Tag Archives: Route 8

Campsites along National Cycle Network Route 8

2 Sep

Sometimes finding a campsite when touring can be problematic; if you have ever cycled 50 miles and then decided to look for a campsite only to find out you have to ride another 10 miles until the next campsite you might know what I mean.

I have got better at planning my trips but I still like the flexibility of stopping when I’m ready and not to a fixed itinerary.

Recently I have been playing with Google maps; its a great feature on a smartphone and as long as there is a signal opening up My Maps can be really useful.  So whilst researching for a trip on NCN Route 8 I created a spreadsheet of campsites close to the route and saved them as a map layer along with the route.  It took a few different programmes to create but the results are pretty good.  If you click on one of the pins in the map you will get the campsite details from the spreadsheet I created.

If you want to use the map you can click on the View Larger Map link and then copy the Google URL or download the KML file.  Enjoy.

Familiar Terrain

21 Aug

Day 5: Glasbury to Cardiff Bay

Over four days we have been riding from Holyhead in the north of Wales to Cardiff, our final night had been spent at a campsite not far from Hay on Wye just off Route 8.  A couple of weeks ago we rode this route after a night camping so we knew what to expect.  We set off after breakfast heading through the market town of Talgarth to a memorable climb, well Kate remembered all of it, I only remembered a little.  After spending the last four days climbing over mountains in north and mid Wales it didn’t seem too bad and we descended towards Brecon although we diverted off the route cutting off about 4 miles by avoiding the town.

We continued on to Talybont Reservoir, the route from Brecon is known as the Taff Trail and is very popular, even on a Friday we saw quite a few cyclists.  When we rode the route a couple of weeks ago Kate was running skinny 1.25″ tyres on her bike so we opted for the road around the reservoir rather than the designated Route 8 that steadily climbs the mountain alongside the reservoir.  The road is flat the length of the reservoir but at the end of the valley it climbs a long steep hill with a 25% gradient.  So this time we went with the designated route which is along a gravel forest road; it was pretty smooth for nearly the whole length although it climbs steadily.  After an hour of climbing we reached the top and got the stove out to cook some lunch.

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Ladies Surly Disc Trucker

Surly Disc Trucker with Ortlieb Bar Bag

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Surly Disc Trucker with Rear Light

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Taff Trail Talybont Reservoir

Surly Disc Trucker

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Surly Disc Trucker with Ortlieb Panniers

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Surly Disc Trucker

Surly Disc Trucker

Carrying a tent on Surly Disc Trucker

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After climbing above Talybont reservoir we knew the rest of the route was mainly downhill and when we rejoined the traffic free section 5 miles from Merthyr we picked up some speed and before we knew it we were in the centre of Merthyr.  At Merthyr we decided to take a detour from Route 8 and follow the Trevithick Trail which stays on the East side of the valley, its quite a bit quicker than sticking to Route 8 and also avoids a long set of steps which take Route 8 under the A470.

After riding the length of Wales riding through the valleys was noticeably different, where as north of Merthyr the routes had been lined with native species of plants and trees the traffic free route from Merthyr down to Cardiff were lined with invasive species, rubbish, glass and vandalism, but with this said it has some great views and fascinating history.

My favourite routes in the valleys are the ones on the tops of the mountains looking down, they usually involve a steep climb to get up there but then the scenery is rewarding enough.

The ride back to Cardiff was easy but it seemed to take us a lot longer than usual, as we went through Taffs Well Kate got her bike caught in a fallen pine tree and a little further on my gear cable snapped, it wasn’t a surprise, the previous day my shifting was a bit peculiar and when I looked at the bike in the evening I could see that the gear cable had frayed.  I decided rather than try and remove the frayed cable I would wait for it to break as it would be easier to pull a broken cable out.  With less than 8 miles to go it seemed pointless to stop and fit a spare cable as it was all downhill to the bay and we were keen to get to the pub to meet some friends so I rode the remainder of the route just able to change my front gears.

