The Irish Sea Cycle Route Blog

Reflections of riding the Irish Sea Cycle Route.

Scotland - Gatehouse of Fleet to Mull of Galloway

To avoid the busy A75 trunk road along the coast, I turn inland to cross the mountain before descending to Creetown.


Mountain stage

near the summit, Gatehouse of Fleet to Creetown

At the summit, New Rusko, it’s a left turn to descend the valley to Creetown. There’s evidence of the old railway at various points, the summit station at Gatehouse and a bridge crossing the old track.

From Creetown heading north following the intricate cycleway tracks keep me off the main road. Along the course of an old railway then a lovely ride through Kirroughtree Forest to the town of Newton Stewart.

From Newton Stewart town centre, I follow the A714 south taking advantage of the many sections of cycleways along the route all the way into the book town of Wigtown, it’s a clean fresh town with a wide open square, typical of Scottish towns in this area.


Wigtown

Wigtown

South of Wigtown, I pick up the B7004 to Garlieston.


Garlieston

near Garlieston

Isle of Whithorn

en route to Isle of Whithorn

Then it’s a fabulous ride on the coast road to the Isle of Whithorn with views across to the Isle of Man.


Isle of Whithorn

Isle of Whithorn

Turning west for Monreith the road hugs the coast, though Port William. There are extensive views across Luce Bay and it is possible to see the lighthouse at the Mull of Galloway, I cant help but be excited!


Port William

near Port William

Auchenalg

near Auchenalg

Glenluce

near Glenluce

It’s a fantastic coast road then back lanes to Glenluce. A short section going west before the final trek south, along the 5km wide spit of land. This is especially good, my goal in sight, it’s a short umpteen kilometres but that doesn’t matter.


Ardwell

near Ardwell

I pass New England Bay, I was last here 35 years ago and I can remember it like it was yesterday!


New England Bay

near New England Bay

There’s not much more I can put into words, it all seems to be about memories. Memories past mingling with journeys present. Today will soon be a memory, a good memory!


Cliffs at Mull of Galloway

cliffs plunge into the sea near the Mull of Galloway

Lighthouse at Mull of Galloway

the Mull of Galloway

Lighthouse at Mull of Galloway

the Mull of Galloway

Lighthouse at Mull of Galloway

the Mull of Galloway

Places of Interest along the way
Wigtown and bookshops Isle of Whithorn and harbour Port William Port Logan Mull of Galloway Lighthouse RSPB reserve, Mull of Galloway

Scotland - Gretna to Gatehouse of Fleet

The start of the Scotland leg, it’s a grey overcast morning with a few light showers being a nuisance. Out of Gretna, soon onto back lanes, its pleasant riding and the following easterly makes riding easy, the lanes are good and soon reach Ruthwell and the National Savings Bank Museum.


National Savings Bank Museum

The National Savings Bank Museum, Ruthwell

I keep heading west to Bankend and a left takes me along the shores of the estuary of the Nith. This allows me to slope into Dumfries by the tradesman’s entrance! Then it's over the river by the old bridge.


Dumfries

River Nith, Dumfries

Once on the west bank of the Nith, it’s a very pleasant ride south to New Abbey, the Abbey ruins and old Mill, this is a charming village.


New Abbey

New Abbey

The A710 is a delightful ride with fabulous views overlooking the bay at Sandyhills.


Sandyhills

near Sandyhills

Staying on the A710, swinging north at the estuary of Urr Water, into Dalbeatie for the bridge. There’s a long climb on the main road with a switchback. Then it’s a B-road across the wilder side of life. A long gradual pull to the summit but nothing of concern. After the high spot is almost a free run into Kirkcudbright.

It’s a steep descent into the centre of town, to cross the Dee. Turning south again, alongside the wide estuary and Kirkcudbright Bay. This is an excellent section, the road gets intimate with the sea passing shoreline whitewashed stone cottages, it winds around rocky inlets and bays. The sound of the waves lapping onto the rocky shore captivated me, it is an evocative sound and a wonderful place.


Nun Mill Bay

Nun Mill Bay

Onto Borgue, through the village on the cycle route, crossing the peninsula for views of Wigtown Bay. I cross the busy A75 to ride into Gatehouse of Fleet.


Gatehouse of Fleet

Gatehouse of Fleet

Places of Interest along the way
Old Smithy, Gretna Green National Savings Bank, Ruthwell Museum & Abbey Ruins, New Abbey

England - Ulverston to Gretna

I left Ulverston on Sustrans cycle route 70, through Pennington, then rode my way over the fell from Marton to Ireleth with wonderful views across Duddon Sands.


