Are you new to cycling? Do you wonder where you can cycle safely and what the conditions are like? Why not try one of our routes? We specialise in short, mainly traffic-free excursions that utilise The National Cycle Network in the Southeast Valleys of Wales.

Cycle Across the Beacons Tour

Including: Monmouth & Brecon Canal, Carreg Cennen Castle and Dinefwr Castle
Total Distance*: 150 miles
Travel Time: 4 Days / 3 Nights
Ride Level: Advanced+

Cost of Event: Each rider will cover costs of their food and accommodations
Starting Date & Ending Date: Wednesday - Saturday, 14 - 17 June 2017
Starting & End Locations: Pontypool/Pontymoile Boat Basin
Contact: Bike Wales | Muse Kidd

Route Itinerary
This plan covers four days and three nights - divided into fairly equal distances for each day. As well as trying to make the trip as scenic as possible, I also try to focus the routes around traffic-free paths or quiet roads designated by the National Cycle Network.

The first two days we'll be following NCN 49 north through Brecon and then west on quiet roads across to Llandeilo. The last two days we'll return using quiet roads and NCN 437 to Banwen Pryddin, then joining NCN 46 at Merthyr Tydfil, and finally NCN 492 at Brynmawr for the final fast ride back into Pontypool.

Please read my Multi-Day Tours Overview.

Day 1: Pontypool to Penpont
Departure Time: 10:30 am
Arrival Time: 4:30 pm
Distance: 39.9 miles
Campsite: Penpont Campsite

Our journey starts off leisurely; we'll cycle 32 lovely miles along the Monmouth & Brecon Canal all the way to Brecon. If we push ourselves at a whopping seven miles per hour, we'll be there in plenty of time. (A perfect warm-up distance for getting ourselves accustomed to the bikes and weight.) This is an unpaved towpath which runs directly beside the canal and though mostly smooth, there are sections which can be either rutted or muddy or both.

The path can also be busy with pedestrians, dog-walkers, as well as other cyclists. There are ample places along the route for food and comfort breaks (Goytre Wharf @ 6 mi., Govilon @ 13 mi., Talybont-on-Usk @ 26 mi.), and we'll stop whenever we like.

At Brecon, we'll enter town and shop for supplies, food, etc., because we'll soon be leaving civilisation along a quiet road for the remaining seven/eight miles to our first campsite (and my personal favourite!) in Penpont. Of particular consideration will be a fairly respectable climb for the first two miles leaving out of Brecon (see: the elevation detail in the map above).

ROUTE COLOUR KEY:   Traffic-free  Shared Use  Quiet Road  Steep Hill

NOTE: Train stations are available along the route at: Pontypool, Abergavenny, Llandeilo, Merthyr Tydfil, and Ebbw Vale so that you can modify the length of your trip to best suit your plans. And of course, there are towns and villages where you can pick up most anything along the way... in fact, we'll be passing bike shops and camping supply shops throughout the journey.

Day 2: Penpont to Carreg Castle & Llandeilo
Departure Time @ Penpont: 9:30 am | Arrival Time @ Carreg Castle: 12:30 pm
Distance: 27.5 miles
Departure Time @ Carreg Caslte: 3:30 pm | Arrival Time @ Llandeilo: 5:30 pm
Distance: 6.1 miles
*Total Distance (for the day): 33.6 miles
Campsite: Cwm Camping

Day two should be an exciting day... the primary goal is leave early and cycle 26 miles to Carreg Cennen Castle. The route is rolling and scenic along quiet roads so with a relaxed pace it should be quite easy to arrive at the venue by 12:30 pm. This will allow 3 hours for lunch and a leisurely exploration of the castle ruins and cave.

Photo Credit: Paul Callinor

 Sidebar of Note: 
Carreg Cennan Castle
Reading about this unique castle one word becomes apparent across all reviews; "spectacular". Perched high above the Cennan Valley on a limestone crag, this massive medieval castle dominates the surrounding lower countryside unlike any other in Wales. Originally built as a Welsh fortress against the invading Normans, it subsequently became a highly contested centre-piece of control - passing between various Welsh Kings and English Lords for centuries. Now the castle displays the after effects of being attacked, partially destroyed, rebuilt, torn down, and finally ignored; left to stand empty for six-hundred years to become the proud ruins you see today.