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We whizzed passed the millennium stadium and down to the bay; we headed straight to the pub for a pint.  An hour later we were completing our last 2 miles back to our home, I still hadn’t fixed the gear cable so after putting some tension on the cable and tying a couple of knots I climbed our final hill of the week at a quicker pace than normal to finish the trip from Holyhead to Penarth.

The Wrong Kind of Undulating

19 Aug

Day 4: Llanidloes to Glasbury

Waking up at Dol-Llys campsite I realised we had forgotten to get milk the following day to we opted for breakfast in town.  Llanidloes is a really nice town and interesting place, its not on Route 8 although its only a mile away, Route 82 does go through the town.

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Llanidloes

Route 82 in Llanidloes

Kate looking for breakfast in Llanidloes

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We cycled around the town which was virtually empty at nine in the morning and then continued on our way. The route for the day was to head to Rhayader about 15 miles away and then on to Builth Wells a further 17 miles from Rhayader and then down to Glasbury which was not far from where we planned to camp. I knew the journey to Builth was going to be lumpy but after that it would be mainly downhill alongside the river Wye.

We started the day with a climb up to Llangurig where we had originally planned on camping at the previous night, it seemed a long way from Llanidloes although it was only 5 miles but it was up a large hill. Upon arrival we realised we had made the right decision the following day stopping at Llanidloes.

The route to Rhayader is quiet and pleasant, it follows the river Wye and at times the A470 can be seen the other side of the valley. It is very hilly or best described as undulating. The scenery was once again fantastic with steep sided valleys and rocky outcrops we wound our way to Rhayader where once again the route does not go into the town. As we didn’t need anything we ate lunch on a bench where a couple of dogs out for a walk joined us until their own eventually beckoned them on.

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The road from Llanidloes to Rhayader

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Kate had company for lunch

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A few miles outside of Rhayader the tarmac road ends and Route 8 continues along a historic coach road owned by the National Trust. I’ve ridden this section quite a few times although always in the opposite direction, its about 2 miles long and very scenic, although some of it is only ridable on a mountain bike. I’ve ridden it with full panniers on the Surly Troll and it hasn’t been a problem bouncing along the rocky surface in parts and on the troll I never really worry about the terrain.

On the Surly Disc Trucker it was a bit slower, I had to push the first steep section which is littered with fist size rocks but once past this we were able to ride the rest although slowly. I recently fitted a new wheel to the Disc Trucker with a dynamo hub which had kept our phones charged for the last 3 days but in order to keep the wheel weight low I had fitted a light weight Mavic rim which stopped me from speeding off and bouncing down the track.

The section of route made a nice change from the tarmac but it was hard going and without an appropriate bike this section is hard to ride. The only alternative is cycling along the busy A470 which would certainly get you between Builth and Rhayader a lot quicker.

The Disc Truckers were great on the off road section even with mine fully loaded, I couldn’t go as fast as I can on the Troll and I wouldn’t want to ride all day on this terrain but it was really no problem for the bike, thumbs up again for the Trucker!


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Pushing a loaded Surly Disc Trucker

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Off road riding on a Surly Disc Trucker

Off road riding on a Surly Disc Trucker

Full Panniers on a Surly Disc Trucker

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off road riding on a Surly Disc Trucker

Off road riding on a Surly Disc Trucker

Off road riding on a Surly Disc Trucker

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Cycling from Builth Wells to Glasbury

After the unpaved section it didn’t take us too long to reach Builth with a welcome final decent to the town. We stopped at the Co-op to pick up some supplies and then followed Route 8 further south. The last part of the day saw us following a quiet road alongside the river Wye to Glasbury, apart from a headwind it was an easy ride from Builth to Glasbury and mainly downhill. At Glasbury we stopped at the garage to buy a couple of beers and made our way to Newcourt Campsite just outside Felindre and just a few miles from Glasbury.

I’ve stayed at Newcourt Camping a couple of times this year and its a great campsite, its on a working farm and the field has some great views. Compared to yesterday it had been an easy day of cycling yet we were getting tired after four long days of hard riding.  One more day left to take us back to Cardiff.