Duddon Sands

Looking across the Duddon Sands

There’s a single track road before the hamlet of Chapels, it leads across the Moss to Foxfield. Then Broughton-in-Furness (don't miss the old fish-stones), a lovely village on the fringe of the South Lakeland Fells. A short stint on the busy A595 after Broughton, down the steep hill to cross the River Duddon. A left turn on the climb out of the river valley finds an excellent back road through Lady Hall, then onto Millom.

A turn northwards starts the route up the coast of the Western flank of the Lake District National Park. The mountain on the right is Black Combe, first visible from the coast road in Morecambe.


Bootle Village sign

Bootle Village, Cumbria (not to be confused with Bootle, Merseyside)

At Bootle, the route follows excellent lanes, kissing the Irish Sea coast by Eskmeals.


Eskmeals

Eskmeals

A turn inland is necessary to cross the Esk. Back on the busier road then to Ravenglass, this lovely village overlooks its green across the estuary. It is also home to the Ratti Railway, the Ravenglass-Eskdale Railway.


Ravenglass

Ravenglass

An excursion on the Ravenglass-Eskdale Railway will take you inland, with excellent views of the higher mountains of the Lake District.

There are some lovely coastal villages such as Drigg and Seascale.


Seascale

just north of Seascale

At Seascale Railway station the route turns inland, traffic more busy around the Sellafield Nuclear Site (formerly known as Windscale!) I didn’t loiter and it’s not pretty.

Excellent B–roads soon see me in St Bees then by the harbour in Whitehaven.


Whitehaven Harbour

The harbour at Whitehaven

I follow cycle routes into Workington, then it’s the coast road, it was windy for me, the Wind Turbines were producing plenty of electricity, earning their keep. At Flimby there is a good cycleway amongst the dunes into Maryport.


Maryport

Maryport

After Maryport the cycle route hugs the coast before a quiet coast road through the far-flung Parishes of North West Cumbria.


Silloth

cobbles at Silloth

After the cobbles of Silloth, there’s only Skinburness, where England runs into the Solway Firth, across the Solway is Scotland and on the far bank of the Solway is the ISCR between Annan and Dumfries.


Skinburness

Skinburness

But it’s a trek inland to cross the Solway after Carlisle before turning west for ultimately, the Mull of Galloway.

It’s nice riding these lanes, little traffic and extensive views across the coastal plains, and in the view is the enormous antenna farm. The ISCR circumnavigates the aerials to stay with the coast around this small peninsula to Bowness-on-Solway.


Bowness on Solway

just before Bowness on Solway village

It’s a simple run in to Carlisle, by the Castle and over the river, then the Irish Sea Cycle Route rolls over the border into Gretna and Scotland.


Scotland

the Scotland-England border

Places of Interest along the way
Ravenglass Roman Bath House Ravenglass Eskdale Railway St Bees Head Hadrians Wall, Bowness on Solway Carlisle Castle Old Smithy, Gretna Green

England - Preston Dock to Ulverston

From Preston Dock, I head north leaving behind the town with its post-industrial landscape. I cross the Fylde, an area bound by the Rivers Ribble, to the south and Lune to the north, on rural lanes through Catforth to St Michaels on Wyre then Stake Pool. It’s here I sense the proximity of the Lune Estuary. These are pleasant lanes without any significant climbing, past Conder Green I take a single track lane through Aldcliffe and slip into the City of Lancaster, almost by a back door.

The Millenium Bridge is a modern pedestrian crossing over the Lune that leads to the A6 road north. Relief from the traffic comes through Hest Bank before the final approach to Carnforth. A coastal road skirts Carnforth, it’s almost a short-cut into the Arnside and Silverdale region. This designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) smothers the Lancashire-Cumbria border, our entry near Carnforth is Lancashire but our exit via Arnside is Cumbria, or Westmorland as some will remember.

There’s a change in the topography, rocky limestone features are abundant in the landscape, the local hills are bigger as the lanes wind through the landscape ‘kissing’ the coastline at every opportunity.


