BLAENAU FFESTINIOG sits at the head of the bucolic Vale of Ffestiniog, hemmed in by stark slopes strewn with heaps of splintered slate. When clouds hunker low in this great cwm and rain sheets the grey roofs, grey walls and grey paving slabs, it can be a terrifically gloomy place. Thousands of tons of slate were once hewn from the labyrinth of underground caverns here each year, but these days the town is only kept alive by its extant slate-cavern tour, and by tourists who change from the Conwy Valley train line onto the wonderful, narrow-gauge Ffestiniog Railway, which winds up from Porthmadog.

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