Last weekend, myself and a friend Fin decided we needed a break from city life and cycled through the mountainous landscape of Wales.
Day 1| Friday 16th February | 100 miles | 8,406ft elevation:
Before the sun had risen, we left Bristol at 7am, heading out towards the Severn Bridge. The roads were still icy (coming off twice) but the morning roads were fairly quiet. Setting off early meant we could have the pleasure of seeing the sun rise, as well as getting some distance in our legs.
After crossing the bridge, we could start to enjoy the country roads and breath in the fresh air! The roads are always so much more fun, with less cars and lorries constantly overtaking.
However, as we headed towards Abergavenny and towards the Gospel Pass, we begin to start feeling the gradient and terrain increase. Although it is a steady climb, Gospel Pass (the highest road in Wales) is still around 10 miles in length and with our added pannier weight took over an hour!
With snow still on the upper parts of the surrounding mountains, the views form the top definitely made it worth all of the effort! After refuelling, we set off flying down the other side of the mountain.
After lots more hills, miles and calories burnt, we arrived in Rhayader. Here we bought some more food and spent 10 minutes talking to a drunk couple who were in complete awe of our ride!
The sun was almost setting, so we had to continue up out of Rhayader, towards tonight’s destination in a bothy in the Elan Valley (if you want to read my blog on bothies, click here).
As the darkness fell, we arrived at the road where we had to turn off. However, we soon realised that we would have to carry our bikes through 2km of boggy marshland to get to the bothy, Lluest Cwmbach.
It was a tough long walk but the bothy at the end was a great surprise. It was our first visit to a bothy and it was wonderful! It had a fire place with some left-over coal/wood, seats, candles and sleeping platforms. What more could you ask for?!
We spent the rest of the evening reading through the visitor book, and it turned out that it was a fairly popular bothy, with people visiting regularly throughout the winter. The last group, only 2 days before said it was snowing so we were lucky!
Day 2 | Saturday 17th February | 60 miles | 6,417ft elevation:
After a cold but comfortable night, we set off back across the bog and on to the road again. I’ve always wanted to cycle in the Elan Valley, and it didn’t disappoint. For a few miles anyway!
Our route took us up over the side of a mountain, on a Sustrans cycle path. However, it was super steep and mostly gravel apart from a small amount of tarmac in the middle. I was on my road bike, with effectively a 23 tooth so all of these hills were fairly tricky!
Today felt very hilly, with constant climbing and descending. One of the most rewarding climbs was up to Plynlimon, which is the source or three rivers, including the River Severn and the River Wye. The descent was one of the best we had been down this trip though!
After cycling through Machynlleth, we followed the Sustrans route 8 following the Afon Dulas river and passed the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT). Tonight, we where staying at a bothy in Coed y Brenin, just north of Dolgellau called Penrhos Isaf. This was much easier to find and get to compared to last night’s adventure!
When we found it, there was already one guy inside, with his dog called Massive. He visited bothies most weekends and this one in particular over 19 times! Inside the bothy was quite dark and damp as it was in a forest but still comfortable.
Just as we were about to have an early night’s sleep, two more guys came in, with 23kg rucksacks full of coal and drinks!
It was not until 2am by the time they had stopped and we could finally get some sleep!
Day 3 | Sunday 18th February | 62 miles | 5, 154ft elevation:
With only a few hours sleep, we wanted to leave early so that we could catch a train back from Shrewsbury to Bristol.
Backtracking our route to Dolgellau, we headed up over more mountains and into the mist. A fair amount of today’s ride was on larger roads, but as it was a Sunday it wasn’t the worst!
Today felt a lot easier than yesterday, with less hills and faster roads. I was just hoping that my bike would last! The freehub was making a racket, and the cassette itself was very loose!
There was one last hill to climb before descending into Shrewsbury. However, this was extremely hard with my 23-tooth cassette, nearly having to get off and push!
Riding though Wales meant that we hadn’t seen many towns etc, so arriving in Shrewsbury was quite nice, riding in to the town across a small picturesque toll bridge.
Even though it was only three days, it felt much longer and was more productive then procrastinating in Bristol for the weekend! Definitely something to do again 😊