Snowdon, Lleyn and Lakes (200km) is a hard ride due to all the climbing, but it offers amazing vistas throughout the ride and if you time it right you can watch the sunrise across the sea from the Lleyn peninsula.
Elected Controls: Llanbedrog Service Station, Clynnog Fawr Service Station/ Shop and Cafe, Penygroes Co-op, Beddgratte, Moel Siabod Cafe, Cerrigydrudion Cafe
I decided that I would complete this ride overnight to avoid the heat of the day and to catch the sunrise across the mountains from the peninsula. I undertook an internet search to identify suitable controls during the night stage to ensure I had access to water. I parked in Bala town on the long stay car park (£7.50 for 24hrs) as I thought my car would be safer and it was next to the Co-op for when I returned. (The car park is divided into a) long stay side and b) short stay so make sure you park in the correct area. There are public toilets on the corner of the car park).
The first climb quickly arrives and is a wake-up call; ramps up into the hills reminding me of mountaineering at night, as it felt like I was climbing to the top of the mountain! Unfortunately, it was dark but there must have been excellent views across the mountain range and after crossing the main road at Tan-Y-Bwlch (32km) you would be treated to views of the coast line. The descent down to Garreg signaled the flat lands which take you through Tremadog and onto Llanbedrog and my first control. I was a little surprised by a very steep hill, which narrowed and had a lot of bus caution signs near Tremadog but other than that, this section was fast. Arriving at Llanbedrog 24hr Service Station and off-license (70km) I was not surprised to find it closed. I took five minutes to rest and pushed on for Aberdaron at the end of the peninsula. On the last climb before Aberdaron, (Rhiw Hill) I came to a complete stop (Cat 3, 26.9%). I’m blaming my supersize belly! I took a minute to watch the sunrise across the mountains which was reflecting off the sea – this was one of my ride objectives.
Arriving at Aberdaron in the daytime would be a great place to take in the views with a light lunch but when I arrived it was a ghost town. It felt devoid of life, so I kept moving towards my next control at Clynnog Fawr (127km). The coastal views were pleasant but the climb out of Nefyn was not. However, the increasing wind speed may have tinted my perception. Racing a local bus down the A449 was equally entertaining for the bus driver as it was for me! We exchanged smiles and a wave when he finally overtook me on my approach to the Clynnog Fawr turn off. Arriving at Clynnog Fawr Service Station, Shop and Cafe represented a milestone in my journey as I was over halfway and even more importantly I could get some water. It also represented the transition from the coastal stage to the mountain stage. Pulling on to the forecourt was promising as there were people milling around, setting up for the day. In my best Welsh accent, “Bore da” and the chap looked at me, so I asked ‘Are you open?’ His reply was, “We are closed until 8am but we are open.” I was feeling good so I had a small bottle of blue (whole) milk and a can of fizzy pop with my last sandwich, before pushing on.
The climb out of Clynnog Fawr is a little steeper and longer than I expected, but the views were excellent. Arriving at the Co-op in Penygroes (136km) represented the start of the mountain stage and I was still meeting my time schedule. The first of the three mountain passes is the Drws-Y-Coed pass, took me to the foot of Snowdonia (Rhyd Ddu). This was more of a long run in, a climb in middle and a roll off the top. Even though the pass tops out at 20% (Cat 4) it was a nice climb and the views were excellent.
The descent into Beddgelert was a welcome opportunity to sit back and relax, watching the mountain scenery pass by. The wind which had been terrorising me had finally relented and the fresh morning breeze felt welcoming. Arriving at Beddgelert, I decided not to stop and pushed on to Moel Siabod Cafe as I was feeling strong. Cycling past Watkins Path and car park reminded me of my mountaineering days in my youth. The long approach to the actual Nant Gwynant climb (Cat4) took me past the two lakes and a memory of seal-launching my kayak off one of the rocky outcrops into the lake below- it was a long way down!
Reaching Pen Y Gwryd Hotel at the top of the Nant Gwynant climb, (the junction of Llanberis Pass) I stopped and took a minute watching the many tourists trying to park or deciding what to do next. Back on the bike and pushing for Moel Siabod Cafe, I knew that it was all downhill from here… well mostly. The cafe was full and there was a line of customers waiting to place their orders. I decided if I pushed on to Betws-y-code I would encounter a similar situation, so I took my place in the line to order a fried egg sandwich and a cup of tea. Sitting in the gated area on the side of the build, out of the sun was pleasant and I had the space to myself. The sandwich was just right but a little expensive for my liking.
Leaving Moel Siabod behind and following the river Llugwy, I had to stop to look at Pont Cyfyng falls, which were my first major waterfall during my kayaking years. Cycling through Betws-y-coed was like playing leapfrog as I tried to avoid the cars, tourists and potholes. After the peace and relative quietness of roads, this was a slap to the face. The one thing which struck me, was the number of parents who pushed their prams into the road, forcing the traffic to stop. They were lined up along the payment ready to strike without warning! I did not stop at Pont-y-Pair Bridge and the falls but I smiled as remembered being launched (thrown) off the bridge in my kayak by two friends.
I was looking forward to the A5 climb out of Betws-y-coed following the river Conwy to Pentrefoelas, which I also kayaked many years ago. I last cycled this section back in 2013 when completing the “Fair Few Miles“ challenge. Pentrefoelas to Cerrigydrudion was a fight with the wind, which had come back to remind me that I was at its mercy. I was glad to reach the roadside cafe at Cerrigydrudion, if only to get out of the wind for a few minutes.
Recognising that I was close to the end, I took a few minutes before pushing onto Bala. The last real climb is a few hundred meters after turning off the main road and once you reach the top you are faced with rolling roads and gradual inclines. As I traversed the landscape, I was on the lookout for Bala lake- it was a case of just around the next corner! In no time at all, I was back in the town of Bala and I never saw Bala lake.
For me this ride was a trip down memory lane, visiting new places like the peninsula and reconnecting with old friends. Although some of the climbs are strenuous, I would recommend this ride for the variety of landscapes and mountain passes which you experience along the way. Also, for the most part, the roads are in excellent condition and there was very little debris on the road . I will be going back to complete this ride again soon.