I have already blogged about the weather and the accommodation, but it has taken me a while to get around to writing in any more detail partly because life has conspired to throw obstacles at me over the past couple of weeks and partly because it has taken quite some time to go through the gazillion photographs that I took during the week. It is a good job I don’t have to pay to develop and print film any more!
Anyway, I think I am about ready now, but I am going to drag this out a bit longer by blogging in two parts: this first part is about our motorcycle trips – the main reason for the holiday – and later I will blog about what we did when we left the motorcycles behind for a couple of days.
It was this first part that caused most problems in sorting through photographs. When not on the motorcycle my photo-taking can be excessive, but at least it is vaguely purposeful and therefore the output is reasonably manageable.
When I am on the motorcycle, however, I use a GoPro set to take a picture every five seconds. This results in an awful lot of pictures, and they also require a lot more editing before they are fit for sharing.
Anyway, excuses over with, let’s get on with it!
The journey to Wales: the stunning A44.
We chose to stay in Talybont near Aberystwyth because it provides an excellent base from which to explore some good motorcycle roads. However, we didn’t have to wait until we arrived for the holiday to start because the route there was stunning.
We headed from Gloucester up toward Hereford then across country to join the A44. The weather was warm and sunny and the scenery was spectacular. We stopped for lunch at Crossgates, where there is a cafe attached to a service station. Unsurprisingly it is very popular with motorcyclists and, when we turned up, we were outnumbered by Italian motorcycles: Ducatis and Laverdas.
After lunch the scenery got ever better, so by the time we arrived at our cottage for the week in Talybont we were already smiling broadly.
Before leaving home I set up a route in my TomTom to follow the lakes as closely as possible, so we soon left the main road to follow a narrow, windy single-track road. There was little traffic except the occasional cyclist and the views were spectacular as we cruised around the sweeping ribbon of tarmac.
Before long we discovered why there was so little traffic as the road disappeared and became a rough, pot-holed gravel track. After half a mile or so it became apparent that things weren’t going to improve so grudgingly I admitted defeat and we headed back to a more major road – a Honda CB1300 is not the ideal off-road motorcycle!
I was not discouraged for long as even the main road through Elan Valley is off-the-scale picturesque and still not especially crowded. For lunch we stopped at the visitor centre, where we were just in time to see a large group of Harley riders being mustered for a group ride.
We did get stuck behind the odd car here and there, or even worse a motor home, but generally they would pull aside and let us pass and enjoy the scenery.
All in all a brilliant day’s riding and even with our unplanned off-road detour it was still only just over 100 miles round trip from the cottage, giving plenty of time for photography stops along the way.
Horseshoe Pass is an iconic bit of road, so as it was only a round trip of about 130 miles we couldn’t miss it whilst we were in the area.
Once again we set off in excellent weather heading north from Talybont on the A487, which is a gloriously twist bit of road which climbs up following the Afon Dulas river to provide stunning views back down onto Llyn Mwyngil, a large glacial lake – it is difficult to keep your eyes off the rear view mirrors.
The road becomes the A494 and follows alongside another lake, Llyn Tegid, for some distance. We decided to continue heading north on the A5105, then turn south on the A542, coming to the near-legendary Ponderosa Cafe.
Here we stopped for food, sat outside in the sunshine, but soon clouds started to roll in and the temperature dropped. It got worse as we wandered around taking photographs in the growing mist and we donned waterproofs for the ride out, expecting rain.
The rain never materialised, but the mist robbed us of the spectacular views from the top of the pass – it seems this is a pretty normal state of affairs as the pass frequently gets engulfed in cloud. As we continued following the impressively windy road through the gloom to join the A5 and head back toward the cottage we gradually lost height and once again emerged out into lovely sunshine.
The weather forecast had promised that the day chosen for this trip would be the hottest and sunniest of the week, but as we left it was decided grey and cold compared with the weather of previous days.
Once again we headed north on the A487, but this time turned east on the A489 and A470. This still meant that we were gaining altitude, which did nothing to improve the weather conditions. A slight satnav misunderstanding meant that we took a different route than planned, coming to the lake from the south, crossing Lake Vyrnwy Dam.
It was clear that this was an extremely scenic place, but it was hard to appreciate it given the fact that it was immersed in cloud and mist. We therefore decided to head for the cafe and warm up and have a drink.
An hour later things hadn’t improved greatly. We did a circuit of the lake, and the road was wonderful, as was the scenery, albeit shrouded in mist. We decided to give it more time, so found a different cafe for lunch.
After lunch the weather started to brighten up, so we did another lap.
Finally the sun came out properly and we could get a good view and some better pictures, so we did yet another lap.
By now time was getting on: it was past 3pm, so we decided it was time to head for home. By now it was gloriously sunny, so we set off from the north of the lake on the road that I had intended to come in on – it is probably just as well we didn’t because it was very narrow and windy and in the mist it may have been treacherous. Now, however, it was glorious and the scenery was amazing. Well worth waiting for.
So that was it for our Welsh motorcycle adventures. The pictures can’t do it justice, it truly was stunning: if you love motorcycling, you will love this part of Wales – I thoroughly recommend it.