Looking at this photo you might wonder not only how you pronounce this word, but also what on earth it means. As kid growing up in London I remember hearing about a train station in Wales that was famous because it had the longest name of any station in the world.
Well, a few years ago I decided to get my first look at this place. If I was expecting a small station hidden away in the gorgeous greenery of wonderful Wales, I was in for a shock. As I drove into the village of Llanfair PG, one of the first sights I saw was a huge car park and an equally large building that turned out to be a gift shop. As I’d come here specifically to see THE sign, I ventured onto the platform of the railway station. And there IT was. As I was gazing at the puzzling long word before me, an elderly man approached, and asked in an accent I found hard to decipher (it was English, but spoken with a deep, rich, sonorous Welsh accent) “Tourist eh? Do you know what that means?” before I could respond, he said, “it means “The Church of Mary in the Hollow of the White Hazel near the fierce whirlpool and the church of Tysilio by the Red Cave.” Wow!
Back, waaaay back, in the 19th century, hardly any tourist – or indeed ANYONE – ever visited this area of Wales. In order to change that situation, the town’s leaders and “Tourism Boosters” got together to thrash out creative ideas on how they could make their destination unique. These “forward thinking,” and for sure creative types, decided to promote their village with a really unique name.
Needless to say once the station’s name was widely publicized, tourists began their trek to this one-of-a-kind attraction. First in a trickle, then in the hundreds, and now in the thousands every year. There are 58 letters, but only 51 in the Welsh alphabet, as “CH” and “ll” count as single letters. If you want a permanent reminder of this unique place to show the folks back home, you can even get your passport stamped (as I did) in the gift shop – a place that sells just about everything connected to, well you know, the name of the station!
You’ll find this unique attraction on the Isle of Anglesey, located on the Menai Straight – right across from the imposing and very dramatic Britannia Bridge. For more information go online and type in “Welsh train station with long name,” and a whole host of nifty, interesting sites will appear. There are many wonderful things to see and do in Wales; the countryside is gorgeous and reminded me of Switzerland in many of the places I visited. For a unique way to enjoy this spectacular country, check out www.greatlittletrainsofwales.co.uk – Great Little Trains of Wales are a very special way of seeing some of the best scenery in the British Isles. All eleven are narrow gauge steam railways and some have a history spanning well over 100 years. They all have one wonderful thing in common: the charm of old-time steam trains with plenty of polished paintwork and brass.
Built in a time far less rushed than our own, most originally served to carry Welsh slate from the quarries to the sea. However, no two are the same and they all offer a unique experience of a bygone era. The special attraction of narrow gauge railways lies in their modest size compared with the main line ones, and their leisurely speed gives one time to take in some of the splendid scenery.
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