Irish Sea Cycle Route

The Irish Sea Cycle Route passes through Arnside

From Arnside to Grange, keep an eye on the tide, a spring-tide with a following south-westerly may create a tidal-bore, about one and a half hours before high water. The Morecambe Bay Bore is an interesting, natural phenomena gifted by certain astronomical and climatic conditions. On a spring-tide, a single wave washes across the bay, its unfaltering progress sustained by the geometry of the bay. Wading birds flock inland while the progress of the bore wave is accompanied by a rushing noise that can be heard on the shore. Under the railway viaduct at Arnside are standing waves over a metre high as the water rushes through the narrow gap between the viaduct structures. It’s quite a spectacle.


Arnside Railway Station

Station Road, Arnside

Sandside

Sandside and the Kent Estuary

On leaving Arnside village, the route follows the Kent Estuary crossing at Levens Bridge. In Levens village, the ISCR joins National Route 70 making a distinct turn west beneath Whitbarrow before heading for Grange Over Sands. I follow the road around the peninsula to Cark before heading north to Haverthwaite where I enjoy views into the southern reaches of the Lake District. The rock has changed, the limestone has given way to slate that forms the Coniston Fells, the route is now hillier but just as desirable.


Haverthwaite

River Leven, Haverthwaite

Quiet lanes lead to Bouth then Penny Bridge before a final climb and descent into Ulverston.


Places of Interest along the way
Lancaster Leighton Moss Rspb Reserve Arnside Levens Hall Cartmel Priory Steam Railway, Haverthwaite Ulverston

England - Connahs Quay to Preston Dock

Rural Wales is behind me, I am moving into a post-industrial landscape, a built environment of towns and cities that seem to blend into each other. From the outskirts of Runcorn to the north of Liverpool, it is almost a ribbon-like mega-city. My goal is to navigate a suitable route through this metropolis, safe with traffic yet both interesting and intimate with the coastline.


Bridge over River Dee

Bridge over the River Dee

After crossing the Dee to reach the Welsh-English border, it’s a case of following cycleways for Helsby then Frodsham. The route around Stanlow and Ince Marshes wasn’t suitable, full of pot-holes and loose stone hazards, I decided it’s much better on the main road. Passing under Helsby Crag, it looks green, damp and uninviting, not a place to be rock climbing, particularly when the crags of North Wales beckon.

A number of visits to Runcorn helped to establish a straightforward route from Frodsham to Runcorn Bridge avoiding Expressways, dual-carriageways and those featureless back-waters of housing estates.


River Weaver

River Weaver crossing

Over the Weaver, before Sutton Weaver, there’s a B-road that leads to Wood Lane then Beechwood Avenue, a meandering road to the park and Clifton Drive. It’s then a simple task of riding the road into town, finally on cycleways to Runcorn Bridge.


Runcorn Bridge

Runcorn Bridge

Once over the Mersey, its riverside cycleways, then through Hale with its thatched cottages to John Lennon Airport. I followed leafy suburban avenues of Garston to Liverpool Cricket Club and the red cow sculpture on the Waterfront, then the superb traffic free section all the way to Pier Head.


Liverpool Dock, Pier Head

Liverpool Dock at Pier Head

Liverpool Waterfront is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this was and still is a famous maritime city and gateway to the world. The iconic ‘Three Graces’ buildings on the Pier Head overlook the wonderful waterfront. Famous not only for its past, Liverpool is the home of popular music, the home of The Beatles and many other singers and songwriters. Proud with at least two famous football teams, two cathedrals, Liverpool is a wonderful city with a wonderfully rich culture. I am so pleased the ISCR visits this great city, Liverpool is a highlight, it brings a great sense of down-to-earth truth and honesty that can only add to the experience of the Irish Sea Cycle Route.

At Crosby Beach are one hundred cast iron sculptures by Antony Gormley. ‘Another Place’ provokes thought on a huge scale. The cast-iron figures exposed to light, time and tide interact with those natural elements creating a varied and ever-changing response. The ‘iron men’ remain static, forthright, almost defiant in the face of adversity. It’s a most interesting experience.


Another Place

Crosby Beach and 'Another Place' by Antony Gormley

The overall effect is stunning, I enjoy art that provokes deeper thinking. John Berger wrote in Ways of Seeing The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled. Each evening we see the sun set. We know that the earth is turning away from it. Yet the knowledge, the explanation, never quite fits the sight. The same can be said of art.

Sand erosion at Formby Point has revealed prehistoric footprints from the Neolithic era, some 7000 years ago, giving us a glimpse into our past. Away from the dunes around Formby to Southport, I then head for Preston and the bridge over the River Ribble and onto Preston Dock. When I was a child, I remember the cranes on the dock-side, the hooters from the ships could be heard a couple of miles away at midnight each New Year. Today it is a small marina.


