3-valley bike ride round Snowdon

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A498: Llyn Gwynant on the banks of Snowdon

Nant Gwynant, Nant Peris, Nant y Betws. I don't know if they are official names for the three valleys surrounding the Snowdon Massif in North Wales but they are written large on my OS Explorer map of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon's Welsh name). Nant means stream, small river, or small valley. Llyn is Welsh for lake and Bryn means hill or mound. Anyway, the '3 valleys' route, as I've dubbed it, is a lovely 30-mile bicycle ride in the gorgeous landscape of Snowdonia: Bryn Dinas, Bryn Gwynant, Llyn Gwynant, ROMAN CAMP, Pen-y-Pas, Gwastadnant, Llyn Peris, Llanberis, Bryn Bras Castle, Ceunant, Wawnfawr, Betws Garmon, Llyn Cwellyn, Rhyd-Ddu, starting and finishing at the village of Beddgelert via the A498, A4086, and A4085.

Apart from Roman Camp, those are the names of some of the places along the route, cycling anti-clockwise. Incidentally it wasn't just the Romans who were in Snowdonia. King Arthur was there too. Actually, the Romans were there but Arthur wasn't. Read why King Arthur, Guinevere, and Sir Lancelot didn't exist. Or the legend of the famous dog that gave Beddgelert village its name and a well-known brand of outdoor equipment.

There are plenty of outdoor equipment shops in Snowdonia. It is one of the best walking and climbing areas in Britain. That is the reason we go there each Spring but of course as well as my Leki stick I take my bike. A few photos from cycling the '3 valleys' last Thursday:

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A498: the Snowdon 'horseshoe' from below the Roman Camp

Starting from Beddgelert you cycle up to the Roman Camp along Llyn Dinas and Llyn Gwynant (lakes) then up a long steady climb with superb views of Snowdon. There is nothing left of the 'camp' but I've wondered whether ancient Romans ever walked up to the summit of Snowdon. No reason why not, as at this point you are already half way up (and they had already walked here from Rome).

upwards

A498: Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach

Above: the road from the Roman Camp (where the A498 joins the A4086) up to Pen-y-pass traverses the photo from right to left. From Pen-y-pass you cycle down Llanberis Pass to Llanberis and take Goodman Street leading to Ffordd Clegir, a narrow road that skirts around Cefn-du (hill) and down to Waunfawr via Ford Bryngwyn (road). Then left at the A4085 to Beddgelert.

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A4086: down Llanberis Pass from Pen-y-pass

The Snowdon Massif is on the left, as it always is on this anti-clockwise route. It can be cycled the other way of course, and the thrilling descent from Pen-y-pass back to Beddgelert is more fun the the descent down Llanberis Pass, but overall I prefer this way around.

llanberis-pass

Ffordd Clegir (road): looking back at Llanberis Pass from Gallt-y-celyn

Quintessential North Wales and utterly beautiful. A huge slate quarry still exists on the side of the mountain (left side of photo) and the Snowdon Mountain Railway is visible snaking up the mountain to the right.

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A4085: looking back towards Rhyd-Ddu village, Mynydd Mawr in shadow

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A4085: towards Beddgelert

The run back to Beddgelert along the Caernarfon road completes a round trip of just 30 miles. Alongside this road is the restored narrow-gauge Welsh Highland Railway. From Beddgelert the railway goes through Aberglaslyn Pass and on to the coast at Porthmadog where it connects with the Ffestiniog Railway.

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Click picture to enlarge (is Google Earth incredible, or just amazing?)

This part of Wales, and Snowdonia especially, is not really cycling country. With a few exceptions you cannot lose yourself for hours in quiet country lanes, as you can further south. Beddgelert Forest is perfect for cycling off-road for an hour or two but this is mainly a region for hill walking or climbing. Photos from last week:

Nantlle RidgeBeddgelert Forest
On Cefn-duOn Moel Siabod

Click to view on Flickr

8 comments on “3-valley bike ride round Snowdon”

  1. Kern wrote:

    I had heard that Wales is hilly and your photos confirm the fact, Patrick. Not only hilly but high – there's still snow on Moel Siabod for heaven's sake! It looks like a grand route through a land of unpronounceable villages.

