Known locally as ‘Port,’ Porthmadog is situated on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park on the estuary of the Afon Glaslyn as it runs into Tremadog Bay. It’s one of the largest towns in Snowdonia with a population of around 4,200. It has a good selection of shops which make it a natural base for holidaymakers who want to explore Snowdonia and the Coast.
It’s one of the newest towns in Wales, only being created in 1810-1811 after William Madocks built a sea wall (The Cob) and reclaimed a large area of land from the sea. Although the land was originally reclaimed for agricultural use, the Afon Glaslyn river was diverted which created a new natural harbour that was deep enough for the small sailing ships. These ships started to appear in the new port around 1825 with the first appearance of the name ‘Port Madoc’ in 1830 when the Ffestiniog Railway opened. It developed as a famous port later in the nineteenth century when it began exporting slate from the quarries in Ffestiniog and Llanfrothen to roof houses in the expanding towns and cities in England and all over the world. By 1873 more than a thousand ships carrying over 116,000 tons of slate left Porthmadog.
Due to the industry in the area, the towns population increased from 885 to over 3000 in the forty years leading up to 1861. Porthmadog was hit hard by the opening of the Aberystwyth and Welsh Coast Railway in 1867 and the cheap slate imports ended the commercial side of the port in the 1910s.
The tracks and locos left behind after the slate trade also make it one of the most popular tourist areas in Wales being the hub of the Ffestiniog Railway, The Welsh Highland Railway and the smaller Welsh Highland Heritage Railway. It’s also one of the stations on the Cambrian Coast main line which runs along the coast from Pwllheli on the Llŷn Peninsula to Machynlleth, from there is goes on to Shrewsbury in the East or Aberystwyth in the South.