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A survey of railways in Wales and the tourist attractions they serve

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Arriva Trains Wales

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For details of places served by Arriva Trains Wales services scroll through the page, or to speed your search, select the following:
Chester to Holyhead
Shrewsbury to Newport
Chepstow to Bridgend
Bridgend to Maesteg
Bridgend to Swansea
Swansea to Whitland
Whitland to Pembroke Dock
Whitland to Milford Haven/Fishguard
Llanelli to Craven Arms (Heart of Wales Line)

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Arriva Trains Wales

Two colourful Wales and Borders trains meet in Mid Wales(Left) Two colourful examples of ATW trains meet in mid Wales.

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Stations served by ATW
Preserved railways served by ATW

In the railway privatisation process, the South Wales and West Railway Company franchise - like that of the Cardiff Railway Company - was awarded to Prism Railways, and the official hand-over took place on October 13 1996.
With the introduction of the 1997/8 Winter timetable, the company changed its name to Wales and West Passenger Trains, which better describes the area it serves, and at the end of October 1997, the company moved from Swindon to new headquarters in Cardiff.
From September 30 2001, the company had another name change - to Wales and Borders - in anticipation of all rail services in Wales coming under one franchise. 
The franchise was eventually awarded to Arriva Trains Wales, which now operate most train services in Wales, many of which serve places outside the principality.

Rolling Stock

Arriva Trains Wales operates its services using four types of rolling stock: Class 143 Pacers; Class 150 Sprinters; Class 153s; and Class 158s.
Pacers, officially known as Class 143s, are two-car units based on a bus-body design, have a top speed of 75mph (120kph), with a capacity of 122 seated passengers and standing room for another 43. Introduced in 1986, but having just undergone a complete refurbishment programme including being re-engined, the Pacers were intended for short commuter routes, their principal use on ATW services is on the Swanline between Bridgend and Swansea. West Glamorgan County Council - the forerunner of the present City and County of Swansea council - sponsored three of the units which now bear the names Bewick's Swan (143617); Mute Swan (143618); and Whooper Swan (143619). The former counties of Mid and South Glamorgan also sponsored units.
Sprinters, or Class 150/2s, were introduced into South Wales in 1987, and were designed to replace the 30-year-old first generation Diesel Multiple Units. As a general purpose utility vehicle, they can be seen on duty on most routes in South Wales. They seat 149 and have a top speed of 75mph (120kph).
Class 153s are single units which have evolved from Class 155s, the first generation of two-car Super Sprinters which were designed to provide improved standards of comfort on provincial services throughout Great Britain. Introduced in 1987, the 155s were plagued by mechanical problems, and eventually a decision was made to re-engineer them into single car units for use on socially necessary routes where operating costs needed to be kept low. ATW's prime use for the units is on the Heart of Wales line, and on West Wales services to/from Pembroke Dock. Many are appearing in scenic livery depicting views of places served by the trains, or the routes where they run.
Class 158s are the flagship of ATW services, and have standards of comfort which compare favourably with those of main line trains. Introduced in 1991, and with a top speed of 90mph (144kpm), the fully air-conditioned two car units have carpeted floors and airline-style seating. There is dedicated wheelchair space for disabled travellers, and an on-board telephone.

Stations served by Arriva Trains Wales

CHESTER to HOLYHEAD

Please note. The period of validity of the National Network timetables has changed.
Any times and travel details given  apply only for the currency of the timetable valid from May 18 to December 13 2014.

Monday to Friday
From Cardiff Central to Holyhead
Trains run two-hourly at 21 minutes past the hour between 7.21am and 3.21pm, and at 5.16pm (except Bank Holidays) and 7.34pm.
From Holyhead to Cardiff Central
Trains leave at 4.25am, 5.33am (except Bank Holidays); 6.28am, 8.05am, 10.40am, 12.32pm, 2.34pm, 4.50pm.
On Saturday
From Cardiff Central to Holyhead
Trains run at 5.20am, 7.21am, 9.21am, 11.21am, 1.21pm, 3.21pm and 5.21pm
From
Holyhead to Cardiff Central
Until September 6 (inclusive)
trains run  at 4.25am (change at Chester), and direct to Cardiff Central at 6.35am, 8.20am, 1033am, 12.38pm, 2.23pm and 4.50pm.
From September 13 (inclusive) trains run from Holyhead to Cardiff Central at 4.25am, 6.35am, 8.20am, 1033am, 12.38pm, 2.23pm and 4.50pm.

Sundays The only direct services to/from Holyhead run from Cardiff at 1.22pm and 3.22pm.
From Holyhead
trains run at 10.20am and 4.25pm.

Places of interest

Italicised station names are request stops. Figures after station names show the approximate journey times from Holyhead, with journey times from Chester in brackets.

