Anyone that knows me is well versed in my obsession of trains. I grew up with Thomas the Tank Engine everything and had always wanted to ride an authentic steam engine. In the states I never got the opportunity no matter how many times I suggested the idea to my parents. In their defense I was also obsessed with the Titanic and wanted to ride that as well. Some dreams need to be crushed. So as an explorer in a foreign country full of trains I jumped at the opportunity to ride the Vale of Rheidol Railway, a light weight company opened in 1902 servicing Aberystwyth to Devil’s Bridge. I was able to trick my friends Mikal and Jessica into joining me under the pretense that we were seeing Devil’s Bridge, a popular park and landmark in Wales. We did actually see the landmark but I was there for the train. On the ride up we sat in an open aired carriage directly behind the engine. It being on of the first warm and non rainy days in a long we were overconfident in our ability to not freeze without a jacket. Despite this miscalculation we enjoyed a scenic trip across the Welsh Countryside. The Photos do not do it proper justice.
Picking coal out of my hair and ears for the next two hours was worth it. Mikal was cold but he lived. Jessica was distracted by countless sheep and their new spring lambs to be cold. The Engine that pulled us up the hill was number 1213 named the Prince of Wales.
Fun fact: the current Prince of Wales is Prince Charles, the eldest son of the Current Queen of England Elizabeth II, and HRH spent a term at Aberystwyth University in 1969 to learn about Welsh Culture and become better connected to the Welsh People before his investiture. I go to the same college as Royals. How fancy is that? He also had his body guards clear the entire beach just so he could take a private dip while here. I should ask my guards to do that same.
Shots from the Train
We arrived at our destination around 11:30 am and proceeded to see what all the fuss about this bridge was. The bridge itself is a local legend. The story goes like this,
… around the 11th Century, the Devil visited Wales as he had never been there before and he had heard that the scenery was breathtaking. He soon came across an old lady who seemed upset. “What’s the matter?” he asked out of curiosity.
“Oh, I’m in such a terrible muddle and I don’t know what to do!. My cow has wandered across the river and I can’t get her back”.
‘Ah!” said the Devil ‘What you need my dear, is a bridge, and I am just the man to build you one. Why don’t you go home, and in the morning there will be a bridge waiting for you. All I ask in return is to keep the first living thing to cross the bridge!”
“Okay then” she said “It’s a bargain. I’ll see you in the morning. Nos da, Goodnight”
That night she wondered about this stranger who would build her a bridge. ‘What a strange request! Why should I cross the bridge to get my cow back if he gets to keep me in exchange? Mind you it is very tempting offer”
The next day she got up and called for her faithful dog. Together they went down to the river. “Well well” she couldn’t believe her eyes. In front of her was the best bridge that she had ever seen! I told you that I would build you a bridge” said the Devil appearing from nowhere.
“Now it’s your turn to keep your side of the bargain”.
I know, you get to keep the first living thing to cross the bridge” and she started to walk towards the bridge. But just when she got to the entrance, she stopped, took out a loaf of bread from her apron pocket and hurled it across the bridge. As quick as a flash and before the Devil could stop it, the dog chased after it. ‘Aaaaaaagh!!!!!” screeched the Devil. “You stupid old woman, I don’t believe it! Your smelly, hairy farm dog has become the first living thing to cross my bridge. It’s no good to me” he screamed and then he vanished.
Well, the Devil was never seen in Wales again as he was so embarrassed at being outwitted by the old lady. High in the mountains near Aberystwyth, there is a village where a very old bridge crosses a deep gorge. Above it are two other bridges built at later dates. But the lowest one….Well, they say that the Devil himself built it!
The bottom bridge is the one that is rumored to have been created by the devil. The top two where built atop it at various other points in history. Cars and Buses drive over it like it is any other bridge. The surrounding nature hike takes around an hour and gives you incredible views of valley, waterfalls and surrounding mountains. The walk is STRAIGHT down and then STRAIGHT up. My health app on my phone said I had climbed 83 flights of stairs over the course of the day. The main culprit of this was Jacobs ladder. The stairs were so steep they got their own name. Needless to say we were very careful not to slip.
Here are some of the shots I got of the various waterfalls in the park.
The trip was a great day trip. We enjoyed the falls for around two hours then headed out to a historic hotel for lunch. Unfortunately it was booked because of Mothers Day. After a slight panic I figured out that the holiday comes a month earlier here. We found a tearoom down the street instead. After lunch we explored the other side of the falls named the “punch bowl.”
All in all it was great trip. A great idea for an afternoon trip that doesn’t consume your entire day. I’ve included a slideshow of the honorable mentions that I took in my excitement when I was photographing everything on the train. I’ve also included a photo that you can clearly see just how excited I was to get my photo with the train. Enjoy.
Thanks for reading!