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1

Cardiff to Brecon

Lon Las Cymru starts deceptively easily. It’s railway paths for almost all the 50 miles to Brecon, taking you gently uphill to the hilly scenery of the Brecon Beacons.

Otherwise known as the Taff Trail, this is a fine off-road route, smoothly surfaced except for the forestry tracks around the Pontsticill and Torpantau reservoirs; road bikers can stay on the valley road here. The main obstacle is a succession of narrow barriers, designed to dissuade motorbikes, that are a real pain to weave your fully-laden pedal bike through.

No matter whether you’ve arrived at Cardiff Central station, or the youth hostel towards the north of town, do cycle down to Cardiff Bay for the official start of the route by the Welsh Assembly building – a suitably grandiose send-off. Take care through the suburbs, where the riverside cycle path can be very busy.

The Valleys landscape is underrated, but the industrial archaeology is the real star here. You’ll cross sturdy viaducts, pass disused forges and water-wheels, and spin past platforms where no train has called for 50 years. Then, just past Merthyr Tydfil, the railway path breaks out into the green Beacons countryside, on a route so dramatic that a vinyl audio recording was made of it (‘The 11:15 to Torpantau’) in steam days.

After the forestry track, the route crests the watershed before rejoining the railway path down to the Usk valley. NCN 8 just misses Talybont-on-Usk, but we’d suggest it as a good first overnight stop, not least for the superb Star Inn. Be careful if descending the railway path in the dark: there’s a barrier at the bottom. From there, it’s country lanes and canal towpaths into Brecon.

Hotels

Aberdare

Brecon

from £77Brecon Castle
from £180Llangoed Hall
from £77Nythfa House
from £110Old Radnor Barn
from £2000The Castle Hotel
from £2000The Usk Inn

Brecon, Powys

from £52New Inn

Brecon,

Cardiff

Cardiff

from £68Angel Hotel
from £11Bunkhouse
from £12Bunkhouse
from £45CFeleven
from £44CFeleven
from £100Capella House
from £84Cathedral 73
from £150Cathedral 73
from £250Century Court
from £2000Elgano Hotel
from £2000Elm Street
from £2000Flat 5 Cardiff
from £55Gordon Road
from £100Grand Ave
from £145Howardian Close
from £100Landmark Place
from £35ML Lodge
from £75Maltsters
from £2000Millennium Walk
from £35Ml Lodge
from £117My Cardiff Pad
from £10Nomad
from £77Number62
from £35Penrhys Hotel
from £45Penrhys Hotel
from £160Plas Gwynt Mews
from £84SACO Cardiff
from £2000Tanes Hotel
from £125The Foretop
from £80Wynford Hotel
from £120Wynford Hotel

Cardiff Bay

Cardiff, South Glamorgan

from £32Tanes Hotel

Dowlais

Felindre

from £182Glas-Y-Dorlan

Glasbury

Hay-on-Wye

Hereford

Merthyr Tydfil

from £1057 Beacons Court
from £2000Bessemer Hotel
from £45Castle Hotel
from £85Penrhadw Farm
from £70Penrhadw Farm
from £65Queen Bee & B
from £2000Queen Bee & B
from £150Station House
from £40The Shed
from £120Winchfawr Lodge

Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales

Merthyr Vale

Penarth

Penarth, Cardiff

from £110Holm House

Peterston Super Ely

Pontsticill Brecon Beacons

from £0Pine Lodge

Pontsticill

from £69Ty Twt

Pontypridd

from £19Berry
from £60Blueberry Inn
from £50Llechwen Hall
from £39Scotts Hotel

Powys

from £70Brynderwen

Roath Park

St Fagans

from £2000The Laurels

Taffs Well

Talgarth

from £69Ty Bach Tan

Talgarth

from £0Caepost
from £58Swn yr Afon

Talybont-on-Usk

from £72Ty Fferm Hen

Three Cocks

from £159The Bailey

Trefecca Brecon Powys

from £157Jenterra

Trelewis

Troed y Rhiw

2

Brecon to Rhayader

Among the joys of Lon Las Cymru are the charming towns it passes through. Brecon is as fine as any, a diminutive cathedral city on the banks of the Usk. There are cafés around the wide marketplace, bike shops and a useful Morrisons supermarket.

