Clywedog Loop by Emily Chappell
Emily Chappell is a founder and director of the Adventure Syndicate, (a Cycling UK affiliated group). Although she has cycled all over the world, she grew up in Mid-Wales and here is one of her favourite road routes.
There’s a game I play with myself, where I try to cram the maximum amount of climbing into the shortest possible ride, and this ride is one of the winners, with an average 22m vertical ascent for every kilometre pedalled. I reckon it also holds the record for the most beautiful scenery per pedal stroke.
The moment you cross the bridge and follow signs for the mountain road to Machynlleth, the sharp climb up out of the Severn Valley begins. Don’t be alarmed by the thought of a mountain road – we’re not going there today, though in a few minutes you’ll wonder why the road you’re on doesn’t deserve that appellation.
A sharp left-hand bend takes you down into the Clywedog Valley, then immediately up again on a steep winding lane that skirts the deserted Bryntail lead mine (worth a look if you’re interested in deserted buildings or 19th-century industrial architecture), past a viewpoint overlooking the Clywedog dam (also worth a look, and a welcome opportunity to get your breath back whilst pretending to enjoy the view), then above the tree line, over a cattle grid, and up to a summit that feels like the top of the world. From here you can admire miles of Welsh hills rolling away beneath you, and the spectacular reservoir, created when the Clywedog river was dammed in the 1960s. Several homes and farms were submerged in the process, and there are still people in Llanidloes who remember growing up in the valley that is now underwater – something which always fascinated me as a child.
The road takes you downward, but not for long – this is one of those delightful routes where the height you gain is never kept for long, and looking at the map you’ll see why – the lake’s twisted shape follows the contours of the hills that surround it, and the road has no choice but to do the same.
There’s a brief flat section on the western shore, before you climb back into the Hafren forest, past the viewing hide for the local osprey family (they’ve been breeding successfully for five years now), turn right at Staylittle, and follow the rollercoaster B4518 back to Llanidloes, for a well-deserved slice of cake at the Great Oak Café.