A Mini Welsh Adventure
I have relatives in North Wales. As often as I can, I take my bike up for a visit. Once I would strap my mountain bike to the car. Nowadays it is the gravel bike. On our last visit we were “house sitting” so I had to ride without my brother in law’s local knowledge. I had a rough idea of where I wanted to go. It was just a case of joining the dots and getting out there. What started out as a mini Welsh Adventure, ended up being called my Trevor Loop.
The plan that evolved was to ride a loop from Garth, taking in Horseshoe Pass and finishing with Telegraph Hill. The ride proper, would start in Pen Y Gaer Road. This had the advantage that I would start half way up the mountain. Is it a mountain? It certainly feels like one to me! At least my cold legs would have a chance to warm up before joining the fray.
I wanted to get up to Panorama, down past Dinas Bran into Llangollen. Up Horseshoe Pass, down a long, gravel descent and along the river until it turned into the canal. I would finish up by climbing Telegraph Hill to Prospect Tea Room, then back down to the start.
I had no idea how long the ride would be, and I still don’t. If my Garmin 810 can be trusted to do one thing, it is to lose data on the rides I want to keep the most. True to form, it lost a chunk of miles at the beginning. My estimate is the ride would be about 30 to 40 miles.
Living in Suffolk, I don’t get much climbing practice. I am more of an ‘autobus’ climber than a mountain goat. My climbing skills are conspicuous by their absence, so this was going to be a big day for me.
An early and somewhat misty start saw me drive out to Garth. Once out of the car, I climbed slowly up Pen Y Gaer Road towards Panorama. The roads are narrow and rough, typical country lanes in fact. The ‘easy’ start proved not to be. I was soon out of the saddle, in the little ring as I passed the farmhouse.
There is a kick in the road that I don’t really notice when walking. But on a bike!
The views from Panorama Walk were shrouded by early morning wisps so I span merrily along, dodging sheep and their gently steaming visiting cards.
At Dinas Bran I was due to take a left turn. If you get the opportunity to visit Dinas Bran, then take it. What a spectacular folly. Building a castle on a steep hill makes good defensive sense but what about water, food supplies? Anyway, it is a stiff clamber to the top where the views from the ruins are truly awesome. We have taken many picnics up there on balmy summer evenings. It is well worth the climb. Just remember the old adage of “leave no trace” and take your litter home with you.
Leaving Dinas Bran behind, I repeated the narrow lane experience but this time I was headed downhill. Fast in places, ballistic in others, I flew past Wern Isaf Farm. Then to Wern Isaf Road and onto the A542 and headed towards Horseshoe Pass.
The Climbing – oh dear!
My mistake was to expect to ride up to Horseshoe Pass in a controlled but reasonably powerful manner. I was not on a road bike this time. My tyre pressures more suited to rough, gravel surfaces. WTB Nanos with 25psi are not conducive to climbing on tarmac. I was always going to struggle but this just killed me. I have been up there faster on a mountain bike! The climb to Horseshoe Pass is deceptive and will catch you out if unprepared or like me, overconfident.
Crest the climb and on the left is a narrow, gravel track. Loose in places, occasionally steep, with one unexpected switchback half way down, it is a real hoot. Fast, sketchy and pure fun. This time the low tyre pressures were perfect. I had grip to spare but still managed to drift round some of the bends. Alas, it was all over far too soon and I made my way onto the A5104. A short spin along here and off onto a minor road along the River Dee. It was idyllic…I could have been in a Welsh Tourist Board film.
And so to the Canal
The road was lumpy, as in rolling. Once again, soft tyres made me gasp. I was on the verge of giving up to grab the pump when my next turn came up. The river seemed to morph into the Shropshire Union Canal (my memory is a bit hazy here) and I had a most enjoyable tow path ride. There were but a handful of dog walkers and runners to share the trail with. Where possible, I put the hammer down. Always mindful of the final climb however, I held a bit back.
At Trevor Canal Basin I rejoined the tarmac. There are basic refreshments available. If you have time, walk along the Pontcycyllte Aquaduct. Stunning!
The Final Climb
From Station Road I joined the A539 for a few minutes before turning onto Telegraph Road. The last big climb of the day. By now it was warming up and I was overdressed. Despite this, with sweat streaming into my eyes, I headed up. I have always fancied this climb and have driven up it many times, planning my strategy. It is fair to say, it was nowhere near as bad as I had anticipated. Yes it had me working hard and my “Yorkshire Gear” was well and truly engaged. But it didn’t kill me. I was able to crank my way up to the junction on what I assume is still Garth Road. A quick right turn and on up towards Prospect Tea Rooms. I didn’t stop as I was nearly back at the car. If you chose to pop in for a cuppa, be aware there is still a steep pull up to the car park.
Far too soon it was all over. I rolled down and back into Garth. What a ride. I plan to repeat it next time we go up. But there again, there is that road I have been sizing up, somewhere near Bala. Then there’s that other one I spotted last time…
I hate Wales. Everywhere you look there are roads to ride, views to savour and yet, you know that you are never going to have the time to ride them all. Tell you what though, I’m going to have a damned good try! If you want a tasty opener, I recommend the Trevor Loop.
Last modified: 14th February 2018