Secret Wales

Snowdon, The Gap, Cadair Idris – all great rides but they draw in the crowds. Instead, try our favourite loops far from the madding crowd.

>>> The 100 best mountain bike routes in the UK

Okay, so Wales isn’t generally as busy as the main holiday areas on the E side of Offa’s Dyke. But it still pulls the crowds. These are our favourite loops for when we just want to get away from it all… enjoy.

1. Conwy Mountain, North Wales

26km/16 Miles
Ride time: 4-5 hours
Why ride it? Great views, fun trails
Where to eat? Drop back to Conwy for fish & chips on the harbour wall

Sea views, mountain trails and barely a soul around – we love Conwy Mountains. Start N of the Sychnant Pass (Landranger 115/SH759768) and follow lanes SE then S then SW to St. Celynin Church. Descend sweetly E then take tarmac S to Rowen, where you climb brutally W past the hostel onto the open hillside. Continue W to a x-roads (SH693722) and drop NW to Nant y Felin. Lanes and the North Wales Path then lead E past Maen Esgob, N over the pass, then E to SH765777, where you drop S to the road to finish.

2. Irfon Forest, Mid Wales

14km/9 Miles
Ride time: 2 hours
Why ride it? Forest fun and few crowds
Where to eat? Neuadd Arms, Llanwrtyd Wells

OK, so all of Mid Wales is pretty much secret. But some bits are more secret than others and the Irfon Forest is a good example. Start at Llanwrtyd Wells (Landranger 147/SN878466) and take the road NW to Llanwrtyd, then a lane NE and continue up into the forest. Keep SA at the x-roads to the Nant Cerddin and climb out S to a forest track. Keep S and drop to the stream again then turn R to the x-roads again and keep SA. Climb until it levels then turn L onto a BW that drops across another x-roads and down to a farm yard. Turn L to finish.

3. The Blorenge, Brecon Beacons

16km/10 miles
Ride time: 2-3 hours
Why ride it? Awesome singletrack and great views
Where to eat? Bridge Inn, Llanfoist (or head into Abergavenny)

This is a great little outing with a big mountain feel, yet it’s easy to get to doesn’t see many tyre tracks. From Llanfoist, (Landranger 160/SO286132) take the community path W to the Forge car park and follow lanes WSW up to the foot of Gilwern Hill (SO236140). A track leads S around the mountain, then follow a lane B4246. Follow the trail keeping Keeper’s Pond to your R and continue onto the N face of the mountain. A marker starts a singletrack descent. Enjoy this as it leads S then E to the Punchbowl. Climb away then drop steeply SE to the road then N to the canal. Follow this back to Llanfoist.

4. Llanbedr Hill, Mid Wales

36km/22 Miles
Ride time: 5-6 hours
Why ride it? Far from the madding crowd
Where to eat? Seven Stars, Aberedw

This route lies in the void between the Black Mountains and Mid Wales proper, and as such is overlooked by most – a great one for a busy holiday weekend. Note that the trails marked as Footpaths are all 100% legit. From Hundred House ( Landranger 148/SO112544) head SE past Hungry Green. Then W to Craig yr Oen, where BWs and tracks take you S to Pentwyn. Tarmac SW to Aberedw then climb onto Llandeilo Hill. Take tracks E to Ireland and continue E to a junction S of Lletypeod. Now N to Allt Derw, E to Glasnant then N then W to Glascwm. Finish on a BW that leads NW over Giant’s Grave.

5. Berwyn Hills, North Wales

51km/30 miles
Ride time: 6-8 hours
Why ride it? A true North Wales classic
Where to eat? The West Arms, Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog

This loop is an absolute classic, just that not many people know that. Perfect for a busy holiday weekend. Start in Llangynog (Landranger 125/SJ053261), following the B4391 NW to its summit. Now head N to to climb then drop into Cwm Pennant. Turn R onto the B4491 in Llandrillo then R (SE) to hurdle the mountain, passing the Wayfarer memorial at the top. Drop to Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog and take lanes SW then a track S then SW into Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant. Head W then NW to Cefn-coch and cross the hills to the W on a good BW that turn into a quagmire for a few minutes . Continue to the top and enjoy a steep drop then finish on singletrack.