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Conwy Valley - Penmachno

Cycle Ride

Contributed by David Ackerley

A few words of warning about this ride are in order. Firstly, despite its title, most of the route spends its time among the hills either side of the river valley, and these hills are steep; you need low gears and efficient, well-adjusted brakes, not to mention plenty of energy.

Secondly, although the views of the mountains are stunning, unless you are a masochist and enjoy self-inflicted pain, it is pointless to do this ride unless the weather, especially the visibility, is good.

There are plenty of places to eat in Llanrwst, Betwys-y-Coed and Conwy, with other useful stops between these last two places. If you fancy a picnic, I have indicated on the route where you can best enjoy the views of the mountains; but whatever you choose to do in this matter, it is essential that you carry some snacks and plenty of drink with you.     Photos of the Ride

Route: Conwy - Tal-y-Cafn - Llyn Syberi - Llanrwst - Penmachno - Ty Mawr Wybrnant - Betws-y-Coed - Trefriw - Dolgarrog - Llanbedr-y-Cennin - Henryd - Conwy  

Start/Finish: Pay Car park adjacent to, and outside, Conwy Town Walls on the B 5106 Grid ref: 783774 (OS Landranger Sheet 115)
OS maps: Landranger 115 & 116.
Distance: 45 miles.
Total Ascent: 5000+ft.
Grade: Severe.  Suitable for strong and fit riders.

The Ride


00.0 Turn right out of the car park. No signpost
00.4 Turn left uphill, signposted Trefriw.
02.4 Turn left by Groes Inn car park. No signpost
04.1 Cross over the River Conwy by the Tal-y-Cafn bridge
04.3 Straight on at staggered cross roads. Follow the cycle sign. This is the start of a long and very hard climb.
04.7 Turn right. No signpost.
06.1 Keep left and follow cycle sign soon passing Llyn Syberi.
07.2 Keep right immediately after going under 2nd lot of power lines.
07.4 Turn left, following cycle sign.
07.7 Turn right at T-junction. There is a signpost but the cycle sign is missing.
09.4 Straight on, signposted Llanrwst.
09.5 Turn right, signposted Llanrwst.
09.9 Bear left, signposted Llanrwst.
11.9 Turn right at cross roads, signposted Town Centre.
12.0 Left into Watling Street.
12.2 Turn left at T-junction with A 470 signposted Betws-y-Coed.

(To see the famous bridge, the design of which is attributed to Inigo Jones, turn right at this junction, and then left over it. Inigo Jones, 1573-1652, was born in London, the son of a Welsh Catholic cloth worker. He was probably the first Englishman to study architecture in Italy, and was responsible for many famous buildings in the capital. Amongst other buildings, he designed the Queen’s House in Greenwich and the Banqueting Hall at Whitehall Palace. He was also prominent in the design of theatre stages. The Bridge Tearoom (Ty Hwnt y'r Bont) next to it is an attractive place for elevenses, providing the river is not in flood! Retrace your steps to the T-junction at 12.2 miles and continue.)

12.4 Turn left and immediately right signposted Nebo. This is the start of the second long climb,  3½ miles of it. It gets worse the longer it goes on.
15.9 Turn right, no signpost.

The field on the right of the junction is a good place for a picnic, as there are superb views of the mountains.

Continue following the cycle signs.
17.8 Turn left at T-junction signposted A5.
19.0 Straight over at the cross roads with the A5 (take care), unless you have had enough of steep hills.

If this is the case, turn right onto the A5 into Betwys-y-Coed, and pick up the route at the Pont-y-Pair Bridge.

19.1 Turn right. Follow cycle sign.
20.6 Turn left at cross roads opposite the site of the old Penmachno woollen mills.
22.4 Turn right by the Eagles Hotel, signposted Ty Mawr.
22.8 Bear right up the third of the long and steep hills, signposted Ty Mawr.

Once you have reached the top, the road surface is poor in places, especially lower down the hill, as well as being very steep and twisty. There are some gates to be negotiated, as well as the possibility of suicidal livestock of one sort or another.

