667-7 Bangor to Llanarmon-yn-Ial

Cities 4, Cathedrals 3: St Asaph

It’s a sign of distraction when you think about signs. Ruthin’s sign says “Historic Market Town”. What a piece of useless information. Historic as in how old? Is it still? What does it market and when? It’d be a lot more useful to say “a working market town”. As for Ancient Market towns: as in rival to the Egyptian bazaars of the pharaohs?

Ruthin was towards the end of today’s ride. Before then we’d sampled the delights of ncn 5 as it weaved alongside over under the A55. Taking in the coastal towns. Conwy was buzzing with a pirate fare. Then to Abergele and the myriads of holiday homes hugging the flood defence walls: the flooding will no doubt be a surprise, a disaster and somebody to blame. Mind you although it’s flat our progress wasn’t that fast: negotiated twists and turns and the path is well used by a range of people: most chirpy, some dopey (or doped).

We turned inland then: the headwind kindly turned with us. St Asaph has the Cathedral and the Premier shop which was of more use. I passed many a stopping point today from my working days up here, the Oriel in St Asaph was one. I have the ear plugs to prove Rhyl taxi drivers are the most miserable moaning shower in the UK I’ve had the misfortune to use.

As we go inland the landscape changes to a rich farm green. And starts to undulate. Then goes up precipitatously towards our destination: a community run pub in a fine wee village.

667 Rest Day Talybont

If you’ve been to the Marquis of Bute’s Mount Stuart House you have something to gauge Penrhyn Castle against. The former is a solid 10/10 for no expense spared and quite “wow”. The latter, described is not too bad neither probably a solid 8.

All sides have a view

They were both funded by wealth from the work of others. Coal for the Butes, sugar/slavery and then slate for the Pennants of Penrhyn. Their slate quarry was until relatively recently, the largest in the world. Their industrial dispute with the workers 1900-1903 remains the UKs longest. Not modern employers then. Jacob Rees Mogg may have been inspired by them.

Built over 15 years at a today cost of £45million finishing circa 1840. One staircase took 10 years to carve and is truly amazing. I passed by the most important art collection in Wales outside the National Museum with a scant glance: dark masters in darker rooms. One visitor was wetting himself over the neo Norman fireplace surround. I was impressed with his enthusiasm.

The National Trust is doing its bit to recognise slavery. In trying too hard ( vs an adult tone to say “remember” ) it feels a bit in a politically correct insincere space. Not many of the Slate workers could probably have afforded the entry fee.

A good day out.

667-6 Llanbedr to Talybont

Cities 3, Cathedrals 2, Castles lots

Bangor’s 6C cathedral is possibly the highlight of the UKs third smallest city (St David’s no 1 and St Asaph no 2). We’d reached there via Harlech and Caernarfon’s splendid English edifices. Edward 1 of England knew how to make a lasting statement of domination and subjugation.

In between there are lots of small settlements and towns like Penrhyndeudraeth and Porthmadog. Narrow gauge railways join them and former slate quarries to the coast. The flat coastal plain looks like it’ll be a Morecambe Bay with rising sea levels. The wise ones live up the hill sides. Of which there are a few.

Harlech has a steep street (40%) we look at but resist the tempation to cycle down and up. Its castle is a warm up act for our afternoon coffee stop: Caernarfon looks a bit more prosperous than I remember it (a regular work destination). Mind you it should be jumping. If that Castle was in the Cotswolds it would be.

Mainly ncn8 today, leaving it for a section to hug the coast closer.

667-5 Aberystwyth to Llanbedr

Today we followed the coast and railways. The landscape changed subtly. Stonewalls are made of round stones (from rivers), as we go north the buildings mirror the imposing grey stone of the adjacent quarries.

Our route was mainly on NCN 82 for most of the morning, passing the Dyfi Osprey centre. Which is a good place to get a coffee.

Leaving Machynlleth we enter Gwynedd. Fortress Gwynedd, dotted with caravan parks and towns build on either slate or Victorian tourism. A fine coast it is too, at least in todays sun. Our introduction is via the lovely Happy Valley, which cuts across the estuary from outside Machynlleth. Then to Tywyn where we’ve Raced The Train a few times.

The restored railway bridge to Barmouth is fun to cycle over. Especially in the wind. The same wind helps keep the streets of Barmouth free from litter. Here we sample Sustrans planning for cycling with panniers at its best. A vertical narrow path to join the road, this avoiding the easier main route. Oh well, good to be out of the saddle for 100m ascent.

667-4 Abercych to Aberystwyth

Starting with 3 counties. Cross the river to leave Pembrokeshire and enter Carmarthenshire; tootle a few miles, enter Ceredigion. The only thing which visibly changes are bins. Pembrokeshire’s chirpy recycling bags give easy to Ceredigion’s clear plastic bags.

Today we follow NCN 82 for a good while, leaving it when it goes to Lampeter. We head north east. All the routes are hilly. By that I mean steep and heavy breathing territory. So it feels quite slow going.

The first hour or two the grass verges have a soft reflective glow. There is a different sound from the Tarmac. It’s hosing it down. I’d brought the rain gear. Not the right gear, but stuff just the same. Who cares about rain running down your leg to be soaked up by socks? Anyhow the sun came out and we were soon steaming from the sweat inside the ‘breathable’ fabrics. I think they were tested by an asthma enthusiast.

This part of Wales feels isolated and unfamiliar. Well cultivated, very few settlements. We running parallel to the coast but inland. There is no easy cycling road with the main road a busy one.

Aberystwyth comes into view, and soon swn-y-mor appears.