Holyhead (115 minutes) is reached via the 1,250-yard long Stanley Embankment which joins Anglesey to Holy Island - on which Holyhead stands.
The station adjoins the Irish Ferry to Dun Laoghaire, on the outskirts of Dublin. Holy Island boasts some spectacular cliff scenery, an ideal location for the Roman fortress of Caergybi around which the town developed, and from which it takes its Welsh name. In the town, parts of the medieval church date from the 13th century, but is built on the foundations of a monastery founded in 550 by St Cybi. Restored in the late 1870s, it features the work of pre-Raphaelites Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris. There are spectacular views and an Iron Age fort at the top of Holyhead Mountain to the north of the town.
Valley 9 mins (102) Close by is the Royal Air Force station and the broad expanse of Cwmyran Bay.
Rhosneigr
11 mins (96)
A quiet holiday village, with caravan site and a sandy bay enclosed by rocky headlands. South of the village is another bay, Traeth Llydaw, backed by sand dunes and the lake of Llyn Maelog.
Ty Croes
15 mins (93)
Serves a small village set in undulating countryside dotted with remote farms and hamlets.
Bodorgan
19 mins (89)
Bodorgan House dates from the late 18th century.
The station at Llanfair PGLlanfairpwll 39 mins (79)
Boasts the longest station name on Britain's national railway network: in full it is
Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyndrobwllllantisiliogogogoch;
which translates into English as: The church of St Mary in the hollow of the white hazel close to a swirling whirlpool and the church of St Teilo near a red cave.
Of course, it wasn't always thus, but was created in the middle of the 19th century by combining the names of two villages - Llanfairpwllgwyngyll and Llantysiliogogogoch - for the bemusement of tourists. The station is now privately owned, but the original platform nameplate is preserved in Penrhyn Castle. A half-mile east of the station is a statue of Admiral Nelson and on the headland 600 yards south of that is the Anglesey Column, commemorating the Marquis of Anglesey, who fought with the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo. When a cannon ball deprived the Marquis of one of his legs, Wellington is reputed to have said: "By God, you have lost your leg!" which brought the matter-of-fact reply: "By God, so I have."
Bangor
69mins 73)Bangor University overlooks the city from Penallt Ridge
A university city facing Anglesey across the Menai Strait, its history as a religious site can be traced back to the fifth century. Over the ensuing centuries, battles and uprisings have taken their toll, and the present cathedral dates from the twelfth century, most of what can be seen results from a number of restorations and rebuildings between 1866 and 1971. It contains a number of important relics and documents, including the Mostyn Christ, a 16th-century wooden statue showing Jesus bound and wearing a crown of thorns, seated on a rock. In the grounds of the Bishop's Palace is the Bible Garden, filled with the plants, shrubs and trees which are mentioned in the holy book. In the upper part of the town, the University (right) was formed as part of the University of Wales in 1884, though the present buildings date from 1911. Theatre Gwynedd is part of the University complex, where plays in Welsh and English are staged. North of the city centre, the pier stretches far out into the Menai Strait, half way to Anglesey.
Conwy
60 mins (57)
Three bridges cross the Conway estuary: Telford's Suspension Bridge, Stephenson's Tubular Railway Bridge with its castellations at either end, and the newer road bridge carrying the A55. On the far shore, the train is dwarfed by the battlements of Edward the First's Conway Castle and, rather less so, by the medieval walls which have enclosed the town since the end of the 13th century. The town claims the oldest house in Britain, and also the smallest - the latter, a former fisherman's cottage, has a six-ft frontage, is ten-ft high and measures just over 8ft from front to back. Aberconway House dates from the 15th century, while Plas Mawr, an Elizabethan palace of 1580 houses the Royal Cambrian Academy of Art.
Llandudno Junction
60 mins (56)
As its name suggests, the station serves as an interchange for visitors to the resorts of Deganwy and Llandudno proper, both stations on the route through the Conwy Valley to Blaenau Ffestiniog.
Colwyn Bay
68 mins (44)
A busy seaside resort in its own right, a three-mile promenade links Colwyn Bay with the resort of Rhos-on-Sea. Its sheltered location and mild climate, makes it a year-round attraction, equally popular in the winter months.
Abergele and Pensarn (not served by Cardiff to/from Holyhead trains)
The Skytower pictured at nightThe station is in Pensarn which is mostly residential, but does provide access to the beach. Abergele, its larger near-neighbour, is a short distance to the west. An extensive caravan park separates the railway from the beach, while the town also boasts an eighteen hole golf course.
Soon after leaving the station, from the train can be glimpsed disused Gwrych Castle, a castellated mansion a mile inland, which was built in the early nineteenth century. With 18 towers, battlements and bastions set against wooded limestone outcrops of rock, its gothic virtuosity challenges many Edwardian castles for dramatic power.
Rhyl
78 mins (33)
 Though Prestatyn may disagree, Rhyl considers itself the premier holiday resort of the North Wales coast, with sandy beaches, the 260-ft Skytower (pictured left), Ocean Beach Amusement Park, and the Sun Centre, an indoor all-weather leisure facility in the style of a tropical lagoon, replete with palm trees and surf.
Prestatyn
84 mins (28)
Like Rhyl, its rival just along the coast, Prestatyn vies to attract the most visitors to its resort. Latest attraction is the Ffrith Beach Pleasure Gardens. There is also the Nova Centre with a selection of water-based entertainments which is open all year round. Sport is catered for at the North Wales Bowling Centre, and the golf courses which separate Prestatyn and Rhyl.
Flint
97 mins (14)
In the town square, the 'Tudor' town hall dates from only 1840. Flint Castle was the first in Wales to be built by Edward the First and is located behind the main street on a site overlooking the estuary of the River Dee - a view that includes more than its fair share of factories and industrial estates. The most famous feature of the castle is the circular donjon, based on the Constance Tower in Brittany.
Shotton
(not served by Cardiff to/from Holyhead trains)
The Victoria Clock atop the Roman WallOnly a tinplate works and light industry remains of the extensive Shotton Steel works. The Deeside Ice Rink is in nearby Queensferry. 13th century Ewloe Castle and Wepre Park are close by, where nature trails through the woodland and ranger activities are among the attractions on offer. A short walk to the High Level station gives access to the Wrexham-Bidston Line.
 Chester 115 minutes
To the Romans, the fortress of Deva, and there is a reminder of that phase of its history in the wall which encloses the city. The two mile walk along the Roman wall is a must and also takes in relics of later eras: Viking, Norman, the Middle Ages, the English Civil War, and the Industrial Revolution.
There is the largest Roman Amphitheatre ever uncovered in Britain with space for 7,000 spectators. In 'The Rows' are found half-timbered shops which date back to the Middle ages, while the ornate clock, erected in 1897 in Eastgate (pictured atop the Roman Wall) is said to be the most photographed timepiece after Big Ben in London. Parts of the Cathedral date back to 1092, while the museum of broadcasting is of somewhat more recent vintage. There are boat trips along the Dee, a Zoo, and horse racing at the historic Roodee. Throughout the year, there are various festivals to cater for all tastes, including film, boating, transport, youth, music, and the Civil war Spectacular held in August.

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SHREWSBURY TO NEWPORT

Places of interest

From Chester, services run via Wrexham to Shrewsbury.
Figures after station names show the approximate journey times from Chester, with journey times from Newport in brackets.

Wrexham General  16 mins (174)
Served by two stations. Wrexham Central is about a ˝-mile distant.
The town is dominated by the 140-ft pinnacled and decorated tower of St Giles' Church - once considered one of the seven wonders of Wales. In the churchyard is the grave of Elihu Yale who gave his name to the famous Connecticut University. In the Clywedog Valley, south of the town, are reminders of the area's industrial past: A heritage trail through the valley includes the Minera Lead Mines, the Bersham Ironworks and Heritage Centre - where cannon for the American War of Independence were cast - and the wildlife centre at Nant Mill. Two miles south is Erddig Hall, a restored mansion house. Bangor-on-Dee National Hunt racecourse is three miles south east of the town.
Shrewsbury  55 mins (100)
Perhaps, the best-preserved medieval town in England, it has a history which dates back to the 6th century. Set on rising ground in an almost-complete loop of the River Severn, two reminders of its role as an England/Wales border town are the Welsh Bridge and the English Bridge across the western and eastern loops, respectively, of the river. The castle - located close to the station - has Norman, Edwardian and Civil War connections, with a tower added by Telford, the 18th century engineer and architect better known for his work with roads, canals and railways. Many old half-timbered buildings remain. The site of the Battle of Shrewsbury - between Henry IV and the rebellious Sir Henry Percy (the Harry Hotspur of Shakespeare's play) - lies three miles to the north.
Church Stretton
(Not served by direct services between Holyhead and Cardiff) 14 minutes from Shrewsbury (94) is a market town on the east slope of Long Mynd. There is a shuttle bus service connecting with train services on summer Saturdays and Bank Holidays, which takes ramblers onto the slopes of Long Mynd, with two circular walks back to the station.
Stokesay Castle as seen from the trainCraven Arms (Not served by direct services between Holyhead and Cardiff) 23 minutes from Shrewsbury (85)
Owes its name to one of the old coaching inns on the road between North and South Wales. Close by is Stokesay Castle (left), a 13th century mansion whose half-timbered gatehouse is decorated with a depiction of Adam and Eve. Parts of Stokesay Church date back to Norman times.
Ludlow 85 mins (75)
was, until 1689, the administrative centre of the Council of Wales and the Marches, so it is hardly surprising that it contains many old buildings. The castle is Norman while St Lawrence Church dates from the fifteenth century. Also of interest is the 14th century grammar school and the 17th century Feathers Hotel, while a graceful arched bridge crosses the River Teme.
Leominster
(Not served by direct services between Holyhead and Cardiff) 42 minutes from Shrewsbury (60)
(pronounced Lemster) claims a dubious association with Leofric, the 11th century Earl of Chester best known through the exploits of his wife, Godiva, who rode naked through the streets of Coventry in protest at the taxes which Leofric had imposed. The town stands at the confluence of the Rivers Pinsley and Lugg, and though its charter is dated 1553, its history as a frontier town on the England/Wales border goes back to the 7th century. Its church was restored in the 1880s, but was built on the site of a Benedictine priory, of which only the west door and nave remain. Preserved is a medieval ducking stool, last used for the detection of witches in 1809.
Hereford 109 mins (55)
is an historic border city: its has been a See since 676; was enclosed by the Saxons; and its castle built by the Normans. The present cathedral dates from 1079, after the previous 1012 edifice was destroyed. In the cathedral is held the priceless Mapa Mundi, the 14th century map which places Jerusalem at the centre of the world. Among other sites of interest are the Episcopal Palace, the churches of All Saints' and St Peter, and Black Friar's monastery. Hereford was the birthplace of Nell Gwynne, the mistress of Charles II. At Kenchester, 4 miles to the west, is the site of the Roman city of Magna.
Abergavenny 133 mins (24)
is located on the River Usk in a shallow bowl surrounded by hills which offers walks to the summit of Sugar Loaf, Skirrid and the Blorenge mountains. Of its Norman Castle, only the restored keep and hunting lodge remain, while the market centres on the Victorian Town Hall, which also houses a theatre. The Norman church of St Mary Priory contains many interesting monuments and tombs.
Pontypool and New Inn 143 mins (15)
As Pontypool Road, the station was one of those located some way from the town of the station name, but in Pontypool's case, the town has expanded to bring the station within the confines of its outer suburbs, likewise the township of New Inn. To reflect this, the formerly-dilapidated Pontypool Road station was refurbished, and renamed Pontypool and New Inn on 19 May 1994.
Although later superseded by coal, the town was built around the tin-plate - which was first successfully produced here, though other areas became more wealthy from the discovery - and steel industries. The heritage museum contains a record of the town's fluctuating fortunes. Pontypool Memorial Park is the home of the town's rugby union side.
Five miles to the north is Blaenavon, with Big Pit mining museum, the remains of Blaenavon Iron works and the
Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway
Cwmbran 147 mins (11)
was the first community in Wales to be given New Town status in 1949, since when it has expanded to become the sixth largest conurbation in the principality. Nothing remains of the former coal mining industry, but the town's eminence has increased since 1974 as the administrative centre of the County of Gwent. To the west, high above Cwmbran on the top of Mynydd Maen, is the overgrown ruin of a chapel said to be the burial place of 1st century King Bran after which the town is claimed to be named. (A less fanciful derivation is the Welsh for Valley of the Crow). Outside the town, places of interest include the Roman town of Caerleon and the remains of Llantarnam Abbey.
Newport 158 mins
See next section (Chepstow to Bridgend)

