Wales is known for its mountains, and its cycle routes are no exception. But Lon Cambria, which crosses the centre of the country from Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth, gives a chance to enjoy the fine scenery without too many gruelling climbs.
Quiet lanes wind from town to town – Welshpool, Llanidloes, Rhayader – with rarely a car to be seen. Scenic highlights include miles of views from the top of the Long Mountain; a truly delightful lane down the Wye Valley; and the glorious cycle-path past the Elan Reservoirs. And if you need any more persuasion, the route finishes with a full 24 miles of descending to the sea at Aberystwyth.
Three days makes for a comfortable ride; two is achievable for the fitter rider. Shrewsbury and Aberystwyth, at each end of the route, are interesting historic towns that merit a longer stay if you have time.
Any hybrid bike or road bike will be fine. Most surfaces are tarmaced, with only a few (easily skippable) sections on the descent to Aberystwyth requiring sturdier tyres. Mountain bikes may struggle up the steep climb of the Long Mountain.
Though cycle routes are usually tackled west–east, to gain the assistance of the prevailing wind, in this case we’d recommend starting at Shrewsbury. The hills gradually unfold to show mid-Wales at its best, and arriving by the sea in Aberystwyth is a fine finale to the ride.
A reasonably fit first-time tourer will cope comfortably, especially on a four-day itinerary. There are a couple of stiff climbs, but the views from high ground are instantly rewarding.
NCN route 81 actually begins on a canal towpath in Birmingham! You can follow it all the way from Birmingham to Shrewsbury for an extra 50 miles, though there’s a busy road crossing at Albrighton which is less than great.
Or if you want to ride more of Wales, consider heading south on Lon Teifi which meets Lon Cambria before Aberystwyth.
Just the one. When the main route takes a circuitous (but delightful) detour via Rhayader, you can choose to head due west from Llangurig over a high, exposed pass. It’s hard work over a rough surface, but offers an unforgettable glimpse of Wales at its wildest.
Shrewsbury is easily reached by train from Birmingham, Manchester or Cardiff. (TfW’s trains have limited bike accommodation and you’re advised to book; the West Midlands trains on the Birmingham route are less cramped.)
For your return journey, there’s a direct train service from Aberystwyth back to Shrewsbury. This also stops at Welshpool, Newtown and Caersws, should you need to break your journey.
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Ride reports & comments
End of Sept 2020
Two of us cycled the Lon Cambria from Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth, leaving Shrewsbury on the 24th Sept 2020 at lunchtime and arrived at the sea by 11am on 27th Sept…
From Aberystwyth to Shrewsbury
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…
Lon Cambria - the 'Aber Challenge' tour - April 2015
Back in April, a small group of us decided to cycle Lon Cambria - from Aberyswyth back to Shrewsbury . It was a great fun few days, the weather was…
Ridden this route? Write a ride report and share your experience…
Recently completed a lot of this as part of a bigger ride. At Langurig I took the 818 shortcut. It is a hilly (at times steep, most will want to push sections) and scenic ride the closer you get to Aberystwyth. I chose to mostly walk the broken road section of a mile or two. Just too dangerous on a loaded touring bike. There was water pooled from recent rain, but it was passable and err.... memorable. The section around Newtown on the weaving canal path was a bit overgrown due to summer, took some patience, but much safer than the A road. Overall the route I was surprised how beautiful this area is. There are nice towns to stop, refuel and camp along the way. At Welshpool there is a small road to the north of the long mountain 'pass' if you don't fancy all that climbing.
I did this route over a couple of days, a big first day of 130km and 2000m climbing (arguably a bit too tough), a bivvy and a fairly short second day. The train back to Shrewsbury makes for an easy A-B trip.
In terms of advice, good to know that I didn't find find a refuelling stop between Rhayader and Aberystwyth, so make sure you have all the supplies you need. I'd also recommend tubeless tyres if you have them or more tubes than you might think sensible. It seems that whenever I cycle in Wales, the farmers have just trimmed the hedgerows filling the lanes with thorns (this might just be bad luck on my part).
It's a lovely route and it covers my favourite section of the Lon Las Cymru (between Llanidloes and Rhayader). Highly recommended.
I did this over three and a half days during the peak colours of autumn. There were few steep hills, with tremendous variation in landscape and scenery, and the views were spectacular. It rained every day and night but there were long spells of sunshine. I had one puncture in the final stretch into Aberystwyth. The Cycle.Travel links (e.g., campsite finder, etc.) worked extremely well in every respect. This route was a delight.