls, its oldest racecourse and its largest Roman Amphitheatre, plus a 1000-year-old Cathedral with Europe's finest example of medieval carvings. The afternoon is at leisure to explore the attractions, cafés, pubs or the 700-year-old Rows galleries - a shopping delight! This evening is our Farewell Dinner.
Day 15: Home
We fly direct from Manchester to Toronto.
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