Cycling Holiday North Wales

Cycling Holiday North Wales

If, like me, you’ve been inspired by team GB’s performance in the velodrom during the London Olympics, you might want to consider bringing your bikes along when you next visit North Wales. Here’s a couple of places for you to consider.

Coed Y Brennin
Probably the best mountain biking centre in the UK. Miles and miles of rugged trails with fantastic names like ‘Beast of Brennin’, ‘Dragons Back’ and ‘Minour Tour’. The trails are colour coded according to difficulty similar to ski slopes. So all abilities can be confident of having a great time. All the trails start and finish from the new eco visitor centre just south of Trawsfynydd on the A470. There’s a nice café there, a well stocked spares shop, bike wash facilities and shower cubicles. Bikes can also be hired from the very nice people at Beics Brennin.

Mawddach Trail
The Mawddach Trail is the perfect choice for a family outing out on a summer’s day. Running along a disused railway track that follows the River Mawddach as it lazily winds it way from Dolgellau to the seaside town of Barmouth. There are fabulous views right along the route and the path itself is well maintained and marked. I’d suggest stopping off at the George III for a bit of refreshment along the way. Bikes can be hired at Dolgellau Cycles.

Antur Stiniog
Not for the faint hearted this one. Newly developed downhill trails offer a unique adrenalin rush for visitors to the centre in Blaenau Ffestiniog. For a reasonable fee, a minibus and purpose built trailer will whisk you and your bike up to the top of the mountain before depositing you at the start of several carefully designed and graded downhill trails. Take a moment to marvel at the view across the Glaslyn valley before you set off down the trail of your choice. The buss will be waiting for you at the bottom to take you back up. Assuming you’re still in one piece.

Lon Las Cymru
Lon Las Cymru (The Blue Route of Wales) is otherwise know as ‘National Cycle Route 8’, but that’s not nearly as romantic. The route runs form Cardiff in the south, all the way up to Holyhead on Anglesey in the North. 250 miles altogether but don’t worry, you don’t have to do it all. Some of the nicest parts of the route are naturally found in Snowdonia. Route Maps and guides are surprisingly difficult to get hold of. Sustrans attempt to fill he gap but a standard OS map might be your best bet.

Betws Y Coed
The famous Marin Trail at Betws Y Coed has been joined by a new and equally superb trail, Penmachno. Forest roads are combined with some superb flowing single track to provide a challenging and exhilarating route around one of the most beautiful parts of the national park. Both routes can be joined at Betws Y Coed, a bustling little village which plays host to some superb outdoor pursuit shop as well as numerous cafés and pubs. Trust me, you’ll need a drink afterwards.

North Wales Triathlons
North Wales plays host to a number of triathlons. The Slateman Triathlon held in May starts in Llanberis at the foot of Snowdon with a 1000m swim across Llyn Padarn, a 51km cycle through the spectacular Ogwen Valley and a 11km trail run over Dinorwig Slate Quarry. The Sandman Triathlon involves swimming in the sea off Anglesey, a cycle route along the west coast of the island finishing with a trail run back along the beach. A middle distance Tri is also held in Bala and a well-supported sprint Tri is held at Harlech every year.

Don’t forget, you don’t have to have the legs as Chis Hoy or the determination of the Brownlee brothers to enjoy the above. But wouldn’t it be great if a family holiday in North Wales inspired the next Bradley Wiggins or Laura Trott.

Snowdonia festivals, fairs and summer events

The Twits by Illyria in Harlech CastleA lot of the larger events like Wakestock, The National Eisteddfod and the Royal Welsh Show already get a lot of attention and publicity. But I though it might be nice to promote some of the smaller more local fun days that we’ve enjoyed in the past.

Ffair Criccieth, 29th of June. A summer fair has been held in this pretty seaside town for over 100 years. Winding streets lined with market stalls lead you down to the town car park filled with Ferris wheels and candy floss.

Cytser are a theatre and production company based here in Snowdonia, North Wales. Every summer they organize some magical open air events in the grounds of Harlech Castle. They range from Shakespearian plays to musical pageants. This year, we’re particularly looking forward to Illyria Theater Company’s production of Rohl Dahl’s The Twits on the 25th of July.

The Sesiwn Fawr music festival began as a small celebration of Celtic music held every summer on the streets of Dolgellau. The event became hugely popular with renowned acts such as the Super Furry Animals, Cerys Matthews and The Levellers performing to a back drop of Cader idris and the Mawddach Valley. Sadly the event ran into financial difficulties some three years ago, but newly invigorated local volunteers are trying to revive the festival returning to a more low key but joyful event to be held on the 20-22nd of July.

The premier farming event in Wales is naturally the Royal Welsh Show in Builth Wells. But smaller county shows are also a great day out (and not as expensive). The Meirionnydd county show is to be held in Tywyn on the 22nd of August this year. It’s a great window onto rural farming life in wales with lots of opportunities to pet lambs, climb over large tractors and buy local welsh produce.