CHEPSTOW TO BRIDGEND

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Chepstow 37 minutes
is located on the River Wye which forms the historic border between England and the old county of Monmouthshire (Gwent). Rising spectacularly out of the river atop high cliffs is the Norman castle, parts of which date from around 1070. From the same period is the Benedictine Abbey Church of St Mary. The old town walls are largely intact, and include the West Gate which straddles the High Street. Crossing the Wye are the iron road bridge which dates from 1816, and Brunel's tubular structure (1852), though the impact of the latter has been diminished by the removal of the tubes during reconstruction in the early 1960s, and its proximity to the more-recent addition of the motorway bridge which parallels it.
The town's racecourse is in Piercefield Park in the north of Chepstow, while three miles to the south is the first Severn Bridge which opened in 1966, joined thirty years later by the second Severn Crossing, further down stream.
The Transporter Bridge crossing the river Usk at NewportNewport 12 minutes
Straddling the River Usk, Newport was the principal port of the old county of Monmouthshire. The central area contains the shopping centre, library and museum, cinemas and theatres; and is surrounded by steep hills. The town was at the centre of the Chartist rebellion of 1839, and there are many reminders of the uprising. John Frost Square is dedicated to the leader of the rebellion, and was dominated by Andy Plant's massive sculptural clock called "In the Nick of Time." On the hour, the 31-ft tall, stainless steel construction emitted smoke before splitting asunder with alarming clanks and groans while devils and skeletons appeared at various windows. Unfortunately, the town centre regeneration has meant that the unique clock has been dismantled and placed in storage. It will be placed on display again, though where and when is undecided.
One of Newport's more famous literary figures is the tramp-poet W. H. Davies, and there is a sculpture in the Square based on one of his most famous lines: 'What is this life if full of care....'
At the top of Stow Hill is St Woolos Cathedral, while down river is one of the unique features of the town: the recently restored Transporter Bridge (pictured right). One of only three in the world, cars and passengers are taken across the river in a gondola suspended by cables from a motorised overhead trolley.
During the week of July 31 2004, Newport hosted the National Eisteddfod in Tredegar Park on the western outskirts of the town. Tredegar House, a 17th century manor house was occupied for 500 years by the powerful Morgan family, but is now open to the public.

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 The Millennium Stadium in Cardiff staged eleven Olympics 2012 football matches between July 25th and August 10th. Four of the opening matches involved teams in the Women's Tournament, and the last game was the play-off for the bronze medal in the Men's event won 2 - 0 by Japan.  

Cardiff...
...is the gateway to the coast and Valley areas of south east Wales.
A city since 1905, and the capital of Wales since 1955, Cardiff stands at the mouth of the River Taff (part of which was diverted in the mid-nineteenth century to clear a site for what is now Cardiff Central railway station). Noted for its Victorian arcades and pedestrianised shopping areas, it also offers top class facilities for sport, theatre and the cinema.
Cardiff Castle with the clock tower to the left, and the Norman Keep at upper centreCardiff Castle (left)  has Roman and Norman connections, but, apart from Roman remains at the base of the south east walls, the Norman Keep and the 15th century Western Apartments, what you see is mostly a Victorian reconstruction.
Nearby, the civic centre is considered among the finest in Europe, and incorporates the museum, law courts, the former Welsh Office (now the secretariat of the Welsh Assembly), university buildings and the City Hall. With a referendum in September 1997 narrowly voting for the establishment of a Welsh Assembly to govern Wales, the City Hall was one of the venues under consideration to house the body, but the Assembly - which first sat on June 1 1999 - was first housed in Crickhowell House in Cardiff Bay but has moved into the adjacent Senedd (Welsh for Senate) Building (see below).
Behind City Hall is Alexandra Gardens with its imposing War Memorial commemorating two World Wars and more recent conflicts.
The floodlit Millennium Stadium on the banks of the River TaffIn the city centre, the other building of great antiquity is St John's Church, parts of which date from the thirteenth century.
There are several malls off the pedestrianised shopping area, which also has St David's Hall - renowned for concerts by top-class orchestras and entertainers - and the Motorpoint International Arena, the venue for conferences, pop concerts, ice shows, and the like.
St David's Phase Two, a new shopping mall on the southern side of the city centre, opened on October 22 2009.
The New Theatre celebrated its centenary in 2006, and stages plays and other productions, including those by the internationally-celebrated Welsh National Opera until the WNO moved into its new home: the Wales Millennium Centre for the Performing Arts (see below) which opened in November 2004 with a spectacular Gala concert attended by Her Majesty The Queen.
Close to the city centre, on the banks of the river, the Millennium Stadium (right) is the home of Welsh Rugby. Opened for a Wales v South Africa friendly in June 1999, it took on international importance when it staged early rounds of the Rugby World Cup that October, and the Final on 6 November of the same year. It is now used to stage Wales' home games in the Six Nations Rugby Tournament, international football matches, concerts and other high-profile events. While Wembley Stadium was being developed it was also the venue of prestigious football matches, including the Worthington and FA Cup Finals. A very versatile building, it also stages speedway, monster truck and religious conventions.
In 2012 Olympic Women's football, and men's finals were staged in the Stadium.
A mile to the south, the Cardiff Bay development has transformed the derelict docklands area into a leisure, residential and light-industrial complex, while the barrage which dams the mouths of the Taff and Ely rivers was brought into operation on November 4 1999 to create a 500-acre freshwater lake. It is now possible to walk over the barrage from Cardiff Bay to Penarth. In June 2012, the Dr Who Experience opened, dedicated, as the name suggests, to all things Dr Who, which is filmed in the Porth Teigr studios a short distance away, as well as locations around the city and farther afield.
To the north of the city, is Llandaff Cathedral, which has been a place of worship for more than 1,400 years. Partly destroyed by bombs during World War II, the cathedral was rebuilt and rededicated in 1958, its nave overarched by the sculpture of Christ in Majesty by Jacob Epstein.
On the city's western boundary is the Museum of Welsh Life at St Fagan's, which recreates the Welsh way of life in authentic buildings from all over Wales. Dismantled brick-by-brick from their original locations and reassembled at St Fagan's - itself a manor house dating from the Civil War era - they provide a base for many practitioners of old crafts such as pottery and woodcarving, and also includes a blacksmith's forge.