Places of Interest along the way
The Boat Museum, Ellesmere Port Chester Delamere Forest Park Liverpool Liverpool World Heritage Site Another Place by Antony Gormley, Crosby Beach Formby Point and Sands Marshside RSPB Reserve, Southport


Wales - Caernarfon to Connahs Quay

Leaving Caernarfon I pick up the cycleway around the shore then almost all the way to Felinhi and its charming little dock, the final approach being on the old road, now a quiet lane and cycleway.


Felinhi

Felinhi

On reaching Bangor, I have glimpses of Britannia Bridge spanning the Menai Straits, good cycleways pass Bangor Pier, the route is essentially the NCN5.


Bangor Pier

Bangor Pier

The North Wales Expressway dominates the north coast of Wales whilst the ISCR negotiates back lanes and cycleways to Llanfairfechan then Penmaenmawr. It’s here where we take to the air! As the expressway blasts its way through rocky tunnels, the cycleway leaves terra firma, it is suspended high above the carriageway, almost an aerial cycleway - all very interesting and a novel solution.

More traffic-free cycling takes a course almost along the beach skirting Conwy Bay. After the Marina, I pass under an archway into Conwy, a lovely town with castles and suspension bridges from yesteryear and up-to-date views of the Great Orme.


Conwy Castle

Conwy Castle

A sand-covered cycleway amongst the dunes needs care before I reach Llandudno and its promenade overlooking Llandudno Bay.


Llandudno Promenade

promenade at Llandudno

Apart from a small detour to avoid the cliffs at Little Orme, the route is very much intimate with the coast along the sea wall in places, sometimes straight through the holiday villages.


Sea Wall near Prestatyn

cycleway on sea wall near Prestatyn

After the North Wales holiday towns of Colwyn Bay, Rhyll and Prestatyn I reach the most northerly point in Wales, the Point of Ayr, its lighthouse just visible above the dunes.


Point of Ayr

Point of Ayr, most northerly point in Wales

After the Point of Ayr, the final leg of my Irish Sea Cycle Route through Wales takes me through a changing landscape. I am entering an urban belt of post-industrial Britain that stretches north through Liverpool to Preston and east through Manchester Leeds, Sheffield and Hull and all surrounding towns and cities. But first, I pass through Flint and Connahs Quay then across the River Dee to the Wales-England border.


Bridge over River Dee

Bridge over the River Dee
Places of Interest along the way
Caernarfon Caernarfon Castle Snowdonia National Park Menai Straits Bangor Pier Bangor University town Conwy Conwy Castle Llandudno Great Orme, Country Park, Mine, Tramway Talacre and Point of Ayr

Wales - Porthmadog to Caernarfon

Stryd Fawr is the route out of Porthmadog, it’s a quaint town with a lovely harbour and worth a stop. I follow the NCN 8 to Pentrefelin then Criccieth old town and a brief pass of the castle. Pentrefelin has a significance to me. Earlier this year I moved house and a stone Welsh Cottage in Pentrefelin was on my viewing list, It’s a small cottage beautifully placed on the ISCR but alas it wasn’t to be. The cottage was sold before the sale of my place went through so I didn’t get round to view it. I think I would have loved it and I’m sure the new owners will enjoy it thoroughly. It’s now on my growing list titled ‘might-have-beens’!


Criccieth

early morning in Criccieth

I follow the main road through Pwllheli to Llanbedrog, there are sections where cycleways make for pleasant riding, that’s not to say the riding on the main road is unpleasant, it’s fine. In fact my experience of car drivers in Wales is most positive, they give cyclists plenty of room when overtaking, all in all they have been courteous and respectful which I acknowledge by a friendly wave … it simply makes my journey a great pleasure.


Y Rhiw

steep climb into Y Rhiw village

Onto B-roads from Llanbedrog, I ride to the higher ground through Mynytho before returning to sea level before Y Rhiw. The climb to the Y Rhiw village is steep and long, this concentrates my mind as I recall throwaway lines from The Matrix; Morpheus: “Do you believe that’s air you are breathing now? and If you can free your mind, the body will follow”. Matrix or not, this climb is 20% and my heart-rate is banging the stops, I have no other option than to climb off my bike and start pushing. The turqoise coloured sea is turning almost grey as a sea mist rolls onto the landmass. Almost a mythical scene, the swirling mist first hides then reveals the higher ground. As I roll into Aberdaron the mist is lifting and brighter weather is now with me. I find a place to sit overlooking the beach and bay.