The local rugby club here in Harlech organize a demolition derby every summer. This year’s event is to be held on the 1st of August, first race starting at 6:30pm. Enry is £5 for adults, £1 for children. You’d have to be a little nuts to enter a car if you ask me. The drivers seem to throw caution to the wind as they tear around a field on Las Ynys Farm just to the north of the famous medieval town.

Barmouth Walking Festival takes place from Saturday the 15th to Monday the 24th of September. Barmouth is the perfect location for such a festival. The less well-trodden mountains of southern Snowdonia offer a true wild wilderness which is so rare in the UK these days. Walking off the beaten track is made much easier by the company of a guide with knowledge of the route, wildlife and landscape. If nothing else it takes the stress out of map reading.

Gwyl Gwrw Llanbedr, Llanbedr Beer Festival is another great village event. Locally brewed real ales as well as local entertainment over the course of a weekend. This years event is to be held on the 21st and 22nd of September.
Wakestock Faesival

Harlech | A seaside town in Snowdonia

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Harlech is one of my favorite towns in Snowdonia. I might be a little biased as I went to secondary school there and still play rugby for the local side when my knees are up to it. But with it’s sandy beaches, medieval castle and narrow windy streets, there’s no denying the town’s appeal. Here are my top tips of things to do in the town.

Harlech Beach
We’re spoilt for choice in this part of Snowdonia for beaches. But Harlech beach has to be one of the nicest. Towering dunes roll down to a wide expanse of clean flat sand and the clean waters of Cardigan Bay. Turn onto Beach Road opposite the train station. Plenty of parking at the far end.
Harlech Beach

Castle
Naturally, if you’re in Harlech, you have to visit the castle. It was built at the end of the 13th century by Edward I in a forlorn effort to keep the Welsh under control. Hopefully, the locals are a bit friendlier these days. Buy the slim Cadw information booklet (yellow spine) on the way in. There’s not much information inside the castle so it’s a handy guide. There’s a bit of a drop at the top so once you scale one of the towers, make sure you keep younger children under control.http://cadw.wales.gov.uk/daysout/harlechcastle/?lang=en

Ice Cream
As the sign says, probably the best Ice Cream in Harlech. On the crossroads just above the castle. I like the ‘cheese cake’ flavor. But Louise thinks the ‘belgian chocolate’ is best. And. to be fair, she’s eaten a lot more ice cream than me over the years.
http://www.hufenfa.co.uk/

Cafes
There’s a great selection of cafes in Harlech. Most of them on the high street in the upper part of the town. The Cemlyn is great for lunches, the Plas would be my choice for a cream tea with it’s balcony overlooking the bay and Fraya has breathed new life into the Llew Glas, a welcoming more modern deli type cafe.
http://www.cemlynrestaurant.co.uk/
http://www.theplas.co.uk/
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Llew-Glas-Delicatessen-Harlech/211149815646709

Golf
I’ll put my hands up here. I don’t know anything about golf. But the Royal St Davids links course is up there with the best apparently. Numerous national and international events are held here. I’ll refer you to their website for more information.
http://www.royalstdavids.co.uk/

Harlech Swimming Pool
The council had threatened to close the pool a couple of years ago. A travesty when you consider that our girls for example, would have had to travel an hour to the next already over subscribed pool to learn to swim. But thankfully a group of brave and dedicated local volunteers have taken over the running of the facility. With the help of a lottery grant, they have transformed the building into modern leisure centre complete with an amazing rock climbing room and a very reasonably priced café. They’ve ensured hundreds of local children continue to learn to swim.
http://www.harlechpool.com/

The Lion Pub
I’m guessing you might want to go to the pub at some stage. The Lion would be my choice. Like in a lot of other rural towns, Harlech’s pubs are finding the going tough at the moment. But the Lion remains one of the best, with a welcoming real fire and a friendly face behind the bar.
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lion-Hotel-Harlech/109472305746407

Restauraunts
There are a couple of restaurants to choose from. The Branwen is a gastro pub type place down newr the golf club. Up town near the cross roads there’s a Caribbean restaurant which is also very nice. The Castle Cottage is just round the corner is a little more expensive but well worth it. There are also a couple of take aways to choose from.
Harlech Castle

Theatr Harlech
Theatr Harlech seats around 250 people and hosts a variety of events from acting and dancing workshops to professional shows and art house films. During the summer events and shows are also performed in the castle grounds. Last year we sat on the grass with a bottle of wine and some cheese watching Romeo and Juliet as the ravens circled overhead. A truly magical evening.
http://cytser.com/

Walk
The hills above Harlech offer some of the best views in Wales. I’d suggest buying an OS map before parking in Bron Y Graig car park. Head south along the old Llanfair road before turning inland. There are lots of footpaths up there, but depending on the time available and your fitness, choose a loop which brings you back round and down onto the road above the Lion Pub. I guess it would be rude not to pop in for a quick shandy before heading back to the car.

Swallow Chicks

Swallow NestSwallow chick in the nest[Click on the pictures to enlarge them]

The swallow chicks have finally hatched. There regular visitors to the farm every year having travelled up from a winter spent in southern Africa. It’s great to watch them catching insects on the wing. Skimming along just a foot off the ground sometimes before turning and rising in an instant.

