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Celebrating 50 Years of Rail Holidays where the Journey Began


Rail Tour specialist Ffestiniog Travel will mark its milestone 50th anniversary year in 2024 with a special celebratory tour to Switzerland – the destination of its very first escorted tour in 1974 – complete with the original tour leaders!

The company’s founder Alan Heywood established the rail tour company while working as Traffic and Commercial Manager at the Ffestiniog Railway in North Wales. Through conversations with visitors to the heritage railway he realised there was a strong interest to travel further afield by train and experience scenic rail journeys around Europe.

In October 1974 Alan, now 83 years old, escorted his very first overseas tour to Switzerland, a destination he knew would appeal to those who enjoyed the railways of the Welsh Highlands! Such was the interest that a second tour had to be laid on to accommodate over 70 travellers!

Fifty years on and history could repeat itself with the October 2024 celebratory tour already fully booked! Alan, who is now a Ffestiniog Travel Board Director and still an active tour leader, will escort travellers on the Swiss celebratory tour alongside fellow original tour leader Liz Turner.

He comments: “We felt it was fitting to return to the place where it all began. Switzerland continues to be one of our most popular rail holiday destinations as it’s amazing railways, that travel through stunning Alpine scenery, never disappoint. I feel very fortunate and privileged to have been able to share my passion for rail travel with thousands of travellers who have joined me on so many wonderful train journeys around the world since 1974.”

Ffestiniog Travel is now a separate company from the Ffestiniog Railway (FR), but it is still owned by the Ffestiniog Railway Trust and has remained loyal to its roots, with profits donated to the Trust for preservation work on the FR which now includes the Welsh Highland Railway too. To date Ffestiniog Travel has donated over £1 million to help finance new carriages, a locomotive and various infrastructure projects.

Alan added; “Ffestiniog Travel, still a small independent tour operator, was one of the first UK rail holiday companies and has remained true to its specialism, creating quality rail holidays, for 50 years. Nowadays our destinations are worldwide and we embrace tailor made individual customers and private groups as well as our traditional escorted rail holidays.

“What we are also proud of is our commitment to promoting rail travel and supporting heritage railways around the world, from financial support to the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways to escorting travellers to the many vintage, steam and narrow gauge lines around the world that continue to provide inspiration for our rail holidays.”

The company continues to create new and interesting tours with a bumper 14 additional new escorted rail holidays departing in 2024 alongside regular favourites. Alan shares his top picks of new tours for the special year ahead:


Rails, Trails & Tracks of the Mid Pennines – Departs 16 June 2024 – 6 days from £1,125pp


Northern France – Departs 19 June 2024 – 15 days from £2,895pp

Switzerland – Rails & Trails – Departs 11 June 2024 – 12 days from £2,995pp

Mountain Railways of Switzerland – Departs 11 September 2024 – 14 days from £3,475pp


West Coast USA – Departs 9 June 2024 – 15 days from £4,535pp

South American Rail Adventure – Departs 19 October 2024 – 25 days from £10,560pp

Small & Traditional Tour Range

Slovenia – Departs 8 April 2024 – 10 days from £3,795pp

Springtime in Georgia & Armenia – Departs 11 May 2024 – 12 days from £2,775pp

To see all 2024 escorted tours in full visit www.ffestiniogtravel.com 

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