Blaenau Ffestiniog shown within Gwynedd
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Post town||BLAENAU FFESTINIOG|
|UK Parliament||Dwyfor Meirionnydd|
Blaenau Ffestiniog is a historic mining town in Gwynedd, Wales. It has a population little over 5,000 including the attached village of Llan Ffestiniog, which makes it the third largest town in Gwynedd unitary authority, behind Bangor and Caernarfon. Although the population reached 12,000 at the peak of the slate industry, the population fell due to a decrease in the demand for slate. Blaenau Ffestiniog at one time was the second largest town in North Wales, behind Wrexham. Today, the town relies heavily on tourism who come to see the many attractions within and around the town such as the Ffestiniog Railway.
Blaenau Ffestiniog is known as the Victorian slate capital of the world, with around 10 mines in the town alone during its heyday. The site of Blaenau Ffestiniog was nothing more than pasture land before the industrial revolution. The town started after slate was discovered there. Railways, churches, schools, houses, shops, and a hospital were all built to accommodate the growing population. After the Second World War the demand for slate fell and the town now relies on tourism. Blaenau Ffestiniog hosted the National Eisteddfod in 1898. It is part of the traditional county of Merionethshire. Locals divide Blaenau Ffestiniog into "areas" - among these are Tanygrisiau, Rhiwbryfdir, Bethania, Dolrhedyn, Glanypwll, Cwmbowydd and Manod. In this context "Blaenau Ffestiniog" is sometimes used to refer only to the centre of town.
The English pronunciation of Blaenau Ffestiniog suggested by the BBC Pronouncing Dictionary of British Names is / /, but the first word is pronounced [ˈbləɨna] by local Welsh speakers and usually // by non-Welsh-speakers.
Located in the mountains of Snowdonia, the town was once a centre of the Welsh slate mining industry. This industry declined during the early 20th century. The town's economy is now largely dependent on tourism. Although the town is in the centre of the Snowdonia National Park, the boundaries of the Park exclude the town and its substantial slate waste heaps.
Blaenau Ffestiniog is home to several reservoirs which supplies the Ffestiniog Hydro Power Station with water. Stwlan Dam can be seen in between two of the main mountains in the area, Moelwyn Bach & Moelwyn Mawr. (Little Moelwyn & Big Moelwyn in English)
Ysgol y Moelwyn is the main secondary school in the area, covering Blaenau, Manod, Tanygrisiau, Llan Ffestiniog, Trawsfynydd, Gellilydan, Maentwrog and even stretching into the Vale of Ffestiniog and Dolwyddelan Ysgol Y Moelwyn came third in Britain's best county school in 2006. There are five primary schools in the area.
But some pupils go to Ysgol Y Gader Dolgellau. In south Meirionnydd.
The main access route to Blaenau Ffestiniog is via the A470 road which runs from the north to the south of Wales. The A496 runs south from the town down to the coastal resort of Barmouth. The A487, which runs West to East, feeds the Llŷn Peninsula into the A487 (which runs from Bangor through Caernarfon and into Porthmadog, which in turn connects with the north-south A470. Immediately to the north of the town the A470 climbs steeply to the Crimea Pass and meets the A5 at Betws-y-Coed, towards Wrexham and Shrewsbury. In the opposite direction you can follow the A470 to Dolgellau, then on to its eventual end in Caerdydd / Cardiff.
Blaenau Ffestiniog railway station on the site of the former Great Western station serves as a combined station for the Ffestiniog Railway and the Conwy Valley Line, their previous stations being no longer in use. The Conwy Valley Line runs to the North Wales coast at Llandudno Junction with links to Chester, Holyhead/Caergybi(Welsh), Manchester and the rest of the UK. The station sees thousands of visitors pass through the town ever year.
At various times the town has been the terminus for four independent railway lines, each with its own station or stations:
- the Ffestiniog Railway
- the Festiniog and Blaenau Railway
- the Conwy Valley Line of the London and North Western Railway, and
- the Bala Ffestiniog Line of the Great Western Railway.
Blaenau Ffestiniog has several major tourist attractions, including the Ffestiniog Railway and the Llechwedd Slate Caverns, a former slate mine open to visitors. Llechwedd is often listed as one of Wales' top 5 visitor attractions. Near Blaenau Ffestiniog there are miles of mountain landscape with derelict quarries, rivers, various lakes and walking routes.
Several new mountain biking trails have been installed with some suitable for competition level mountain biking. Visitors can borrow bikes from the biking centre and explore the miles of trails, ranging from tracks for beginners to high end professional mountain biking tracks.
The town centre boast various cafes, and traditional pubs. There are various quirky features such as child friendly pot holing, poetry walks, art centres, and breath taking views. Visitors are urged to explore the streets and try out the towns specialities. Blaenau is one of few places where the Welsh language is commonly heard on the streets around the town.
Blaenau Ffestiniog's town centre has recently been regenerated. Due to funding from various organisations, grants and the Welsh Assembly Government, 4.5 million will be spent on redeveloping the town centre in order to create a vibrant shopping experience. A new bus station has been created along with new areas that allow visitors to sit back and enjoy the breathtaking mountains which tower over the town. Various man-made slate structures have also been built with poetry printed on them. The structures are roughly 40 feet tall and contribute to the towering slate hills and mountains.
Various walkways have also been installed as well as a series of downhill mountain biking trials. A kilometre long zip wire is also expected in the town soon. If plans go ahead Blaenau Ffestiniog will have the UK's first vélo-rail (See Draisine), which are popular in France.
Many artists come to Blaenau Ffestiniog for the unique landscape around it. Such artists include Kyffin Williams & David Nash. The harsh landscape of the slate tips often give inspiration which is not found in many other places. During World War II the National Gallery stored their treasures in one of the mines in the town in order to protect them from damage or destruction. The large steel gates are still standing and the system so that the paintings could be preserved is still in the caverns.
Blaenau Ffestiniog has a strong musical tradition, from the quarrying boom days with the Caban, male voice choirs and brass bands, to the Jazz / Dance bands like "The New Majestics" and the popular rock bands of the 80s and 90s such as Llwybr Llaethog and Anweledig, to more recent bands such as Gai Toms, Frizbee and Gwibdaith Hen Fran. The local alternative music training Company Gwallgofiaid now has over 12 bands under its umbrella based at their Centre 'Cell' at the Old Police Station in Park Square. The Centre has 5 rehearsal rooms, a 24 track studio and Cwrt performance space.
Notable people 
- Gwyn Thomas, Welsh poet, academic and the present National Poet for Wales.
- Anweledig, musical group.
- Gai Toms, music artist.
- Llwybr Llaethog, musical group.
- David Nash, artist
- John Cowper Powys, novelist, lived in Blaenau Ffestiniog from May 1955 until he died in 1963.
- Glyn Wise, contestant and runner up on Big Brother 7.
- Dave Felgate, footballer.
See also 
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