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Wales that's famous for its rugged coastline, three mountainous national parks, distinctive language, and Celtic culture. But it offers so much more than that, as you will discover on this small group guided cycling tour. Aimed at the leisure cyclist, much of the cycling on this holiday is traffic-free, using old railway lines with gentle gradients on the whole, and features relatively short distances each day. With van support for the entire trip, routes have been carefully planned to start at altitude and run downhill and so there are remarkably few hills to pedal up, given the terrain. With your driver-guide at the helm, this is a wonderful way to explore Wales.
You will be accommodated in small characterful hotels set in the towns and one country hotel.
The itinerary includes cycling in the Brecon Beacons; the Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion coasts; the valleys of the Wye, Yswyth, Teifi, and Mawddach Rivers; and the Cambrian Mountains, which means a great variety of landscapes of sea and mountains, peaks and beaches, estuaries and forests. Spot wildlife in abundance, discover age-old traditions in the slate and woolen industries and visit castles famous and derelict. You can also Relive a Welsh poet’s love affair with the landscape, travel along an astonishing canal, witness beauty beyond measure and relish a dramatic rack-and-pinion train ride to the summit of Mount Snowdon. You could go on. It's a real Welsh adventure!
Brecon is a market town with a cathedral in the heart of the Brecon Beacons. At 16:30, you will meet at Brecon Canal Basin for a welcome tea and short cruise on board the narrow boat Dragon Fly along the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal, taking in a lock and the aqueduct over the River Usk. The tea will include traditional Welsh fares such as Welsh bread 'Bara Brith' and Welsh cakes. Your overnight stay for the next three nights will be in Brecon.
Today begins with a transfer to Pontsticill. From here, you cycle along a route that is mostly either flat or downhill to Brecon, spanning the north and south boundaries of the Brecon Beacons National Park. It's a dramatic start to the tour with stunning views, forests, and a chance to ride along the shores of several reservoirs. The route also takes in Pencelli and the scenic Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal.
This morning begins again with a transfer, this time to Builth Wells, a lively agricultural town on the banks of the River Wye and home to the Royal Welsh Show. From here, you ride downstream to Hay on Wye, following the spectacular River Wye all the way on an old railway line. You'll stop for a coffee at the old station as well as a packed lunch and there's plenty of time to enjoy both nature and culture. This area is known for its variety of wildflowers. Hay on Wye, with its big castle, also beckons. Famous as a book town, it features over 30 bookshops. That's a lot of browsing!
Today, you transfer to Laugharne (one and a half hours). This is a small town on the south Pemrokeshire coast estuary of the River Taff. Dylan Thomas lived here for a number of years. He rented The Boathouse on the estuary and used its garage as a place to write. You'll do the ‘birthday walk’ along the estuary shoreline, which includes a visit to The Boathouse. This is a walk Dylan loved and wrote about on his birthday in 1944 when he penned ‘Poem in October’. Plaques along the walk recount the verses. The walk was originally created in the mid-19th Century to give town folks access to the cockle beds on the marshes. The walk also leads past the derelict but imposing Laugharne Castle. You'll hop in the van once again (for ten minutes) to the start of the first cycle ride for the day.
You'll be pedaling along the scenic Welsh coast to Amroth and Saundersfoot. Part of the route uses the idyllic old tramway line at Saundersfoot. You'll have lunch in the town and then take a short transfer to the start of the second ride which leads downhill through Tenby. This characterful port and bustling town boasts a number of sandy beaches. The route leads all the way to the hotel in the countryside outside Tenby.
This morning features a visit to the woolen mill at Solva (just an hour on the road from the hotel). This is the oldest working woolen mill in Pembrokeshire as it has been operating since 1907. In the mill, you can watch the looms operating which today produce rugs and runners, some of the textiles which Wales became famous for. This family-run business has an adjacent shop where you can buy their product.
From here, hop aboard your saddle and you'll be pedaling to St. Davids. This is the smallest city in the UK but is really a vibrant village with an astounding 12th Century cathedral. After lunch in town, you'll pedal on to the nearby coast at St Justinian. From here, you take a one-hour boat trip around dramatic Ramsey island, half a mile offshore. The island is a protected nature reserve with awesome cliffs, grey seal colonies, and an abundance of wildlife.
Back on dry land, you will transfer north to the Teifi Valley (one hour) and ride a route that follows the Teifi River, in part on an old railway line to the mouth of the river at Cardigan on the Ceredigion coast. Situated on the west coast of Pembrokeshire, it's a small sleepy town with a growing alternative arts and crafts scene set amongst its jumble of historical architecture. Over dinner, you'll be treated to a performance by a small male choral group.
Today, you transfer to Craig Goch reservoir (1.75 hours) for a thrilling ride to Aberystwyth, through the awesome Cambrian Mountains and following the River Yswyth downstream from its mountain source. Part road and part old railway line, this is a remarkable cycle through unpopulated mountains, then sheep-clad hills and forests, and past villages and inns.
Aberystwyth is a university town on the west coast of Wales and where you will stop for the evening.
Today, you transfer to Ganllwyd in Snowdonia National Park (one hour) and then cycle downstream in the highly scenic Mawddach valley to Dolgellau. From here, it's a traffic-free pedal on an old railway line along the Mawddach estuary to Barmouth, where you'll stop for lunch.
After lunch, you'll transfer to Llechwedd Slate Caverns, Blaenau Ffestiniog (45 minutes). Here you can take an underground guided walk or train ride into the slate caverns, areas of which are still being worked. Explore the Victorian village, slate workshop, sweet shop, and sup the local ale at The Miner’s Arms Shortstop in Portmeirion. This is an Italianate village designed by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975 and famous as the setting for ‘The Prisoner’. At the end of the day, you'll transfer to the overnight stay in Portmadog (20 minutes).
You begin with a transfer to Bryncir (ten minutes). Enjoy a traffic-free ride downhill to Caernarfon, following the Welsh Highland railway line with great views to the coast and Menai Straits. Upon arrival, you'll take a guided tour of Caernarfon Castle, which dates back to the 12th Century and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Lunch will be in Caernarfon and you will then transfer to Llanberis (15 minutes).
It's then a return home via the Snowdon Mountain railway to the summit of Snowdon (1085 meters) with viaducts, waterfalls and gorges in view. Stay overnight in Portmadog and depart the following morning - or depart at your leisure this evening.
The cycling holiday in Wales covers three of the country's national parks: the Brecon Beacons, Snowdonia, and the Pembrokeshire Coast. There's also a chance to explore the Ceredigion Coast, and the valleys of the Wye, Yswyth, Teifi and Mawddach rivers. Wales is also a place of fascinating culture and heritage, and some key places of interest feature en route: the National Woollen Museum, Dylan Thomas' writing shed, the Italianate village of Portmeirion, Llechwedd Slate Caverns, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Caernarfon Castle, and the town which is home to the world-famous literary festival: Hay-on-Wye.
In the UK, all breakfasts are served cooked.