With so many world class trail centres in Wales you would be forgiven for not venturing away from them often, but why not make 2019 the year you discover some of Wales’s wild and wonderful rides.
Remote and mountainous, these three routes will help you escape the crowds and enjoy natural and interesting trails. Just make sure you are prepared for the unpredictable Welsh weather and take the right map.
Llyn Cowlyd Loop
Start/Finish Capel Curig
Time 3-4 hours
This is a short but challenging route. Set in the heart of Snowdonia you will feel immersed in the mountains without any of the crowds of Snowdon or Cader Idris. The route starts gradually on a straight track heading down the Ogwen Valley before turning northeast towards Llyn Cowlyd. A section of hike-a-bike over some boggy ground takes you up to the start of some tricky technical singletrack all the way down the left side of the lake. A stiff road climb and a switchback lane down to Trefiw leads to a steady road climb into the beautiful Llyn Crafnant Valley. A challenging grassy climb takes you back up to a bwlch at the far end of the lake. From there runs a delightful rocky trail all the way down to Capel Curig.
Café: Moel Siabod Café
This place is awesome. Great staff, good coffee and delicious food with generous portions. There’s plenty of seating and it’s always warm and cosy. The large windows look out towards Moel Siabod so even when you are warming yourself up you still feel like you are in the mountains.
Start/Finish Bontddu Near Dolgellau
Time 3 to 4 hours
This route is wild and remote. Don’t let the shorter distance fool you, your legs will feel as if they’ve done way more than 19km by the end of the ride. You will get the feeling of stepping back in time as you ride through this ancient landscape. Pont Scethin refers to an old bridge in a remote valley that you cross over, part of the old stagecoach route between London and Harlech.
This is a two up two down route and can be ridden in either direction. Drive up the steep lane from Bontddu and park where the road ends. The climbs are tough but the descents are definitely worth it. It’s best to wait for a clear day to really benefit from the fabulous views over the mountains and towards the coast. It’s also an exposed route so check the weather before you go.
Café: T H Roberts
A charismatic café in Dolgellau. Set within a Grade II listed building this old ironmongers still has its original counter, glass cabinets and wooden drawers. It’s the kind of place you want to sit in for hours. The hot food, coffee and cakes are as good as the atmosphere.
Elan Valley Epic
Distance 60 Km
Start/Finish Cwmddaudwr Near Rhayader
Time 6 – 7 hours
There are some fabulous routes in Elan Valley and this takes in pretty much all of them. Big grassy climbs, fast and flowing descents and wonderful views in every direction you will want to save this route for the longer summer days. There are many other Elan Valley routes so it’s well worth making a weekend of it and staying somewhere locally.
Of course if you don’t want to be bothered with route finding you can always hire a guide!
Café: Ty Morgans
A bustling café, bar and deli in the middle of Rhayader and a great place to warm up after a cold ride. Local ales in the bar, plenty of good cake to refuel on and decent coffee makes this a great little place to end up.
Where to find route maps?
You will find the Elan Valley routes on mbwales.com but the other two routes can be found in Tom Hutton’s book “Wales Mountain Biking” published by Vertebrate Publishing.