"This feels to be the nearest it is possible to cycle in a wilderness in the British Isles" commented Gareth as we neared the summit of a pass in the Cambrian Mountains. Gareth is my nephew and had joined me on a 185 mile ride across Wales. We were on a mountain road looking down across wide open moors towards an upland stream sometimes meandering and at others gathering pace from its source while picking up tributaries as it went. The sun was shining and there were very few cars. It felt glorious to me too.
We were cycling two "Challenge" routes on the National Cycle Network starting at Shrewsbury and finishing at Fishguard. The NCN as it is known always delights in its choices of routes and keeps cyclists away from busy main roads. "Challenge" routes take you into the hills. Possibly the best known is the C2C from Whitehaven to Tynemouth. Having cycled most of them, Lon Cambria and Lon Teifi are up there with the best and what is more you discover many of Wales unspoilt villages and occasionally a town.
We met at Shrewsbury train station and immediately saw many people on bikes. We start by following Lon Cambria (NCN81) through delightful Shropshire countryside to the Welsh border where we met the first serious hill. Our first break was at a pub in Crewgreen and here the Welsh/English border was so wobbly that whoever decided the border must have been drunk. In fact we entered Wales twice over a space of 5 miles. NCN81 took us into Welshpool where our map told us to join the Montgomery Greenway, a canal path whereas, confusingly, the signs and on-line mapping said to cycle into the hills. We joined the Greenway which took us to Newtown. The Greenway will make an excellent family trail but unfortunately the hedges were seriously overgrown so someone needs to do some work here. Probably the map will be the correct route after some major hedge cutting.
Lon Cambria next took us across many hills and down to Rhayader with the later stretch being beside the River Wye.
The road beside the River Wye, stunning views and an ancient landscape
At Rhayader, we discover a bike shop that doubles up as a pub in the evening.
Our ride now takes us off-road along a slightly bumpy but very scenic trail beside three Elan Valley reservoirs to our highest point where we encounter two BMW's chasing one another but few other cars. They would enjoy the cycle ride better.
The other side of the pass is steeper with a fast flowing river alongside. We stop to view some ancient lead mines where the quarrymen came from Cornwall. Shortly after this we briefly leave Lon Cambria for our overnight stop at Devils Bridge
Our next stage is to join Lon Teifi (NCN82) for the second part of our journey to Fishguard. I hope that this encourages you to visit this route and more will follow shortly