Cardiff Bay

The Cardiff Bay area has been developed as a waterfront park with leisure, residential and light-industrial complexes on reclaimed derelict dockland, and is the start of the Taff Trail which can be followed as far as Brecon, 57 miles away.
The major feature is the Barrage which can be reached by road train from its stop outside the car park in Stuart Street. You can also walk across the barrage as far as Penarth, passing en route the new Dr Who Experience which opened on July 20 2012, close to the new BBC studio complex at Roath Lock where Dr Who, Casualty, Sherlock and other prestigious productions are made.
The Pierhead Building with the Senedd debating chamber at rightThe Welsh assembly meets in the Senedd (Welsh for Senate), the  new debating chamber which has been built alongside the Pierhead Building (pictured left, a striking terracotta edifice that was once the headquarters of the Bute Dock and Railway Company, which opened the first of the docks in 1839, and was the prime influence behind the Taff Vale Railway. It is now used as the Visitor Centre for the National Assembly.
The Millennium Centre with (at right) water cascading down the steel column, supposedly the entrance to Torchwood in the TV seriesThe Wales Millennium Centre for the Performing Arts opened in November 2004 with a spectacular Gala Concert attended by Her Majesty the Queen. It is the home of Welsh National Opera and seven other performing arts groups including the Urdd, the Welsh organisation for the youth of Wales. Adjoining is Alun Hoddinot Hall, named after the late Welsh composer, which is a base for the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.
Outside the Millennium Centre is Roald Dahl Place - named after the children's writer who was born in the Cardiff suburb of Llandaff - built on the site of the basin of the Bute West Dock, now used for street theatre and open-air concerts. The steel column with water cascading down it (at extreme right in the photograph alongside) will be recognised by fans of Torchwood - the spin-off from the successful BBC Wales television series Dr Who, filmed largely in Cardiff and the surrounding area - as supposedly the entrance to Torchwood. The latest series of Torchwood has emigrated to the United States, though.
A coffee bar and art gallery has been established in the Norwegian Seamen's Church where Roald Dahl was baptised as a child. A short distance away was 'The Tube' - a cigar-shaped structure which housed the Cardiff Bay visitors' centre. It was the base for the Spirit of Cardiff, a powerboat which attempted the fastest circumnavigation of the world in 2002. The target was almost 25,000 miles in 50 days, calling at 26 different countries, but a series of misadventures, culminating in a heart attack suffered by one of the crew, led to the attempt being abandoned, though not before a number of records were broken,
Tied up permanently at the quay alongside the site of The Tube is the Helwick Lightship, which was stationed off the Gower Peninsular guarding a treacherous sandbank 50 miles northwest of Cardiff, but is now used as a Christian Fellowship centre.
A short distance along the quay is a sculpture recognising the role of miners and the mining industry in creating the wealth which made Cardiff the foremost coal exporting port in Britain; the foundation of the capital city we see today.
A water taxi passes in front of the pier and TechniquestA little farther away, Techniquest is a unique hands-on science centre which demonstrates scientific principles and phenomena in colourful and surprising ways.
The St David's Hotel was one of the first Five-Star rated establishments in the city. Mermaid Quay a is modern eating and shopping complex which also overlooks Plas Roald Dahl (Roald Dahl Place).
Boats and water taxis (pictured left) ply their trade around the bay and up-river as far as the Castle near the city centre. They will also land you on the Barrage itself - also reached on foot from near the Norwegian Church - where you can see the massive sluice gates in operation.

Continuing along the South Wales Main Line, the next station is:

Pontyclun 12 minutes
A town at the boundary of the former coal field, and the rural Vale of Glamorgan. Nearby is Llantrisant, which has a charter dating from 1346, but is more famed, perhaps, for the part played by one of its former inhabitants in legislating for the disposal of bodies by cremation. Nineteenth-century druid and mystic Dr William Price settled in Llantrisant and, in 1884, scandalised the town by burning the remains of his son named Iesu Grist (the Welsh form of Jesus Christ), who had died in infancy. Brought to trial, he was acquitted on payment of one-farthing costs. The Doctor himself was cremated in a field near the town on January 31 1893, and a statue in his memory has been erected in the town square.

Llanharan 17 minutes
The latest station on the South Wales mainline opened on December 9 2007. Llanharan is mainly residential. St Julian and St Aaron Church dates from the mid-19th century with colourful stained glass east window. Llanharan House, northeast of the station is about a hundred years older, and has a massive cantilevered circular stone staircase. About 3km southwest is Llanhilid where the short-lived film and television studio complex - dubbed Valleywood - was built. Also at Llanhilid, St Illid and St Curig church is of indeterminate age, but the nearby castle ringwork is 12th century.

Pencoed 26 minutes
A mainly residential town on the River Ewenny, it is surrounded by green fields and rolling countryside. In June 1998, it hosted the annual Welsh National Eisteddfod.

Bridgend 29 minutes
A market town, Bridgend gives access to the Vale of Glamorgan, and has a number of medieval castle ruins in the area. Among these are Coity and Ogmore, the latter close to stepping stones across the River Ogmore which also gives access to the Glamorgan Coastal Path. Two miles from Bridgend is the village of Ewenny, with its pottery and Norman Priory. North of the town are the formerly industrialised valleys of Llynfi, Garw and Ogmore, while to the west is the traditional seaside resort of Porthcawl. Arriva Trains Wales run services into the Llynfi Valley serving stations to Maesteg. There are also connection with the Vale of Glamorgan line to Barry and Cardiff.

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BRIDGEND TO MAESTEG

Please note. The period of validity of the National Network timetables has changed.
Any times and travel details given  apply only for the currency of the timetable valid from May 18 to December 13 2014.

Mondays to Fridays, trains leave Bridgend at 6.15am, 7.33am and 8.50am, then hourly at 46 minutes past the hour between 9.46am and 5.46pm (except at 2.49pm), then at 6.49pm, 7.45pm, 8.41pm, 9.41pm and 10.59pm.
On Saturdays, trains leave Bridgend at 6.20am, 7.32am and 8.51am, 9.46am, 10.46am,11.49am, 12.46pm, 1.46pm, 2.49pm, 3.46pm, 4.46pm, 5.46pm, 6.46pm, 7.45pm, 8.41pm and 9.41pm.

Mondays to Fridays, trains leave Maesteg at 6.44am and 7.59am, 9.16am, 10.16am, 11.15am, 12.17pm, 1.15pm, 2.15pm, 3.17pm, 4.15pm, 5.15pm, 6.20pm, 7.20pm, 8.15pm, 9.15pm and 10.15pm.
On Saturdays, trains leave Maesteg at 6.46am, 8.00am and 9.17am, then hourly at 15 minutes past the hour between 10.15am and 10.15pm (except at 12.18pm, 3.17pm and 6.20pm).

There are no trains on Sundays.

Figures after station names show the approximate journey times from Bridgend with the approximate journey times from Maesteg in brackets.

Bridgend (22 mins)
A market town, Bridgend gives access to the Vale of Glamorgan, and has a number of medieval castle ruins in the area. Among these are Coity and Ogmore, the latter close to stepping stones across the River Ogmore which also gives access to the Glamorgan Coastal Path. Two miles from Bridgend is the village of Ewenny, with its pottery and Norman Priory. North of the town are the formerly industrialised valleys of Llynfi, Garw and Ogmore, while to the west is the traditional seaside resort of Porthcawl. Arriva Trains Wales run services into the Llynfi Valley serving stations to Maesteg
. There are also connection with the Vale of Glamorgan line to Barry and Cardiff.
Wildmill
2 mins (19)
Mainly residential, the station also serves the communities of Pendre and Litchard.
Sarn
5 mins (17)
Also mainly residential, the station serves the village of Aberkenfig, near which is the bed of the Bridgend Tramroad, which opened up the Bridgend valleys coalfield to the port of Porthcawl.

