Snowdonia Holiday 2019
Southern Section diary
Southern Section diary
The Snowdonia Mix n Match was planned casualness. A couple of hotels and a campsite for tents, motorhomes, and static caravans all within walking distance of the town centre. Flag the details up on the website with the offer of joining us for the day, the week, or any combination, then join any of the day’s planned activities or not, and that was the deal. The schedule was finally honed down to a full programme for the week and ‘All’ we had to do was text the whole party at regular intervals to keep them up to date with final timings for the forthcoming day.
Saturday, 14 September: The week began with a planned ride from Newbury which, with unseasonably warm weather, made our journey very pleasant. Arriving in Llanwrst, parked-up and checked-in, the first social gathering of the week began.
Sunday, 15 September: The planned ride was to Llandudno and the pier, taking in the Great Orme with its tramway and cable car. With mist and cloud swirling about on top of the hills around Llanwrst we set off, joined for the day by Roy Sixsmith from the Yorkshire Section and Vince McGrath from the Northern, heading immediately into some delightful riding territory. The roads were suitably twisty and, with the disappointing weather, almost devoid of other traffic. After about 65 bendy, twisty, enjoyable, miles, we drew into Lllandudno, cruising the Promenade until we came to a suitable motorcycle parking bay.
Erica & Gerri ready for the off
Gerri demonstrates her equestrian skills ...or was it a stunt performer?
Monday, 16 September: Anglesey day and with slightly improved weather and a full complement of Southern Section riders, we headed towards the Britannia Bridge over the Menai Straits. It has to be said that the highlights for this day all came towards the end. With the sun now casting its shadows once more, we made a brief drop down to the beach at Llanfair-Mathafarn-Eithaf (or Red Wharf Bay).
Leaving Anglesey via the suspension bridge, we headed back down the A5 towards Betws-y-Coed. Shortly after passing through the village of Bethesda, the hilly scenery gave way the absolute magnificence of the Snowdonian Mountains. The scenery along this stretch of road can only be described as stunning as we made our way back for another evening’s social.
The subtle art of the photobomb overlooking Telford's Menai Bridge before heading back for a social
After a brief stop for lunch and a quick look at the pier, we took the circular tour of the imposing outcrop of rock that is the Great Orme. The one-way toll toad offered spectacular views of the sheer cliffs to the left and a sheer drop to sea on the right. The complex road markings then indicated the optional final ascent to the summit. With steep gradients and two very tight hairpins lined by some very aggressive looking stone walls for those who failed the negotiations, we climbed towards the low cloud base before emerging into the car park. The views would be quite spectacular if not marred by persistent low cloud but still worth the ride.
Tour of The Great Orme with Llandudno Pier in the background before circling round to the view with the coastline under a blanket of cloud
Our return route involved both unplanned and planned deviations to The Holland Arms for Erica’s Lady Motorcyclists Club ‘Red’ challenge.
The views across the Menai Straits from the shoreline to the mountains on the mainland opposite were quite beautiful and, after a brief ice cream pause, we resumed our ride. Before leaving the Island we enjoyed one further brief stop at an elevated viewing point overlooking the glistening Menai offering views of both Telford’s Menai Suspension Bridge and Robert Stephenson’s Britannia Bridge highlighted in the late afternoon sun.
Tuesday, 17 September: Mix n Match really came into its own. The proposed visit to Zip World, Penrhyn, was not on everyone’s ‘to do list’ (including a couple of those had bought the none too cheap tickets!) The Velocity 2 zip line, at 1550 metres in length, is claimed as the fastest zip wire in the world having been clocked at 130mph. The contingent that finally arrived at the site came down to 6 participants and 2 spectators.
Arriving at the site, the height of the 'launch pad' was somewhat daunting; just a small rectangle of corrugated metal glinting high on the mountainside. Starting with a safety briefing and an introductory ‘small’ zip run to familiarise the group before we went for ‘the real deal’. The ride in an ex-military 4x4 truck up the bumpy zig-zag road to the top took about 20 minutes. The views were spectacular. (The braking zone indicated in the photograph)
Betsw-y-Coed enroute to ZipWorld
“3-2-1 Go!” The speed gathered quickly with the view opening up beneath you as the cliff face dropped away until what seemed like final take-off. Clearing the edge of the crater, you were suddenly looking down into the turquoise blue water of the lake some 500 feet below. There was now little sense of speed because of the height but this was peak velocity at somewhere around 100mph. It was all bizarrely serene. The experience came to end all too quickly, bought to earth with a crash as the braking system arrested your still brisk pace; 50 seconds start to finish. Wow.
