The love of the journey
Car drivers are often too keen to reach their destination. So much so that the aim is getting to the end of the drive rather than the journey. Sure, that isn’t always the case but these are the day trippers, the caravans and the motorhomes. Let’s not go there.
It seems that many of the A-roads were built to facilitate this speedy passage of car and driver such that there is a detachment to the surrounding landscape as they listen to their in car entertainment and will the journey on to their terminus.
Many of these roads are very enjoyable on two wheels. I’m not taking anything away from a well surfaced road with long sweeping bends and the occasional scenery, but many of the long forgotten ‘slow’ B-routes are some of the best rides you will find on two wheels. And so this was the aim of my latest planned route.
If you browse the Internet you will find a number of picture postcard views of certain valleys in Wales that re-occor on a frequent basis. These are the vistas that force you to pull over and pull the camera out then sit and take in the view after capturing the moment on your smartphone. These places existed long before they were marked on a map as a POI and should be savoured.
When planning a route I like to seek out these points of interest and join them up using the B-roads like a dot to dot drawing on a massive scale with my GPS tracking acting as the pen.
It is on this occasion that I selected three well known locations. These were the Welsh valleys and passes called Bwlch Pen Barras, Bwlch y Groes and Nant Gwynant. My previous post gave more detail into the history and background of these locations.
Bwlch Pen Barras
It was a later start than normal. A morning doctors appointment had given me an opportunity to book a day off work. I got on the road shortly after the appointment at 10am with the first stop and meet up point at Chester Motorrad where I’d hook up with Nick on his S1000XR.
The journey to Chester is a slightly tedious jaunt up the motorway but its a perfect gateway to North Wales. By just before 11am we were on our way to Bwlch Pen Barras, situated just before Ruthin.
The Bwlch Pen Barras is one of those roads that you can easily over look if you are a slave to the A-roads and the first time I rode it was due to a route planning error that worked in my favour.
Turning off the A494, the approach is a leafy single track that offered some welcome shade on what was a very hot day. Climbing up to the highest point on the pass a small car park offers a photo opportunity, and on weekends a small coffee hut. This was a week day and I felt no need to stop as I had the GoPro running to capture the view as I rose over the crest and the expansive valley view opened up in front of me.
It was one of three ‘wow’ moments that I had planned and on such a clear and bright day it didn’t disappoint.
From here the road drops again into the shade of the roadside trees and foliage before once again joining the A494 towards Ruthin.
Passing through Ruthin the next waypoint is Bala but rather than remain on the A494 around the waters of Llyn Tegid I took a left just before the town of Bala to pick up the quieter B4403.
Bwlch y Groes
It is at the southern tip of Llyn Tegid that you pick up the single track that leads to the Bwlch y Groes, the second highest pass in Wales.
The turn onto the tack is greeted by a welcoming sign warning that the route is unsuitable for caravans which is always a good sign. The road is narrow with an accumulation of loose gravel in the centre. The GS takes it in its stride but I know that the fatter tyres of the XR behind me can have the occasional uncomfortable moment.
Passing sheep who looked like they wished they could shed their fleece in the sweltering heat the road ascended until the terrain opened up to my right. The gravely track hugged the hillside to my left and a small barrier to my right offered some comfort of protection from the steep drop. A small climb later and I reached the top and a view of the valley and road ahead emerged majestically.
Just beyond the summit a road that joins from the left offered a place to stop and take a photo. I have seen photos from this location before and had marked the spot on the GPS with the intention of pulling over to the side of the road.
At the start of this descent the road was on a slight incline. So much so that after dismounting the bike crept forward and the side stand folded, resting the bike against me and the wall. Perhaps if I was alone my skeletal remains may still be there acting as a impromptu landmark against the valley view. Luckily I had assistance to lift the bike with nothing more serious than a feeling of foolishness and a battle scar to the pannier where it had rested against the stone wall. I do wonder how many others had made that mistake?
The ride down to the lower part of the valley is brisk and enjoyable leading through patches of small dwellings that seemed sleepy on such a hot summers day. Much sooner than I would have liked I arrived at the A470 and turned right towards Dolgellau and lunch at the very nice Cross Foxes Inn.
Leaving the Inn with a full stomach and having took on much needed liquids I continued up the A470 through the Coed y Brenin Forest Park. The RAF were doing low level flying and we were treated to a couple of flybys of jets and Hercules aircraft. I was flying, albeit at ground level and towards our next valley.
I could have planned an alternative to the A470 on a lesser travelled route but this was a quick road to link us up with the B4410/B4085 toward Beddgelert. This was another treat of a road that I have never used and thought looked an interesting route when planning the journey. It was a narrow two lanes road which offered more speed than the single tracks that require caution. The road flicked left and right giving both myself and the bike an enjoyable workout.
Before Beddgelert the B4085 joined the A498 which would lead up to the third and final valley of the day,
I had been spoilt with some of the previous roads and the A498 was a procession of cars and coaches. Some were despatched easily, some had to be followed for a little longer. The climb was not as dramatic or as steep as the previous valleys and it was almost with surprise we reached the stop that over looks the valley floor and waters of Llyn Gwynant.
It would have been easy to sit for some time enjoying the views and the sun shimmering off the surface of the water. The temperatures were hot, very hot and I was baking in an adventure suit that offered no comfort despite every zipped air vent being open. The time had come to return to the road.
I joined the A4086 to Capel Curig and turned right towards the very familiar territory of Betws y Coed. It would have been rude to not have stopped for an ice cream on such a glorious day. With ice cream consumed time was pressing on and it was time to head home.
The objective had been to explore new routes using as many B-roads as time would allow. Additionally I had three valley destinations that formed the waypoints in-between. This had been a very enjoyable route and one that I would recommend to anyone looking to avoid the cars and their occupants.