Aberdaron beach and bay

Aberdaron beach and bay

Aberdaron is a small coastal village almost at the end of the Lleyn Peninsula. Clusters of whitewashed stone cottages and buildings surround a stone bridge, I turn north and climb out of the village along delightful lanes. A road to the singing sands at Borth Oer is passed, sea views are distant as the rocky coastline and sandy bays are almost one kilometre to the west.

B-roads through Tusweiliog, Nefyn then Llithfaen, another change in the weather, the cloud is now permanently down as well as a stiff headwind and drizzle – but it’s still a great place to be. The proximity of the sea does offer a sense of freshness in the air, maybe it’s the ozone spilling onto the landmass! Ah fresh!

I reach the busy A499 main trunk road near Trefor and the cycleway keeps me segregated from fast moving traffic. The road looks a new construction, probably an example of European money being invested in Wales. I make good progress in improving weather, beyond Glynllyfon Country Park the cycleway (NCN 8) alongside the Welsh Highland Railway takes me all the way to Caernarfon with its beautiful natural harbour and iconic castle.


Caernardon

the harbour in Caernarfon
Places of Interest along the way
Porthmadog Ffestiniog Railway Welsh Highland Heritage Railway Llanystumdwy, Lloyd George Village Aberdaron Coastal Village Singing Sands, Borth Oer Caernarfon Caernarfon Castle Snowdonia National Park

Buying my new Touring Bike, 2016

I bought myself a new touring bike in early 2016, I think it’s worth spending a little time reflecting on my significant purchase. Now I’m no techno freak able to regurgitate the marketing hype nor do I stay current by reading countless reviews of every gizmo, however, I do value quality and I do appreciate good design. That said, I also recognise purchases are buyer specific – there is no ‘one size fits all’, otherwise I would have just one bike probably the same as yours!

Anyway, here are my reflections on my ‘significant purchase’.


Developing my initial ideas.

I wanted a touring bike that would effectively last my lifetime, hopefully another twenty more active years. I wanted the option of carrying everything I may need, including camping gear. For personal reasons, I need low gears. It would be nice to have a lower maintenance regime - I want my touring bike to ride, not to keep clean.


speedhub

the Rohloff speedhub

My specification was taking shape. To convert my ideas into something more meaningful I was researching lots of kit on-line to see how it might fit into my touring bike specification :

a 14 speed rohloff hub; a SON (high output/low drag) dynamo hub for lights and garmin; front and rear carriers ; straight bars with bar-ends and a Brooks B17 saddle for comfort.

The chosen hubs tend to suggest rim brakes. Maybe I should also consider a Gates carbon belt drive instead of an oily chain.


Gates carbon belt drive

the Gates carbon belt drive

Pre-Order Stage

After much on-line research I decided to visit a specialist supplier, living in the North of England I opted to visit CycleSense in Tadcaster, Yorkshire. They have a good range of specialist touring bikes and they are approved suppliers for Koga and Van Nicholas amongst others – both these manufacturers were on my radar.

It was a two hour drive to Tadcaster so before I left, I made an appointment with Dave at Cyclesense and gave him some background. On my visit I enjoyed a couple of hours where Dave showed me the Koga range of touring bike’s. My first choice was the Koga Signature, a bike I am sure would meet my needs and so much more and I must admit I liked it ‘in the flesh’. It seems Koga have contemporary production methods supported by up-to-date systems supporting the manufacturing process. In my eyes they appear to be a modern production company employing up-to-date methods and techniques that produce high quality products, and if a Koga is good enough for Mark Beaumont, then it will be more than good enough for me.

Chatting with Dave, the spec for my touring bike looks viable, it was making sense and could be achieved. I liked the Signature with its range of options but it was time to come away, sleep on it and think about the cost and how it would fit into my cycling, and would it contribute to my life.


It was New Year, 2016, I arranged another visit to Cyclesense, I wanted a refresher of the Koga Signature and another chat with Dave – I was also in the mood to place an order. I also took this opportunity to explore (or discount) the ‘shiny titanium’ Van Nicholas range. There’s a leap in price, so I wanted to explore the differences starting with the touchy feely stuff. The VN Pioneer had been on my radar although the price was something I was wrestling with. Close up and personal with the Pioneer, I was impressed. It transpires Van Nicholas are part of the same Group as Koga so the stuff I valued about the Koga company should also apply to Van Nicholas.


