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1

Bristol to Newport

The Celtic Trail proper starts on the Welsh Border at Chepstow, but we’ll begin our journey on National Cycle Network route 4 at Bristol.

Sustrans, the charity behind the NCN, has its headquarters there – there’s a sculpture map of the network outside the @Bristol centre in the redeveloped waterfront. Ironically, it’s very easy to get lost following NCN 4 west out of the city, so take our map with you: don’t just trust that there’ll be signs. As an alternative for those with hybrid bikes, NCN 41 follows a lovely woodland path along the south bank of the Avon, crossing over to the north bank via a path on the M5 motorway bridge.

After the overspill of Avonmouth, the two routes rejoin at the curious never-quite-resort village of Severn Beach. Follow NCN 4 from here to the original Severn Bridge. Crossing the mile-long bridge on the cycleway is a memorable experience, with the treacherous sands of the Severn Estuary far below you. It’s typically very windy, too.

Chepstow’s main draw is its imposing riverside castle. The Wye Valley is pretty steep-sided, so your legs won’t thank you for the brief detour. In any case, the next few miles through the Monmouthshire countryside are hilly but well chosen and enjoyably rural, diving down to a little valley church before ambling towards Caldicot on quiet lanes and a roadside cycle path.

After the useful village of Caldicot, the route heads out on the stark Newport Levels. These are flat, quiet – and desperately windy if you catch them at the wrong time. The lanes run alongside drainage ditches from tiny village to village for ten miles before industrial Newport. (In the long term, Sustrans hopes to create a coastal route from Chepstow to Newport.)

The Celtic Trail enters Newport via the fabulously anachronistic Transporter Bridge, a suspended carriage that takes you across the tidal Usk. When this temperamental beast is out of action, there’s a more prosaic detour beside the main road.

Those who know the city through the words of its favourite sons, comedy rap troupe Goldie Lookin’ Chain, might be surprised by the variety of its architecture. It’s also an important junction on the National Cycle Network, with the first of many routes up the Valleys leaving the Celtic Trail here.

Hotels

from £70The Angel Inn

Almondsbury

Bristol

Bristol

from £55A4 Hotel
from £115Berkeley Suites
from £104Berkeley Suites
from £85Berwick Lodge
from £85Berwick Lodge
from £94Bowl Inn
from £60Clifton House
from £2000Cribbs Lodge
from £89Ferndale Mews
from £15Rock n Bowl
from £90The Angel Inn
from £45The Ashville
from £44The Horseshoe
from £125Westfield House
from £29YHA Bristol
from £15YHA Bristol
from £16YHA Bristol

Bristol, Avon

Bristol, South West England

Caerleon. Newport

Caldicot

from £60The Lychgate

Chepstow

from £95Broadrock
from £2000Broadrock
from £50Castle View
from £2000Mathern Palace
from £65No8 Chepstow

Chepstow Wales

Chepstow, Monmouthshire

Cotham

Filton

Gwent

Newport

Newport

from £40Gateway Hotel
from £50New Inn
from £2000Night Lodge

Newport City

from £40Nightlodge

Newport, the Usk Valley

Portskewett Near Caldicot

from £75Willow Bach
2

Newport to Pontypridd

Getting out of Newport was once the low point on the Celtic Trail, with missing signage and an unattractive route. More recently, a new river bridge has diverted it away from busy city streets, while local Sustrans volunteers have been busy with stickers which guide you safely into the countryside. The city falls away surprisingly quickly, for an enjoyable (though hilly) canter on country lanes for six miles to Machen.

Here, the Celtic Trail joins a railway path for the first time. Cycleways along old trackbeds are the defining feature of cycling in the Valleys. There was once a time when every valley had a railway, often two, serving the mines, ironworks and hillside towns. Inevitably, with the Valley economies in freefall, Dr Beeching did his worst, and the ’70s saw several old trackbeds reused for fast new roads. Thankfully, many remained untouched, and have since become the bedrock of the ‘Valleys Cycle Network’ – perhaps the densest network of cycleways in Britain.

