Day 2 started well. Fantastic fried breakfast provided by the hostel, and the weather was warm and overcast but not wet. Starting off from the Cwm Pennant hostel was a great way to start cycling for the day. It’s nestled in the foothills and the surrounding countryside and views are really quite beautiful. Apart from the fact that I missed a turning halfway down a steep hill and had to cycle back to it, this was pretty much a prefect start to the day.
From the hostel you drop down to Porthmadog. There’s a small section of the route that’s marked as not suitable for road bikes, apart from having no maintenance on the verges, it was basically fine, just gravel. Given that they’d obviously recently surface dressed the lane before this section there wasn’t much difference!
Porthmadog is ok, not the prettiest towns, but you do get to see small steam trains regularly. Which is nice.
From there the route goes winding around a few back lanes before joining the new road over the estuary at Penrhyndeudraeth (and yes I copied that from Google rather than remember how to spell that!) Its not really an iconic route but it does get you over and on a reasonably wide offroad path next to the new road.
From here the Lon Las Cymru goes meandering off over hills and up hills and all over the place. I followed the old A road into Harlech. At some point this turns into a B road, and takes you up a very lovely wooded route into the town. I probably saw half a dozen cars along the whole stretch. You also get a great view of the castle as you go into the town.
The sun had come out whilst I was looking around the castle, and the road to Barmouth is straight, next to the sea, and gives brilliant views along the whole route. Again Sustrans in their infinite wisdom try and route you off the A road up some small lanes. I didn’t bother. If you do this route, I wouldn’t bother either.
At Barmouth you get sent on to the sea front promenade. The wind was impressive, and there’s lots of sand, but no people whatsoever when I did it. Must have been because it was a Tuesday morning, I can imagine the whole place is heaving on the weekends. The main attraction for me though was the rail and foot bridge across the estuary mouth. This is a Victorian bridge, replete with wooden flooring and cast iron struts. It’s a thing of beauty and worth cycling to Barmouth just to see it. I cannot believe that the local council was thinking of closing it down.
After the bridge you follow the Mawddach Trail into Dolgellau. Its your standard Sustrans rail trail fare with gravel surface, with the added benefit of amazing views. Usually on rail trails in the UK you seem to be stuck in either woods, or a cutting, and cant see much. Here this is not a problem.
Dolgellau, apart from trying to charge 20p to have a wee, has the dubious pleasure of being the start of the days climbing. From here I planned to climb up over the shoulder of Cadair Idris and dropping down through Aberllefenni and down the river valley to Machynlleth. Off I headed out of Dolgellau, the road immediately pointed upwards. Very low gears helped here. What did not was the rear puncture I got. Half way up the climb you take a bit of a dip down to the main road through a little bit of park land, all very nice and a great place to stop and change a tyre. I did not do this. I pumped it up and tried to continue. This mean I changed my tyre in a gateway on the main A road, before starting the second section of the climb. Good planning there!
Anyway, the second section of the climb is a bit steeper but doable. I also got the added benefit of seeng a number of RAF jets flying very low overhead. The noise of a Tornado passing 50 metres above you is certainly something that gives you a jolt!
After going over the top it was just a matter of coasting down (though the very top was “surface dressed” so I walked down it, it was that steep) all the way to Machynlleth. Well mostly. There were a few sections of pedalling, but not much!
You cross into Machynlleth over the Millennium bridge, built unsurprisingly in 2001… Given the quantity of cow shit on the path, this is used more cows than cyclists. Its very nice though, so worth dodging the pats. From the it was into town to the Maenllwyd Guest House where I had a very nice stay, even if the proprietor was trying to hide a smile every time I tried to pronounce a local place name 😉