Their mud nest is just under the eaves of one of our studio cottages. A little awkward as we’ve had to put up a board to stop all the poo dropping onto the guests patio below. A little red start has also nested just around the corner on the same cottage.

Beware of the Alpacas!

South American Alpaca in SnowdoniaTwo alpacas have been introduced at a farm in Nant Gwynant here in Snowdonia. The theory is that they help protect the new born lambs from foxes and other predators. They bond quickly with other grazing animals, have excellent eyesight and their protective instincts are well documented. Cases have been recorded in Australia of alpacas bravely standing in front of females and their young in the corner of a paddock fending off multiple animal attacks.

More locally I’ve heard how a donkey will protect lambs and chickens from foxes. I guess south American alpacas are probably more suited to our rugged terrain. So why not. Arwyn Owen, the farmer responsible, certainly seems convinced. [Read more…]

Harlech Triathlon

The Loneliness of a Not Very Long Distance RunnerThe Harlech triathlon celebrates its 10th year this Sunday the 15th of May 2011. We always have some of the entrants staying with us here on the farm. And they always say what a fantastic event it is. So, yes, I’ve finally got round to filling in the entry form. But no, I haven’t done a lot of training.

But anyway the event comprises a 400m swim in Harlech swimming pool followed by a 28k cycle from Harlech to the Wayside pub near Barmouth and back before finishing with a 6.5k run along the beach and up the very steep hill to the finish line at Harlech castle. It’ll be fine I’m sure. (Ohh nooo) http://www.harlechtri-entries.org.uk/

I did it. 2hrs 0mins and 40seconds. Not a particularly impressive time but at least I finished. It was a great day, and I enjoyed it very much.  A little less chatting along the way next time perhaps and we’ll see if I can squeeze under the 2hr mark.

Melin Refurbishment

Melin, Studio Cottage on a working farmWe’ve changed things around a bit in Melin, one of our larger studio cottages here on the farm.

We’ve moved the stairs around, which will be a relief to our taller guests who kept banging their heads on a low beam half way up. We’ve also fitted a new kitchen complete with combination oven and dishwasher. But don’t worry the view is still fantastic.

[Read more about this property…]

May Discounts

Spring Lamb JumpingMay is probably my favourite months here on the farm but we always have a bit of a lull with our B&B guests between Easter and the Bank holiday at the end of May. So, to encourage more people to come and stay with us at this time, we’ve reduced our prices by 10%.

A typical 3 night stay in one of our studio cottages would cost £190 including breakfast for example. If your tempted, fill in our [enquiry form..] and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

New Piglets

Kune Kune PigletsSeren and the Piglets

Some of our guests were lucky enough to be staying in Nant when Magldi, one of our Kune Kune pigs gave birth. A bit of a surprise as we didn’t know she was pregnant. We had borrowed Hafren, a pedigree Kune Kune boar from some friends before Christmas. His breeding abilities weren’t proven however and unfortunately he didn’t seem very interested in our girls. We tried playing a Barry White CD and introduced some soft lighting to the pig sty but eventually presumed that the ‘chemistry’ just wasn’t right.

3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days later (the length of a pigs pregnancy) and Hafrens credentials are irrefutable. And now that we’re paying a bit more attention our other sow also seems to be “in pig”. I’ll keep you posted.

Farmhouse Accommodation

Byrdir Farm AccommodationReal Log FireByrdir is set at the foot of Moelfre and the Rhinog mountains in the heart of the Snowdonia National Park. The 17th century stone farmhouse overlooks the beautiful cardigan bay coastline and out towards the Llyn peninsula. Byrdir is a typical working Welsh hill farm of approximately 200 acres. The rural and varied landscape is home to many wild animals including wild mountain goats, badgers and birds of prey.

We have endeavoured to retain the character of the house and combine its original features with modern amenities. The impressive stone walls and inglenook fireplace together with the original wooden beams and antique doors provide a real homely feel. All main bedrooms in the farm house are en-suite, have tea and coffee making facilities and colour TV. There is a cosy sitting room as well as the main lounge for the use of the house guests.

Traditional B&B en-seuite room

LLoft-Chimna

‘Lloft Chimna’ or chimney bedroom is a spacious room in the original part of our 17th century farmhouse, so called as the chimney breast from the inglenook fireplace below runs up one wall. The bedroom has a wonderful view over the fields and out towards the Cambrian coastline and the Llyn Peninsula beyond. The room is fully en-suite and has the usual tea and coffee making facilities as well as… [Read more about this accommodation…]

Gegin-Foch

Gegin-Foch

‘Gegin Foch’ is our annex to the main farmhouse. It’s a bright room with wonderful views over the fields and out towards the Cambrian coastline and the Llyn Peninsula beyond. This room is accessed via an external stone staircase which means you have your own front door in a way. This makes the room a popular choice with our regular guests. [Read more about this accommodation…]