51 miles, 3,303 feet of climbing by bike
Cardiff to Bristol / Bath by train
Approx. 50 miles, 2 hours
And so we come to the final day of our (mainly) off-road trip from the north coast to the south coast of Wales. Our fantastic accommodation for the night (possibly topping the Elan Valley Hotel for me) left us nicely rested, if still somewhat weary after 6 days of hard riding and long days. We first pick up the Taff Trail, before heading up into the Brecon Beacons, climbing via the route of the old Brinore Tramroad. Back in the 19th century the tramroad plied limestone from the quarries high up in the hills and sometimes the old stone sleepers can still be seen embedded in the path. Toward the top the riding becomes a bog-jumping extravaganza. I’ve been up here many times before and never known it this wet, which just goes to show what a wet week (early on at least) and winter in general it’s been.
As we crest out on to slopes of Cefn y Ystrad we have fantastic views north and south over the valleys. The descent is a heady mix of swooping, pacey singletrack, and short, tight tecchie climbs. I may have whooped. And then, after a couple of days of holding out, Paul’s tyre blows again. By now we’re down to the laminated menu from our friendly hotel proprietress in the Elan Village and we please ourselves with our initiative. Once again though, we’re delayed in the process and push on to make the 40 miles or so left. We gun it along the cycle track of the Taff Trail. We skirt the large towns of Merthyr Tydfil and Pontypridd and pass some poor areas, decimated by the disappearance of the mining industry in the region.
At one point we have to pull off the path and on to the verge as an unaccompanied and slightly emaciated looking horse trots toward and then past us! Not withstanding accidentally doing two circuits of a local park, plus Paul’s tyre going flat another two times, we finally make it, in the dark, to Cardiff Bay and the sea. It takes an age to weave our way through Cardiff and our meeting with the sea is somewhat anti-climactic since we’re blocked from actually touching the water, perched as we are about 10 vertical feet up on a walkway! Coast-to-coast (almost!). It’s been a stunning week, I’ve had a great companion in Paul and I’ve seen wild, rugged parts of Wales that I never knew existed, and connected with the Wales of childhood holidays and that of my Welsh grandmother and half-Welsh mother. Hwyl fawr am nawr! (thanks also to Steve for the route maps)