The railway signal artwork at Trethomas is a neat nod to this heritage. It’s not railway path all the way, and indeed the route either side of Caerphilly is a little fussy, twisting and turning to keep you away from major roads. That said, the wooded riverside path along the Rhymney River is very pleasant.

Caerphilly itself is best known for its spectacular castle, matched only by Caernarfon in its completeness and scale – and the Celtic Trail takes you right through the grounds.

Two miles on, the route meets the Taff Trail (NCN route 8, aka Lon Las Cymru). The two trails share a railway path for the run into Pontypridd. There isn’t too much to detain the visitor here, but you can take an inexpensive Valley train into Cardiff from here (or Caerphilly) and spend the evening in the capital.

Alternative route

Almost entirely traffic-free, the high-level route from Newport to Pontypridd is worth considering. It leaves Newport on the old Monmouthshire Canal, closed for many years but (slowly) being reborn thanks to the work of volunteers. The Fourteen Locks after the M4 are a canal engineering curiosity, and the towpath to Risca and Crosskeys is beautifully wooded – Little Switzerland in the Valleys. After this, the route follows railway paths all the way to Pontypridd, passing over the restored Hengoed Viaduct before meeting the Taff Trail at Quaker’s Yard. Turn south here for Pontypridd.

Bike shops

Caerphilly

Church Village

Llantrisant

Newport

Pontypridd

Campsites

Bassaleg

Coedkemew

Cwmcarn

Peterstone Wentlooge

Rhiwderin

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Hotels

Caerleon. Newport

Cardiff

Cardiff, Mid Glamorgan

Crosskeys

Gwent

Hengoed

Llantrisant

Mynyddislwyn

Newport

Newport

from £40Gateway Hotel
from £50New Inn
from £2000Night Lodge

Newport City

from £40Nightlodge

Newport, the Usk Valley

Pontyclun

from £140Haveli Hotel
from £55Haveli Hotel

Pontypridd

from £19Berry
from £60Blueberry Inn
from £50Llechwen Hall
from £39Scotts Hotel
3

Pontypridd to Swansea

This section has some of the finest cycling on the route – in a most unexpected place. “How green was my valley?” As the first 20 miles of today’s route prove, very green indeed.

The long climb out of Pontypridd is the hardest on the Celtic Trail before Swansea, a mile-long slog on a country lane. But it does take you back into peaceful countryside for the first time since Caerphilly, with just the occasional Valley village between here and Bridgend. Wind turbines and curious cycle paths across farmland add to the sense of isolation, even though the route is just five miles from the M4.

The off-road route into Blackmill is all new and thoroughly delightful, a smooth tarmac ribbon through the countryside which replaces five unpleasant miles of A road. Here the route falls back onto the valley floor, a green railway path taking you into the tangle of streets at Tondu. The route emerges onto a railside path, following a live but very little-used railway to Pyle.

All good things must come to an end, and the 19 miles from here to Swansea are the most utilitarian on the Celtic Trail. The brief diversion through Margam Country Park is pleasant, but the infamous gate at the entrance requires you to manhandle your bike through. The seafront at Port Talbot, too, is attractive. Otherwise, it’s largely unremarkable roadside paths all the way, the approach to Swansea being particularly dispiriting. Put your head down and get it over with – or cheat and get the train!

Alternative route

NCN 47 is at its wildest along here, and the route is best suited to those on mountain bikes or who don’t mind a few judders on their hybrid. There’s no settlement of any size in the 24 miles from Pontypridd to Neath, so make sure you’re watered and fed before setting off. You’ll need your climbing legs, too, as the route falls and climbs for every mountain stream.

But if you like your wilderness, this is a superb option to take, taking you through a part of Wales that very few people ever see. Keep an eye out for signs, as it can otherwise be easy to get lost in the maze of forestry tracks.