  2. Ian wrote:

    Oh this brings back memories! When I was a Venture Scout in 19frozentodeath we had a loft at Craflwyn Hall http://www.craflwyn.org/iaith/saesneg/Introduction and spent many happy holidays in and around the area. I recall -12 degrees one January as we fixed the roof on our loft and quite a few years later, a small earthquake. I remember commenting to my then girlfriend about this!

    Later on in the year it does get very busy there so I reckon early spring with its clear roads is a great time to visit and to ride. I can concur too that the run back down the A498 is brilliant. I seem to recall an alternative route that runs nearer the river back to Beddgelert, might be one to try on a Mountain Bike.

  3. Hilary wrote:

    Lovely photos Patrick (as usual!). I don't normally think of Snowdonia as cycling country but that looks a great route. I haven't been there for years but I did a lot of hill walking there as a student and childhood holidays were always spent in North Wales. I'm certainly familiar with the Festiniog and Talyllyn railways as my dad was a train buff. We never went on the Snowdon Mountain Railway though – that wasn't a 'proper' one!

  4. Patrick wrote:

    Thanks Hilary. The mountain railway is a bit different (rack and pinion) but they do run steam locomotives still. The engine always pushes the carriage, which is not actually fastened to it. One of my sons cycled up Snowdon a couple of years ago, starting at Llanberis and down the other side. He got a round of applause on top.

    As Ian says, there is an alternative route down alongside the A498 but I think it ends part way on the hill and doesn't run to the river. Some kind of farm track. And yes, snow on the tops this Easter. The weather came from the north, which means Iceland or Norway. Cold anyway!

    Incidentally, I can see Snowdon from my house in England (on a clear day). View of Snowdon from Winter Hill, near my house – 80 miles away in a straight line. Moel Siabod is the lone pointed peak to the left of the range.

  5. Super shots. Refreshing to see the old bicycle taking precidence in a Snowdonia shot! Many of the UK regions has so much to offer the outdoor enthusiast and none more so than Snowdonia I agree. Considering its widely recognized mountainous terrain along with a stunningly beautiful coastline it takes some beating I'd say-but then I would wouldn't I? :) The link to facebook on our little site above features an image of my own personal favorite local cycle route which depicts both of these elements.

  6. Mary wrote:

    Really enjoyed this Patrick. What superb views! Can I ask.... why is the area not considered 'cycling country'? Is it because its hilly, or is it because the roads are perhaps narrow, and therefore busy with traffic?

    Wales isnt far from the Liverpool ferry, and I have always wondered about going there, but I used to work in North Wales LONG before I ever cycled anywhere, and the roads were narrow and fast and busy, so perhaps nothing has changed there in the traffic department at least.

    I have considered cycling round the coast of Wales, but that is for the future at some point.

    LOVE your photographs. And your bike looks arty! How do you do it? Enid had one taken similar to this, and Shedman wondered 'Why did you dump the bike like that?' when he saw the picture, so I didnt dare put it on here! :)

  7. Patrick wrote:

    LOL – you need to get down to bike level to take the photo.

    I'm sure there's good cycling in Wales but Snowdonia tends to be mountains and valleys and the roads in the valleys are busier and faster than those in, say, the Yorkshire Dales. Fewer roads to choose from I suppose. For example the only road from Beddgelert to Portmadoc is narrow and fast between stone walls. Unsafe for bikes I reckon.

    The ride round Snowdon is fine on weekdays out of season (pics of A4085 above).

  8. Chris wrote:

    Nice photographs, Patrick, as always. Very painterly compositions. I like the view along the A road. The view, not the idea of riding on it 😮

    More so than the Yorkshire Dales (and the Lake District) this area is great to look at, but the scarcity of roads will make it a bit too busy for road cyclists at peak times as you suggest. Outstanding views and walking areas no doubt. Maybe take the bike for one day's cycling on what is otherwise a walking holiday.

    I first went to that part of Wales on a school trip. Fond memories, and the Beddgelert story has stayed with me. Did we really visit the dog's grave, or was that some imagined memory?

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