Mid-Wales is the remotest part of Britain south of the Highlands – and that makes it ideal cycling country.
Countless lanes wind over the hills and along the valleys of this verdant landscape, with only a few quiet market towns dotted across the landscape. You could plan your own route through this cycling paradise, but you’d be hard-pushed to find a better one than the Radnor Ring.
An 84-mile loop, it tours the stark upland scenery on lanes where there’s precious little traffic apart from tractors. This is the remote hill-farming land of R.S. Thomas’s poetry, a land where the locals prefer the Old Testament to the New “because it has more about sheep-farming”. If that sounds old-fashioned, it is: in many ways, this lovely country is the land that time forgot.
Most tours through Mid-Wales are best described as ‘challenging’, and this is no exception. There’s a lot of climbing involved. (But some great descents, too.) We’d suggest taking three days over it, or two if you’re fit.
Any bike: the route is entirely on tarmac apart from one short off-road section, and you can bypass that if you don’t mind mixing with traffic. Needless to say, you’ll appreciate a light bike with good climbing gears. Outside summer, the roads may be slippy or gravelly, so don’t choose your thinnest tyres.
Don’t get caught out. There are towns on the western side (Rhayader, Llandrindod) and on the eastern (Knighton, Presteigne, Kington) – but between them, nothing. You might find a remote inn, but don’t bet on it being open for lunch when you pass by. Best plan your evenings in a town, and take sandwiches for lunch.
That said, Llandrindod Wells itself is something of a cycling hub: the National Cycle Collection is sited here, and there’s a handy bike shop.
The towns are well supplied with B&Bs and hotels, or you might find a farmhouse B&B on the way. Consider staying in Knighton or Llandrindod, then catching the train to the other one, and cycling back.
The Heart of Wales line, from Shrewsbury to Swansea, neatly cuts the route in half with stations at Knighton and Llandrindod Wells. Britain’s most rural branch line, it’s perfect for starting or ending a day’s cycling. Plan well in advance, though: the trains are every four hours, and the single-carriage trains don’t have that much room for bikes.