leaving London and the city behind

The longest named station in Britain


Men in business suits reclaim their reserved tables, quickly locating power sockets for laptops and mobiles. Children instruct their parents where to sit, and an elderly couple shuffle hand in hand, in search of the buffet car. The other 200 passages are at the luggage rack. It’s jammed with a pram, backpacks and suitcases; a guitar case rests precariously on this tower of luggage. I shove my suitcase in the bottom rack, securing it with a kick. 

“Ah, fair play to yer” an Irishman nods approvingly. The train steadily speeds up over the railway tracks as we finally leave London and the city behind. 

I’m traveling by rail from London to the Welsh ferry port of Holyhead, and then on to Dublin by ferry. The railway was originally extended to establish a Royal Mail postal route between England and Ireland. The tracks run through the East Midlands of England, over green fields dotted with lazy sheep and hay bales. 

A couple of hours out of London, the doors open and the grassy smells of the Welsh countryside board the train. As I breathe in, the cool air it tickles the inside of my nose. I take a strong, deep breath. A breath not permitted in my usual inner-city living. The breeze whips strands of blonde hair around my face and I sit back and let it. The doors close and the train swishes on. 

At each stop, both my scenery and my company continue to change. Unlike London’s underground, people search out other faces. They make eye contact and smile. There’s no need to hide in my book or close my eyes to my iPod. I smile back. A young English mum takes the seat opposite me. She nods her head towards the scenery. “Lovely innit” she remarks. It is. 

I look to my right and see the medieval towers of Conwy Castle rush by.  The castle was built as a fortress by Edward I between 1283 and 1289. The walled town stretches over three-quarters of a mile long and is guarded by 22 towers. The carriage continues along the coast, by the shallow tides of the Menai Strait and over the Britannia Bridge into Anglesey. 

And then the trains arrives at Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch – the longest named station in Britain. The translation for this Welsh town is “the church of St. Mary in the hollow of white hazel trees near to the rapid whirlpool by St. Tysilio’s of the red cave”. First-time travelers on this route push towards the window, while regular travelers just glance over and smile. 

I search my handbag for my phone, instead finding old receipts, crumbs and too many lip balms. Finally I join the right had side of the carriage with noses and cameras pressed to the glass. Another photo for the trip, and I throw my phone back into my bag as the train rolls on towards the mountainous Snowdonia skyline. 

I relax into my seat and into my thoughts. 


This post has been entered into the Grantourismo-HomeAway travel writing competition  



13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ryukyumike
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 02:18:26

    That does it. I’ve never ridden the train we have here, in Okinawa. I’m gonna go and press my nose and my camera against the glass and snap some pix for you!


  2. Sophie
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 20:20:13

    Must be a gorgeous train journey! North Wales is so beautiful.


  3. jessiev
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 21:14:32

    lovely!! that name is a HOOT!


  4. Katja
    Apr 26, 2010 @ 20:03:43

    I always notice that change in atmosphere when I travel from London to the place where I grew up in Somerset. It’s as if the open spaces free people up to do whatever they want to do – including speaking to strangers.


    • rebeccakinsella
      Apr 28, 2010 @ 10:27:06

      That’s very true, Katja. I think a lot of people relax into holiday mode the moment they step onto that train. The scenery is just so beautiful and there really is a noticeable difference in the way people relate to each other.


  5. lara dunston
    Apr 28, 2010 @ 16:52:31

    Oh, that’s great!

    ThanksforyourentryintotheGrantourismotravelbloggingcompetition! 😉

    Good luck!


  6. Anca Popa
    May 10, 2010 @ 15:22:40

    Just thought I should let you know that this month Grantourismo is running a new competition with the theme ‘Food and Travel’, so if you have a memorable food experience from your travels please feel free to share it with us. We’d love to hear from you again!



  7. ramblingsaffie
    Jun 29, 2010 @ 05:59:06

    Have done that train/ferry trip trip from London to Ireland. Great memories! Lovely post.


  8. Trackback: 2010 in review « The Distance To Here

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