Wednesday, 18 September: Snowdon day with everyone booked onto the 1 o’clock train, the more enthusiastic riders set off for a tour of the South-Western reaches of Snowdonia before picking up the Llanberis Pass and on to Llanberis Station. The calmer members of the group however, had taken a more gentle route via Betws-y-Coed and the fantastic A5 route from Monday and missing our ‘fun’.
For those unfamiliar with the Snowdon Mountain Railway, it must be one of the most spectacular railway routes in the UK. Built in the 1890s as a tourist attraction the train rises out of Llanberis with vistas becoming ever more spectacular. The uninterrupted views of the fantastic landscape in its shades of green and slate, were truly vibrant under the afternoon’s sun. Blessed with a remarkably clear day, we could see for miles.
Although the summit was remarkable, the crowds of visitors both from the train and the more athletic hikers, did detract from the experience somewhat. Fighting off the competition we managed to get a group shot of the whole team at the very peak. On our return to ground level, Mike lead another superb ride back to base for another social evening meal.
Thursday, 19 September: Continuing with the fantastic weather, Thursday found us riding our planned loop towards the South and East, heading first for the beautiful Lake Bala. Once again, the roads were just so rewarding to ride. Routes that were rising, falling, twisting before we swept into Bala and along the High Street to the lakeside activity centre for a break. Sitting at one of the benches overlooking the crystal waters of the Lake, the air was still and the temperature rising. This was mid-September perfection.
September perfection: Lake Bala, The Chain Bridge Hotel and 'Serpent's Tail', and Telford's Horseshoe Falls
Back on the road, we finally reached the outskirts of Llangollen before tucking behind the Deeside Chain Bridge Hotel. This location was something of a pilgrimage for me having toured the area in my yoof as canoeist. A quick stroll to the picturesque Horseshoe Falls and the Chain Bridge Hotel itself with its views over the notorious Serpent’s Tail rapids of the River Dee. All too soon we were back on the road.
Next stop was the World Heritage Site of the Pontycysyllte Aqueduct for lunch, but not before we had a short canal cruise over the Aqueduct itself. Mike took over the lead directing us over the famous Horseshoe Pass and past the Ponderosa bikers’ café. The final stretch of the ride was more of the fabulous North Wales roads delivering us back to Llanwrst for another social evening, this time back at the Meadowsweet Hotel.
Pontycysyllte Aqueduct from below and above with a brief pause to admire the Horseshoe Pass
Friday, 20 September: Was the planned trip on the Ffestiniog narrow gauge, steam railway. The track meanders its way between the mountains, clinging to the steep valley sides whilst offering beautiful views across the countryside for the 21st Century travellers. At one point the track even does a complete corkscrew turn to manage the steep gradient.
Enjoying the sunshine for the entire trip, we arrived in Porthmadog for our brief stopover, just long enough to decide that, with its pretty harbour, wetlands, and railway sheds, this was yet another place that we needed to come back to. Our return ride was another glorious voyage of discovery of the wonderful Welsh countryside; one that we will be leaving in the morning but not before another enjoyable repast at the Meadowsweet Hotel.
Ffestiniog locomotive, tight bends around the corkscrew, David & Debbie enjoying the sunshine, Porthmadog, no drink involved
Saturday, 21 September: Saddled up and with special friendships re-forged, we were ready for the off. The stay had been extended with a universal extra night booked in Tewkesbury, breaking the journey with one last feast before the final leg of the journey and home. The weather forecast was blistering for the Saturday but followed by a deluge for Sunday - but that was another day.
Sunday, 22 September: We were all ready for the off quite early with hellfire and brimstone being forecast for day, but the rain held off at least until we were underway. It did, however, make up for it shortly afterwards. Continuing in line we followed Mike’s prepared route before peeling off at various strategic points as we neared the Southern Section borders. 125 miles, non-stop, home, drowned, but still having enjoyed the whole week-long journey. Thanks go out to Mike Smith for his help with route planning, Lesley Smith and Mrs M for their photography and everybody else who participated in the first Mix n Match.
With Mike once again taking the lead, we headed for the Royal Hop Pole in Tewkesbury. The pub’s garden was heaving with folks taking advantage of what may be the final hurrah for summer, giving the whole place that special warm hubbub of talk and laughter. The hotel proved a good choice with comfortable, characterful rooms, together with the fare and prices expected of a Wetherspoons establishment.