A demanding full day ride visiting the remote Cwmystradllyn valley, very little traffic is encountered until the return up Nant Gwynant and the Llanberis Pass. This is my favourite day ride from Graianfryn.
Distance 55 miles
Time: 8 hours
At the bottom of the track from Graianfryn, turn right and ride through the village of Penisarwaun. Follow the road as it turns left at a junction, down the hill and across two small bridges, the first over the long closed railway to Llanberis and the second over Afon Rhythallt (afon is Welsh for “river”). Take the left fork in Llanrug, the Penbont pub will be on your right, and ride on up the hill and straight across at the main road junction.
This minor road takes you into Waunfawr where you turn left along the A4085 road past the Welsh Highland Railway station then very soon right up the hill to Rhosgadfan which features a sharp left turn midway up a steep section, you have to be ready for this to avoid having to stop and push! The route meanders through the villages of Fron (turn right) and Carmel (turn left) to drop down to Penygroes and join a cycle track which skirts the main road to join Sustrans Route 8. Follow this easy level section, on the former trackbed of the railway which was a casualty of the 1960s Beeching closures.
This is the least interesting part of the day, the track running close to the main road. After a few miles, route 8 diverges to the left. Take this option which brings you up to and across the main road and then a hill taking you roughly parallel through Garndolbenmaen and down to touch the A487 again. A very pretty lane brings you towards the ruined country house of Plas Brynkir, an interesting diversion if you fancy trampling through undergrowth, but we turn off past Brinkir Woolen Mill which unfortunately does not boast a cafe, a packed lunch is advisable on this trip.
Follow the sign for Cymystradllyn, a peaceful valley with the shell of Ynys y Pandy slate mill on your right after a few miles. Soon you reach the lake at the end of the road, across which Gordseddau quarry itself is visible. The history of North Wales slate quarries is fascinating. There were two huge profitable ones, Dinorwic and Penrhyn, some smaller companies which also repaid the investment but many that swallowed up large sums for little reward. Gorseddau was one of the biggest failures in the industry, its development included construction of a village, Treforus but the quarry lasted only eight years from 1859 to 1867, after which the owners cut their large losses and walked away. There are benches by the lake, the best spot for your picnic.
Make your way back along the lane but turn left at the sign to Prenteg along a delightful high level road with open views to the surrounding hills. There are only a couple of farms along this four mile section so you’d be unlucky to see even a single vehicle. Before it drops down steeply into Prenteg you can pause to admire the vista across to the Glaslyn estuary and Porthmadog.
Turn left along the A498, which you soon leave at the Garreg Llanfrothen turning, the B4410. You pass the Brondanw Arms pub on your left and then the turning for Plas Brondanw on the right. This route doesn’t pass that way but if you have the time and it’s a sunny day you may wish to visit the gardens. It was the home of Clough Williams-Ellis, creator of Portmeirion, and his wife Amabel, the house is not open to the public but there is a cafe in the grounds.
We are now on the A4085 which despite its classification is not normally busy. The next turning is easily missed, a very narrow road crosses the A4085 and a small private sign on the right points the way to Cae Dafydd. Take this road for a marvellous shady tree-lined run which brings you out in Nant Gwynant, back on the A498 and almost opposite Caffi Gwynant… nice cafe, nice people, nice cake. With 40 miles behind you and 15 ahead, beginning with the long ascent up Nant Gwynant and over the Llanberis Pass, you’d be silly not to go in!
The climb to the top of the valley and left over the pass can get busy in the summer and over the Easter holidays but there’s no alternative. You’ll pass through the village of Nant Peris then Llanberis where you continue on the by-pass and then turn right to “Y Glyn”. The road stops by a gate and you carry on along the trackbed of the former railway branch line past the western shore of the lake. This is a wide multi-user path with a tarmac surface. On the eastern side ran the Padarn Railway which transported slates from the Dinorwic Quarry to the sea at Y Felinheli for onward transportation. The lake section was converted to narrow gauge as a tourist railway operated by some of the locomotives that worked on the narrow gauge upper levels of the quarry.
After the tunnel, the track brings you out at the main road, cross over and turn right along the path which soon turns left through a pair of gates along part of the old road.
Continue through Brynrefail, there’s an excellent café called “Caban” in the village. At the A4244, you can turn right and ride alongside this road on the mult-user path to the turning for Graianfryn or take the first left through Penisarwaun and loop back to Graianfryn on quieter roads.