Bagging the Welsh dragon in the Black Mountains
Crossing the Black Mountains, starting at Pandy and moving on to Hay-on-Wye, the route has incredible views and a line of trig points ending in one decorated with a Welsh dragon.
After studying the OS website for a new place to go and cycle around for July’s blog post, it dawned on Steven Rittey (wheel2wheel holidays) that he had never been to the Llyn Peninsula in Wales. Read his journey:
After studying the OS website for a new place to go and cycle around for July’s blog post, it dawned on my that I had never been to the Llyn Peninsula in Wales. I have been to a fair few places in North Wales before, but going west of Pwllheli was somewhere that I had never neither cycled around nor visited.
Whilst researching the cycle ride and the history of the area, I found out that in medieval times that going from Bangor to Bardsey Island via Aberdaron three times was the equivalent to a pilgrimage to Rome. Fast forward several centuries and consider how easy it is now to jump on a plane and fly to Rome in only a couple of hours, it puts into perspective how remote this part of Wales was considered and gave me the perfect idea of the route.
I bought two Advance train tickets with Arriva Trains Wales to Bangor with my friend and former colleague – Rob Webster. Last year, we cycled from London to Manchester in a day and having travelled around Latin America in the past year, Rob decided to do the ‘Pilgrimage’ route with me. Sadly, we would not have time to visit Bardsey Island, but we would ride to Aberdaron and back via Caernarvon and through Porthmadog to create a roundtrip of approx. 110 miles. Not quite a medieval epic, but certainly not a bad effort for a sunny Saturday in June.
We set off from Bangor and followed the excellent Lon Las Menai Cycleway before veering off onto the A roads down to Nefyn. This small village is home to a pub called the Ty Coch Inn and was recently chosen as the ‘third best beach bar in the world’. With amazing views of Snowdonia and the surrounding bay, this was a great place to stop and easy to see why it ranks up there with the more obvious destinations of Jamaica, Dubai and err. landlocked Berlin. Just remember to go through the golf course to reach the beach and the bar!
After a brief stop in the bay, we headed further down through the Llyn Peninsula towards Aberdaron and what strikes you immediately is the different pace of life. There are few chain stores in this part of the world, phone boxes are still fairly numerous, cars are few and far between and petrol stations are still independently owned. The shop assistants greet you in Welsh and the excellent Welsh cakes are homemade. It is the little local quirks that you spot when cycling through Wales that make it probably one of my favourite places to ride around in the U.K.
After leaving Aberdaron, we were straight into a fairly long and steep climb out of the village and headed up into the hills. There are spectacular views of Hell’s Mouth - a popular surfing spot near Abersoch and some pretty tricky descents to negotiate on the narrow country lanes. However as the traffic was light and the road surfaces were excellent, we were able to get some speed up on the way back to Criccieth where we stopped for an ice cream at the famous Cadwalader shop and then passed through the unofficial ‘Capital of the Peninsula’ - Pwlhelli.
The last section from Porthmadog involved an obligatory photo-stop at the West Highland Railway (regular readers will know that my rides are not complete without a visit to a heritage railway!) before heading back to Caernarvon for a drinks stop on the waterfront. We arrived back in Bangor about an hour earlier than planned and caught the train back to Manchester. There was an immediate, yet striking contrast to the tranquility of only a few hours ago when we were caught up in the rowdiness of a post Chester Races train journey home to Manceinion Piccadilly!
I had heard good things about cycling on the Llyn Peninsula and can thoroughly recommend it as a cycling day out or for a cycle tour over a couple of days. The region offers a good mix of excellent cycle routes, some of the best road surfaces I have ever rode on and plenty of interesting places to visit along the way. Bear in mind that it can take a few hours to visit the area from Manchester, Birmingham etc and there are no train stations west of Pwlhelli so make sure you have some spare inner tubes! If you fancy leaving the bike at home and visiting on foot, the Wales Coastal Path also goes around the Llyn Peninsula.