Just 20 miles north of Brechfa lies the hamlet of Cilycwm, home to the Forestry Commission’s Cwm Rhaeadr red route. The trail may only be 6.7 kilometres long but it boasts enough wow-factor to make it well worth the trip into deepest Wales.
What about the trails?
With the red-graded mtb run limited to just 6.7 kilometres you’d be forgiven for thinking Cwm Rhaeadr is a walk in the park, barely worth stopping to ride en-route to somewhere bigger and better.
Well, you’d be wrong: don’t let the diminutive distance fool you, Cwm Rhaeadr is one of the best trails we’ve ridden anywhere in the UK.
From the small car park the route climbs on fireroad for 2.7 kilometres. The climb is on graded forest road so it passes easily and quickly.
With four kilometres back to the car park, you are at last on singletrack, but for the time being you’re still gaining altitude round a series of tight switchbacks.
The trail levels off for only a handful of pedal strokes before it finds itself descending along a corridor of trees. To add interest, the trail is littered with rollers that beg for rider input to gain even more speed. The trail winds down this corridor, through corner after corner, some bermed, others left flat, and over rollers and small jumps, as well as large patches of exposed rock that require some concentration while still being well within the red-graded remit.
Despite the slate under tyre, things never got too squirrelly. After this final climb it’s fun all the way to the finish, with barely a pedal stroke required to keep you pinging through the trees at warp speed, thanks entirely to the pump bumps and jumps that line the descent. By the time you reach the bottom you’ll be very grateful for it being such a short route — that leaves all the more opportunity for doing multiple runs, something we’d heartily recommend.
Forestry Commission reckons you should be able to ride one loop in around 45 minutes.
When’s the best time to ride?
We arrived at Cwm Rhaeadr on a rainy day in December that came after one of the wettest Novembers on record, and the trails were still fast and grippy. Cwm Rhaeadr is a true all-weather option, assuming you can face the drive to get there in serious rain.
How do I get there?
From England Follow the M4 west over the Severn Bridge into Wales. At juction 32 head north on the A470 signposted Brecon. Just outside Brecon take the A40 heading west and follow to Llandovery. Follow signposts to Cilycwm (four miles). Continue through village approximately one mile to the Cwm Rhaeadr car park. Train is also an option as Llandovery has a mainline station, and is approximately five miles from the trail head. Cwm Rhaeadr is only 20 miles from Brechfa so would combine well into a short road trip.
How much does it cost?
Cwn Rhaeadr is free to ride. All you need to pay is attention to other forest users.
Where do I eat?
Locals have told us that the Neuadd Fawr Arms in Cilycwm is very good for food (call 01550 721644 for opening hours). Llandovery has a huge number of cafes, tea rooms and pubs so should cater for any taste.
National Park Tourist Information Centre, Llandovery, 01550 720 693
Memory Map V5 OS Landranger (1:50,000) Region 3 Wales
OS Explorer (1:25,000) 187 Llandovery
OS Landranger (1:50,000) 146 Lampeter and Llandovery