After the huge success of the trails at Coed Y Brenin, the Foresty Commission, Welsh National Assembly, Welsh Tourist Board and others have put a lot of weight and money behind expanding the purpose built trails network in Wales.
The scheme has been ongoing for nearly a year, and now the results really are showing. We’ve recently ridden the routes at Gwydyr Forest near Betws Y Coed in the North and Cwm Carn in the South East but for the rest of the sites already developed or being enhanced check out the MBWales.com website.
If you had any doubt that Wales has proper sized hills, the grinding 3.5km climb from the car park puts a lie to that, but it’s well worth the wind up.
You crest the top ridge to meet absolutely stunning views over the lakes and peaks of the Snowdonia National park, and then it’s into the serious singletrack.
Like most of the Welsh trails the singletrack has been machine dug and then hand laid and finished. It crosses some hideously unforgiving pieces of land that have required massive ingenuity and weeks of sweat from the trail crews to make them passable. Humpback boardwalk, singletrack stone bridges, and mile after mile of stone pitched trail have been meticulously designed to give excellent singletrack riding all year round, whatever the weather.
Even with some seriously tight constraints being put on the trail by nesting nightjars, archaeology, rare plants etc. the actual flow of the trail is still excellent with very few bits feeling artificial. That said those who like to get some air under their wheels will definitely enjoy the stretches of tabletop and rhythm section that have been built into the lower parts of the trail.
The trailbuilders have also been turning their hands to a bit of stump carving too, but the thing that really makes Gwydyr stand out is the astonishing scenery it’s set in. With panoramic vistas opening up over the jagged peaks and ridges of Snowdonia it truly offers world class trails and mountain biking.
Basic trail overview
The trail is around 18k long, with 2,700 feet of climbing (and therefore an equal amount of descending). Riders are taking anything between just over an hour to four hours to complete it but while it’s strenuous the trails, are designed to be easy or on the limit depending how fast you ride it. Suffice to say we used every trick we knew to keep us on the trail at some point or other, but then we always get over-excited.
Most of the climbing is on loose or well-surfaced fireroads to make it as easy as possible, which is a welcome touch considering the amount of up involved. There are a few fire road descents too, but more singletrack is planned to reduce the amount of downhill fireroad time. The trail will be sponsored by Marin but the proper signs aren’t in place yet, so keep a sharp eye out for the cardboard waymarkers, as once you’re lost in Gwydyr you’re very lost.
About 45 mins out of England past Chester on the M56 / A55, turn south at Conwy on the A470 to Llanwrst. Just as you’re leaving Llanwrst turn right over the ancient narrow bridge and then left at the T junction to pass Gwydyr castle. The Forest Enterprise centre and car park (Official trailhead car park to be completed soon) are up a turning on your right a few hundred yds later. There’s no other facilities there at the moment, but Betws Y Coed (3 miles away) must have more cafe’s and outdoor shops per sq. mile than any other part of Britain!