24.6 Pass Ty Mawr on the left hand side.

This is the birthplace of Bishop William Morgan, who was the first person to translate the Bible into Welsh. It is open from 2nd April to 29th September on Thursdays to Sundays from 1200hrs to 1700hrs, and in October and November on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays only.

27.1 Turn left at T-junction, no sp.
27.3 Turn right at T-junction, sp Betwys-y-coed/A470.
27.7 Keep left immediately before big bridge over the river on a Z bend.
28.7 Turn left at T-junction in the town.

If you are interested in a bit of history, turn right and go to see the Waterloo Bridge, designed by that incomparable civil engineer, Thomas Telford, as part of his upgrade to the Holyhead Road.
The re-graded route for the Holyhead road through Betwys-y-Coed meant that the River Conwy had to be re-bridged, and this was done with one of the very few structures that Telford designed with decorative ironwork. Known as the Waterloo Bridge, it is made of five cast iron beams with a span of 105 ft, and was only the 7th of its type made. The spandrels are decorated with impressions of the Rose, Thistle, Shamrock and Leek in honour of the home countries, and the arches carry the sentence “This arch was constructed in the same year the battle of Waterloo was fought”. That is not strictly true, as although these items were made in 1815, it was not until the following year that the contractor, William Suttle, put them in place and built the bridge. In 1923 the three inner beams were encased in concrete and the road deck was strengthened. This was added to in 1978 by the addition of a 10-inch reinforced concrete deck to give a wider road and footpath. Remember, the original cast iron girders that are nearly 200 years old carry all this extra weight!
Due to the local topography it is not easy to see all this decoration, but if you get over the fence and go down the steep bank a little way, with care, (it was only the mercy of providence that saved me from an involuntary bath in the river when I scrambled down the bank some years ago), it can be seen in all its glory. William Hazeldine produced the ironwork at his Plas Kynaston foundry at Trevor, where he also made the troughs for the Chirk and Pont Cysyllte aqueducts, as well as the ironwork for the railways, locks and swing bridges of the western end of the Caledonian Canal. The site of this foundry is now occupied by Flexsys, and there is a plaque on the premises commemorating its origins as the birthplace of the aqueducts’ ironwork.

29.1 Turn right across the Pont-y-Pair Bridge, signposted Trefriw/Llanrwst. It is narrow and usually infested with pedestrians.
32.2 Turn left at T-junction, sp Trefriw.
35.3 The Trefriw Spa Tearooms are on the left.
37.0 Note the memorial on a boulder to the Eigiau Dam disaster. It is near the “Road Narrows” sign.
37.8 Turn left by the Y Bedol Inn, signposted Llandedr-y-Cennin. Uphill again.
38.3 Turn right by The Bull public house, no signpost.
38.4 Bear right, following cycle sign.
39.4 Turn left at T-junction in Pontwgan, no signpost. Continue to follow cycle signs.
39.6 Cross bridge and bear right. No signpost.
40.2 Turn right at T-junction. No signpost.
41.2 Turn left, signposted Henryd.
41.3 Keep right and follow cycle sign.
42.1 Turn right at T-junction, sp Henryd and continue into the village.
42.4 Turn left by the school, and follow the cycle sign.
43.0 Turn left and follow the cycle sign.
43.3 Turn right at cross roads, no signpost.
44.1 Turn left at T-junction, no signpost.
44.4 Turn right at T-junction and go through town wall.
44.5 Turn left at cross roads, go through town wall and immediately turn right into Town Ditch Road. The town wall is on your right hand side.
44.7 Turn left into Lower Gate Street, pass through the Town Wall and on to the quay, where you can treat yourself to an ice cream, before continuing along the quay to the road in front of the castle. Dismount, cross over to the castle and, keeping it on your left hand side, turn left, to go under the wall again, continue to the
45.2 car park and the end of the ride.

Photos of the Ride

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