This is where the climbing starts. The lanes through to Glasbury are undulating rather than mountainous, but tough-going after the gentle inclines of the Taff Trail. (You can divert at Glasbury for the book-town of Hay-on-Wye, five miles away.)

From here, Lon Las Cymru follows the Wye Valley for 40 marvellous miles. The road up to Builth Wells rewards fast cycling, but after Builth the lanes narrow and the corners tighten – with the occasional climb up the valley sides for good measure. Watch out for the muddy old coach road halfway between Newbridge and Rhayader; it's passable on a hybrid, but confident road bike riders might want to stick on the A470 until Llanwrthwl.

Hotels

Brecon

from £77Brecon Castle
from £180Llangoed Hall
from £77Nythfa House

Brecon, Powys

Brecon,

Builth Wells

from £45Bronwye
from £119Canoldy
from £100Dan-y-Castell
from £111Hafan Llewelyn
from £75Irfon Cottage
from £100Maindee Cottage
from £2000Neuadd Henllan
from £191Noyadd
from £81River Shack
from £43The Cedars
from £45White Horse
from £129Y Berllan Deg

Dark Lane

Howey

from £106Cottage 1
from £67Cottage 2
from £67Cottage 3
from £67Cottage 4

Llanyre

from £81Lane Cottage

Powys

from £70Brynderwen

Rhayader

from £59Bryn Derwen
from £32Crown Inn
from £122Glan Wye
from £174The Bakehouse
from £72The Bear
from £2000The Crown Inn
from £2000The Elan Hotel
from £174The Old Drapers
from £2000Ty Morgans

Rhayader, Powys

from £35Ty Morgan's

Talybont-on-Usk

from £72Ty Fferm Hen

Near Builth Wells

from £111Tyddyn

Near Llanwrthwl Powys

from £123Gorsddu
3

Rhayader to Machynlleth

From Rhayader to Llangurig, the tiny valley lane is one of the finest on the NCN. Lush and verdant, winding around the curves of the river below, it’s almost entirely bereft of traffic; on our last visit, the only other traffic we encountered was a farm cat sunning itself on the grassy road.

We leave the Wye Valley at Llangurig, climbing steeply over the watershed into the Severn Valley. Just nine miles short of its source, this is a very different river to the mighty waterway of Worcester and Gloucester. It’s a surprisingly tough climb up to the car park from where you can walk up to the source; look out for signs to the Severn-Break-Its-Neck waterfall on the left.

The real climbing, though, comes on the mountain road from Staylittle over to Machynlleth. There is at least one false summit here; you’ve not reached the top until you see a Sustrans milepost. From here, it’s eight miles of glorious descending to sea level at Machynlleth, twisting and turning on smooth tarmac all the way. The ancient capital of Owain Glyndwr’s Wales, Machynlleth is an excellent place to rest after the day’s exertions.

Bike shops

Machynlleth

Rhayader

Campsites

Campsite listings kindly provided by archiescampings
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Hotels

Aberllefenni

Builth Wells

from £129Y Berllan Deg

Dark Lane

Llanbrynmair

Llanidloes

from £139Bwthyn y Biga
from £115Church Lane
from £2000The Mount Inn
from £55Unicorn Hotel

Llanyre

from £81Lane Cottage

Llawr-y-Glyn Caersws

from £85The Barn
from £94The Cottage

Machynlleth

from £45Cwm Dylluan
from £34Ty Hapus

Old Hall Llanidloes

from £73Beech 2 Bed
from £78Cedar 2 Bed
from £68Oak 1 Bed

Powys

from £2000The Old Vicarage

Rhayader

from £59Bryn Derwen
from £32Crown Inn
from £122Glan Wye
from £174The Bakehouse
from £72The Bear
from £2000The Crown Inn
from £2000The Elan Hotel
from £174The Old Drapers
from £2000Ty Morgans

Rhayader, Powys

from £35Ty Morgan's

Tal y Llyn

Tal-y-Llyn

Tywyn

Near Llanwrthwl Powys

from £123Gorsddu
4

Machynlleth to Porthmadog

NCN 8 enters Snowdonia on an attractive cycle bridge built for the Millennium. The moderately taxing road to Corris, passing the Centre for Alternative Technology, might feel easier than you expected Snowdonia to be. Don’t be fooled.

