National Cycle Route 5 along the North Wales coast plays host to many interesting cycling visitors during the four seasons of the year. It always pays to stop and chat to them, which Maurice and I did when Mike Matthews arrived complete with his Brompton cycle at the Pantri Bach Cafe, Pensarn, during one of our weekly club rides.
Mike enjoyed the day so much he decided to share his experience with others. The following article appeared in the January 2007 edition of the magazine, Cycling World. We are grateful to CPL Media for their kind permission in allowing us to share the article with you also.
For a detailed description and illustrations of the North Wales Coast Cycleway / Cycle Path (34 miles) click here.
The North Wales Coast - Cycling the Brompton Way:
by Mike Matthews
Llandudno is a traditional seaside town, with its wide open promenade, long pier, varied attractions and fine beaches. It also makes a fine centre for a cycling holiday. I have been visiting Llandudno for many years and the yellow slide on the west shore was my daughter's favourite place when she was growing up. Life does not seem rushed in the town and there is always something to see or do. There is a varied range of shops, and it is easy to get to other destinations via road or rail. It's ideal if other members of the family wish to relax whilst others explore the area by bike.
The town is squeezed in between the west shore, north shore, Great Orme and Little Orme and all of these features, in their own way add character to the place. The Great Orme has a lot to offer with the mines, wildlife, walks, ski lift and trams. It's hard to cycle up to the top and I admit to pushing my little Brompton most of the way up one day when I was photographing the trams. Once on the top it's great and the ride around Marine drive was well worth the effort with the magnificent sea views. The long freewheel down to the west shore will long be a treasured memory. Using the Brompton gives you the flexibility to get around town and visit some of the other attractions without using the car. A short ride away is Deganwy with its developing riverside marina, soon to be linked to Llandudno via a cycleway. A little further on is the historic town of Conwy with it fine castle and famous bridges. The open riverside marshland is home to an RSPB nature reserve. Llandudno Junction is a busy little place but is the main railway station in the local area and allows easy access to the coastline. Further inland you have the Snowdonia National Park and numerous mountain bike trails to explore.
Heading north east out of Llandudno you travel along the north Wales coast through the towns of Colwyn Bay, Rhyl and Prestatyn. Linking these centres is the national cycle route 5 which was to be my route for the day. I chose to cycle from Prestatyn back to Llandudno, which was fine except for the strong wind which I battled most of the way back.
The starting point for my journey was Prestatyn station on the main rail line through the region and easily reached from Llandudno. Using the Brompton gives you the option of using the local rail or bus services. Leaving the station you turn left across a set of traffic lights and head down a side road to the leisure centre on the coast, the start of the cycle route back to Llandudno. A large metal sign marks the starting point of the route. Out on the coast the strong winds were blowing off the sea and the waves were crashing high up the beach. Turning my bike westwards I began the battle back to Llandudno. I was soon dropping down the gears to battle into the very strong headwind and on several occasions the blown sand and spray stung my eyes. The few miles to Rhyl seemed an awful long way in these conditions. The cycle route hugs the coast as it makes its way to Rhyl. To the left of you is a links golf course to the right the wind swept beaches.
Reaching Rhyl the cycle route takes you along the sea front away from the shops and I would imagine in the holiday season this area would be very busy. I passed the lifeboat station and took a couple of photographs of the lifeboat out on its trailer. Just after this point the cycle route takes you alongside the main seafront road as there is building work taking place in the area. Following the diversion you come back onto the cycle route near the harbour before crossing the two girder bridges over the river Clwyd. I crossed the road at this point and took a short break in the park near the bridges. I then retraced my steps to the bridge, crossed the river and lost the cycle route!
I must have missed a sign from the road to the sea front so I guessed which way to go and eventually came back onto the cycle path near Kimmel Bay. The route at this point was choked in places with blown sand from the high winds and the wheels on my little Brompton did not like it. On a couple of occasions I had to get off and push. In places the cycle route dips down behind the sea defences and gives you some protection against the wind and follows closely the railway line into Abergele.
I planned to stop at the Pantri beach side cafe and was given a warm welcome by the local Conwy CTC group. Wednesdays it would appear is the club run and they all meet up at the Pantri cafe before heading home. I was made very welcome and invited in for tea by Roy Spilsbury and Maurice Clarke. I stayed about half an hour chatting over my journey, local cycling routes and attractions before heading off once more. I continued on the cycle path towards Llanddulas and Colwyn Bay from here on I was sheltered from the wind a little more. Along this part of the route you can sometimes seem ships loading stone from the local quarry.
The scenery then changes as you drop into the wide expanse of Colwyn Bay. The wide sweeping promenade has a dedicated cycling route along its length. Half away along I stopped for a tea break and met up with two CTC members, on their Dawes Galaxies, heading for home. We chatted about the merits of the Dawes bikes before we split up and headed on our way. Passing Rhos Point it's hard to see any trace of its once long pier, but you can see the worlds smallest chapel. Circling the headland I saw the Little Orme in the distance and it was a short ride along the sea front at Penrhyn Bay before the cycle route heads in land a little between the houses before taking you up a short viscous climb, on a Brompton anyway, and drops you down onto the end of Llandudno promenade.
The wide sweeping expanse of the promenade stretches out in front of you, the bay on your right and the majestic hotels on your left. The end point of my journey was to be the monument near the pier entrance.
It had been a wind swept day but I had enjoyed my pedal along the cycle route. I'd seen things not normal seen from the car as you flash past and I'd been made welcome by members of the Conwy CTC. Back at the Epperstone Hotel I cleaned as much sand and salt as I could off my Brompton before folding it up and stowing it in the back of the car by which time Dave Drew had put the kettle on for a well deserved cup of tea.
I look forward to returning and following the completed route along the coast towards Anglesey at some point in the future, I'll make sure I pass the cafe on a Wednesday to meet up with the local CTC to get my cup of tea.