About the Heart of Wales Line
For over 150 years the railway has snaked through the lush hinterlands of Mid and West Wales. It links Shropshire to South Wales via spa towns, remote rural villages and wildlife-filled estuaries.
The trains currently run up to four times a day along the single track line. Don’t expect a high-speed train ride. Knighton (the first station in Wales) to Swansea takes around three hours, giving you plenty of time to sit back, relax and enjoy the views.
Several of the 29 stations along the route have been ‘adopted’ by enthusiastic volunteers from the local communities. They take a lot of pride in ‘their’ railway, and this shines through with colourful flower beds and tidy stations along the way.
Things to see and do
The line follows a scenic, meandering route through the beautiful green hillsides of Powys, before heading into Carmarthenshire towards the coast. The railway tunnels under Sugar Loaf mountain, crossing the valley over the magnificent Cynghordy Viaduct, before reaching Llandovery and Llandeilo in the Tywi Valley. From there it’s over to Ammanford and Pontarddulais, then alongside the wide Loughor Estuary to Llanelli and Swansea.
The stations provide easy access to heritage sites and outdoor activities, as well as unique and colourful market towns to visit. Back in the day, the Victorians loved a good spa town for a relaxing holiday. There’s a choice of four along the Heart of Wales Line route, each with its own character and attractions.
Days out exploring towns and villages
Knighton, a traditional market town, is a meeting point for many walks – Offa’s Dyke Path, Glyndwr’s Way and the Heart of Wales Line Trail. Discover the history of the area at Knighton Museum, or follow the town history trail. The Offa’s Dyke Centre has information about the origins of Offa’s Dyke and the Trail. From outdoor space to actual outer space, check out the Spaceguard Centre, a couple of miles out of the town.
Stop off at Llandrindod Wells for the Victorian spa town experience. Enjoy a day ambling around the town’s history trail, visiting the Radnorshire Museum, the Cycling Museum, and paddle boating on the lake. Follow up by chilling out in the Victorian-built Metropole Hotel’s Rock Spa. Quackers Play Barn in nearby Newbridge-on-Wye is perfect for entertaining the kids.
If you’re feeling active, walk the Heart of Wales Line Trail to nearby Pen-y-bont. Here you'll find the Thomas Shop – a nostalgic museum and wool emporium.
Just down the line is Builth Road station, for Builth Wells, however it is a couple of miles out of Builth so you may need to get a taxi to the town. Builth is known for the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show every July, but there’s plenty to do all year round. Llangammarch Wells is a small spa town, now popular for fishing and outdoors activities. Walkers, horse riders and cyclists can access the Epynt Way from here.
Llanwrtyd Wells is renowned for its year-round unusual sporting trials, including the legendary World Bog Snorkelling Championship. There’s a huge events list throughout the year, but it’s worth a visit just for the Neuadd Arms brewery and the Llanwrtyd and District Heritage and Arts Centre.
Once you get to Llandovery town centre, you’ll discover welcoming hostelries and independent shops full of local produce. Llandovery Museum and Visitor Gateway is a great place to visit, and Llandovery Castle is a short walk away.
Llandeilo is a shopper’s paradise. The buzzing town centre is a short walk from the station. Spend a pleasant few hours exploring the locally owned shops discovering handmade crafts, galleries, antiques and designer clothes. Check out the award-winning local produce from the fabulous delis and butchers - then head to nearby Dinefwr Park and Castle for a picnic.
Some of the best views on the line are along the wildlife-filled Loughor Estuary. You can get off at Pontarddulais or Bynea stations and take a low or high tide level Heart of Wales Line Trail route along the estuary to Llanelli, depending on the tide.
The line curves west to Llanelli, where the train stops, then it reverses east along the track towards Swansea.
Once you’re at Llanelli, head to the WWT Llanelli Wetland Centre. They have plenty for the whole family to enjoy. If you’d rather rest your legs, Plas Llanelly House is a restored Georgian mansion offering tours and tasty food at its Bistro. Not far away, Parc Howard Museum and Art Gallery has loads of information about Llanelli’s industrial history and a fabulous display of Llanelli pottery and fine art.
The Heart of Wales Line Trail meets the Wales Coast Path here. The family-friendly award-winning Millennium Coastal Park is perfect for cycling and walking to explore more of the beautiful coastline.
The final stop is Swansea, with onward rail connections to Cardiff or West Wales. Our city by the sea, Swansea has a lovely beach around a curving bay, several museums, galleries and a university city vibe.
If you enjoy walking then you're in for a treat. The long-distance Heart of Wales Line Trail roughly follows the railway line. It's been designed so you can access the trail from most stations. Parts of the trail follow forest footpaths and mountain tracks, so you’ll get amazing views over the Tywi Valley, Carmarthenshire Fans and the Brecon Beacons. The route passes though ancient villages, including Myddfai, and via heritage sites including the magnificent Castell Carreg Cennen. The full trail takes around 10 days to complete if you attempt it in one go.
The trail goes through remote countryside a lot of the time, so if you don’t fancy walking it solo then check out local walking groups (details below) for organised days out. There's a useful Ramble and Scramble list of self-guided family-friendly walks available.
The trail also links to other long-distance paths: Shropshire Way, Offa’s Dyke Path, Glyndwr’s Way, Wye Valley Walk, Cambrian Way, Beacons Way and the Wales Coast Path.
There are several friendly Ramblers groups in Carmarthenshire and Powys, who regularly head out on guided walks along the Heart of Wales Line Trail.
The Rail Rambles group offer guided walks starting from railway stations in Mid Wales and the Borders on most Saturdays.
The Sustrans website has details of road routes linked up by the stations, including the long distance Route 8 and the epic Sustrans Radnor Ring through Llandrindod Wells.
Carmarthenshire is a brilliant choice for cycling holidays. Base yourself in Llandovery or Llanelli, and use the train to access coastal family-friendly trails and impressive circular rides exploring castles and culture.
You can take bikes on the train, but it's best to book in advance via the Transport for Wales website.
Adventure Smart UK has plenty of advice on how to ‘make a good day better’, and we recommend you read it before planning your active day out.
Find train times and buy tickets from the Transport for Wales website. Traveline Cymru is a useful public transport journey planner.
Many of the stations are request stops. If you want to get off at one of these stations, ask the Conductor when you get on, so they know to stop the train for you.
If you'd like to tackle the whole line over a day or two, the Heart of Wales Line Circular ticket lets you do a circuit between Shrewsbury, Swansea, Cardiff and up the borders line. It’s only valid on Transport for Wales trains so check your train times carefully.