Bike shops

Bridgend

Briton Ferry

Brynmenyn

Church Village

Llantrisant

Pontypridd

Swansea

ShopTredz

Campsites

Bridgend

Cefn Cribwr

Mayals

Neath Abbey

Nottage

South Cornelly

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Hotels

Bridgend

from £115Cae Court Hotel
from £35Ty Gwyneth

Cardiff

Gower Swansea

Gowerton

from £84Ty Berllan
from £84Ty Cae Mawr
from £105Ty Gwyn
from £84Ty Llaethdy

Langland

from £121Hairpin Cottage

Llangeinor

from £0Meadow Croft
from £69Penny Croft
from £66Sunny Croft

Llangynwyd Nr. Bridgend

Llantrisant

Margam

from £45The Barn B&B
from £2000The Barn B&B

Murton

Neath

from £54Castle Hotel

North Cornelly

Nr Bridgend, Glamorgan

Pontyclun

from £55Haveli Hotel
from £140Haveli Hotel

Pontypridd

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

Port Talbot

from £60Blancos Hotel

Port Talbot, Nr Swansea

Pyle

Shwt

Swansea

Swansea

from £30Arches Hotel
from £32Devon View
from £50Dolphin SA1
from £33Dolphin SA1
from £85Morgans Hotel
from £85Morgans Hotel
from £65Shoreline
from £38The Alexander
from £29ibis Swansea

Swansea, West Glamorgan

Tondu

from £45Richlands

Uplands

from £2000Alexander Hotel

Nr Swansea

4

Swansea to Carmarthen

The entrance to Swansea is soon forgotten. The compact city centre is worth exploring, and the Celtic Trail chooses a particularly attractive way out through the regenerated harbour, then along the seafront. A bacon roll overlooking the pleasant dock area is an excellent way to start your ride to Carmarthen!

A gentle, steady ascent up the Clyne Valley railway path takes you over to Gowerton. It’s the 15 coastal miles from Llanelli to Kidwelly that are the real draw, though. Starting after the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve, the Millennium Coastal Park provides a beautiful seaside ride dotted with cafés and ice-cream sellers. The surface is smooth tarmac throughout – well, apart from the sand that inevitably blows onto the path. It’s one of the few sections of the Wales Coast Path that is open to cyclists, and greatly to be savoured.

The last views of the sea – for now – are at Burry Port. Here, the route moves onto the unsurfaced tracks through Pembrey Forest. The trail ambles first though plantation, then through coastal flats, all the while far from traffic. Sleepy Kidwelly is a good marker that you’ve left urban South Wales far behind; arrive mid-afternoon, and you’ll believe there’s nothing going on here but the pubs and their faithful regulars.

There’s been barely a climb since Pontypridd, but now the contours get a little more pronounced. Thirteen miles of country lanes take the Celtic Trail into Carmarthen, with a lovely seaside stretch around Ferryside affording fine views.

Carmarthen, the gateway to south-west Wales, is a traditional market town and an excellent overnight stop. With its direct trains from London and Bristol, it’s also a suitable break should you be splitting your journey into several visits. The rest of the Celtic Trail will be very different.

Alternative route

The high-level route diverges at Llanelli, so you have the first part of the Millenium Coastal Park to enjoy. From here, it follows a railway path into the hills before taking minor roads to Carmarthen. This option has much more of the character of rural Carmarthenshire than the coastal route does, though that inevitably means a little extra climbing. If you’ve had enough of the seaside, it’s a good option to consider.

Bike shops

Campsites

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Hotels

Burry Port

from £182Ysgubor Wen

Burry Port Harbour

from £68Gower View

Carmarthen

Carmarthen

from £65Falcon Hotel
from £65Falcon Hotel
from £60Spilman Hotel
from £138The Coach House
from £90The Dairy
from £85The Old Dairy
from £90The Parlour
from £116The Smithy
from £70Y Buarth

Carmarthenshire

from £45Miramar Hotel

Carway

Felinfoel Nr. Kidwelly

from £210Maes Y Wawr

Ferryside

Ferryside

from £102Pen Y Fedw
from £280Pentre Cottage
from £278Ty-Canol

Gogledd

from £114Beachlands

Gower Swansea

Gowerton

from £84Ty Berllan
from £84Ty Cae Mawr
from £105Ty Gwyn
from £84Ty Llaethdy

Heddfan Millenium Quay

from £66Heddfan

Horeb

from £69Rose Cottage

Kidwelly

from £86Bont Cottage
from £2000Middle Mill
from £132Y Felin

Langland

from £121Hairpin Cottage

Llanelli

from £42Beachview
from £70Bwthyn Clyd
from £35Miramar
from £73Seaview
from £59Vista Hotel
from £74Waters Edge
from £65Waun Wyllt
from £65vista hotel

