Whilst circular routes certainly have their place, sometimes you want to get on your bike just to end up somewhere else.
Fortunately for us we’re already in one of the most beautiful countries on this planet and we are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing where to go. We’re a stones throw away from a national park and an entire coastline of blue-flag beaches where you’ll find dolphins, seals, red kites and a pace of life vastly different to the barely organised chaos of Cardiff.
If you have looked at our other epic rides and thought to yourself ‘yes, I can do that’, perhaps we can interest you in a spot of adventure? If you have a tent, a sleeping bag or a credit card, a holiday in west Wales is only a 7-hour ride away.
The route we have for you is just under 100 miles and takes in the Penderyn Distillery; some wonderful lanes over the Brecon Beacons; Sennybridge; the wonderful West End Cafe in Llandovery; the excellent Brunant Arms in Caio; the Dolaucothi Gold Mines and the town of Lampeter before finally ending up in New Quay.
The route can be broken up into a few distinct stretches, so for the purposes of this article we’ll tackle each stretch in turn.
Cardiff to Aberdare
The route starts in Tongwynlais, where many of our routes begin. If provides an opportunity to either take the Taff Trail to Pontypridd, or stick to the roads. Our route uses the Taff Trail and the Cynon Trail, but you can use the roads, if you prefer. We headed up through Treforest Estate, Cilfynydd and then onto New Road from Abercynon. Continue up the valley towards Hirwaun before taking the A4059 towards Pontbren Llwyd.
The ride to Aberdare on the roads is not particularly exciting nor enjoyable, so perhaps the off-road alternative would be better anyway. The only downside is that it won’t be as well signposted, there may be more glass and it’ll probably take a little longer. The choice is yours!
Hirwaun to Sennybridge
The first stretch would have been mostly punctuated by busy roads, but from now on things get a lot less stressful and achingly beautiful.
Once you have made it onto the A4059 as mentioned above stay on this road until you have passed the Penderyn Whiskey distillery and keep an eye out for a lane signposted for Ystradfellte.
You can either head through Ystradfellte or continue along this lane –both lead to Aber-llia anyway. This is where things start to get a little lumpy, with our first major climb of the day. You’ve been heading steadily skyward from the 10Km mark, but things start to ramp up at around 29Km and peak at the 51Km mark. This is actually the infamous Devil’s Elbow you are climbing, but from the other side. You’ll be pleased to note that it’s nowhere near as formidable from this side…
Altitude aside, the scenery around here is breathtaking and the lane is likely to be completely deserted. Enjoy it!
Safety note: There were loose sheep grazing everywhere when we took this route. Our friend David kindly shared a story of a rider who suffered a few broken ribs when a spooked sheep ran in front of him. Please take care on the way down.
When you come down the other side you’ll follow some more lanes through Heol Senni and Defynnog before reaching Sennybridge. There’s a couple of shops here, but not much. Take a left head along the A40 through Trecastle and Halfway and stay on the A40 until you reach Llandovery.
Sennybridge to Llandovery
The A40 brings you right through the centre of Llandovery. As the road bends around to the right you’ll see the West End Cafe on the corner. There’s outdoor seating out front, but also a yard around the corner that you can bring your bike into.
One of the things we’ve learned from doing a number of really big rides is that food & hydration fixes nearly everything. We often mistake fatigue and a lack of fitness for what is simply the body crying out for resources. A good feast at the West End Café provided ample fuel for the next few hours, not to mention a chance to sit down and talk with our riding buddies.
The all-day breakfast here is great; the staff are lovely and will happily re-fill your water bottles too. Rest your weary legs for a while and fill up on food. You’ve earned it.
When you have finished here, stay on the A40 over the level crossing and the Towy River bridge. Take the next right after the bridge and settle in for another extended spell on another pretty country lane.
Llandovery to Lampeter
A few Kilometres down this country lane –actually at the 93Km mark there’s a right turn onto another lane, just before you reach the A482. Stay on this lane until you reach Caio. You’ll find the Brunant Arms on the corner, which is well worth a stop. They have an open fire here that is lit from the Autumn onwards.
Head down the hill from the Brunant Arms and continue along the road past the gold mines and into Pumsaint. You should be on the A462 at this point, which you can now follow all the way to Lampeter.
This particular road does ‘undulate’ somewhat (that’s a nice way of saying energy-sapping climbs and descents), but the last descent into Cwmann and Lampeter is one to savour. It’s not particularly fast, but it goes on for a while and gives you chance to rest the legs for a bit.
Lampeter to Rhydowen
Take the A475 out of Lampeter and buckle up for some more climbing. There’s a couple of insidious climbs here heading towards Rhydowen and again out of Pontsian but then it is mostly downhill to Synod Inn.
Rhydowen to Synod Inn
As mentioned above, there’s a climb from Pontsian that goes on for about 5Km. It’s only about 150m though, so by no means the worst you’ll have seen today. After that there’s the inevitable descent that’ll take you right to Synod Inn.
The main road up the coast is the A487 and Synod Inn is on the A487. So, if you plan to go anywhere else, this could be where we leave you. From here you can take a left to head for Llangrannog or right to Aberaeron. However, if you plan to go to New Quay…
You’ll be pleased to know that New Quay is literally all down hill from here. Head straight over the A487 towards Cross Inn and just let gravity take over.
What to do here…
West Wales is a veritable smorgasbord of country lanes and hills. Why it isn’t swarming with cyclists we don’t know. Maybe it is and they’re just lost somewhere…
Aside from that, there are many camp sites to be found around here; many caravan parks and B&Bs. Stay a while, enjoy some fish & chips at the Lime Crab in New Quay; go dolphin watching or visit the villages up & down the coast. There’s a tremendous ice cream shop on Llangrannog beach that is also worth a visit.
On a clear day from New Quay’s harbour wall you can see a long way along the coast. Perhaps you could continue your trip north into the Coed-y-Brenin Forest Park and beyond? If you thought the ride up was pretty, ‘you ain’t seen nothing yet…’