With Christmas and New Year coming up it will soon be time to start thinking about next year’s cycling holidays. But no one has yet posted a write up about this year’s bike tours, so I thought that I had better get the wheels rolling with an intro!
The highlight of our cycling year is the summer tour, normally lasting a week to 10 days. For the last several years my tour has been to foreign destinations, but this year the destination was only a bit foreign, Wales! Well they do have their own language and that’s a real tongue twister!
Why Wales? Well after our 12 days in the mountains of Spain last year, Tom originally suggested the Italian lakes. But when I looked into the pros and cons, the cons outweighed the pros. Italy has always been an expensive place, made worse by the current £/ Euro exchange rate. To get there and back in a reasonable time means flying, and recent previous experiences with bikes on planes were for me a definite put off. The final crunch came (and I do mean crunch!) when we had arrived at Strasburg but the bikes didn’t. When our bikes did finally arrive the next day, 2 of them were unrideable. The photo shows the “crunch” to my back wheel which was the result of careful handling by Air France!
However I did fancy the very special scenery that lakes, rivers and mountains provide. It was then that Wales came to mind. Lakes, rivers and mountains are what Wales is famous for. And rain! Well it does get more rain than here in the south east, but that is a result of its mountainous geography which makes it so very scenic.
When I checked rainfall statistics on http://www.myweather2.com/, I found that Lake Como had 179 mm of rain in June, whereas Dolgellau in North Wales had only 83 mm. July and August were also much drier. Now that was a surprise!
Googling “wales, cycle routes” provided more choices (including maps, photos and detailed route notes) than we could possibly explore in a holiday break. But whilst these are very useful for research and planning, you can’t beat quality maps. And when it comes to cycling your can’t beat O.S Landranger maps at 1:50,000 scale. The latest show bike routes for an added bonus. Another bonus is that O.S Landranger and Explorer maps are all available at Croydon Libraries, so you can get what you want just for your holiday period.
So Wales it was, and more specifically, Dolgellau which lies nine miles inland from the coast on the southern part of the Snowdonia National Park.
One of the main reasons for this choice of location was that Dolgellau is right at the centre of the figure of 8 of the 2 major Welsh cycle routes, this part being known as the Mawddach Big 8.
The Mawddach is the major river flowing thru Dolgellau to the sandy beaches of Barmouth. A disused railway track provides a very scenic cycle path alongside the wide river estuary, and is appropriately named the Mawddach Trail.
The map shows the main roads (normally with little traffic), whilst the dotted lines show the alternative cycle routes of the Big 8.
Not shown on this map are a number of major lakes to the east of Dolgellau. All easily accessable by bike and well worth visiting for their scenic settings. I propose to detail some of these rides in future posts. This just being an introduction to my favourite part of the U.K and the great cycling that it has to offer.
Naturally we cycled the Mawddach Trail both ways as part of a longer ride up the coast to Shell Island. The Trail is a delightful ride so I provide a link below, to provide more info and photos.
More details and photographs of the Mawddach trail can be seen here http://www.cyclingnorthwales.co.uk/pages/mawd_cycw.htm
Whilst cycling was our main objective we didn’t intend to spend all of our time in the saddle. This part of Wales has miles of sandy beaches to enjoy. We also planned to take our hiking boots for some hill/mountain walking. Dolgellau nestles in the valley below Cader Idris, the second most popular mountain destination in Wales. This was our prime choice, but several other options, such as Precipice Walk were close by.
If you fancy a bit of walking you can find out more about these two walks at http://www.snowdoniaguide.com/cader_idris.html
Should it rain there are always options of the visitor attractions, such as the Little Trains of Wales, slate mines, copper mines, or even panning for gold!