North Wales Tour

August 2014

Way back in perhaps May or June, a few mates and I started talking about doing a Welsh Coast to Coast route that was being devised by Ian. It looked great, and we endlessly discussed the route, kit choices etc over the next few months. On the August bank holiday weekend I drove up to Neil’s place in Birmingham, met him and Nigel there, and the next morning we jumped aboard the train to Llandudno.

The toll road around Great Orme's Head

The toll road around Great Orme’s Head

We arrived at Llandudno, and headed straight for the start at Great Orme’s Head. It’s a really stunning spot, up a toll road that skirts around the rugged cliffs of the headland. We stopped at the cafe for a coffee, checked out the Afghani Goats that are living on the headland, then set off on our way, over the top of Great Orme’s Head, then back down into Llandudno on a rather steep road with tram lines in the middle of it. A bit sketchy in the wet!

From the town we climbed a nice bridleway up and over to the Conwy valley. There were some stunning views up here, and the open moorland was in full bloom, heather and gorse shrouding the hillsides. There were a few moments we couldn’t quite work out the route, some extremely steep hike-a-bike up rock faces, but we soon found our way back to the route and followed bridleways through field after field over the hills running down the west side of the Conwy valley.

Llyn Crafnant

Llyn Crafnant

Next we had a climb up past Llyn Crafnant resevoir. It was a really stunning valley, with a steep hike-a-bike up over the last bit of the pass. The views back down were really great. From here, it was a really fun, rocky and technical track down to Capel Curig. A small section of road, then into some forest before a brutally steep road climb which had been blocked by a car that had burnt out its clutch, then a pickup that had reversed into the ditch and was being towed out by a tractor. It wasn’t a long climb, and we soon crested into the base of the upper part of the valley, it was quite odd to climb then be at the bottom of a valley, then up and over another climb which brought us out at the trails in Penmachno. These were really really fun, apart from Neil getting a puncture and then me getting eaten alive by midges while we waited for him to fix it! The view over Penmachno valley really was great. It was getting dark, so we opted to skip the climb up through the quarries and take the road up over the top towards Ffestiniog and Trawsfynydd. It was cold, and windy up here, we all put on our waterproof jackets to keep us warm while we descended towards the main road to Coed-Y-Brenin. A climb up the cycle route then down a farm track into Coed-Y-Brenin forest and a few hike-a-bike sections later we found ourselves at Penhros Isaf, and really secluded little bothy in the middle of the forest.

Penhros Isaf

There was a work party there for the weekend, to do some repairs, ripping out dry rot and repairing some other timbers in the staircase. They had the fire alight, and the only room free was upstairs above the snug, it was toasty! Some sausages and cous-cous, then I passed out! I woke early, and wandered about a bit outside, exploring the forest, and tested the long-drop! Mainly just enjoying the serenity of the surroundings. As the work-party started to surface I chatted with them for a bit while I waited for the others to surface.

We set off pretty soon after, heading down the road to Dolgellau, resupplying with some food at Spar, then climbing up for a while until we hit the old drovers road around the back of Cadair Idris. This track was great fun, technical, slippery and overgrown. I really enjoyed it!
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After this we dropped through the farm at Hafod Dywyll. It’s set in a really nice spot in the bottom of a steep valley. The climb up out was pretty steep, but I was feeling good at this point.

All three of us had started out on this adventure thinking we’d ride all the way to the Gower in South Wales. But as things transpired, Neil’s knee was playing up, Nigel was exhausted, and once we stopped in Machynlleth for some food, we all agreed to jump the next train back to Birmingham, and call it quits. I’m still not sure why I didn’t just say ‘fuck it’ and carry on alone, probably I was just enjoying the company, and didn’t fancy heading off alone. I should have really, but I’ll be back one day, and have another go.

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