Tondu
A Cardiff-Maesteg service passes the signal box at Tondu 9 mins (14) (Pictured right: A Cardiff to Maesteg service passes the signal box at Tondu.)
Formerly a junction with the route to Margam and the valleys of Llynfi, Garw and Ogmore, the only passenger route remaining is that in the Llynfi Valley to Maesteg, though coal recovery at a land reclamation scheme in Pontycymmer kept the Garw route open until March 6th 1997. Part of the line of route is now a cycle path and leisure walk, which will also incorporate a steam railway and railway preservation centre operated by the Garw Valley Railway Society, which shares its site with the Barry Island Railway. Near Brynmenyn - a mile to the east - is the Bryngarw Country Park, centred on a former mansion.
Garth
18 mins (5)
Serving a mainly residential area, about a mile to the east of the station is old Llangynwyd: famed throughout the world for the tragic tale of Wil Hopkin and Ann Thomas, the maid of Cefnydfa. Their ill-fated eighteenth-century romance inspired Wil to write what is claimed to be the world's most bitter-sweet love song: Begeilio'r Gwenith Gwyn (Watching the Wheat).
Maesteg (Ewenny Road)
19 mins (2)
Serves a residential area and a number of light-industrial factory units.
Maesteg
22 mins
The principal town in the Llynfi Valley, Maesteg's Town Hall is now a major arts and cultural centre for the Valley, and also incorporates an indoor market. The town also has a sports centre and swimming pool. There is a bus link from the station to Nantyffyllon and Caerau, farther up the valley, which are mainly residential except for the Spelter industrial estate.

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BRIDGEND TO SWANSEA

Bridgend (43 mins)
A market town, Bridgend gives access to the Vale of Glamorgan, and has a number of medieval castle ruins in the area. Among these are Coity and Ogmore, the latter close to stepping stones across the River Ogmore which also gives access to the Glamorgan Coastal Path. Two miles from Bridgend is the village of Ewenny, with its pottery and Norman Priory. North of the town are the formerly industrialised valleys of Llynfi, Garw and Ogmore, while to the west is the traditional seaside resort of Porthcawl. Arriva Trains Wales run services into the Llynfi Valley serving stations to Maesteg. There are also connection with the Vale of Glamorgan line to Barry and Cardiff.
Pyle
7 mins (36)
Pyle is one of the stations opened by local authorities, resulting from the National Union of Railmen-inspired Swanline initiative. Mainly residential with a light-industrial estate nearby, to the west of the town is Kenfig Burrows, an area of sand dunes part of which covers the buried city of Kenfig. Kenfig Pool lies at the heart of the nature reserve. The dunes run westward into the Bristol Channel. At the southern extremity of the bay is Sker House, made famous in the R. D. Blackmore novel: The Maid of Sker.
Port Talbot Parkway 13 mins (28)
Port Talbot is dominated by the steel works to the south and the oil refinery to the north, but beyond the industrialised areas there are many areas of beauty and interest. Aberavon, nearby, was once a seaside resort, but this function ceased soon after the closure of the railway from the Rhondda and Afan valleys, on the course of which, the Afan Country Park has been created. The revival of the town as a leisure-based resort relied on the Aquadome watersport centre, and the Apollo multiplex cinema close by. Controversy surrounds the redevelopment of the Afan Lido sports complex, destroyed in a fire in 2009.
Surfers are attracted to the beach area, where cross currents and straight-off-the-Atlantic breezes can whip up some pretty fair waves.
Three miles east of the town, is fifth-century Margam Abbey, around which has been created Margam Country Park, which includes a boating lake and a narrow-gauge railway. The abbey houses a remarkable collection of Celtic and medieval stone crosses.

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Baglan 19 mins (27)
Opened as recently as June 2nd 1996, this was the fifth and last of the Swanline stations. Mainly residential, the village is dominated by the oil refinery to the west. Close to the station, there is an interesting church, the Bagle Brook Hotel, and the newly-opened Neath and Port Talbot General Hospital.
Briton Ferry 22mins (21)
Site of a small wharf on the River Neath, the village is 'graced' by not one, but two motorway bridges soaring overhead. The station serves a mainly residential community.
The Melincourt Fall, near Resolven in the Neath ValleyNeath 26mins (17)
Standing on the River Neath, the town has its origins in the Roman fortress of Nidum. An attractive market town, here is the ruin of the castle and Neath Abbey which was founded in 1129. Before the coming of the railways, the port was served by two canals - the Tennant and the Vale of Neath - the latter having being restored in its upper reaches.
Outside the town are the Aberdulais Falls with its restored tin plate works, and, rather more distant, Cefn Coed Colliery Museum. Throughout the Vale of Neath, there are many waterfalls and cascades, principal among which are the Melincourt near Resolven (pictured), Ysgwyd Gwladys (the Lady Fall) and Ysgwyd Einon Gam near Pontneathvaughan. Also reached by an hour's strenuous walk from Pontneathvaughan is Ysgwyd-yr-eira (the Fall of Snow), remarkable because it is possible to walk behind the torrent of water from one side of the valley to the other.
Skewen 31 mins (12)
This Swanline station serves a mainly residential area.
Llansamlet 35 mins (8)
On the northern outskirts of Swansea, Llansamlet is another Swanline station which serves a largely residential area, though the Enterprise Zone is not too far away. Of interest as the train approaches the station are four 'flying buttresses' over the track, designed by the celebrated railway engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel to combat the effects of subsidence in the area. After more than 150 years, they still demonstrate their effectiveness. The Swansea Vale preserved railway is within walking distance of the station.

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Swansea is approached over the 389-yard steel viaduct at Landore, which replaced an original Brunel structure. On the top of the hill to the right of the train just before this crossing are the jagged stone ruins of Morris Castle. Not really a castle at all, it is the remains of the first tenement building in Britain - and possibly the world - built by John Morris to accommodate workers at his Landore copper works. The town of Morriston is named after him.

Swansea
43 mins
Wales' second city, Swansea was extensively damaged during World War II. Over the years, the bomb damaged areas have been replaced with modern shops and houses, a process completed with redevelopment of defunct dockland to create the Maritime Quarter.
It has a modern shopping centre, with many attractive parks close by. 
The Grand Theatre celebrated its centenary in 1997, and has been refurbished to a very high standard. It was opened by the celebrated Italian soprano Madame Adelina Patti, whose pavilion stands in Gors Lane.
A barrage across the mouth of the River Tawe, and the conversion of part of the former dockland area into a picturesque marina, has given Swansea an attractive waterfront quarter which harks back to its seagoing heritage. On the northern quay of the marina is the Swansea Industrial and Maritime Museum - which will soon become the Welsh Industrial and Maritime Museum -  with extensive displays and artefacts which highlight that heritage. Close to the Dylan Thomas Theatre is a statue of one of Swansea's most famous sons: the writer, poet and playwright, most notoriously of 'Under Milk Wood' a wickedly whimsical day in the life of the fishing village of Llareggub (try reading the cod-Welsh name backwards!). 2014 marks the centenary of Dylan's birth, and a number of commemorative events are taking place.
The city's university is located at Singleton Park, a public area which has a boating lake amongst its many attractions.
Swansea is the gateway to west Wales, but closer at hand is the Mumbles, famed as the site of the world's first passenger railway, which used steam, diesel, electric - and even sail - power in its 153-year existence from 1807 until 1960. There were plans to resurrect the Railway using a revolutionary flywheel driven tram system, but this has been abandoned, one reason - ironically - being that the original route has been developed as a promenade and cycleway. Mumbles Pier houses the Swansea lifeboat station.
To the west is the Gower peninsular - the first region in Britain to be designated an area of outstanding natural beauty - with numerous bays and inlets, Oxwich and Pennard Castles, and a coastal cliff-top path. The northern coast is flatter with salt marshes forming the boundary with the sea. On the tidal foreshore are the metal lighthouse at Whiteford Sands and a World War One watchtower, while Weobley Castle and the villages of Llanrhidian, Landimore and Llanmadoc are on drier ground.

