Tour of South Wales – Day Two – July 2021

Brecon to Aberystwyth

After a huge fried breakfast to replace the calories we burned yesterday, we were ready for anything the day could throw at us. Just as well, as the ride began in rain & with a stiff climb straight out the blocks! Leaving town, we picked up the A470, passing through Felinfach towards Llyswen.

Within 30 minutes the rain had passed us by & we were able to store our rain jackets for a bit. As we reached Llyswen, we joined National Cycle Route 8. This took along the side of the heavily forested Wye valley with occasional views of the river way below us. Just as we joined the B4594 we passed the small village of Erwood where the old railway station had been preserved in pristine condition – there was even an old steam train on display.

From Erwood, we followed the contour of the Valley, making short, sharp efforts to climb 150 to 200 feet above the river, only to plummet back towards the valley floor straight afterwards. The constant change in gradient & elevation made it quite hard going, especially with the bike fully loaded. We briefly joined the A481, then the A483 as we continued to track the river Wye north & west, passing the outskirts of Builth Wells & the Royal Welsh Showground.

We were gradually climbing as we picked up the A470 again & continued in a north-westerly direction, passing through Newbridge-on-Usk (although it’s on the Wye!). The rain made one final attempt to dampen our spirits, but after 15 minutes or so, it gave up the ghost for good. In spite of spending time on A roads today, without exception they were fairly quiet & drivers were really considerate of us. It made the day so much more enjoyable.

At Llanwrthwl we turned off the A470 & took a small back lane up & out the Valley, as we headed towards The Elan Valley – the first shock was when the gradient reared up in excess of 15%. Definitely not what the legs needed! We stopped at the Elan Valley visitor centre to recover & enjoy a piece of banoffee pie & a cappuccino before embarking on a wild & wonderful adventure.

In 1893, 100 local people were moved out of their homes, so dams could be built which would provide fresh drinking water to Birmingham via a 73 mile aquaduct – an incredible feat of engineering in its day which today delivers 360 million litres of water per day to Birmingham!!

For the next couple of hours we climbed from the visitor centre past the 6 dams that make up the reservoir system, climbing some 1,000 feet in the process. The scenery & views were stunning as we switched between forest low down, then sheep covered heartland higher up. In places it reminded me of some of the high Alpine lakes I normally visit. If you get the chance, come & see it for yourself.

As we navigated around Craig Goch, the highest of the reservoirs, we assumed we’d pretty much finished the big climbing for the day – we were in for a big surprise!

The Aberystwyth mountain road(National Cycle Route 81) lived up to its name as we continued climbing for another 3 or 4 miles, with some of the gradients over 10%. There was some respite as we reached Cwmystwyth metal mine, as the road descended for a couple of miles down to the village.

Following a recommendation from a Welsh friend (name withheld, but you know who you are), we took a detour to Devil’s Bridge – this meant more climbing, as we had to get across to the next valley. There was a great little photo opportunity at The Arch, before we dropped down to Devil’s Bridge, famous for its waterfall & for having 3 bridges built one on top of the other over time. Another place worth a visit – we only had time to stop for an ice cream, I double scooped with banana split & vanilla with chocolate cookie!

Surely the climbing was all done now…….. well, no it wasn’t! There were big mountains all around us & we still had another 4 or 5 miles of leg sapping climbing to go. The views helped take our minds off how tired our legs were feeling!

As I stopped to get a photo of the river Ystwyth 100’s of feet below, a red kite glided overhead – if you look carefully you may just see it in the 2nd photo below.

This really was the last of the climbing & we just had to freewheel into Aberystwyth & find our hotel. This has been an epic day out exploring the best that Wales has to offer – I really can’t wait to come back & explore some more. Today’s ride from Brecon came in at 71 miles with 4,800 feet of climbing, a big day out with some stunning scenery on show!!

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