Day 2 – Caernarfon to Barmouth
The previous day we had covered just 30 miles but I was tired enough to sleep for 10 hours and woke to the sound of cows mooing in the next field; I assume it was time for milking. In our kitchen bag we had packed coffee sachets and some flavoured porridge; conveniently we had picked up a pint of milk the night before as I hate porridge with water.
One day I will pack a camping cafetiere but until then its coffee sachets with milk already mixed in. They don’t taste much like coffee but at least I get that caffeine hit.
Porridge from the sachet
The pouch the porridge comes in acts as a measure for the milk; it couldn’t be simpler.
For some reason it seemed to take us an age to get going but it was our first morning after camping. We packed the tent and rolled down the small lane back on to the cycle route. The cycle route from Caernarfon runs alongside the narrow gauge track of the Welsh Highland Railway until the train line branches off and the cycle route continues along the old track bed.
When we got to the bottom of the lane from the farm we were just in time to see the train pass on its way to Caernarfon.
We followed the old railway line for several miles but decided to take a signposted short cut to Porthmadog cutting out the small town of Criccieth. After leaving the railway line we encountered a few hills which made us question whether the shortcut was worth it, but the views were great and before long we were eating pasties in Porthmadog harbour.
Surly Disc Trucker loaded up.
Kate’s Disc Trucker not so loaded up.
View of the “Cob”; the sea wall built in 1811.
The Cob in Porthmadog is the route for the cycle path, road and also the railway line for the Welsh Highlands train which starts in Caernarfon and which we had cycled along earlier in the morning. Porthmadog is a popular tourist town, it gets very busy in the summer and the traffic can be a pain if you want to cycle through the town as we did, but there is the option of following the cycle route around the outskirts.
After Porthmadog we cycled through Penrhyndeudraeth and across the Pont Briwet bridge which crosses the estuary to Harlech. They are currently building a new bridge and at times the existing bridge is closed, the work is expected to go on for a couple of years so its worth checking its staus as otherwise its an 8 mile detour inland.
After the bridge we crossed over the A road and hit an unexpected hill which was rather steep. When we looked around we had great views over the estuary and the road kept on going up and up.
The route took us through a wooded valley before climbing again and above the town of Harlech. In the distance we could see a silver band going up the mountain but I was sure the road couldn’t be that steep or go up the mountainside ahead of us. I was wrong, there was a steady stream of water flowing down the road reflecting the sunshine, as we got closer it became apparent it was our route.
The climbing seemed endless but there was a great view to the west of the estuary, mountains and penisular, but we could also see the much flatter and busier A road below.
No sooner had we reached the top we were descending down the other side to the coast and on the road to Barmouth, down on the coast road there was a lot more traffic so we had to ride in single file, we chose to stay on this road all the way to Barmouth rather than take some of the quieter detours off it which form Route 8.
Barmouth is a busy seaside town and the has a nice sandy beach. We managed to find the Co-op after negotiating the one way system in reverse and stocked up on some beers and food for the night.
Southbound from Barmouth the route crosses the Mawddach Estuary over a wooden railway bridge, its fairly long with a span of 820 metres. The bridge was built in 1867 and after around 110 years of service trains were stopped due to safety fears over the bridges strength, these fears seem to have gone away along with the woodworm hopefully and the bridge is now back in use for trains pedestrians and cyclists. There is a toll booth which charges 90p for walking and 30p extra for bikes; we didn’t pay but not because I’m too stingy, the toll booth was actually closed.
After crossing the bridge the route heads inland alongside the estuary, its one of the most scenic rides I’ve been on and a perfect finish to the day. We cruised along until we reached our campsite for the night; Graig Wen campsite is just on the route. We had called the campsite just after we crossed the bridge and were told camp anywhere in the lower field but not at the bottom as we woud get wet when the tide comes in, it was very close to the estuary. Despite the field being on a very steep slope and covered with sheep and sheep poo it was perfect, well I thought so; Kate wasn’t as impressed and was concerned we were going to be sharing the tent with our new befriended lamb. We had a great view and although the main campsite, toilets and showers were a 600 metre walk away there was a compost toilet just a short distance away.
The Tree Bog
The route from Caernarfon to Barmouth had been great, it was very scenic with both the mountains and the coast; a huge improvement on the previous day across Anglesey. Although we hadn’t expected to do so much climbing above Harlech it had provided some great views and the ride down to Barmouth was pretty easy, we had covered about 48 miles with a moving average of 9.2 mph. At the campsite we cooked some dinner, drank a beer and enjoyed the view knowing tomorrow would be tough.