Van Nicholas Pioneer

Van Nicholas Pioneer 29er

I wanted to cock my leg across a Pioneer to see if the 29er would fit my long body short legs frame. Unfortunately, Dave didn’t stock the Pioneer in my size, but that wasn’t a problem to him. He simply phoned Van Nicholas in Holland who would ship a demo model over to England for me to try. Wow! You can’t do that with on-line shopping! It would take about a week to get the bike shipped.


Order Stage

I was now coming to a decision, my preference was for the Pioneer 29er so if I can cross my leg over the Pioneer easily, then I would place an order. Needless to say, the Pioneer was shipped, I slung my leg over the crossbar, smiled and in six weeks I will take delivery.


Brooks B17 Saddle

Brooks B17 saddle

Everything went well, delivery was on time, Dave built the bike up for me and I went across to Tadcaster to collect my dream-touring bike. Once home, I was riding my local roads; Barbondale, around Sedbergh and the South Lakes and I love it. Throughout summer I have ridden extensively on the Irish Sea Cycle Route through Wales, England and Scotland and it is superb. In simple terms, I love riding my Pioneer, it is a joy, it rolls along wonderfully, the Rohloff hub has the best range of gears for me and the carbon Gates belt drive means no oil, so less cleaning. My position on the bike is relaxed and the Brooks B17 saddle is so comfortable I can stay on my bike all day - and ride the next day as well.


There are lots of images of my Pioneer in the gallery section of this website.


Wales - Machynlleth to Porthmadog

Afon Dyfi or River Dovey is a huge estuary that brings us inland for the river crossing near the wonderful ancient town of Machynlleth.

Proud of my accepted pronunciation, I left the town verbalising my new-found knowledge: "Mackkkkinllleth … Mackkkkinllleth … Mackkkkinllleth!"

I was most pleased.


Machynlleth

Afon Dyfi (River Dovey) near Machynlleth

On the national cycle route 82, over the bridge I went left to Pennal then Cwrt. It’s here I decided to leave the busy road to Aberdovey and take the quiet road through the aptly named Happy Valley. It’s a short cut over the hill - a distinct climb with a summit. The pleasant narrow road winds its way uphill, through forest to an isolated spot at the summit followed by gravity-assisted ride through a delightful valley.


Happy Valley

the summit of Happy Valley, near Machynlleth

At Tywyn, the natural features of the coastline push us inland negotiating a route bypassing water inlets and rocky cliffs. This gives us a wonderful opportunity to seek out the quiet lanes passing remote hamlets and farmsteads and occasional railway stations such as Tonfanau.


Tonfanau

the small hamlet of Tonfanau

I rejoined the main coastal road at Rhoslefain to reach Barmouth via the railway viaduct across the estuary. I found the A493 quite busy but it offers superb views of sea and surf. I took some interest in the wonderful practice of knit-bombing in the village of Llwyngwril. All the road furniture and more is covered in knitted jackets, another enduring memory.


Llwyngwril

Knit-bombing in Llwyngwril

After Barmouth, I follow the NCN 8, in Dyffryn Ardudwy, I take a B-road to give some respite from the traffic to Llanfair. I sneak into Harlech at the back of the castle, it’s impressive looking down into the town from Strydd Fawr.


Harlech

from Stryd Fawr in Harlech

The B4573 is a fabulous alternative to the main trunk road, no doubt this was the main road to Harlech before construction of the A496, it’s perfect for the cyclist. After Talsarnau, I find my way on cycleways through Penryndeudraeth, across the causeway into Porthmadog.


Porthmadog

Porthmadog Harbour
Places of Interest along the way
Machynlleth Ancient Town Barmouth Harbour Fairbourne Railway and Ferry Harlech Town Harlech Castle Porthmadog Ffestiniog Railway Welsh Highland Heritage Railway

Wales - New Quay to Machynlleth

I soon leave the leave B4342 on the outskirts of New Quay for quiet lanes through Cei Bach, it’s a very pleasant detour avoiding the busier roads. After Cei Bach the A487 cannot be avoided towards Aberaeron. It is a busy road but respite comes in the form a right turn through Hedfynyw village then a steep descent into Aberaeron, almost by stealth.

