CYCLE TOURING IN WALES
By Richard Barrett
Reviewed by Steve Dyster
Apart from Richard Barrett’s guide to cycling the Lon Las Cymru, Wales has been an empty space on the Cicerone shelf. This latest volume is therefore a welcome addition, especially for those unfamiliar with the delights – of which there are many – of cycling in Wales.
It’s worth mentioning, to start with, that try as he might, the most expert guide could not find a flat route around Wales. In any case, mountain passes, steep coastal roads, and long winding valleys are all part of the wonder of Wales. However, it is worth reading the advice in the introductory sections, especially if you are embarking on your first tour. It is unlikely to put you off, but it will make for a happier trip.
The guide, of course, follows the usual Cicerone format. Thus, it provides all that is needed to plan and undertake a tour. .gpx files are available, too.
There’s so much good cycling in Wales that I wasn’t quite sure what to expect to find in a guide I was eagerly anticipating. The aim of the guide is clearly stated, “To make a circuit of Wales that can be comfortably ridden over a two-week holiday.” As a result, the main route sticks close to the coast for much of the way, and runs along the border with England, even creeping over it when necessary. 657 miles of “wonderful riding.” Officially the route starts in Cardiff, but there are plenty of other possibilities.
Whilst the main route is magnificent – even though it misses out the Gower, the Llyn peninsula, and Anglesey (suggestions for exploring these are included) – the interior of Wales is not to be cycled by without a look.
Six routes across Wales are also described. Combine them as you wish, wit the main route and a number of options open up. The cross routes run from Wrexham to Bangor; Chirk (a little south of Wrexham) to Barmouth; Welshpool to Machynlleth; Knighton to Aberystwyth; Abergavenny to Carmarthen, and onward to Fishguard. Helpfully. All these termini have railway stations.
Needless to say, those who know Wales well, may feel that their personal favourite has been missed. That’s inevitable. However, as a guide to get you cycle touring in Wales, it does just what it says on the cover.
From a personal point of view, I was impressed by the inclusion of a short section on Welsh chapels. Too often these iconic buildings are ignored. You’ll see plenty, form the humble to the truly magnificent. Maybe, there’ll be even more chapel fans in the future. Not to your taste, well the guide points to lots of other places of interest, too.
Needless to say, there's the usual stack of information about places, flora and fauna, history, geography, and much more. Added to this is the expected range of lists of bike shops, accommodation, refreshment stops, and detailed distance charts. In other words, all you need to get started cycle touring in Wales.
Richard Barrett is also the author of Cicerone's guide to Cycling in the Hebrides.