Tuesday, September 5 – Bettws-y-Coed, via Carnarvon

Up at 7.30am, we had a walk round Llandudno. In Mostyn Street we saw a raised survey model of North Wales. How those narrow looking winding roads appealed to me! Running beneath the frowning masses of mountains, they seemed to call me, and I responded. My pal was likewise infected, and together we planned a route via Nant Ffrancon to Bettws-y-Coed and Corwen. But when we returned for breakfast we had a chat with two motorcyclists, from whom we borrowed a map. We discovered that the road over the Llanberis pass would not be too far, so we plumped for that. When we told our petrolised friends, they derided us for had they not traversed that very same route the previous day? “Great hills must be climbed, the roads were bad, the scenery was nothing, and it was too far for ordinary push bikes”. We didn’t think so, we would risk it and we did, and ultimately were glad. It was 10am when we took the short four miles to Conway, and crossing the beautiful suspension bridge, we ran past the fine old castle, through the town with its old grey houses and under the walls to the open road beyond.

The weather was gloriously calm and sunny, and we had a sense of free exhilaration. Through a wood to the coast we ran, and then along under the shadow of Conway mountain. Now a fresh sea breeze blew against us, cooling us and tanning our already sun-scorched faces. Just one thing marred the day. A light mist enshrouded the peaks of the distant hills, making long distance views impossible. Soon we were riding through the little town of Penmaenmawr, and coming to the coast again directly beneath the huge escarpment of Penmaenmawr Mountain (1550ft). At Llanfairfechan we left the coast, and with woods on one hand, and the gentle green slopes of Ar Orsedd and Moel Union leading to the more rugged peaks, we had plenty to comment upon. The roads are good but very narrow. Wandering through the delightful village of Aber, we turned suddenly left and again right at Penrhyn park to Bangor.

Leaving Bangor after lunch we took the road through Glan Adda to Port Dinorwic and then uphill to above Carnarvon. Down into the historical old city we flashed, coming to rest opposite the castle main entrance. Storing the bikes, we paid our ‘tanners’ and entered the great fortress. Space forbids me to mention all about this great edifice, but after climbing umpteen million steps up to the seven towers, we at last came to Eagle Tower, the highest of the lot. No sign of the mountains could be seen, and after an hour at the various points of interest, we came out. Taking out a boat, we made towards Anglesey, but as we were travelling too fast in the current, we returned. What a pull we had against the tide. Afterwards we rowed around the mouth of the River Seint. Retrieving our bikes, we made our getaway for the road to Llanberis. For several miles we climbed, mostly rideable until quite suddenly a whole range appeared as we topped the ridge overlooking Cwm-y-glo, at the western extremity of Llyn Padarn. To the south we counted the ten huge aerials of Carnarvon wireless station, perched on the lower slopes of Cefn Du (1440 ft) whilst before us rose into the mist the heights of Snowdon and the surrounding group.

Then downhill we sped into the Vale of Llanberis, rising slowly again by the shore of Llyn Padarn. Again we dropped into the large village of Llanberis, the Welsh Zermatt. From here starts the mountain railway, following the path to the summit of Snowdon. Running through the little town, we mounted the slight hill on which is Dolbadarn castle, now a battered remnant of Welsh independence. This is the only fortress in Snowdonia, the Welsh having depended mostly on the formidable barrier of mountains. Across the lake the Dinorwic slate quarries bite deeply into the eastern face of Elidir Fawr (3150ft) causing huge staircases each step 200ft high. From this, the shores of Llyn Padarn and Llyn Peris are littered by fragments of rock, spoiling the scenic effect entirely. Along a flat road we ran for a mile, then upwards slowly. Stopping at a little stream, we had a wash and a rest. Now that we were climbing steeply, we had to dismount. Huge rocky precipices closed in as if to bar the narrow road. At the roadside are boulders and broken rocks, thrown down by the screes, and the whole scene becomes one of wild desolation. Then as we reached the top of the Pass of Llanberis, the rocky view fell away and an extensive view opened out before us.

A rocky valley with rugged hills rising before us, whilst round the side ran the white thread of Beddgelert road. The whole effect was one of wild, rugged gloominess, yet I would not change it for all the trees in the world. It gives one a sense of wonderful exhilaration, and we revelled in the gloriously mild air. Then came a hair-raising rush downhill from Gorphwysfa, round the shoulder of Glyder Fawr and to Pen-y-Gwryd at the foot of the pass. My one and only brake (front) almost threw me as we stopped suddenly at the cross-roads. On again, until we were switch-backing downwards towards Capel Curig.

The valley opened out giving way to cultivation and gentle sweeping slopes, and soon we entered the shrine of St Curig by the twin lakes called Mymbyr. The view of Snowdon from here is said to be the finest in Wales, and even today the view of the hills was magnificent. Down again until a group of charabancs by the roadside made us look round. A notice bade us come and see the famous Swallow Falls at a nominal fee of 2d each, so we entered, and the falls were really grand. We stayed here for some time then off we went downhill accompanied by the tumultuous Llugwy river. Reaching Bettws-y-Coed, we felt loth to leave this pretty place, so we got ‘digs’ for the night. As it was but 5pm we had tea, then set out to see the pretty spots on the river. We had a glorious time by the ‘still pool of Llugwy’ and along the Conway Valley. Returning at dusk, we had supper and after a smoke retired at 10pm. What a wonderful day we have had! If this is cycle touring then I shall plump for this on all possible occasions. And if I can’t have a weekend, I’ll settle for a day or even an hour!

52 miles, 7 hours