Llanelli, Carmarthenshire

Llangennech

from £99Glanmwrg Barn

Llangynog Carmarthen

Llansteffan

from £107Llety-R-Wennol

Llansteffan

from £167Avondale
from £179Bwthyn y Bardd

Murton

Neath

Pembrey

from £59Rose Cottage

Pembrey

from £65Adeline
from £226Bwthyn y Traeth

Swansea

Swansea

from £30Arches Hotel
from £32Devon View
from £33Dolphin SA1
from £50Dolphin SA1
from £85Morgans Hotel
from £85Morgans Hotel
from £65Shoreline
from £38The Alexander
from £29ibis Swansea

Swansea, West Glamorgan

Three Crosses Gower Swansea

from £77The Dairy
from £77The Granary

Uplands

from £2000Alexander Hotel

Nr Swansea

5

Carmarthen to Pembroke

The Celtic Trail in Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire has an entirely distinct character from the semi-urban route of Newport, Pontypridd and Swansea. Gone are the miles of railway track, the forest paths and the winding suburban routes. From here, it’s country lanes (almost) all the way.

And it’s much hillier. Each river cleaves a valley as it falls into the sea, and as the Celtic Trail valiantly attempts to follow the coast, it climbs out of every one of them. It’s not gruelling on the scale of the C2C or Lon Las Cymru, but neither is it a ride through the park. As ever in Wales, permit yourself an exasperated sigh that the valleys are colonised by busy main roads, while those of us on more responsible transport are forced up onto the hills.

That said, Carmarthenshire is a lovely county, and these little lanes are the best way of exploring it. The steep climb out of Carmarthen is a rude awakening, but when you reach the top, there’s a real sense that you’ve escaped into rural Wales. So it continues all the way to Pembroke.

You don’t have to go into Laugharne – there’s an inland cut-off that saves you a few miles (and climbs). But if you’ve ever read any Dylan Thomas, or simply enjoy sitting by the sea with a pint, this artsy Georgian-styled town is a must-see.

At 43 miles, Carmarthen to Pembroke is doable in a day: but we’d strongly counsel that you take it easier, perhaps stopping at Tenby after 32 miles. Tenby’s colourful houses and inviting beach give it the air of a resort town, yet this is hardly candyfloss and amusement-arcade country: your camera will be clicking away to capture the harbour views. The five miles here from Amroth are particularly enjoyable, as the route dives onto the coast path to tunnel under cliffs and cross beaches.

Alternative route to Fishguard

From Carmarthen, the high-level route (NCN 47) takes a direct line to Fishguard – shorter, but so much more remote. The blue stones of the Preseli Hills are believed to be the source of Stonehenge, and it’s this unvisited country that NCN 47 crosses on tiny, winding lanes. Yes, there are hills; many of them.

But our recollections of the ride are of stone circles just metres from the road; the tin-build Tafarn Sinc and its cheery home-cooked food, manna after a day’s cycling; a remote village where we were the only ones speaking English; old enamel signs on wooden garage doors; and wide, open views with barely a house in sight.

Few places in Britain feel so undiscovered. Should you take this option – and we strongly suggest you consider it, perhaps as a return route from Fishguard – then consider a brief detour between Puncheston and Fishguard. Just a few miles away is the Gwaun Valley, a forgotten enclave where the tiny Duffryn Arms lays claim to be the least spoilt pub in Britain. Check out our guide to Lon Teifi for more, but be warned: you may never want to leave.

