Monthly Archives: June 2021

Day 16. Friog to Lake Bala. 43km. 380m climbing

We were really well rested  after our stay at Panteinion Hall but our legs were still tired after several stiff days so we planned a shorter half day to Bala. We don’t usually plug specific places on our blog but I would definitely recommend Panteinion Hall. 

Panteinion Hall
The view from Panteinion Hall

The setting was amazing and soaking in the log fired hot tub yesterday evening looking out over the tree-scape of the valley to the sound of the nearby waterfall and birds singing was blissful. It sent every muscle in my body to jelly! The whole place was very comfortable and restful ….but time to move on again!

The first section was along 9 miles of the Mawddach trail – a lovely track along the estuary to Dolgellau.  We stopped to watch herons and passed numerous family cycling groups coming in the opposite direction.  A great place to get your biking legs.

Heron on the estuary

Dolgellau is one of my favourite towns in Wales and well set up for our needs.  It  was busy but not heaving.   We managed to get a patch for the small hole in our flysheet and a new bottle cage to replace David’s split one within the space of a couple of hundred meters, and chatted to the friendly and helpful man who ran Dolgellau Cycles.

The route to Bala was along a main road – never a great prospect but we needed a short route with not too much climbing.  The road was not too busy and the climb was relatively gradual but I was finding it really tough.  My legs were really telling me they had had enough!  However after a rest by a babbling little river and a large handful of jelly beans I revived – mainly because the wind switched from a head wind to a tail wind.

Over the top of the hill and down towards Bala, and we were able to turn off the main road in order to cycle up the quiet side of the lake. Still there were quite a few cars bon this tiny road, but it is half term and sunny so its not surprising that lots of people are out and about.

A tranquil brook on the way between Dolgellau and Bala

We were at the campsite in time for a late lunch.  Pleasantly surprised that the nearest campsite to the town and very close to the lake was a quiet, smallish, grassy simple site – plenty of hot water in the shower a marker for 5 stars in or book.

The aim for the afternoon was to rest and revive our tired legs so we pottered about the campsite then ambled into Bala for an ice cream, which we ate looking at everyone else being very active on the lake – canoes, swimming, windsurfing, paddle boarding and lots and lots of children having a great time in the water.

As we strolled back a couple of runners passed us babbling away in an incomprehensible language.  I commented that I had heard more foreign languages in Bala than anywhere else; until David pointed out that they were speaking Welsh and we were the foreigners here!

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:  www.dyfiospreyproject.com 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.