The climb out of Aberllefenni is astonishingly tough, among the steepest on the NCN. Anyone who can manage it with loaded panniers earns our undying respect. The descent back down from 400m to sea level at Dolgellau is less smooth than that into Machynlleth, with grassy surfaces, farmyards and gates on the way, but no less enjoyable. Dolgellau is a sleepy market town on the periphery of Snowdonia, with plentiful accommodation and pubs serving food.

To give some respite, the route is entirely flat for the next eight miles, following the estuary west via Lon Mawddach – a former railway path (you can even see a preserved semaphore signal by the pub at Penmaenpool). It’s hard work in a headwind, but good cycling at any other time. You’ll need small change for the toll bridge at Barmouth.

From here, NCN 8 follows the coast along a small A road – busy in summer, manageable at other times. On occasion it loops inland up steep minor roads. It’s your call as to how faithfully you follow the route, but if your legs are up to it, we’d suggest you try; the views from the hilltops are spectacular on a clear day.

These lanes continue to the sea at Penrhyndeudraeth and Porthmadog. A mecca for narrow-gauge railway enthusiasts but with rather too much concrete to win the hearts of other cyclists, this down-to-earth town is on the way up now that a main road bypass has been built.

Hotels

Aberllefenni

Arthog

from £473Treetops
from £77Yr Hen Stabl

Arthog

from £94Hen Ysgubor
from £94Ysgubor Uchaf

Barmouth

from £164Barreg
from £187Harbour View

Barmouth

from £212Beautiful Wales
from £307Cae-Fadog Fach
from £78Craig Fach 1
from £0Craig Fach 2
from £65Dros y Dŵr
from £90Hen Blas
from £80The Farm Hut
from £80The Tilman
from £81Trem-y-mor
from £175Twr Mynach
from £0Wavecrest

Barmouth Gwynedd

Brynkir

from £85The Honey Pot

Caerdeon

Criccieth

from £74Castle Street
from £106Kris Kin
from £2000Plas Isa Hotel
from £144Ty Mawr

Criccieth, Porthmadog

Cwmpennant

Dolgellau

from £154Berthlwyd
from £111Cae Merllen
from £80Coed Cae
from £62Dolgun Uchaf
from £75Dolserau Hall
from £50Dwy Olwyn
from £110Ffynnon
from £70George III
from £75Gwernan Hotel
from £60Ivy House
from £55Ivy House B&B
from £17Kings
from £0Meadow View
from £75Tan y Gader
from £50Ty Seren
from £0Valley View
from £59Y Meirionnydd

Dyffryn Ardudwy

Dyffryn Ardudwy

from £147Ynys

Dyffryn Ardudwy Gwynedd

from £182Tan Y Fron

Dyffryn

from £138Gwytheryn

Dyffyn Ardudwy

Fairbourne

from £85Fairlawns
from £68Pen Y Coed

Golan

from £0Tyddyn Madyn
from £48Tynrhos

Gwyned, Nr Barmouth

Gwynedd

from £65Artro Lodges
from £60Royal Ship
from £55Victoria Inn

Harlech

from £50Awel y Mynydd
from £181Bod Eithin
from £66Byrdir House
from £0Ceinion
from £0Frondirion
from £292Noddfa
from £93Rhiwgoch
from £55Y Branwen
from £81Ysgubor

Llanaber

from £0Cedar Rest
from £0Rhosmair

Llanaber

from £85Morlais

Llanbedr

from £30Dinas
from £59Ty Mawr Hotel

Llanbedr Near Harlech

from £148Cyplau

Llanfair

from £131Beudy Hen

Machynlleth

from £45Cwm Dylluan
from £34Ty Hapus

Morfa Bychan

Nr Porthmadog

Nr. Barmouth

from £102Tremafon

Penmaenpool

Penrhyndeudraeth

from £0Tan Y Fawnog

Pentrefelin

from £73Bwthyn Bach

Porthmadog

from £0Estuary View
from £0Glaslyn View
from £0Tudor Lodge

Prenteg

Tal y Llyn

Tal-y-Llyn

Talsarnau

from £0The Barn
from £78Ty-Gwyn

Talsarnau

from £50Bryn Derw
from £170Mor Edrin

Talsarnau Harlech

from £0Hillside

Talsarnau Near Harlech

Talybont Nr. Barmouth

from £102Ger Y Coed
from £0Trefechan

Tremadog

Tywyn

5

Porthmadog to Holyhead

The climbing is over now. Yes, there are hillocks and ‘undulations’, but nothing compared to the mountains of Snowdonia. You’ll hit the dizzy heights of 150m before descending down to coastal Criccieth – worth a stop for its superlative castle and near-legendary fish and chip shop.

