Cycling in Beddgelert Forest
Beddgelert forest is a great place for a spin on a mountain bike. The Welsh village of Beddgelert is located in North Wales in the heart of Snowdonia. Snowdon is a few miles to the North East and to the North West of the village is the forest. It's not a huge place. A decent circular route is about 12 miles – or a few miles more when cycling up from Beddgelert – but it's a thrill to ride full pelt from the top to the bottom. First you have to slog your way to the top.
A network of tracks runs throughout the forest and junctions are marked with numbered posts. See the Beddgelert forest map. You work your way up to marker 38 at about 1,450 feet. Beddgelert is quite close to sea level – about 150 feet – so the climb from the village is about 1,300 feet, cycling upwards continuously. The first two photos were taken at marker 37.
I've been cycling in Beddgelert forest for over 20 years, every Easter, and have developed a favourite route which combines as much climbing as possible with exhilarating descents that swoop down gradually back to the village without repeating any tracks. The whole ride takes an hour and a half, maybe. I used to do it on my own before breakfast but now I go mostly with my brother Martin, his partner Deborah, and my sons Robert and Nick. Some years I'm faster than Martin but the past two he's beaten me to the top. My sons, of course, are always faster. My old Peugeot ATB doesn't have suspension, which makes it efficient going uphill but slow going down. Deborah doesn't have suspension either; next year we might both be riding new MTBs with suspension forks.
I'm conscious of the danger in cycling flat out downhill. The tracks are surfaced with slate gravel, often with a grassy strip in the centre and ditches at the side, lined with rocks. They sweep and curve gorgeously down through the conifers and as you crackle along you hear stones thrown up by the front wheel ping against the spokes on the back one. The sound of the wheels on the slate adds to the thrill, I think. Now and then the downward track rises over a brow and you power up for a minute or so before plunging down again, the bike slipping sideways round the curves, stones flying, but you choose your line, switching from side to side to stay on the gravel, occasionally flying over rocky bumps or splashing through pools of mud. Knowing the way means you whizz down 1,000 feet to the bottom of the forest without stopping, and when you get there you smile at the others and say: "Let's do it again!"
The last photo is taken from near the top of Moel Hebog, one of the best walks from Beddgelert. The views from the top are amazing. On one side is the Snowdon range and on the other is a clear view West over the beautiful Lleyn Peninsula stretching all the way to Abersoch and Aberdaron.
On the Forestry Commission's website: mountain bike trails in Wales »