Post: Charlie’s arising today was a direct result of the length of yesterday, of that there can be no doubt. I have to say that the ride today goes through some of the most dramatic and incredibly beautiful scenery in North Wales. His holiday may well have been on a slender budget, but my goodness the route was well chosen. And he doesn’t get off lightly, several people who are known to him and hail from Bolton catch up with him !
Wednesday, July 1 Llanberis, Aberglaslyn and Dolgellau
It was a glorious morning with the sunlight streaking the straits and warming the rolling land of Anglesey when we awoke. We had ordered breakfast for 7.30, it was now 8.30, and the meal was waiting for us. When we asked for the bill, Mrs Perry asked us if 5/- was too much. Gramercy! It goes cheaper! After a little study, we discovered a route to Llanberis which cut Caernarfon out. Both the road from here to that town, and from there almost to Llanberis are not blessed with scenery, and Caernarfon itself is a dirty, disappointing town (although I’ll allow that the castle is worth a visit), so we welcomed the byways. And they proved well worthwhile.
As soon as we left Sea View Terrace we came in view of a noble array of peaks – Snowdonia, a jumbled mass of towering crags, with the gap of Llanberis dividing them from the rough group between the two passes. Farther southwest, the lesser, but very imposing isolated peaks of Y Garn and Carnedd Goch (not to be confused with those about Llyn Ogwen) stood in rugged silhouette, a clean-cut skyline. The lanes we traversed were scented with woodbine and wild rose, the fields yielding an odour of new mown hay. Winding and undulating, we came to Bethel, a quiet, stone built place, and then rapidly nearing the rugged contours, we turned at Pen-isar-waen, crossed the river Seiont and the railway, and joined the main road between Caernarfon and Llanberis. At Cwm-y-glo – ‘The Hollow of Coal’, we reached the shores of Llyn Padarn, and thence our road lay by the shore of the lake, a fascinating, devious road, by banks of coloured rock, with pleasant woods and tinkling rills to keep us interested.
Very soon we dropped down to Llanberis, where we bought some more ‘Judges’ picture postcards, then passed out of the place. High above us was the Queen peak, the Wyddfa (3,560 ft) situated above a chaos of precipice and boulder-strewn slopes, the little cabin on its summit being visible. Across the Llyn were the huge quarries that entirely deface the western flanks of Glyder Fawr and Fach, biting 2,000ft into the mountain side, and marring the beauty of the lakes. We stopped between Llyn Padarn and Peris and paid a visit to that last home of Welsh Independence, Dolbadarn Castle, just a round tower with a flight of steps on the outside, giving a fine view both seawards and into the Pass.
This solitary remnant is all that remains of the only fortress in Snowdonia, and this was not very strong, the inhabitants relying more upon the then impassable mountains. It was built in the 13th century, and little history of it is known beyond the fact that Owen Goch was imprisoned here for 20 years by his brother, Llewellyn the Great, and later was defeated by Dafydd, brother of the last Llewellyn, against the Earl of Pembroke.
The weather was getting hotter, and a thirst was growing on us which could not be kept away, however often we drank. Almost without exception all the streams were dried up – and the few that we did see were only mere trickles of warm water. From the spoiled shores of Llyn Peris we gained the scattered hamlet of Nant Peris, and then we entered the jaws of Llanberis Pass. This, the wildest valley in Wales, at least equals Nant Ffrancon, and is certainly more hemmed in, being a V-shaped defile, deep-set between black and towering walls of rocks, and almost blocked by boulders and debris.
The impressive aspect of the glen defies even the marring effect of the electric power wires that traverse it from end to end. Climbing gradually past a group of enormous boulders, one of which has been wrongly called a cromlech, we crossed the bridge Pont-y-Gromlech, and seeing a decent amount of water coming down, we pulled our shoes and stockings off and paddled about for half an hour. This point gave us the best position for viewing the precincts of the Bwlch. On the left, (climbing), the precipitous crags of Ersgair Gelin, the ‘Yellow Shank’ of Glyder Fawr, descend in abrupt disorder, while on the right the arms of Crib Goch open to disclose a splendid view of the almost rectangular Cwm Glas, one of the most remarkable glens in Wales, for on the cliffs the marks of glacier action are very distinct, whilst on the west side rises the great rock bastion of Cwm las ‘Grey Horn’, and east is the north ridge of Grib Goch and a spur of Crib-y-Ddysgl with those fantastic turrets, the ‘Crazy Pinnacles’, in view.
