- LA MAISON
- LA VIE
Coins Cachés. Pays de Galles
This is a relatively short but surprisingly challenging bikepacking route from a small peninsula in the south of Wales to a similar one in the north, a route that roughly follows the ancient trackway of Sarn Helen taking in many highlights on the way.
Wales is a compact and diverse country, and through this route I hope to help you discover some of its riches yourself. With its wealth of beautiful views and history, tranquil mountains and forests, small and thriving communities, and fantastic tracks and trails, the way across this green and pleasant land isn't always smooth and easy, but it's truly rewarding for the effort you put into it.
There's so much more to see and explore here that I've tried to link together various outdoors exploration hotspots through an adventurous route, while hoping to make it rideable in less than a week and giving you a sense of the wonders of this beautiful part of the world.
You'll certainly be pushing your bike at various points due to the rough rugged terrain and trails, but there's plenty of easier and fun riding in-between as payback for your efforts.
Recommended bike is for the more MTB style, although a suitably robust gravel bike would suffice, although strong and wide tyres are a must as there's plenty of rock strewn trails to contend with. Quality waterproofs are a requisite due to the changeable climate, but with luck the weather will be sunny and you'll have tailwinds all the way. Potentially this could be ridden all year round, but it's best from spring to autumn. There's a few bothies in the central section, and plenty of campsites and other accommodation options along the way. Transport links to the start and finish are easy enough, although you'll need to ride to Worms Head from Swansea or Gowerton station.
The Gower was the first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the UK, and rightly so as it's a wonderful place to spend time and explore. Worms Head is a rocky peninsula accessable by a causeway at low tide and well worth a visit if your timing is right.
The route starts at the end of the dirt road at the cliff edge, and travels around the edge of Rhosilli bay and down on a fantastic trail above the seashore. It's then into a series of short and steep climbs and descents across open grassland, and through secluded valleys. Then over Cefn Bryn, across a golf course, and through Pwll Du cove.
Then it's through the Mumbles and the cycle track past Swansea, before following the Tennant and then Neath canal towpaths, before a steep climb up into the forest in the Neath valley.
The surfaces you'll encounter in this section are diverse, from grass, to mud, to rocks and gravel, and also some paved roads, but mostly is traffic free.
An extended section of forest roads leads through the edge of a quarry then through Walters Arena, an off road test track for car manufacturers, also featured in Top Gear on the BBC.
After a short stretch on minor roads you get to Sarn Helen, a Roman Road that runs off and on all the to the end point in Conwy. There's not that much of it left unpaved, and it's a challenging ride even with big tyres and suspension, but it's truly atmospheric journey on the bits still there.
Often wet and very rocky this extended section takes you into the Brecon Beacons national park on your way to the bustling market town of Brecon. You'll want to stock up with food here as the next place with a sizeable supermarket is Machynlleth, many hills away.
From Brecon is back into the hills in a mixture of quiet lanes and trails before climbing onto the moors on another Roman Road. Then it's into the Halfway and Crychan forests.
Sugar Loaf Halt
Forest roads of all manner are encountered song this section, from smooth and groomed to rough and rocky, but always either climbing or descending. This is the Green Desert of Wales and the Cambrian mountains. A beautiful and empty place, and I've kept the route to the rideable trails through, as there are plenty that you can push your bike for hours on end and never turn a pedal stroke!
A short stint on the Trans Cambrian Way MTB route, several sections of road riding in between nice quiet forestry and great farm tracks, then you go up a long shallow climb up past the Nantymoch reservoir and a beautiful empty valley.
A long descent into the Dyfi valley and Machynlleth, and you're into Snowdonia national park. This is where the mountains get steeper and the country wilder.
You'll definitely be pushing your bike up a few parts of some of the climbs here, but there's not that many options, and the views and solitude make the effort worthwhile.
A final climb through and stunning valley leads to the MTB trail centre of Coed y Brenin. There's loads of different levels of riding here, and on any bike you've ridden this far on you'll be able to tackle the blue trails if you want.
Coed y Brenin
The final section and it's no mean feat to have got this far! The track out of Coed y Brenin turns from forest road to rocky trail, and you're back onto Sarn Helen one again, and as it gets out onto the moors the views are stunning.
A quick trip around a reservoir on a nice series of trails leads to a decommissioned power station, then it's a few kms on the road before a long but paved climb to a slate quarry, before a steep descent through an abandoned quarry and another MTB trail centre, Penmachno.
Through various bits of forest on tracks and trails, with plenty of up and down, and you'll finally drop down to the river Conwy which you'll follow to Llandudno. Then it's a super steep last road climb onto the Great Orme to finish the route at the end of the peninsula.