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Day 4 Elevation Profile

A Day of Mountains

16 Aug

Day 3: Barmouth to Llanidloes

Waking to the sound of bleating sheep today, I woke early and put some water to boil in the tent for a morning coffee.  Apart from the sheep it was quiet with a great morning view of the estuary below. We packed our bags and the tent and rolled down to the cycle route below the field where we had pitched for the night.

Apart from the occasional runner and cyclist the route was quiet at 9:30 in the morning; we continued along to Dolgellau with a stop at anther toll bridge along the way and within an hour we had arrived at the town where we stopped at the first cafe for a second breakfast.

Morning camping coffee

Morning Coffee

Mawddach Estuary

The Mawddach Estuary in the morning

Cycling Penmaenpool Toll Bridge

The Penmaenpool Toll Bridge

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We didn’t see much of Dolgellau but the town is a nice looking place; the route from here climbs the mountain behind the town and from the map I could see it would be a steep ascent.  The climb went on for a long time but as we approached the top there were some superb views of the mountains surrounding us.  The road was almost deserted apart from two road cyclists who sped passed us during the climb.  The road eventually ended and we followed a tarmac path across the mountainside until it reached another road which took us down to the start of another climb.

We went through the gate and around a bend in the road which revealed a steep steady climb to the top, we were in mid Wales and there seemed to be no way to go but over a mountain in every direction.  We climbed with views of Cadair Idris to the west; a mountain with a height of 893 metres.

As we cycled we could hear cheers and shouting, at first I thought I was hallucinating but on the neighbouring mountain we could just make out a group of people cheering at us; they must have been thinking we were crazy climbing the road.

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The town of Dolgellau

NCN Route 8 Dolgellau

Overlooking Dolgellau

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The road upwards from Dolgellau

The road upwards from Dolgellau

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The road upwards from Dolgellau some more


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The second climb of the day

The second climb of the day

NCN Route 8 mountains in Wales

I made it with five bags and a tent!

At the top of this climb we had views down a valley and looking over yet more mountains; as we left the top a fighter jet roared past, it was so close we could see the details of under its wings.  The road down was steeper than our road up, it wound its way down the mountain and was covered with small chippings, it made for a slow decent and I had to hold the brakes most of the way down.  From here we road to the town of Machynlleth, it was market day and the town was packed, we picked up some lunch and sat in the park preparing for the biggest mountain climb of the ride.

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The road heading south to Machynlleth

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A slate fence to the right of the picture

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Great views on the way down

Cycling the Dyfi Estuary Route 8

Almost at Machynlleth

The road from Machynlleth climbs the highest road on NCN Route 8.  Its a great road with awesome views but there was more traffic than on any other climb on the route and most cars were speeding past; at a narrow point ahead of us two of them clipped wing mirrors, as the car coming towards us passed the glass of his wing mirror was hanging off and as we passed the spot the BT van which had hit him had left his mirror glass on the road, neither of the drivers stopped.  Later on a Subaru came hurtling towards us out of a corner; he must have mistaken the mountain road for a rally stage as he sped past.  For most of the time we were alone on the mountain but when the traffic did come by it was certainly noticeable.

The road had many turns and each time we thought we were at the top a turn would reveal another hill, surely we thought there was nowhere else to climb too.  At its highest point the route reaches 510 metre’s, this was our third large climb of the day and we had started at sea level at the Mawddach estuary.

 

Highest place on NCN Route 8

Looking back down the road to Machynlleth

Riding to Machynlleth

Looking back some more

Cycling from Machynlleth

Great views all the way up

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Looking back down the road

Cycling from Machynlleth

And looking up the road

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And looking back down some more; the climb seemed like it would never end.

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It really was an awesome climb

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A small part of the climb we had ridden

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And at the top of the mountain

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It was almost flat on the top

The top was welcome but time was getting on and we still had 15 miles to cover so we just kept going, the decent was a welcome break for the climbing and we followed the route to Llanidloes along the River Severn.  The route alongside the river is one of my favourite sections of NCN Route 8 with a great picnic spot along the way, the route is undulating but closer towards Llanidloes there is more descending towards the town.  We reached a junction on the route with the option of going into the town or another five miles to a campsite in Llangurig.  Our legs were tired from all the climbing so we opted for the campsite at Llanidloes.