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SWANSEA TO WHITLAND

After passing Landore depot on the right and burrowing through Cockett Tunnel, the train arrives at
Gowerton.
The northern coast of the Gower peninsular is some distance away, but not inaccessible from the station. In the town, St John's church is notable for its marble reredos.
The line crosses the River Loughor estuary in parallel with a more-recent road bridge, and soon is joined by the
Heart of Wales line which converges from the right.
Llanelli
owes its existence to iron, tinplate, copper, and coal, but today, Trostre Tinplate works is the only reminder of its heavy-industrial past. Its long-closed port has been turned to leisure use, and modern buildings are replacing the arcaded structures for which the town was noted. Some imposing buildings remain: the Jacobean-style Town Hall; Tabernacle chapel; Capel Alis; and the more-recent Roman Catholic Church. Parc Howard House is now a museum and art gallery, while Stradey Park - famous as the home of the town's rugby union team, The Scarlets - has been replaced by a new ground, Parc-y-Scarlet. Five miles away is Ffos Las where flat and steeplechase horse races take place. On race days a dedicated bus shuttle runs from Llanelli to the course, returning after the day's racing.
Pembrey and Burry Port
is close to Pembrey Country Park which has an eight mile coast-line, a falconry, forest walks and a ski and toboggan run. In the nineteenth century, Burry Port was prominent in the coal-exporting trade, but, like Llanelli, its harbour is now put to leisure use.
Kidwelly
station is on the edge of the town which is dominated by its 12th century castle. With a ditch on one side and the Gwendraeth River on the other, such was its strength and strategic position, that in 1403, a handful of archers and townspeople were able to repulse the might of Welsh prince Owen Glyndwr's army. The castle featured strongly in the battles of the Welsh Uprising of 1257. St Mary's Church also dates from the 13th century, while close to the town is the harbour and Tinplate museum. Nor far away is the Welsh Motor Sports Centre which includes a Formula Three racing circuit.
Ferryside
no longer has a ferry across the River Towy, but with the sailing club close at hand, a crossing to Llanstephan is not impossible. Set in beautiful surroundings, the village is encircled by hills, with the river estuary winding to the north, and sand dunes to the south. Also to the south, is the 13th century church of St Ishmael with its unusual mix of architecture. Some cockle-gathering still takes place, but nothing like the intensity of the early part of the twentieth century when the economy of the village depended on the industry.
Carmarthen
stands on the Towy River and is founded on the Roman town of Moridunum, but is also steeped in Arthurian legend. One legend states that when the Carmarthen Oak falls, the town will fall with it. All that is left of the oak (in Priory Street) is the stump, but what remains is guarded with meticulous care!
Of the Norman Priory no trace remains, but it is famed for the Black Book of Carmarthen: a collection of Welsh poetry, and the oldest manuscript book in the Welsh language (now at the Museum of Wales in Aberystwyth).
For how long the Church of St Peter has stood is uncertain, but parts of the building have been dated to the 13th century, and there are references to the church during the reign of Henry I. Parts of the 11th century castle remains, but has been encroached upon by more modern structures.
The Boathouse at Laugharne, and the Towy EstuaryNear the Guild-hall, a statue to General Sir William Nott - a hero of the Afghan Wars - stands on the spot where, in 1555, Bishop Ferrar was martyred at the stake for his Protestant beliefs.
Three miles north, the Gwili Railway is a two-mile long, preserved railway operating through a wooded valley.
South of the town, on the west of the Towy estuary is Llanstephan Castle, and the village of Laugharne, briefly the home - and finally the resting place - of Welsh poet and dramatist Dylan Thomas, and said to be the model for Llareggub in Under Milk Wood, though this he always denied (perhaps wisely, considering what the cod-Welsh name reads in reverse). The picture (left) shows the Towy estuary and the boathouse where Dylan lived.
Whitland
is, today, a market town which thrives on agriculture and the dairy industry, but its place in history is assured thanks to the 10th century ruler of the district, Hywel Dda (in English, Howell the Good). During his reign Hywel succeeded in uniting the warring kingdoms of Wales, and, in the year 930 at an assembly of clergy and laymen held at Whitland, he codified the laws on which present-day democratic government is based. The town's memorial to Hywel takes the form of six small gardens which symbolise the six principles embodied in those laws.
The parish Church of St Mary dates from the early 18th century, but the site goes back to medieval times.
Whitland marks the eastern boundary of the Landsker: an imaginary border which historically separates the English-speaking south from the Welsh speaking north of Pembrokeshire.

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WHITLAND TO PEMBROKE DOCK

Whitland
is, today, a market town which thrives on agriculture and the dairy industry, but its place in history is assured thanks to the 10th century ruler of the district, Hywel Dda (in English, Howell the Good). During his reign Hywel succeeded in uniting the warring kingdoms of Wales, and, in the year 930 at an assembly of clergy and laymen held at Whitland, he codified the laws on which present-day democratic government is based. The town's memorial to Hywel takes the form of six small gardens which symbolise the six principles embodied in those laws.
The parish Church of St Mary dates from the early 18th century, but the site goes back to medieval times.
Whitland marks the eastern boundary of the Landsker: an imaginary border which historically separates the English-speaking south from the Welsh speaking north of Pembrokeshire. Leaving Whitland, the line divides, and trains for Pembroke Dock take the left-hand fork. From the train, the rural nature of the Landsker borderland (which separates the English-speaking south from the Welsh speaking north of Pembrokeshire) is self-evident.
Narberth
is the first stop. The Arberth of the Mabinogion - a collection of medieval Welsh folk tales and legends, where Pwyll, the prince of Dyfed met the hounds of the Underworld - which all adds spice to a walk in the hills around the town!
In the old guild hall there is a museum, part of which is devoted to the Mabinogion, and part to the Landsker. Three miles away is Oakwood Leisure Park, which includes Megafobia - Europe's largest wooden roller-coaster - and the death-defying Vertigo, a 120ft-high swing which reaches speeds of up to 60mph and is claimed to give the nearest sensation to flying it is possible to attain.
Nearby, the Canaston Centre 2000 offers hi-tech Crystal Maze-style adventures in a futuristic setting.
Kilgetty
was once at the heart of Pembrokeshire's coal mining district, but has long reverted to a more rural style.
From here, the railway moves closer to the coast, and the remaining stations on the branch are within walking distance of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, a 186-mile trail between Amroth and Cardigan with some of the country's most spectacular cliff-top scenery. In 2012, the path was incorporated into the Wales Coastal Path, which as it' name implies, provides a walking route around the entire coast of Wales.
Saundersfoot
station is set some way inland from the beach and harbour, surrounded by high cliffs which give a strenuous but stunning walk along a section of the path to...
...Tenby
the principal seaside resort of Pembrokeshire, which can trace its history back to the Viking invasion, though its popularity with holiday-makers dates only to the arrival of the railway in 1860. St Mary's Church and the Merchant's House on Quay hill are both medieval, while the ruin of the Norman castle overlooks the harbour, which, like that at Saundersfoot, featured in the county's coal export trade.
Tenby boasts two beaches. Goscar Rock rises from the sands of North beach which has the picturesque harbour at its eastern tip, while South Beach is dominated by St Catherine's Rock, accessible at low tide, which is topped by a deserted fort (no longer open to the public).
Penally
is reached after the railway has snaked across the golf course. The village has a 13th-century Church dedicated to Saint Teilo whose bones it is reputedly said to house, in the churchyard of which is a carved Celtic cross.
Manorbier
has a castle which dates from the reign of Henry I, and was the birthplace of the medieval historian Geraldis Cambrensis, famed for his account of a journey through Wales in 1188 by Baldwin, Archbishop of Canterbury on a recruiting campaign for the Third Crusade. The village also has a church of the same period as the castle.
The Bishop's Palace at LampheyLamphey
has the ruins of the Bishop of St David's Palace (left), built in the early decades of the 14th century.
Pembroke
is dominated by the partially restored castle which is given further dramatic eminence by its position atop a limestone crag. It was started around 1090, by one of the Marcher Lords of Shrewsbury, and in places its walls are 20ft thick. At high tide, it is surrounded by the sea on three sides, and on the landward side it is protected by a ditch, but during the English Civil War its invincibility was breached when a traitor revealed the castle's water supply to Cromwell's troops, who laid the castle to siege and ruin.
From Pembroke, the line tunnels under Bush Hill, before emerging to arrive at
Pembroke Dock
station, close to the ferry terminal for Rosslare in the Republic of Ireland.