Bike shops

Carmarthen

Haverfordwest

Llanelli

Shop, HireLlanelli Cycles

Milford Haven

Pembroke Dock

Tenby

Campsites

Amroth

Begelly

Broadmoor

Brook

Burry Port

Ferryside

Freshwater East

Haverfordwest

Hundleton

Jameston

Kidwell

Kidwelly

Kilgetty

Lamphey

Laugharne

Llandyfaelog

Llangain

Llangunnor

Llansteffan

Llanteg

Llanybri

Lower Nash

Ludchurch

Lydstep Beach

Lydstep

Manorbier

Milford Haven

Milton

Monkstone

New Hedges

Northcliffe

Penally

Pendine

Pinged

Redberth

Sageston

Saundersfoot

St Clears

St Petrox

St. Clears

St. Florence

Stepaside

Tavernspite

Tenby

Trawsmawr

Upper Marros

Uzmaston

Whitland

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Hotels

Amroth

from £0The Nook

Amroth

from £96Clam Cottage

Amroth Nr. Saundersfoot

from £145Morfa

Begelly

Burry Port

from £182Ysgubor Wen

Burry Port Harbour

from £68Gower View

Carmarthen

Carmarthen

from £65Falcon Hotel
from £65Falcon Hotel
from £0Picton-House
from £60Spilman Hotel
from £138The Coach House
from £90The Dairy
from £85The Old Dairy
from £90The Parlour
from £116The Smithy
from £70Y Buarth

Carmarthenshire

Cosheston

from £0Ty Melin

Dynbych y Pysgod

Ferryside

Ferryside

from £102Pen Y Fedw
from £280Pentre Cottage
from £278Ty-Canol

Freshwater East

Haverfordwest

from £2000County Hotel
from £94Ty Gwyn
from £95Y Cwm

Kidwelly

from £86Bont Cottage
from £2000Middle Mill
from £132Y Felin

Kilgetty

Kilgetty Dyfed

Kilgetty

from £50Manian Lodge
from £115Stonecrest
from £2000The Begelly Arms

Lamphey

Lamphey

from £60Lamphey Park
from £200North Down Farm

Lamphey Near Pembroke

from £74Bryn-Y-Mel

Laugharne

from £85Keepers Cottage
from £80Keepers Cottage
from £55The Brown s
from £65The Brown's

Llanddowror

Llanelli

Llangwm

from £64Y Cleddau

Llangynog Carmarthen

Llanmiloe Nr. Pendine

Llansteffan

from £107Llety-R-Wennol

Llansteffan

from £167Avondale
from £179Bwthyn y Bardd

Llanteg Narberth

from £79Horsemanstone

Ludchurch

Marros

from £50Granary Barn
from £47Keepers
from £45The Buttery
from £45The Dairy

Milford Haven

from £65Tideways

Milton

from £75Dilys
from £121Ford Farmhouse
from £75Gareth

Narberth

from £2000Bay View Hotel
from £2000Pinewood B&B

Near Saundersfoot

Neyland

Nr Tenby

from £50Manian Lodge
from £59The Normandie
from £18YHA Manorbier

Pembrey

from £59Rose Cottage

Pembrey

from £65Adeline
from £226Bwthyn y Traeth

Pembroke

from £73The Quay

Pembroke

from £2000Eaton House
from £65Lamphey Park
from £2000Portclew House
from £116The Appletree
from £60The Dial Inn

Pembroke Dock

from £75Albion House
from £42Llanion Lodge
from £2000Llanion Lodge

Pembrokeshire

from £100Castlemead
from £0The Cottage

Penally Nr. Tenby

from £126The Stables

Pendine

Pendine Near Laugharne

Popehill

Red Roses

from £127West Rose Barn

Red Roses Tenby

from £92Windrush

Rosemarket

Rosemarket Near Haverfordwest

from £114The Glen

Saint Clears

from £69Llety Cynin
from £50Manordaf B&B

Saint Florence

Sardis

Saundersfoot

from £2000Gower Hotel
from £85La-Nina
from £0Nythfa
from £2000Pen Coed B&B
from £0Woodlands