We had climbed 6092 feet in 46 miles; Dol-Llys Farm and Campsite was a welcome site, it was a much more established campsite than the previous two nights and for a change we pitched close to the facilities to save our legs.  After dinner and beer I was out for the count.

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Day 3 Elevation Profile

Mountains and Coastlines

14 Aug

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.

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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.

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Porridge from the sachet

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Surly Disc Trucker loaded up.

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Kate’s Disc Trucker not so loaded up.

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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.

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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.

Kate climbing hill above Halrech3

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Tree Bog

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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.

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Day2_Elevation_Profile

A ride across Wales

12 Aug

Day 1 – Holyhead to Caernarfon

A last minute holiday plan became a ride across Wales from Holyhead on the island of Anglesey to Cardiff Bay following the National Cycle Network Route 8.  It was only 4 days prior to departure we decided on the trip and luckily not much planning was required other than deciding on some campsites and picking up some maps for the route; which I initially forgot.

For the North of Wales I picked up three Ordnance Survey 1:50000 maps the day before; I really like using these maps for touring, for long distances a few are needed but they allow detours to be plan and its easy to read the terrain.  The National Cycle Network is already marked on the maps but I find it can be difficult to follow through a map case whilst riding so I often highlight my route before leaving the house.

Cycle Routes on OS Maps

Kate booked the train from Cardiff to Holyhead for 5:10 am on Monday morning which meant a very early start; we left our home at 4:30 to get to the station with a light drizzle of rain.  After a short delay we were off with a change over at Chester where I almost left a pannier bag behind and eventually we ended up in a wet Holyhead.

Bicycles at Cardiff Central

Kate appearing to be still asleep whilst waiting for the 5:10 am train

We arrived in Holyhead at 10:35 am, on the way we had a change over in Chester with time for breakfast and then the next train went direct to Holyhead along the north Wales coast; at £26 each the tickets were a bargain considering it was a five and a half hour journey.  It didn’t take us long to leave the train station via the ferry terminal in Holyhead; we slipped on our waterproofs and at the end of the carpark found the route that would take us back to Cardiff.

Cycling in Anglesey

We started the journey in light rain.

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The longest place name in Europe; one of the most popular tourist attractions on Anglesey. Go on try saying it!

I cycled across Anglesey a couple of years ago; whilst the route is quiet and mainly flat winding through the countryside and past the RAF base its rather unexciting but not unpleasant.

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Looking down from the Menai Bridge

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View over the Menai Strait

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After a couple of hours we found ourselves at the Menai Strait and crossed the Menai Bridge to Bangor; route 8 avoids the town and we carried on towards Caernarfon.  The route becomes a lot more interesting dropping down to the coast before heading into the walled town which holds an impressive castle.

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Caernarfon Harbour

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Caernarfon Castle

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The Romans built a fort in Caernarfon around 80 AD and the castle that exists today was completed around 1322 after being started by Edward I.  The town is surrounded by castle walls and is certainly worth a visit, its also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Route 8 heading south from Caernarfon

We picked up some supplies and called a nearby campsite just 15 minutes ride away.  Our Campsite for the night was Hendy Farm; a very small site with basic facilities and right on the route; its a working farm and in a nice spot, the facilities are adequate but are very basic.

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We packed a chopping board for the first time.

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Jack the farm dog wanted to play catch, he also pissed on the tent and dribbled on my matress. Lovely dog!

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Oops; I put to much in the pan.

It was an easy day of riding, it was mainly flat with no challenging climbs.  The roads across Anglesey were very quiet and from the Menai bridge onwards it was mainly traffic free.  As we got up at 4 am to get the train from Cardiff to Holyhead we were very tired by the end of the day so 33 miles was just enough.

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The Devils Staircase

1 Aug

Day 2 of our ride from our campsite a few miles outside Hay on Wye to Builth along Route 8 before heading west on Route 43 from Builth Wells.