From there, minor roads take you to Lon Eifion, the railway path that marks the limit of the Llyn Peninsula and brings you into Caernarfon. Its last few miles are now accompanied by the restored Welsh Highland Railway, a perfect rejoinder to those who say that rebuilt railways and cycle paths can’t coexist.

Caernarfon is the finest town in North Wales, with its magnificent castle and medieval streets. Bangor, at the far end of Lon Las Menai (another railway path) is more workaday, but its university furnishes it with enough good pubs to make an enjoyable evening’s stay. The crossing to Anglesey is via the original Menai suspension bridge, still an awe-inspiring ride today. Watch the signs carefully around the one-way system on the approach, and again in Llanfairpwllgwyngyll once in Anglesey.

The final 25 miles on Anglesey are a meandering succession of quiet lanes via nowhere in particular, best taken at a relaxed pace; there’s barely a climb to trouble you. There are no facilities between Llanfair PG and Valley (just short of Holyhead), so plan your lunch stop accordingly.

Finally, Lon Las Cymru crosses the Stanley Embankment to Holy Island. The route through Penrhos Coastal Park can be confusing; eventually, it gives out onto residential streets for the final descent into Holyhead. Most riders finish at the station for a train home, but if you have the time, continue through the town centre for a more fitting finale by the seafront. There’s not much in Holyhead to detain the visitor, but no matter: here, the journey is definitely the reward.

Bike shops

Caernarfon

Penisar Waun

Porthmadog

Valley

Campsites

Campsite listings kindly provided by archiescampings
Campsite app · Help archies

Hotels

Aberffraw Anglesey

from £35Hafan

Anglesey

Bangor

from £60Baytree Lodge
from £60Baytree Lodge
from £65Garden Hotel
from £88Swyn Y Gwynt

Bangor Wales

from £119Lux Apartment

Beaumaris, Anglesey

Bethesda Bach Near Caernarfon

from £109Llifon

Bethesda Llanwnda Caernarfon

Bodedern

from £0Presaddfed

Bodedern Near Holyhead

from £94Rhiwal Kitty
from £87Ysgubor Myfi

Bodffordd

from £62Y Bwythyn

Bodorgan Anglesey

Bodorgan

Bontnewydd

from £96Gadlas

Bontnewydd Caernarfon

Bryncir

Brynkir

from £85The Honey Pot

Brynsiencyn Anglesey

from £0The Cottage

Brynsiencyn

Caeathro

from £59Bwthyn Bach

Caeathro Caernarfon

from £72Snowdon

Caergeiliog

from £98The Snug

Caernarfon

from £60Anglesey Arms
from £0Beudy Bach
from £0Beudy Mawr
from £174Beudy Menai
from £2000Caer Menai
from £56Caer Menai
from £2000Dinas Farm
from £0Hen Stabl
from £127Jasmine Bach
from £0Llofft Yr Yd
from £80Marianfa
from £2000Seiont Manor
from £18Totters

Carmel

from £88Gwyndy

Criccieth

from £50Awel Mor
from £0Awel Mor
from £74Castle Street
from £90Casula
from £0Dwyfach
from £81Gell Cottage
from £88Isfryn
from £106Kris Kin
from £33Lion Hotel
from £2000Marine Hotel
from £53Marine Hotel
from £84Parc Lodge
from £2000Plas Isa Hotel
from £144Ty Mawr
from £70Ty'n y Gwynt

Criccieth, Porthmadog

Cwmpennant

Dwyran Anglesey

from £115Y Potel Inc

Dwyran

from £105Gwyllt Cottages

Gaerwen

Glyngarth Near Beaumaris

from £290The Ridge

Golan

from £0Tyddyn Madyn
from £48Tynrhos

Gwalchmai Isle Of Anglesey

Gwalchmai

from £120Rallt Fawr

Gwalchmai Near Llangefni

from £98Hawkwing Rise

Gwynedd

Harlech

from £50Awel y Mynydd
from £181Bod Eithin
from £66Byrdir House
from £0Ceinion
from £0Frondirion
from £292Noddfa
from £93Rhiwgoch
from £55Y Branwen
from £81Ysgubor

