Decided to do this on the weekend of 12/13 September 2020, heading west to east to have a lovely warm following wind. The route is absolutely brilliant, well signed but it's definitely worth getting the Sustrans map as it not only shows the route, turns, towns etc but also the upcoming ups and downs which is so important for moral.
Day 1 was Aber to Llanidloes, via the Elan Valley and the route out of Aber is a lovely, gradually increasing old railway line and the views soon start to appear. Following the Ystwyth river for some miles then switching on and off tarmac, old railway line and a bit of forest downhill for some variety. Due to Covid 19 fallout the Miners Stores and the Gallery in Pont Rhyd Y Groes (16 miles in) were shut so it was lucky we had plenty of snacks and drinks to get through to the Elan Valley, about 20 miles and lots of climb later.
The Elan Valley did not disappoint and it was a welcome few miles of almost all downhill and the choice of places to eat and drink is brilliant; we chose to eat at Penbont House which was perfect. Nice food, great prices, wifi (after many hours on no signal in the Welsh hills!) and great staff too.
A nice tootle down to Rhayader then turn left for Llangurig - this 10 mile stretch felt like 100 miles after the long lunch stop and then languid miles of downhill but the 5 miles from Llangurig to Llanidloes went by quickly with lots of little ups and downs to make us work a bit but then love the downs. We stayed at the Whistling Badger in Llanidloes and ate out at the Angel; both places great with friendly staff and lovely food.
Day 2 was lots of quiet B roads with a bit of quiet riverside and canal path around Newtown where we had a late breakfast (Greggs!) and pushed on to Welshpool for a pub stop and to grab a picnic lunch from a supermarket there. There are some pretty big climbs during day 2 and the weather was stunning so lots of fluids and stopping in the shade to mop up the sweat.
Getting to the top of Long Mountain was such a relief as it is a tough climb and the panniers on the bikes make it feel as though someone deploys a parachute every time you get to an uphill bit, normally inertia and a bit of grunt gets you up quite a way but the panniers say "not this time sunshine!". Anyway, from the top of Long Mountain it's pretty well 5 miles of almost continual downhill, some wide and straight so we were able to let Newton do his stuff!
An easy finish and felt remarkably good reaching the outskirts of Shrewsbury, getting in an hour or so earlier than planned for a welcome beer or 2.
The only slight down points were coming out of Pont Rhyd Y Groes the turning to leave the B4343 was not there and it looked as though the landowner had put a no entry sign up, this meant a tarmac slog up a hill but after 1km we found a forest track which we nipped down to rejoin the wide, off road track. The other bit was a closure of the off road section from the top dam at Elan which we hadn't see from the Sustrans website and went on a bit of a detour; these are very minor disappointments only.
Our verdict of the route in 2 days - hard work but doable with a bit of prepping and absolutely brilliant; we started at about 8.40 am both days and were in Llanidloes for 5.20 with some long comfortable stops and got to the outskirts of Shrewsbury an hour earlier than that, again with long, comfortable stops.
The cycle.travel website was absolutely invaluable and I have recommended it to lots of people - thank you whoever is responsible for the site.