Gwynedd, the home to Snowdonia National Park and some spectacular mountainous landscapes that look awesome in any weather. As a neighbour of Powys, we quickly met up with Gwynedd as we rolled out of Machynlleth this morning, following a good night’s sleep at a farm campsite. Today is day 7 on our Welsh adventure.
I took the first leg to Dolgellau, knowing that it would be a test, but one that my bike was probably better suited for. That meant hills. Lots of them, followed by the absolute mother of them all. I felt like a tourist on this leg, stopping every few minutes to take a few snaps and suck up the awe-inspiring views.
It took what felt like an eternity to reach the little village of Coris, nestled just below an enormous disused slate mine that used to send it’s wares all over the world. I was surrounded by two giant hillsides full of slate, with remnants of old mining buildings in the surrounding fields now collapsed in on themselves. From here it was a massive, steep, breathtaking climb up and over a mountain (involving some pushing when the gradient was impossible to ride). At what I thought was the top I could see Amy chatting to a man at the side of the road who turned out to be a local farmer. They’d been chatting in Welsh about the bike ride and when I showed up, he suggested I take the van for the next bit “I don’t want to put you off but the next bit is steeper than what you’ve just come up” he said, peering at me through his glasses that were as thick as the bottom of milk bottles. The Specsavers ad came to mind…the one where the farmer shears his sheepdog by mistake. Not to be outdone by yet more vertical tarmac, I pressed onward and upward under my own steam, having to push most of the way. The rewards were excellent….more beautiful scenery and a long and winding descent with views of Cadair Idris, just before a wave of hailstones swept in.
From here, it was easy miles down into Dolgellau where it was Amys turn to take over so Dizzy and I foraged for Y Popty (the Bakery).
Amy’s leg was a relatively flat 15 miles right the way through to Barmouth, which would have been stunning if it wasn’t for the gale force winds whipping up the Afon Mawddach estuary into her face most of the way. She wrestled against the wind and over the railway bridge planks to reach Barmouth where the winds were no calmer. Dizzy and I got out for a stroll on the beach, only to be whipped by sand. In just 5 minutes Dizzy looked like she’d gone 12 rounds with a sand dune, and the whole left side of the campervan was a lovely shade of sand over its blue paint.
Just a few miles up the road in Dyffryn Ardudwy we did another pit-stop and I took over with the aim of reaching Porthmadog. The terrain was sooooo nice – quick flat roads, ticking off the miles and passing through Harlech, where the ancient castle stood proudly above the modern town below. The song “Men of Harlech” was ringing in my ears, a song that you hear regularly at Welsh rugby and football games – an anthem that is a call to battle from centuries ago.
Approaching Porthmadog you have the sea to your left and Snowdonia to your right. It’s such a contrast, but completely beautiful, even on a grizzly day like today. Two miles out and my gears let me down again, so at our pit-stop I Googled the local bike shop and shot off there with bike and Dizzy in tow as Amy set off on the last leg of the day. The weather was decidedly Wintery but the welcome at the bike shop was warm. 5 minutes of tinkering solved the problem and there was no charge! I promised to write him a glowing review on Google as a thank you for his kind help.
Amy was making good progress out of Porthmadog and was aiming for Bryncir – just a useful place on the map to meet rather than somewhere of particular interest. This last leg was uneventful but chilly and once we’d loaded up her bike we spent a good hour finding a campsite that was open. Luckily our persistence paid off and we’re tucked up for the night with a route plan for tomorrow.
Weather is looking less brutal tomorrow and we hope to make it to Anglesey.