Day 15: Llanrhystud to Friog: 87km and 1100m of climbing

Prior to today, we had covered 966km so, after 34km today, we got into 4 figures by covering 1000km on this trip.  However, honesty requires me to say that we were totally unaware of this; but we now know that we passed the 1000km mark about 14km outside Machynlleth.  But more of that later.

We had an indifferent, mass produced but filling breakfast at the golf resort – not our type of place really.  However special mention of the smoked bacon that was locally produced and was excellent.

We checked out and got on the road by 8.30am, knowing that our first hill of the day was on the main road to Aberystwyth (we stayed about 9 miles south of the town).  It was not too steep but a shock to the system to have impatient car and van drivers passing us too close.  On minor roads the cars have been great so far but we felt the drag as a few passed too close. Maybe the mentality changes on an “A” road. In contrast, the truck drivers were, as always, patient and gave us plenty of room as they passed with a wave or a toot of the horn.

It was a relief to turn off onto quiet roads even though the gradient was far steeper in places.  We picked up a lovely bike path south of Aberystwyth which had the twin attractions of taking us off the road and by-passing a huge hill.  Thanks to the EU funding which paid for this and the development of other bike paths in Wales.  It will be interesting to see if this funding continues in future years now we are out of the EU.  I would not bet on it. There is something of “What have the Romans ever done for us” in EDRF funding for areas such as Wales and Cornwall, which benefitted so greatly from regional funds and then voted to leave the EU.  But no point crying over illogically spilt milk.

The sea front at Aberystwyth

Aberystwyth was sunny and, as with other UK resorts, is full of young, overweight tourists.  Indeed, seeing very large numbers of significantly overweight British people at the seaside has been a feature of this trip.  It is a public health time bomb which, I suspect, has understandably shifted down the agenda with Covid and the Climate Emergency, but the sunshine brings the problem out for all to see – or possibly for some not to see it because obesity is in danger of being normalised and thus will be unseen in plain sight.  Not that Aberystwyth is any worse than anywhere else – but it has become an undercurrent of our trip around the UK. 

There is a great soul song “The only way is up” which I hummed to myself when leaving Aberystwyth – because the only way out of the town is up. 

Looking down towards Borth

We passed the University where Becky had such a great time and then made our way to Borth.  There is a serious headland between Aberystwyth and Borth – and the descent claimed that the road dropped at 25%.

A road sign to worry any cyclist – thank goodness we were not climbing

Cycling down a really steep road with 4 panniers is no joke and tough on the fingers – brakes on full and the bike still moves forward ever so slightly faster than I would want!  But we got there and saw Borth in all its delight – or lack of it.  A stony beach and lots of cafés doing all you can eat breakfasts.  But it was busy and lots of families were clearly having a good time, with lots of fun and laughter –  laying down great memories for children. 

I recall a friend explaining that Borth was the drugs capital of North Wales, partly because the roads were too steep for the police to drive here, and so a cannabis scene flourished without interference.  We know the distinctive smell of cannabis only too well from living in Kennington – you can get high walking back from the tube station to our flat – but there was no such smell in Borth.  Perhaps the sea breeze takes it away or maybe it is suspended for the summer season.

We stopped, brewed up and watched the golfers on the links course driving their balls into the sea – a wonderful game but it does generate so much frustration.

The wind was against us as we headed up the coast and then turned inland.  There used to be a ferry from the top end of the peninsular to Aberdyfi, but the ferryman gave up years ago.  The lack of a ferry meant we had a 23 mile detour inland to cross the Dovey river near Machynlleth and then back along the north side of the river estuary.  Part was on the main road, so was not great.

Four miles outside Machynlleth we came across the Dyfi Osprey Project.  It was tickets only so we could not go in but the helpful woman on duty (herself a keen cyclist) pointed us to the website – which I strongly recommend: which has live feed of ospreys feeding their chicks.  We did not see it in the flesh, but the live feed is amazing.

Lunch by the river

We lunched by the river just after Machynlleth, and then had a choice as to whether to tackle Happy Valley (where we used to have a holiday cottage, and spent many happy weekends) or brave Aberdyfi on a bank holiday Monday.  Happy Valley got the vote and so we plodded up the valley – pretty slowly as it was steep (extra) climbing and we were still feeling our legs from yesterday. 

Looking back towards Pennal and the climb into Happy Valley

But it was well worth it.  The valley is stunning and we stopped off at our old place – part of a barn conversion that seems to have been improved since we left about 20 years ago.

Remoteness at the top – Aberdyfi is about 3 miles away by crow flying!

We stopped off in Tywyn for supplies and then faced the last few miles along the coast.  By now tiredness was real but the coastal scenery was wonderful and the uphills were thankfully gradually. 

Looking south on the road near Fairbourne
Looking north to the Llin Peninsular

We then swung down the last hill and plodded up to our hotel, Panteinion Hall.  We got a warm welcome from the couple who run this guest house, and quickly relaxed with the wonders of a hot shower.

Another amazing day in the sunshine, great views and lots of revived memories. 

1 thought on “Day 15: Llanrhystud to Friog: 87km and 1100m of climbing

  1. How beautiful – thank you. We don’t know this part of Wales but you are whetting our appetite to visit! Hope your legs are well rested for today

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