At Aberarth the ISCR cuts inland on country lanes avoiding the busy A487. Over the hills to Pennant then a left at Bethania takes me all the way Llanfarian on the outskirts of Aberystwyth. From the high ground, I can see to the radio masts on a road that was in the original planned route. However, the plan was changed because of the traffic on the A487. Along this section of the A487 there is little, if no protection to the cyclist from traffic and it just didn’t feel like fun! And so the quiet B-roads cross the hills, it’s a nice detour with easy riding and extensive views. Llangwyryfon is a short descent followed by the customary climb, then it’s almost all down hill to the A487 at Llanfarian. Here, I enjoyed a sausage, bacon and egg bap washed down with a mug of coffee from the catering trailer by the Garage - recommended!

Following cycle trails, it’s easy level riding all the way into Aberystwyth. There’s a steady climb out of this very interesting University town, just before the summit the ISCR takes a left following superb country lanes all the way to Borth.


Borth

on the descent into Borth

The road out of Borth is a joy, up close and personal with the Irish Sea. For me there is a headwind and soon it will be high tide, the waves are foaming and surfing. On the sea-wall, I enjoy the freshness and smell the ozone – wonderful!


Borth

Borth

At Ynyslas I turn eastwards and get some shelter from the northerly headwind so good progress into Machynlleth.


Machynlleth

Machynlleth

In Machynlleth, a couple of local women kindly teach me how to (attempt to) correctly pronounce the name of this Welsh town:

"In Welsh, we say the ch using the back of the throat, so its Mach (Mackkk), then it’s yn (in) and the last part is Lleth (Lllleth), all together it’s Mackkkinllllleth".

I think the Welsh language sounds delightful. Now it’s my turn, with enthusiasm (and good tutoring), I reply:

"Mackkkinlllleth ... Mackkkkinllleth ... Mackkkinllleth ..."

"Do you know Maud, I think he’s got it!"

I can’t tell you how pleased I was with myself. I know it’s only one noun but I can now use it with confidence. Mackkkinllleth! Machynlleth!

This reminds me of a similar experience from over ten years ago on a mountain in Snowdonia. The mountain is a designated Marilyn named Pen Llithrig y Wrach. Back then, a local Gent taught me the pronunciation Penlllith rig i rack which translates to ‘The head of the Slippery Witch’. Now that’s a proper name for a mountain, conjuring up mystery and myth. Welsh is such a wonderful language, simply delightful.


Places of Interest along the way
Wildlife Centre, New Quay Aberystwyth Castle Welsh Assembly, Aberystwyth National Library, Aberystwyth Camera Obscura, Aberystwyth Borth Ynys-hir, RSPB Reserve, near Furnace Heritage Centre, Machynlleth

Wales - Newport to New Quay

From Newport, I take to the minor roads, the terrain is much different as I climb to the higher ground.

I like the certainty of a long climb, it’s a good opportunity to get into a rhythm. Glasses off, relaxed position, grab the lowest gear for good cadence and settle into a rhythm. I pedal to a heart rate (for health reasons), forced breathing helps with oxygen levels but it’s not a pretty sight, despite it’s effectiveness! I also have a no-go rate where I get off the bike, recover whilst pushing my bike to an easier gradient. All my riding is done in the saddle, never stood on the pedals as this pushes my heart rate way into the danger zone!


pedalling


From sea level in Newport it’s a climb just short of 200m to the summit, further on is a steep descent into the village of Moylgrove. Over a quaint stone bridge amongst a cluster of Welsh stone cottages followed by a steep climb (a walk for me) to leave the village behind. Particularly steep around the hairpin bend, I have my head down, focussing my eyes in front of me. Once I have my breath, I find myself reciting out loud the desirable foods I will purchase later on; “strawberries, raspberries and blueberries to be washed in fruit juice, some vegetables pan-fried with chicken. It sounds delicious! I carry on in staccato. Suddenly I am in the presence of a couple of walkers enjoying my vocal performance as well as their walk. Well they are smiling! I bid them good day and press on up the hill, to everyone’s relief in silence. Moments like this, I do challenge (briefly) my state of mind!

An interesting steep descent, a tight switchback into St Dogmeals village then Cardigan. The regular visits to towns and villages at sea-level means regular climbs back to the higher ground. It’s ‘character building’.

Quiet roads through Gwbert, Y Fenwig then Felinwynt with a red telephone box marking the summit. Onto Aberporth and Tresaith before , for me, a highlight - Llangrannog. An unspoilt coastal village, quaint in its character and location, it is served by interesting narrow lanes that are a joy to ride.


