Cycling in Wales – Must Visit Cycling Spots
Wales, the second smallest country in the UK houses some incredible cycling routes. With 3 national parks, 5 areas of outstanding natural beauty and a coastal path that stretches from Chepstow to Queensferry cyclists are awash with choice from this exciting Nation.
The popular travel guide series, Lonely Planet even voted the Wales Coastal Path as the number 1, must visit destination for 2012, in the world, following on from Pembrokeshire Coast Path being awarded the title of the second best coastal path in the world by National Geographic Magazine in 2011. With a total of around 78% of the total land within Wales being used for farming and agriculture, and a general mountainous geography, there’s a lot Wales has to offer the cyclist!
Brecon Beacons National Park
Vast open forests, steep downhill descents and challenging uphill leg breakers. The Brecon Beacon’s is the undisputed home of cycling in Wales. Whether you’re after intense trails, or slower, scenic rides the Brecon Beacons is as diverse as it is mountainous and with a network of set hub’s to begin each ride, and 14 set trails to tease your wheels it’s certainly one of the premier cycling destinations in the UK.
Colour coded trails categorised into effort/skill levels allow riders of any experience and any fitness level to easily decide which trail best suits their ability. Starting with yellow, at the easiest grade, this ride hosts a trail of around 8km long across flat ground along paths at least 6 foot across. From there it’s onward to green, blue and red where the trails get longer and more challenging. The list culminates with the black route.
This killer black route is certainly not for the faint hearted with over 50km of challenging terrain and even some sections of the trail completely un-rideable for the inexperienced. For those looking for a cycling experience taking you across town and country though, consider the Taff Trail. This route takes you from the centre of Brecon town, through the Brecon Beacons National Park and down to the bay at Wales’s capital city Cardiff. Over 50 miles showcasing some of Wales’ best rural and urban scenery, you can join the Taff Trail at the annual fundraiser races or take a leisurely ride that can be adjusted to suit all riders. For more information visit breconbeacons.org.
Cwmcarn Scenic Drive
Nestled almost at the heart of industrial South Wales this scenic surprise juts out from the beautiful valley town of Cwmcarn near Newport. A seamless ride up unforgiving hills and down intense tracks; views of the River Severn, The Severn Bridge, Newport and the beautiful South Wales valleys reward the tenacious cyclist. Formerly the heart of the coal mining industry, this trail is now a haven for local intrepid cyclists and hikers alike.
Tarmacked road winds around the trail so depending on how confident you are in your own fitness levels, park where you wish and let the fun begin. Or, for the brave start from the bottom and face the challenge of the trail head on, winding your way upwards to the bounty atop in the form of ‘the tump’, the locally named hill rising from the top of Mt. Twmbarlwm.
However, that’s not all Cwmcarn has to offer. Cwmdown is the UK’s only uplift service operating all year round giving riders the chance to attack the downhill excitement that has made Cwmcarn a must visit destination for mountain bikers head on up to fifteen times a day! Much like the Beacons, riders can choose from the red run, or the tougher black run, both providing thrilling descents though the black route is recommended again for the more experienced due to narrow tracks and aggressive drops.
Cwmcarn Forest Drive houses excellent rides, suitable for people of all ages and all skill levels, but be warned, for those seeking a more difficult ride, Cwmcarn Forest Drive separates the men from the boys!
Next we head north to Snowdonia National Park and the purpose built cycling compound of Coed-Y-Brenin. This forest is the first of its kind, being specially developed for the sport of mountain biking.
The visitor centre offers hot drinks, good food and expert knowledge on cycling in the area, with bike renting facilities if you’re unable to take your own. The medley of trials and tracks will have any rider grinning from ear to ear, from purpose built drops and jumps to naturally adapted turns and drops.
The area hosts a stunning backdrop of waterfalls, rivers, imposing lakes, breath-taking mountains and deep valleys, offering riders the perfect breathing space to run wild on the bike and push themselves to limits as striking as the landscape. Riders can easily spend all day cycling around the area, or turn your visit into a short break and indulge in the endless trails for several days.
The purpose built, all weather tracks such as the newly refurbished Falseteeth give the rider a medley of excitement including the biggest feature of the forest. The twist and turns of the track wind ever downward toward ‘The Cavity’, a large drop that will reward the courageous with some incredible air!
Pembrokeshire Coast National Park
A true hit of fresh air. The trails winding their way around the Pembrokeshire coast can be as tough as you make them, and with views as majestic as those over the national park; even the most eager cyclist will be compelled to take at least a few rest stops to marvel at their beauty. Enterprising cyclists can plan their own route along quiet byways, hugging the coast or battling the twists, turns and drops of the trails inland.
Pembrokeshire National Park offers riders the chance to vary their view with every shift of the gear. From quiet, secluded coves to roving hills and open expanses that will take your breath away, the scenery encourages cyclists to pedal harder in anticipation for what will meet them round the next bend!
Wales is a small country with a large character. With so many open spaces and so many glorious mountains it truly is the cyclist’s playground. Just take your bike out anywhere in the country and you will find superb cycling trails and amazing views that rival cycling anywhere else in the world.