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WHITLAND TO MILFORD HAVEN/FISHGUARD

Clunderwen
In early railway parlance, a 'Road' suffix in the name usually meant that the station was nowhere near the place-name mentioned. This was the early fate of Clunderwen, which was known as Narberth Road until Narberth, three miles away, got its own station. Although the name (of a local mansion house) Clunderwen dates back to early 17th century, the village developed around the railway station which opened in 1854, and was, for a time, a busy station serving the local agricultural community, despatching farm produce to the rest of the country. St David's Church was built in 1860, to replace the ancient chapel at Castell Dwyran, some distance outside the village.
Clarbeston Road
Set a short distance from the cluster of houses and a public house which form the village, the station is close to the railway junction where the track divides for Milford Haven or Fishguard, the route to Milford Haven curving off to the left.
Haverfordwest
is built around a steep hill topped by a 12th century fortress, on the bank of the Western Cleddau River. St Mary's church was rebuilt in the 13th century on the site of its Norman predecessor, and is an imposing structure with oak-beamed roof and an effigy of a pilgrim in the nave.
Johnston
serves a residential community surrounded by farms and rural villages.
Milford Haven
was founded by in 1792 by Quaker whalers from America: the Friends meeting house still stands in Priory Road, surrounded by the burial ground in which some of the reverse-émigrés are buried. In Welsh, Milford is known as Aberdaugleddau (mouth of the two Cleddau) from its location on the estuary of the Eastern Cleddau and Western Cleddau rivers. Since its early fishing days, the port has been involved with shipbuilding, Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton, and more recently, oil refining. The oil refineries put paid to much of the fishing industry, and the harbour has been turned into a marina. Lord Nelson laid one of the foundation stones of St Katherine's Church which was built in 1808.

Back at Clarbeston Road, it's straight ahead for

Fishguard and Goodwick 15 miles away without any stops.
One of the latest network stations to come on-line, it opened on May 14th 2012 to serve local communities and give residents access to train services without a difficult journey to Fishguard Harbour.
Fishguard,
Today, Fishguard is a ferry port for Ireland, but is noted for being the location of the last foreign invasion of Britain. On February 22 1797, French troops fleeing the Revolution landed at Fishguard, probably thinking in error that they had reached Ireland. They were repulsed by the ladies of the port - led by the formidable Jemima Nicholas, wife of the local cobbler - armed with pitchforks; the Frenchmen surrendering without a fight after mistaking the women's traditional Welsh costumes for infantrymen's uniform.
The port's massive breakwater extends over half-a-mile out to sea, and 800 tons of rock was needed for each foot of its length.
The village of Fishguard is very picturesque, and parts of the big screen versions of Moby Dick and Under Milk Wood,with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, were filmed here.

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THE HEART OF WALES BRANCH

Please note. The period of validity of the National Network timetables has changed.
Any times and travel details given  apply only for the currency of the timetable valid from May 18 to December 13 2014.

Northbound
Monday to Friday
trains leave Swansea at 4.36am, 9.16am, 1.14pm and 6.21pm; Llanelli at 4.53am, 9.34am, 1.35pm and 6.39pm. These trains call at Craven Arms at 7.54am, 12.39pm, 4.40pm and 9.38pm, arriving at Shrewsbury at 8.22am, 1.08pm, 5.09pm and 10.08pm.
Saturday trains leave Swansea at 4.36am, 9.16am, 1.16pm and 6.21pm; Llanelli at 4.53am, 9.34am, 1.35pm and 6.39pm. These trains call at Craven Arms at 7.54am, 12.39pm, 4.38pm and 9.38pm, arriving at Shrewsbury at 8.22am, 1.06pm, 5.11pm and 10.08pm.
Until October 19 (inclusive) Sunday trains leave Swansea 11.08am and 3.26pm; Llanelli at 11.29am and 3.51pm, arriving Craven Arms at 2.44pm and 7.03pm and Shrewsbury at 3.12pm and 7.31pm. From October 26 (inclusive Sunday trains leave Swansea 11.08am and 3.35pm; Llanelli at 11.29am and 3.55pm, arriving Craven Arms at 2.44pm and 7.03pm and Shrewsbury at 3.12pm and 7.31pm.

Southbound
Monday to Friday
trains leave Shrewsbury at 5.16am, 9.00am, 1.58pm and 6.01pm; Craven Arms at 5.47am, 9.28am, 2.26pm and 6.31pm. Departure from Llanelli is at 8.55am, 12.42pm, 5.40pm and 9.44pm; arriving at Swansea 9.23am, 1.04pm, 6.05pm and 10.12pm.
Saturday trains leave Shrewsbury at 5.16am, 9.00am, 1.58pm and 6.01pm; Craven Arms at 5.47am, 9.28am, 2.26pm and 6.31pm. Departing from Llanelli at 8.55am, 12.42pm, 5.40pm and 9.44pm; arriving at Swansea 9.23am, 1.04pm, 6.05pm and 10.12pm.
Sunday trains leave Shrewsbury at 12.04pm and 4.18pm; and Craven Arms at 12.33pm and 4.47pm, Llanelli at 3.41pm and 8.03pm; arriving at Swansea at 4.02pm and 8.23pm.

Station names in italics indicate that these are request stops only.
Figures after station names show the approximate journey times from Llanelli with the approximate journey times from Craven Arms in brackets.

Swansea 20 mins (235)
Wales' second city, Swansea was extensively damaged during World War II. Over the years, the bomb damaged areas have been replaced with modern shops and houses, a process completed with redevelopment of defunct dockland to create the Maritime Quarter.
It has a modern shopping centre, with many attractive parks close by. 
The Grand Theatre celebrated its centenary in 1997, and has been refurbished to a very high standard. It was opened by the celebrated Italian soprano Madame Adelina Patti, whose pavilion stands in Gors Lane.
A barrage across the mouth of the River Tawe, and the conversion of part of the former dockland area into a picturesque marina, has given Swansea an attractive waterfront quarter which harks back to its seagoing heritage. On the northern quay of the marina is the Swansea Industrial and Maritime Museum - which will soon become the Welsh Industrial and Maritime Museum -  with extensive displays and artefacts which highlight that heritage. Close to the Dylan Thomas Theatre is a statue of one of Swansea's most famous sons: the writer, poet and playwright, most notoriously of 'Under Milk Wood' a wickedly whimsical day in the life of the fishing village of Llareggub (try reading the cod-Welsh name backwards!).
The city's university is located at Singleton Park, a public area which has a boating lake amongst its many attractions.
Swansea is the gateway to west Wales, but closer at hand is the Mumbles, famed as the site of the world's first passenger railway, which used steam, diesel, electric - and even sail - power in its 153-year existence from 1807 until 1960. There were plans to resurrect the Railway using a revolutionary flywheel driven tram system, but this has been abandoned, one reason - ironically - being that the original route has been developed as a promenade and cycleway. Mumbles pier houses the Swansea lifeboat station.
To the west is the Gower peninsular - the first region in Britain to be designated an area of outstanding natural beauty - with numerous bays and inlets and a coastal cliff-top path. The northern coast is flatter with salt marshes forming the boundary with the sea.