Holyhead

from £50Bull Hotel
from £50Bull Hotel
from £50Crossroads
from £55Ferry Lodge
from £2000Holyhead Lodge
from £85Hotel Cymyran
from £85Seacroft
from £0Swn Y Mor
from £35The Beach Hut
from £35Wavecrest
from £2000Witchingham B&B
from £65Yr Hendre

Isle Of Anglesey

Llanbedr

from £30Dinas

Llanberis

Llanddeiniolen

Llandegfan

Llandegfan

from £50maen hir

Llandwrog

from £106Tan Y Dderwen
from £93White Towers

Llandwrog Nr. Caernarfon

from £161Ty Cai
from £86Ty Macsen
from £93Ty Sam

Llanfachraeth

Llanfachraeth

from £2000Holland Hotel

Llanfaelog

from £144Pen Yr Allt

Llanfaglan Caernarfon

from £254Glanrafon Isaf

Llanfair

from £131Beudy Hen

Llanfairpwll

from £116Bodhyfryd

Llanfairpwllgwyngyll Anglesey

from £107Llety Pinc

Llanfairpwllgwyngyll

from £50Carreg Bran

Llangaffo Anglesey

from £78Cae Ocyn

Llangefni

from £65Tafarn-Y-Rhos

Llangybi Nr. Pwllheli

from £0Beudy Isaf

Llanllyfni

from £70The Cottage

Llanllyfni

from £93Dowlais
from £125Graianog Bach
from £130Igam Ogam

Llanrug

Llanrug

from £66Ship Cottage
from £81Ty Llyffant

Llanwnda

from £60Parc B&B

Llanystumdwy Criccieth

from £70Dwyfach
from £70Dwyfor

Malltraeth

from £96Pen Llyn

Menai Bridge Anglesey

from £75Bryn Aethwy

Menai Bridge

from £78Anglesey Arms
from £2000Bulkeley Arms
from £2000Gazelle Hotel
from £65Gazelle Hotel

Minffordd Bangor

from £75Pen Dinas

Morfa Bychan

Mountain

from £66Sherwood

Newborough Anglesey

Nr Porthmadog

Nr. Caernarfon

Pen-y-Bryn

Penlon Newborough Anglesey

from £164Pen Braint

Penrhos Feilw

Penrhos Feilw Nr. Trearddur Bay

from £112Seascape

Penrhyndeudraeth

from £0Tan Y Fawnog

Pentraeth

Pentrefelin

from £73Bwthyn Bach
from £52Little Barn

Pontllyfni

from £169Bron Dirion
from £0Rhandir-Mwyn

Pontrug

from £154Y Ddol

Porthmadog

from £0Estuary View
from £0Glaslyn View
from £0Tudor Lodge

Prenteg

Rhosbodrual Caernarfon

from £286Bodrual Cottage

Rhosneigr Anglesey

from £0West Lawn

Rhosneigr

from £278Broad Beach
from £170Celyn Y Mor
from £144Morwennol
from £0The Warren
from £101Wavecrest
from £226Ynys Groes

Rhostryfan Caernarfon

from £98Hen Weithdy

Talsarnau

from £0The Barn
from £78Ty-Gwyn

Talsarnau

from £50Bryn Derw
from £170Mor Edrin

Talsarnau Harlech

from £0Hillside

Talsarnau Near Harlech

Talwrn Near Llangefni

from £101Bryn Gors

Talysarn

from £0Ar Y Graig

Trearddur Bay

from £108Alarch

Trearddur Bay Anglesey

from £466Avilion
from £240Glan Y Mor
from £186Gwelfor
from £70The Old Abbey

Trearddur

from £119Gull House

Treborth Near Bangor

from £80The Old Mill

Trefor Anglesey

from £40Bryn Tirion

Tremadog

Valley

from £283Glan Rhyd Isaf

y Felinheli

from £74Bryn Menai
from £65Garddfon Inn
from £60Moriah
from £60Seion

y Felinheli Gwynedd

from £69Llys Aled

y Felinheli Nr. Bangor

y Felinheli, Nr Caernarfon

Near y Felinheli