Welcome, Croeso i Dolgellau a Bala
A couple of weeks ago I posted an item explaining why I chose Dolgellau for our 2011 cycle tour (see http://anerleybc.org/beicio-cymru-cycling-in-wales/). Now a bit about what we did and where we went.
We (that is Tom Vaz, his son Luke and myself) drove upto Wales on a hot sunny Saturday in July. As we were staying B&B at one place, in the centre of Dolgellau (photo above), we had the benefit of not having to carry all our luggage with us on the bikes. We could also take more with us, so we included rucksacks and heavy duty hiking boots so that for a bit of variety we could do some hill walking.
The next day we awoke to sunshine and another hot day. With the benefit of a hearty breakfast we set off on our first bike ride to visit Bala and its lakes and rivers. This was to be an acclimatisation ride as Luke had done hardly any cycling this year. There was little traffic so we stayed on the A494 all the 18 miles to Bala. The A494 is an old Roman road which follows the gentle incline along the valley of the Afon Wnion, much of it thru oak woodland, to its source at Lake Bala. An easy and scenic ride!
The Welsh name for Lake Bala is Llyn Tegid. I have seen various meanings for Llyn Tegid but the one that fits it best, certainly on the day of our visit, is the Lake of Beauty. It is the largest natural lake in Wales (4 miles long) and on this day the calm waters were a deep blue, reflecting the summer sky.
At the north end of the lake there is a large picnic area, also a café, plus plenty of other places in the town to eat/drink. We stopped here to have our packed lunch, provided by our B&B lady, and to watch the various water activities. This lake is a mecca for wind surfing, but on this occasion there was no wind!
Another place to visit, here by the lake, is the local tourist office. They have a leaflet with 6 cycle routes in the Bala area, and leaflets for car rides provide some great longer distance rides. I would certainly like to return to this area for another cycling holiday, based in Bala. For more info on these bike rides and more, see http://www.visitbala.org/downloads
Our next stop, the only real climb of the day, was to the Canolfan Tryweryn, the national white water centre. This lies about 4 miles out of town on the A4212. It is a recommended visit if only to watch the kayaks and white water rafts being manhandled in the churning waters. And it is free to spectate and explore the river scenery!
We spent quite a bit of time here, walking the riverside paths to see the exciting action at various view points. We finished our visit with a cuppa at the centre tea room.
After this visit we headed back to Bala by the way we came. We could have continued along theA4212, up stream to the Llyn Celyn dam. Here the rate of flow of the Afon Tryweryn thru the white water centre can be controlled.
This day ride could have been extended by cycling around Llyn Celyn and back to Bala via country lanes, but on this occasion I wanted follow the River Dee which exits from the north end of Lake Bala.
The B4401 is a very pretty ride with glimpses of the River Dee through the trees and wild rhododendrons which line the road.
The first UK sheep dog trial was held at Bala in 1873 and the tradition continues. In the summer, the local farmers meet one evening a week to train their dogs in a field beside the B4401. A great, free, evening’s entertainment!
We crossed over the River Dee on Llanddefel’s old and many arched bridge and shortly came to a cross roads by the Bryntirion Inn (worth a visit), where, going left we followed this circular route back to Lake Bala.
Continuing the circular theme we took the B4403 which follows the lake shore, opposite to that along the A494. The Bala Lake Railway runs along this side of the lake, and as it was due to depart we watched it from a view point, a road bridge over the track. We noted some bikes in the guards van but we cycled to the train’s destination, Llanuwchllyn, at the other end of the lake. From there it was a short ride back to the A494 and then only about 14 miles back to Dolgellau.
This was a very enjoyable ride of 50+ miles. As it mainly followed river valleys and the lake side shore, it was quite an easy ride. Undulations, yes, but only one steeper climb upto the Canolfan Tryweryn. Lots to see on route, especially at the white water centre.
The route is shown below. To enlarge and/or to get full details follow this link to my route;
Note the lake on the right side edge of the map. That is Lake Vyrnwy, and with over 2,000 feet of climbing it is probably the most demanding bike ride in this area. But it is worth the effort because of the stunning scenery and views.
To really enjoy this whole area of lakes, mountains, and rivers on a bike, get the O.S Landranger map No.125 entitled Bala and Lake Vyrwy.