After passing Landore depot (right) and burrowing through Cockett Tunnel, the line crosses the River Loughor estuary in parallel with a more-recent road bridge, and soon the Heart of Wales line converges from the right at Llandilo Junction.

Soon, the train arrives at

Llanelli (174)
owes its existence to iron, tinplate, copper, and coal, but today, Trostre Tinplate works is the only reminder of its heavy-industrial past. Its long-closed port has been turned to leisure use, and modern buildings are replacing the arcaded structures for which the town was noted. Some imposing buildings remain: the Jacobean-style Town Hall; Tabernacle chapel and Capel Alis; and the more-recent Roman Catholic Church. Parc Howard House is now a museum and art gallery, while Stradey Park is famous as the home of the town's rugby union team.

The train now backtracks to the junction noted earlier, and soon reaches:

Bynea 5 mins (169)
The steelworks which overshadowed Bynea were demolished over 25 years ago, to leave a pleasant town nestling on the edge of the salt marshes of the River Loughor.
Llangennech 11 mins (166)
is another former industrial town, built where the River Morlais flows into the Loughor.
Pontarddulais 13 mins (162)
was built around the tin-plate industry little more than a century-and-a-quarter ago, though the fame of Pontarddulais now rests predominantly with its brass band and male voice choir. There is an ancient church and castle motte on the marshes of the river estuary.
Pantyffynnon 20 mins (156)
The century-old signal box which stands just outside the station controls all the signalling for the branch until it reaches Craven Arms.
Ammanford 23 mins (153)
A former mining town on the edge of the anthracite belt of the South Field coalfield, Ammanford is now the largest township on the HoW line.

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From Ammanford, the true rurality of the branch soon becomes evident. The area around
Llandybie 32 mins (149)
is marred by limestone quarries, though the disused kilns have more than a hint of Gothic Victorian in their architecture. The church dates from the 14th century, while the Plas is the ruin of a 17th century mansion.
Ffairfach 35 mins (142)
is a small village located near where the River Cennen flows into the much larger Towy
Llandeilo 37 mins (137)
is named after one of Wales' most famous saints. St Teilo was a 6th century missionary dedicated to converted Britain to Christianity. The station is located on the eastern edge of the town near the banks of the River Towy, from where the road winds between brightly coloured houses to the church and to ruin of Dynevor Castle.
Llangadog 49 mins (128)
church commemorates another of Wales' saints, this time St Cadoc who flourished toward the end of the 5th century.
Llanwrda 52 mins (124)
was the site of the sister church to Llangadog, and is located up-river on the opposite bank of the Towy.
Llandovery 59 mins (112)
is a busy market town, a mix of Georgian and Victorian architecture surrounded by gentle hills. The ruins of the castle overlook the cattle market. The Methodist chapel commemorates the best-known writer of Welsh hymns: William Williams of Pantycelyn, who lived at a farm five miles outside the town. Llandovery College is one of only two public schools in Wales (the other is at Brecon).
Cynghordy 69 mins (104)
which name derives from a former meeting house, is the remote location for two of the engineering wonders of the line; the 93ft high Cynghordy viaduct, and the 1,000-yard Sugar Loaf Tunnel. The viaduct is 650 feet in length and consists of 18 arched spans. The mid-point of Sugar Loaf Tunnel is directly underneath the county boundaries of Carmarthenshire and Powys.
Sugar Loaf Halt 77 mins (97)
Like Cynghordy, is remotely located, and both stations are ideal starting points for rambles in the surrounding countryside.
A Shrewsbury-bound train pauses at Llanwrtyd WellsLlanwrtyd Wells 83 mins (89)
(pictured left) was established as a spa town as far back as 1732. Reputedly the smallest town in Britain, and set on the edge of the Cambrian mountain range, red kite and other birds of prey can be seen wheeling overhead. Near by, Lake Abernant offers fishing and boating facilities. It is also the home of the annual man-versus-horse race, recently won by a man for the first time in the competition's history, and the sport of bog snorkelling, where competitors wearing snorkel and scuba fins swim 60 metres along a trench cut into a peat bog.
Llangammarch 91 mins (83)
Yet another spa town, its waters are claimed as unique in that they contain barium chloride, considered an infallible cure for all forms of heart complaint.
Garth 95 mins  (79)
serves a quiet spa village, and is surrounded by beautiful countryside.
Cilmeri 100 mins (74)
has great significance for patriotic Welshmen as it was here that Llywelyn, the last native Prince of Wales, met his death in 1282. A stone monument which marks the spot can be seen from the train, west of the station.
Builth Road 103 mins (71)
is two miles from the town of Builth Wells, where the pump room is a reminder of its spa origins in the 1780s. The town stands on the River Wye which is crossed by an 18th century stone bridge. Parts of the church date from the 13th century, and contains an effigy of Sir John Lloid, a personal attendant of Queen Elizabeth I. At Llanelwedd, outside the town, the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show is held.
Llandrindod 114 mins (58)
(in English, the Church of the Trinity) developed as a spa town from 1749, but the benefits of its waters were well-known for at least fifty years before. Every August, the town steeps itself in Victorianna during its annual festival.

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Penybont 127 mins (49)
was once the centre for horse races, in particular those employing the use of sulkies, a light trap-like cart which carries the 'jockey'.
Dolau 132 mins (45)
Like most stations on the Heart of Wales line, it is looked after by local station adoption groups, and is a frequent winner of the annual Best Kept Station award.
Llanbister Road 138 mins (39)
is ideally located for walks in the Radnor Forest, as is
Llangynllo 143 mins (35)
the next station along. Just before the 645-yard long Llangynllo Tunnel the line reaches 980 feet above sea level, the highest point on the branch.
Knucklas 149 mins (27)
is approached over a 465-yard viaduct a with distinctive castellated turrets which carry the line 69 ft above the valley floor.
Knighton 155 mins (20)
straddles Offa's Dyke, the traditional boundary between Wales and England: the town in the former country but the station located over the border. Though in Wales, the architecture of Knighton's Norman Church is more typical of neighbouring Herefordshire.
The remaining stations are Bucknell, Hopton Heath, and Broome before Craven Arms, which owes its name to one of the old coaching inns on the road between North and South Wales, is reached. Craven Arms is on the Marches line which runs northward to Shrewsbury, and southward to Hereford and Newport in the south. (See the North Wales and Marches section of the Wales and West pages.

 

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PRESERVED RAILWAYS served by Arriva Trains Wales

ATW trains serve the following preserved railways in this survey, from stations at:
Bridgend Valley Railway
Alight at Bridgend, and take buses on Route No 12 or 14 to Pontycymmer from the nearby bus station.
Dean Forest Railway.
The DFR's terminus at Lydney Junction is about 100 metres north of the W&W station
Gwili Railway.
Approximately three miles from Carmarthen on the Lampeter Road
Pontypool and Blaenavon
Buses from Pontypool (half- hour journey time), Cwmbran (50 minutes) and Newport (one hour approx).
Swansea Vale Railway
The Swansea Vale Railway was located at Bonymaen to the northeast of the Swansea, and was reached by bus routes 31A and 31B from Quadrant Bus station in the city centre. Unfortunately the Railway no longer operates.
Barry Island Railway (formerly Vale of Glamorgan Railway Society)
The withdrawal of financial support for the BIR has meant it has had to vacate its site at Barry. It has moved to join the Garw Valley Railway Company at Pontycymmer.

For details of connecting bus and rail services, including travel planner and timetables, visit the Traveline Cymru website.

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Copyright © 1996/7/8/9/2000/1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9/10/11 /12/13/14 by Deryck Lewis. All rights reserved.
Page created July 14 1996; Redesigned March 29 1999;
Updated May 18 2014
If you have any suggestions, comments, or glitches to report, please contact the author at WalesRails