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A Journey Across the Roof of Wales

Cambrian Mountains

Starting in Llanwrtyd Wells, self-styled ‘smallest town in Britain’ and finishing in the classic Welsh market town of Tregaron this journey takes you through some of the wildest, loveliest and most remote scenery in Wales. It’s only 21-miles in length so it can be done on a bike as well as in a car – as long as you don’t mind some seriously steep climbs.

From the centre of Llanwrtyd Wells, famed for its annual Man v Horse Race and the World Bog Snorkelling Championships, drive north on the minor road along the Irfon Valley. After three miles you come to Washpool, a lovely picnic site (especially in summer when kids will love playing in the crystal clear rock pool).

From here continue north to Abergwesyn, where you turn sharply left. This single track road was once a major drover’s route along which cattle were taken to markets in England, with herds of up to 200 animals driven on them, along with geese and ducks, their feet dipped in tar and sand for protection. The drovers even sold the horses on which they rode, with the walk home taking some three weeks.

You pass along a wild valley beneath the crags of Esgair Irfon - the scenery here is more like the Scottish Highlands than Wales - and after passing a series of small bridges straddling meanders in the River Irfon, you come to the steep (25% gradient) ascent of the Devil’s Staircase. It’s less than one mile long but is challenging all the same, especially if you're on two wheels rather than four.

Dropping down the north-western side of the ‘Staircase’, fork right across open moorlands, the habitat of the magnificent red kite and in the 16th century also the roost of Twm Siôn Cati, a Welsh ‘Robin Hood’ who was said to be variously a robber, a trickster and a highwayman and hid from the law in a cave in the hills above nearby Rhandirmwyn.

When you see the sign for Cwm Berwyn picnic site pull in and enjoy the easy fifteen-minute walk to the sparkling waters of Llyn Berwyn and lovely views over the Cambrian Mountains, after which you can wander back to you car to drive down the Berwyn Valley into Tregaron town centre.

If you’ve cycled all this way you’ll definitely want to grab a pint in the Y Talbot on the town square, a 13th century drover’s inn with good food and beer and regular live music.

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