The rest of the ascent was made on foot, the gradient being steep and the surface in keeping with the littered rock about us. The three mile climb ended at the Gorphwyspha Hotel, from where one could look down the Pass and marvel (as Ben especially did) at the huge masses of stone. The steep descent on the other side round a shoulder of Moel Berfedd to Pen-y-Gwryd was broken by the wonderful views of Crib Goch and Snowdon (Y Wyddfa).
Then, with wondrously clear views of the peaks around, we dropped down the barren Nant Cynnyd by a vile-surfaced road, into that dream valley, the Vale of Gwynant. It was upon this narrow road that a motorist deliberately tried to run me into a telegraph pole. It was so obvious – there was plenty of room and the road was clear, that I was blazing with anger and shook my fist after him. He stopped, and an altercation ensued, during which one of the occupants said: “I am a cyclist, you know!” “I don’t care what you are, you are a set of fools, I know that!” I answered, and he never retaliated. He knew it was so. Next time they passed they gave us plenty of room. Llyn Gwynant is one of the most beautiful lakes I have ever seen, the blending and colour of the wood and rock and water completing a rare picture, and the ride by the Wood of the Eagle (Coed Eryr), and the park of Llyndy to that other beautiful sheet of water, Llyn Dinas, provided a perfect entry to Bettws-y-coed’s chief rival, Beddgelert.
We got a fine lunch at Llewellyn’s Cottage, just across the bridge. This place, though very obviously set out in the dining room for tourists, is very old, showing a fine open fireplace and inglenook, and across the low roof, on aged oaken beams are hung many ancient knick-knacks, guns, horn and much hunting tackle. For food in Beddgelert, I recommend Llewellyn’s Cottage, and should anyone care to stay the night, Tan-y-Craig, first house of the first row on the Capel Curig entrance, will supply all their wants satisfactorily.
After the inevitable walk to Bedd Gelert (which is also a good viewpoint for looking up the Vale of Gwynant), we regained our machines, and after a short run found ourselves dropping down that ravishing little defile, the Pass of Aberglaslyn. Some vandal company has been and built a railway through it; although it has missed the finest part, the entrance has been marred. I should like to shoot the man who was responsible for it! Pont Aberglaslyn demanded a stop. It always does, and I have yet to meet the traveller who has crossed this bridge without stopping. I have heard of a lady, who, when motoring from Capel Curig to Bangor, never took her eyes off a newspaper, even whilst stopped over Ogwen Falls, but even she, I think, would not do that in this spot.
Here we met a large party of Bolton roadster cyclists, the Victoria Hall CC (I had never heard of them before). One of them had fallen in the river, we saw his clothes drying on the wall. They told us to try a drink from the river, stating that it tasted like lemonade, and with visions of unlimited supplies of delicious cordial, we went down to get a drink. We got a disappointment, but still, there is a different taste with the waters of the Glaslyn, no, I will not say lemonade, I won’t commit myself. Try it. Spring water is sold at the hotel, vide notice. We hung around here for quite a long time, praising this wonderful pass to each other, only tearing ourselves away by sheer will-power. About a mile further on a notice board in the garden of a cottage attracted our attention; I had seen it before, and ‘Wayfarer’ has a slide of it. It runs:
I wonder how the last named is served?
I always thought that the narrow winding steep road along the edge of Traeth Mawr to Penrhyndeudraeth was not very good in the matter of scenery, but this time I got an eye opener. It is simply gorgeous, with its little woods, rocky banks, flowery hedges, and its views which change at every one of the numerous bends. Across the flats, the bold peaks, Moel Ddu and Moel Hebog stood glistening grey above the wooded lower slopes, behind, in all their rugged grandeur were the vast precipices of Snowdonia, its tentacles Llechog, Y Llynwedd, Grib Goch, Clogwyn etc, making a rugged silhouette with the Wyddfa as the central peak. On our side were a motley array of sharp points – Moelwyn, Moelwyn Bach, Manod Mawr, but most striking in its clean-cut profile was Cynicht, one that reminded me in a way of conical Tryfan.
