As a keen cyclist and a resident of Snowdonia, one of my favourite treats is to explore as much of the area on two wheels as I can.
As an environmentally friendly mode of transport, cycling is taken pretty seriously by Gwynedd Council and the Snowdonia National Park. Every effort is made to ensure that cyclists can travel safely: many of the main roads have long stretches of cycle paths, often combined with footpaths. For example, in the past few years the footpath along much of the A499 to Pwllheli has been widened and resurfaced to accommodate cyclists, and a number of the aforementioned Recreational Routes have been created, extended or improved. This means there’s now an exceptionally good network of cycling routes throughout the area.
Over the course of a few trips I tried out some of these routes so that I could share my experiences with others who might like to try them.
Lôn Las Menai
According to Sustrans, Lôn Las Menai is classified as an ‘easy’ route, so it was the ideal starting point – and perfect if you’re cycling with children (although there are a couple of spots where you’ll join the road if you’re going right into Caernarfon and Y Felinheli, so you’ll need to be watchful for traffic at those points).
The path is tarmacked and this provides a nice, smooth ride alongside the Menai Strait. This route used to be a railway and winds its way through woodland, with some lovely sea views along the way.
If you want to combine your cycling with some sightseeing, there’s plenty for all the family along the way.
Caernarfon also has a great arts centre and performance space, “Galeri Caernarfon“, where there’s always something interesting going on.
At the other end of the route, in Y Felinheli, there’s the National Outdoor Centre for Wales, or Plas Menai as it’s more commonly known. And Y Felinheli is also home to another national treasure – GreenWood Forest Park, home to the famous people-powered rollercoaster. This is a real favourite in our family, and I think the adults probably enjoy it just as much as the kids!
Lôn Las Ogwen – Bangor to Tregarth section
Lôn Las Ogwen has two sections, and for my second trip I decided to take the Bangor to Tregarth section of the route – also known as ‘Lôn Bach’.
Starting on the outskirts of the historic city of Bangor, the route takes you through some really spectacular scenery. One of the first landmarks you’ll spot at the Bangor end is Penrhyn Castle, which is a great place to take the family as there’s so much to see and do there.
This part of Lôn Las Ogwen follows the River Cegin, climbing upwards through woodland and old railway cuttings, and the full route is classified by Sustrans as ‘hard’, so perhaps not one to try with very small children. However, the climb from Bangor to Tregarth can be considered the easier part of the route, with an incline of about 300ft. Of course this is ‘mountain country’, so a degree of difficulty is only to be expected – and no doubt you’ll be glad to stop for refreshments at the route’s only pub, and gladder still of the much easier downhill return journey.
On this part of the route there’s little to no traffic, so you’ll get a lovely peaceful fume-free ride. The views, as you’d expect, are breathtaking. Even the abandoned railway line serving the old quarry has its charm, especially if you’re interested in history.
Lôn Las Ogwen – Tregarth to Llyn Ogwen
This is where the hard work really starts in earnest. My third and final trip was the Tregarth to Llyn Ogwen stretch of Lôn Las Ogwen, and I don’t mind admitting that even for a seasoned cyclist like me it was pretty challenging!
Although this part of the route is only a few miles long, it’s uphill pretty much all the way. You need to be reasonably fit if you’re going to tackle it, but as far as exercise goes you’d struggle to find a prettier way to keep in shape.
The scenery along this stretch of the route is simply outstanding. It’s everything you’d expect from Snowdonia: mountains and lakes for as far as the eye can see. And if you’re looking for another fun (and perhaps not quite so physically challenging) way to enjoy the scenery around here, you might want to take the car instead of the bike and book a session at Zip World, where you’ll speed over the quarry suspended from a cable! It sounds a lot scarier than it is – actually, once you’re up there any fears are soon dispelled thanks to the excitement and the incredible views.
Finally I reached the end of the route – Llyn Ogwen, a beautiful lake that’s a pretty famous landmark in this part of the world. There were a few small groups of walkers joining me in admiring the scenery, and after I’d finished resting and started my return journey I felt very glad that unlike the walkers, I’d be descending on two wheels instead of two legs!