Known as Portmadoc until 1974, Porthmadog is a busy town situated on the borders of Snowdonia and the Llyn Peninsula. Most of the town is built upon land reclaimed from the sea in 1811 by William Madocks. Its prosperity owes much to the slate trade which exported its product all over the world from the harbour at Porthmadog.
As a result of the expanding slate trade the town grew steadily through the middle of the nineteenth century, its population growing from 885 in 1821 to over 3000 in 1861.
The commercial future of Porthmadog as a harbour began to decline with the arrival of the Cambrian Railway in 1867, offering an alternative means of transport to the growing industrial towns in England. The last of Porthmadog’s fleet of ships had disappeared by 1945 ending with it an important chapter in the history of the town. At about the same time, the Ffestiniog Railway, built to carry slate from the quarries at Blaenau Ffestiniog to the harbour at Porthmadog, closed down, and things looked bleak for the town. However, by 1954, the railway was on the way to being rescued from dereliction, and since then, Porthmadog has become an increasingly popular holiday destination.
Today, the little trains of the Ffestiniog Railway carry hundreds of thousands of visitors between Porthmadog and Blaenau Ffestiniog every year, and provide a vital link in the transport infrastructure of North Wales.
Another railway in Porthmadog is the Welsh Highland Railway (Porthmadog) which takes visitors on the short trip to Pen-y-Mount. Eventually, this railway will link up with the Welsh Highland Railway (Caernarfon) which, in a few years time, will provide a narrow gauge railway link from Porthmadog all the way to Caernarfon.
There is a modern leisure centre (Canolfan Hamdden Glaslyn) in Porthmadog, and for the more adventurous, The Ropeworks is a new attraction at Greenacres Holiday Park, two miles away in Morfa Bychan. Also at Morfa Bychan is Black Rock Sands, a popular sandy beach.
Although having few high street names, Porthmadog is an excellent shopping centre with a huge variety of small, locally owned shops, from book-shops to music shops, where you can find almost everything you need.