Outdoor Discoveries

What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!

Macclesfield-Dolgellau: A Public Transport Odyssey

14th August 2006

When I started this post about getting from Macclesfield to Dolgellau using public transport, it quickly grew in length. The issue is that there is no direct service between the two places and when you start combining rail and bus services, the number of possibilities is not a small one.

Once upon a time, Dolgellau was a stop on a now largely mothballed train line between Ruabon and Morfa Mawddach, where it joined the Cambrian Coast line. These days, only sections of this remain in preservation: Llangollen to Corwen, Bala Lake railway. I can understand why a single track railway line might be adjudged uneconomic in the 1950’s, but I do regard its demise as a tragedy given that it would be a scenic railway journey. Nevertheless, the X94 TrawsCambria bus service performs much the same role these days.

Speaking of buses, Dolgellau is not without regular services connecting it with the outside world. The aforementioned X94 calls while plying its way from Barmouth to and from Wrexham. Another representative of the TrawsCambria network, the X32, calls on its journeys between Bangor, Machynlleth and Aberystwyth. Other services from Dolgellau connect it with the coast between it and Machynlleth and destinations to Blaenau Ffestiniog.

Getting the above to connect with the remaining rail network requires a certain amount of concentration: Barmouth, Aberystwyth, Machynlleth, Bangor, Wrexham and Blaenau Ffestiniog are some of the options: Machynlleth and Barmouth are the nearest. All of these can get you east in the end, but the itineraries, journey times and service frequencies differ: a perusal of train timetables is more than a useful exercise. Four railway lines are implicated in these: the Cambrian, connecting the Welsh coast with the English Midlands (Shrewsbury and Birmingham, for instance); North Wales, Holyhead to Chester and beyond; Vale of Conwy, connects Blaenau Ffestiniog and other places with the North Wales line; Chester-Birmingham, on which Wrexham is a stop.

Now that I have confused you with options for getting from Dolgellau to England, I will share the way that I have tended to go: X94 to Wrexham for regular bus and train connections to Chester. I know that I am going backwards here, but there is another reason for this apart from the cornucopia of Welsh journey options: there is no direct bus or train service between Macclesfield and Chester.

Yes, they are in the same county, but their 43-mile separation takes some bridging without recourse to a car. Quite possibly the quickest way to Chester from Macclesfield is by train with a change in Manchester (formerly part of Lancashire!). A slower option is change at Stockport instead of Manchester. None of these has stopped me catching a bus (Arriva, route 38) to Crewe for an onward train to Chester. There are other alternatives, but they are more complex than these. For sake of completeness, I will quickly list them here:

Macclesfield-Stoke(-on-Trent)-Crewe-Chester: involves three changes, and the Stoke-Crewe connection is the weak point in this rail option.

Macclesfield-Alderley Edge-Crewe-Chester/ Macclesfield-Wilmslow-Crewe-Chester: the first part of this is the Arriva 130 headed for Manchester and the rest is by train; the Crewe-Manchester line is plague by teething problems with a new signalling system.

Macclesfield-Stockport-Crewe-Chester: an all-rail option with the similar caveats to the above; a missed connection in Stockport last Saturday night left me enduring an annoying 70-minute wait for a connection to Macclesfield.

Macclesfield-Knutsford-Chester: looks good on paper, but the first part involves a daytime bus service with almost no Sunday service.

Before I end up writing a book on this, I better leave you in on what I consider to be the best way to go from Macclesfield to Dolgellau (yes, in the forward direction): Macclesfield-Manchester-Chester-Wrexham-Dolgellau. It is all rail to Wrexham and then the X94 the rest of the way. It will take you at least four hours, but it is the speediest of the lot.

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