After Garreg, Penrhyndeudraeth was the next place, noted only for its steep hill. We climbed steeply to the Ffestiniog toy railway, then by a very narrow street with a sharp bend in the middle and a reckless gradient all the way to the valley of the Dwyryd. Halfway down the hill we had to dismount to allow a lorry full of telegraph poles to pass. It seemed a gigantic struggle for the engine. At the bottom we turned left and enjoyed a glorious woodland run along the Vale of Ffestiniog to Tan-y-Bwlch and Maentwrog, where we joined the Trawsfynydd road. Maentwrog is one of the prettiest of Welsh villages, situated as it is on a kind of shelf, with an outlook in both directions, and with a fine river below and glens all around. I should like to spend a day around Maentwrog.
We now seemed to have got onto a very rough byway, climbing extremely steeply, and long enough to make Ben start ‘conking’. From the summit however, as expected, an excellent all-round view was enjoyed, the peaks about Ffestiniog being especially striking. Here we suddenly met a motor-cycling party who lives near us (Mr Broadbent from Pennington Road). After the usual greetings we asked how the tour was going down. Then they started to revile the roads. “The worst roads we have ever seen, river beds, I don’t know why they put such roads on the map” etc. “The scenery?” oh, beautiful, never seen anything like it in our lives”. I wanted to know what it mattered about road surfaces so long as the scenery was there, but it seems that with a motor vehicle, roads are of great importance. After assuring them that they would strike excellent roads beyond Maentwrog, they carried on – and so did we. Another undulating four miles brought us to Trawsfynydd, where the Highgate Temperance Hotel provided us with an excellent tea. It also gave us shelter from a very heavy rainstorm accompanied by some thunder.
The rain had gone when we started again, but black clouds hung menacingly over the peaks, hiding altogether the higher ones. The road now was straight as a die, up and down continually, and surrounded by drab moors, which, were it not because of the line of mountains to the west, would become dreary and monotonous. The surface was quite good. Near the large Artillery encampment, a huge gap in the mountains shows to the best advantage. It is known as the Devil’s Gap to the soldiers in the camp, but the true name is Bwlch Drus Ardudwy, “The Pass of the Gate to Ardudwy”. A track leads over to the coast road. After about five miles of moors, we started running into a valley, the valley of the Eden. I punctured, providing an excuse for a stop by the gurgling waters, and then on to Pont Dolgefelio.
The ride afterwards, dropping all the time deeper and deeper into the wooded glen, could not be rushed, it was far too beautiful. A little away from the road is one of the finest single-leap falls in Wales, Pystill-y-Cain or Caen, but as former experience had told us, the dry period made it not worth a visit, so we left it over to some future time. Again, just below lovely Pont-ar-Eden, a short detour can be made to Rhaiadr Du – ‘Black Cataract’, but this, which would have been worthwhile even now, we missed through ignorance. As we got farther down this dale, the scenery got finer and the crags above higher, until, just beyond where Precipice walk can be seen high up on the eastern hillside, we reached Llanelltyd, and joined the Barmouth-Dolgellau road. A two mile run along the glorious Mawddach estuary brought us to Dolgellau at 8.20pm, and after a pow-wow, we decided to chuck it for the day, getting ‘digs’ immediately at the Aran House Commercial Hotel. Before supper we had a walk up the hillside, from where was a fine view of the rocky heights of Cader Idris.
On our return, we got talking to a motorcyclist from London, an interesting chap, but one who was so talkative that we could not get a word in edgeways, many prospective arguments were spoiled by the impossibility of us to speak for his tongue! Then in rolled three Bolton Wheelers who live quite near to me, and with whom we have had many runs. Greetings, an exchange of experiences, etc, occupied us until it was hinted that bed was a desirable place. 56 miles