Saundersfoot, Nr Tenby

St Clears

from £137Bwthyn Sancler
from £68LLety Cynin

St Clears Near Laugharne

St Florence Near Tenby

St Florence Nr. Tenby

from £116Hanna'S Cottage

Tavernspite

from £123Y Bwthyn

Tenby

from £45Albany Hotel
from £120Bells House
from £68Caldey House
from £75Castlemead
from £114Celtic Haven
from £43Cliffe Norton
from £85Farnham Hotel
from £65Giltar Hotel
from £2000Gumfreston Hotel
from £55Hammonds Park
from £60Panorama
from £75Rainbows End
from £2000Rose Cottage
from £2000The Esplanade
from £100Trefloyne Manor
from £80Tudor Lodge

Tenby, Pembrokeshire

Valast Hill

from £90Last Barn

Valast Hill Nr. Stackpole

from £52Swallow Barn
6

Pembroke to Fishguard

Pembroke’s narrow main street has an olde-worlde air, descending to the splendid castle at sea level – of which the Celtic Trail gives excellent views. Pembroke Dock, two miles on, is an entirely separate and more workaday town. The Milford Haven Waterway splits and splits again into the inlets on which these settlements thrived; today, the cyclist endures a windy haul across the estuary bridge to reach one of the jewels of the Celtic Trail.

The ‘Brunel Cycle Trail’ takes up the route from here to Johnston, three miles on. Short it may be, but this beautiful, smoothly-surfaced little route is what rural cycle paths should be. Its Brunel ancestry is apparent as it pulls up close to the railway at its terminus: he’d make a great cycle path engineer.

Skirting the edge of Haverfordwest, the Celtic Trail heads for the Pembrokeshire coast at Broad Haven and the most undulating part of the route. Believe us, you’ll feel every valley in the pedals, but the coastal views make up for it – mostly. The signs head inland at Roch, but if the traffic’s light, you could follow the coastal A-road via the cherished seaside villages of Newgale and Solva.

St David’s is famously the smallest city in Britain. Anywhere else it would be a village – were it not for the small matter of the cathedral. Tourists give it a good range of pubs, cafés and B&Bs, and there’s an out-of-town youth hostel for budget accommodation.

The last 17 miles to Fishguard cling to the coast once again, but it’s a little less exhausting than the Broad Haven section. A relaxed schedule will give you time to stop in famously pretty seaside villages like Porthgain (just off the route) and Trefin; thousands are drawn to walk the Pembrokeshire Coast Path every year, and it would be a shame not to share the coastal experience.

One final climb takes you over the hill to Fishguard, where buzzards circle above the busy roads for the final run-in. Down by the sea, you’ll find the Ocean Laboratory, the harbour for ferries to Rosslare, and a brand new railway station at Fishguard & Goodwick. Climb the hill, and you’ll arrive at a busy little town where we’d suggest a visit to the museum and to the Fishguard Arms pub. It’s easy to catch the train back from here. But the high-level route over the hills back to Carmarthen is surely a tempting alternative…

Hotels

Cosheston

from £0Ty Melin

Creampots

from £0The Cottage

Fishguard

from £2000Cefn-y-Dre
from £70Seasidesteps
from £45Seaview Hotel
from £50Tara
from £2000The Cartref Hotel

Fishguard Dyfed

from £89Gorwel Glas

Freshwater East

Goodwick

Haverfordwest

from £2000County Hotel
from £97Gleathers
from £94Ty Gwyn
from £95Y Cwm

Lamphey

Lamphey

from £60Lamphey Park
from £200North Down Farm

Lamphey Near Pembroke

from £74Bryn-Y-Mel

Llangwm

from £64Y Cleddau

Milford Haven

from £65Tideways

Milton

from £75Dilys
from £121Ford Farmhouse
from £75Gareth

Neyland

Pembroke

from £73The Quay

Pembroke

from £2000Eaton House
from £65Lamphey Park
from £2000Portclew House
from £116The Appletree
from £60The Dial Inn

Pembroke Dock

from £75Albion House
from £2000Llanion Lodge
from £42Llanion Lodge

Pembrokeshire

Popehill

Rosemarket

Rosemarket Near Haverfordwest

from £114The Glen

Sardis

Valast Hill

from £90Last Barn

Valast Hill Nr. Stackpole

from £52Swallow Barn