Just come back from a wonderful week in North Wales, but wouldn't you know it - my camera packed up as soon as I got there, so I've got no photographs :(
However, as well as revisiting some old favourites, I found lots of new places, and wonderful roads to ride.
Firstly, the Elan Valley was at the most spectacular I've ever seen it. With all the rain we've had this year, the reservoirs were full, and the water was thundering over each and every dam. It's an incredible sight. The Elan Valley is beautiful even when the water level is low, but with the water cascading over the dams, it is truly magnificent.
There's a road called the Aberystwyth Mountain Road, that runs from the top of the Elan to Aberystwyth. I've never ridden it before, because it's generally been windy when I've been down that way, and they strongly advise you not to ride it in heavy rain, or wind, and definitely not ice! There's big ice warning notices all along it.
But this year, it was a still, sunny day, so it just had to be done. The road runs around the mountains for around 20 miles, eventually coming out at Devil's Bridge, by the Mynnach waterfall. It's little wider than a car, full of free-range sheep, and decidedly tricky. There's an unfenced drop to one side just to make it a little more interesting.
But oh, the views! Staggering just does not do it justice. Mind, you're so busy watching the blind corners and undulations in the road, you find yourself doing little more than 20mph just so you can take a glance at all this spectacular scenery.
Another road I found that was new to me, was the Orme Coast Toll. Yes, they charge you a squid on a bike for the pleasure of riding this one, but it is worth it. The road runs from Llandudno to.......Llandudno, right around the outside edge of the Great Orme headland. It's cut into the cliff, with a drop down to the sea on one side, and the steep cliffs of the Orme on the other. Wonderful! You can also ride up to the top of the Orme, or go up via cable car or tram. The views from the top on a clear day are remarkable.
To my pleasure, I found that they've finally finished the rebuilding of the A487 from just outside Dolgellau to Machynlleth. Having been stuck there previously in the pouring rain, when the temporary traffic lights were stuck on red, this pleased me no end. It's a beautiful road, with awesome views.
Nearer Machynlleth, you pass the Osprey Project, with a magnificent 20 foot high metal statue of an Osprey coming in to land at the entrance. This was one of the things I wished I could have photographed. Further down, is the Corris Craft Centre, where you can watch various crafts people at work, and buy their output. There's a glass workshop, where they make the most beautiful flowers, birds, dragonflies, dragons etc., and it always grieves me that I can't bring any of them home on the bike. The Centre also has decent loos and a nice little cafe, so it's a good place to stop anyway.
Talking of the A487, it starts from a little place outside Dolgellau, called Cross Foxes. I've often wanted to stop there, but I always think, if they're that cross, they might just bite! At the moment, I wouldn't blame them for being cross little foxes, as there's an enormous road improvement scheme happening through there, where you can get held for anything up to 10 minutes, whilst they move heavy construction vehicles across the road.
As to place names, well, I found Clatter and Knockin - had I been on the LittleInsect, they might have been appropriate names, but Jack is new, and shiny, and definitely does not clatter or knock!
I found out that Rhayader - or Rhaeadr, to give it its correct, Welsh spelling, means waterfall. Quite appropriate for the town that leads down to the Elan dams. I find that, having been to North Wales quite a lot, I tend to read some of the signs now in Welsh, rather than picking out the English translation below.
I know that 'araf' means slow, 'gorsaf' is station, and 'dim parcio' means no parking. Most importantly, 'heddlu' means police..................
I really regret not having a working camera this trip, but hey, I'll just have to go back again next year, with a new one. Now that WOULD be a hardship ;)
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