St Caranog

statue of St Caranog, Llangrannog

Overlooking Llangrannog is the statue of St Caranog, this is a delightful, almost imposing spot. The open sea to the west is a beautiful green, the wind creating flashes of white surf making the surface glisten. A sandy bay flanked by sea cliffs, small waves are lapping on the beach and the village has encroached as close as it dare. A steep cliff road leads into Llangrannog where the sandy bay is dominated by a large sea weathered stack, Bica’s rock or Carreg Bica (‘the tooth in the legend of the giant Bica and his toothache’). Watch out for bottle-nosed dolphins in the bay.


Carreg Bica

Carreg Bica, Llangrannog

Good country roads through Llwyndaffydd and Maen-y-Groes bring us to the small seaside town of New Quay.


New Quay Bay

New Quay Bay
Places of Interest along the way
Eco Centre, Newport Poppit Sands, near Cardigan Butterfly Centre, Felinwynt Llangrannog St Caranog, Llangrannog Legend of Giant Bica, Llangrannog New Quay

Wales - St Davids to Newport

Although this route is described with St Davids as the start, this summer saw me here when I regarded this place as a finish – here I completed the Irish Sea Cycle Route in Wales – from Connahs Quay to St Davids, a ride undertaken to authenticate the Wales section of the Irish Sea Cycle Route. Here’s what I wrote in my journal:

‘I turn right and descend to Whitesands Bay, to a wonderful sandy beach, pebbles line the shore and small sea cliffs tumble into the surf. And the rhythm of the crashing waves, oh the wonderful sound of crashing waves. I sit among the pebbles enjoying the moment. I’m not elated, but I do have an inner sense of achievement. This is a personal moment. I can’t express how I feel. In fact there probably isn’t anybody remotely interested! The moment is a milestone for me. It’s a personal journey and a personal moment, almost a treasure. I cant ever remember a moment like this’.


Whitesands Bay

Whitesands Bay - the start/finish of the ISCR in Wales

I enjoy quiet roads almost exclusively on the NCN 4 route to Fishguard. After Fishguard there is little option but to follow the A487 to Newport.

Penmaen Dewi landscape occupies the south-west tip of Pembrokeshire. The rocky landscape is around 40m above sea level apart from the pointy peak of Carn Llidi that reaches 181m. It dominates the landscape and remains with us for the first few miles before we start to think about Abercastle.

Crossing the high ground through small remote villages, steep descents followed by steep short climbs flanking the small bay typify this landscape.


Abercastle

descent into Abercastle

These rocky inlets occupied by small villages over the past few hundred years are quaint and delightful. They appear to represent an idyll, a way of life so peaceful and perfect. It probably isn’t quite like that but as I climb slowly up the steep short climbs, sometimes weaving across the road, such thoughts cross my mind. But that soon changes as my progress uphill slows, I now concentrate on the job in hand. Any such thoughts of idyllic lifestyles are replaced with a more personal demeanour of a fast, pounding heartbeat accompanied by a purposeful rhythmic breathing, in an attempt to control my heart rate. I am now focussed on propelling my bicycle up the said hill. This terrain is typical of coastal Pembrokeshire, it is sometimes testing but it is a joy to ride amongst this wonderful landscape.

Trefin and Abercastle are soon passed. I see the signs for a Woollen Mill. Now I enjoy a bit of handloom weaving and am interested in this short detour to Melin Tregwynt.


Loom

Loom: Louet Spring; - Yarn: wool from Farfield Mill; - Design: mine

The mill dates back to the 18th century when it was a fulling mill. The stream powered the fulling of the wool cloth, to soften it, part of the finishing process. Today the mill represents all that is good about small local businesses producing quality products for today’s marketplace. I hope this tradition continues, it appears to represent a more sustainable future rather than buying cheap imports from mass-production factories where owners get richer whilst the proletariat are kept in relative poverty.

Approaching Fishguard, the route follows cycle-ways into the town. There’s a steep descent to the Old Town and harbour followed by the customary steep climb out of the town. I now follow the main road all the way to Newport, taking advantage of sections of cycle-way for safety. Progress is good and I am soon into the quaint town of Newport.


Newport

Main Street, Newport
Places of Interest along the way
St Davids Head St Davids City and cathedral Pembrokeshire Coast Path Melin Tregwynt Woolen Mill, SA62 5UX Strumble Head Dinas Head Pembrokeshire Coast National Park