Much of the architecture left from those many years still endure within the inner walls and chambers. Visitors can see the details of how they lived and fought and worshipped and held court amongst the turmoil of the times. Additionally, there is a fascinating hidden inner cave - for what specific purpose still holds a mystery and adds to the ruins allure.

A small gift shop offering guidebooks and refreshments can be found within the entrance to the castle grounds.

Resources: Castles in Wales: A Handbook by Gerald Morgan, Castles in Wales, a website by Jeffrey L. Thomas

At approximately 3:30 pm. we'll depart the castle and cycle four miles into Llandeilo where we'll stop again for food and supplies. It's then just a short three miles up to the campsite above New Inn where we'll check-in and setup for a well-earned nights rest at Cwm Camping.

ROUTE COLOUR KEY:   Traffic-free  Shared Use  Quiet Road  Steep Hill

NOTE: There is a train station in Llandeilo for anyone wishing to end their cycling trip here.

Day 3: Llandeilo to Banwen Pryddin
Departure Time: 9:30 am
Arrival Time: 5:30 pm
Distance: 29.7 miles
Campsite: Cwmnanthir Camping

We'll break camp on day three and set out first thing to visit Dinefwr Castle. The CADW managed site is yet another lovely castle four miles down the road from our campsite and just west of Llandeilo, perched above the Tywi valley. The plan is to arrive at the estate by 10:00 am, allowing for a couple of hours to casually explore the grounds and have lunch.

Photo Credit: Bovey Belle

Setting off around noon will give us plenty of time to cycle roughly 30 miles to Banwen Pryddin. A highlight of the ride will be 10 miles down the road at Ammanford where we'll join traffic-free NCN Route 437 and follow the River Amman for the next 6 miles. We'll stop for lunch whenever and wherever the group feels so inclined. The remainder of the route then follows several A & B roads along the southern edges of the Brecon Beacons; bringing an end our day one mile north of Banwen Pyrddinat Cwmnanthir Camping.

ROUTE COLOUR KEY:   Traffic-free  Shared Use  Quiet Road  Steep Hill

NOTE: For those who've had enough of castles and would rather have a lazy lie-in, you can skip the trip to Dinefwr Castle in the morning and just meet us down the road in Llandeilo as we pass back through the village around 12:30 pm.

Day 4: Banwen Pryddin to Pontypool
Departure Time: 10:00 am
Arrival Time: approx. 4:00 pm
Distance: 44.0 miles
Campsite: n/a

The last day... always the saddest part of an adventure! We'll take our time breaking camp and setting off for we've a full day of riding with some fairly decent climbs. We'll find our first challenge just five miles down the road in Glyneath; it's a jaw-dropping, spirit breaking, two-mile slog up to Cefn Rhigos. (Not gonna sugar-coat it for you...) Following that monster; the next couple of hills will be easy.

We'll also encounter an unusual section along the Heads of the Valleys where we'll need to cross a fence and traverse a short distance over a field to rejoin the route. Otherwise, it's a short run down the dual-carriageway (approx. 3/4 mile). It's an odd break in the NCN Route, yet we can evaluate the situation when we get there and the group can decide.

We'll pass through some lovely spots, particularly heading up the traffic-free cycle path (NCN Route 46) from Merthyr to Dowlais. I'm also considering once we're at the top we could stop for a late lunch and final reflections at Pant Cad Ivor Inn. The place is a popular stop for cyclists!

ROUTE COLOUR KEY:   Traffic-free  Shared Use  Quiet Road  Steep Hill

NOTE: Arrival time back at our starting point will be entirely up to the group. I personally don't care to race, but some folks may wish to get back early. Others may wish to break off in another direction... it's completely flexible. The last eight miles from Brynmawr however, is a fast ride down NCN Route 492 into Pontypool (see the map above). And it's a blast!


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