We left the Newcourt Farm campsite which was a great site just off Route 8 and headed through Glasbury and up to Builth Wells.  Its a ride I have done in the past and its a pleasant route cycling along the River Wye.  There are some nice villages along the way and the road to Builth is interesting although you can’t see much of the river through the trees.

Campsite on NCN 8

Curtis on Route 8 at the junction for Newcourt Farm campsite

Heading through Glasbury we crossed the river Wye.  I love to canoe down this river and as we crossed the bridge they were launching some canoes.  A couple of years ago I paddled to Hereford over 3 days from this spot, it was a great trip with some nice pubs and a great orchard campsite along the way.

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Canoe hire on the river Wye

The road to Builth Wells is quiet with a few bridges and now and then you get glimpses of the river running below it, its a pleasant road with a mostly flat gradient.

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Route 8 to Builth Wells

We arrived in Builth just before 12 and decided to get some lunch although we ended up getting the all day breakfast.  It was a nice cafe at the beginning of the high street in town, it was a good opportunity to check the map and they kindly let us charge our phones.

Breakfast at Cafe Fontana

Breakfast at Cafe Fontana

As we left the Cafe it started to rain but before we left town I couldn’t resist getting my photo taken on the Bull; it was a tough job to get on the thing, its massive and in the wet I struggled to get any grip but one thing I’m sure about is that its lighter than my Surly Troll!

Bull in Builth

Riding the Bull in Builth

Heading out of Builth we took Route 43 which goes all the way to Llantwrtyd Wells, its reasonably well marked except for a missing sign at Llangammarch which meant we ended up travelling quite a few miles out of our way to Beulah.  From there we followed the A road and it didn’t take long to reach Llantwrtyd Wells with a brief stop along the way to have my photo taken with yet another roadside animal.

Llanwrtyd Wells Bear

In the town we stocked up on supplies at the Spar and we then visited the tea rooms in town where we sat outside and had a coffee and a scone.  Curtis dissapeared in the Spar for quite sometime and he emerged with less than I expected; although he made some good choices.  Together we set off again but this time with slightly heavier panniers carrying a couple of beers, cheese, cooked sausage and an extra 2 litres of water.

The road out of the town had some small climbs but nothing too major and eventually the view opened out over a beautiful valley with the road cut into the hillside.

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The road not far from Llanwrtyd Wells

Road to the Devils Staircase

Road to the Devils Staircase

The road took us along the valley and to the base of the hill we had heard all about; the Devils Staircase.  At the base of the hill was a sign warning that a 25% gradient lay ahead and behind that was a sign warning that there were switch backs for the next half a mile.

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At the bottom of the hill there is a slight bend and some trees obscuring the climb to come.

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Devils Staircase Animated small

The road up to Llyn Brianne has a 25% gradient, getting up there was a bit of a challenge with the bike fully loaded!

Once on the top there was a great view looking back on the valley we had just travelled through.

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Ortlieb Map Case

The map in the Ortlieb map case of the ride we were undertaking

Llyn Brianne Devils Staircase

At the top of the Devils Staircase there was a great descent down to the reservoir.

Llyn Brianne Reservoir by Bike

Llyn Brianne Reservoir by Bike

Surly Troll and Dawes Galaxy

By this point we were soaked but the views and the road were epic.

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Thats Curtis going down the road on the other side of the valley. The road followed the edge of the reservoir and the route took us by surprise with a few unexpected hills.

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The Dam wall

 

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The spillway alongside the dam wall is apparently popular with Kayaks, it was dry on the day we were there and looked like it would be great fun on a skateboard.

The ride along the reservoir was amazing, there was a steady drizzle by the time we got to the top of the Devils Staircase but it added to the atmosphere of the place.  We followed the road into the village of Rhandirmwyn where we stayed at the Camping and Caravanning campsite.  They had good facilities and hot showers which was good as I was wet and cold but it was a great day of cycling.

If you want to read more on this ride check out Curtis’s blog, there are some great photos and a map of the route: http://bikewales.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/a-day-in-clouds.html

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