Lake Vyrnwy to Lake Bala loop, Welsh Hills by Matt Lamy

Lake Vyrnwy to Lake Bala loop, Welsh Hills by Matt Lamy

Matt Lamy

Cycling journalist and author of 'Rides of Passage', Matt Lamy reveals one of the most challenging, and scenic — and high! — rides through the Welsh mountains.

If there’s one ride I’d ever like to revisit, it’s this one. I actually set out to do it purely as a way to experiment with different climbing techniques because there is a serious amount of climbing involved, including a session up the fearsome Bwlch y Groes — also known as the 'Hellfire Pass' — which is Wales’s highest road. But what I discovered was some beautiful views, fantastic descents, a unique lunch stop in an old train carriage, and an amazing sense of accomplishment.

My ride starts at the nature reserve at the southern end of Lake Vyrnwy. Head over the dam wall then follow the lake's ring road (B4393) to the northern-most tip. When you see the signpost for Bala, turn right and head away from the lake into the hills. Follow the road as it climbs up through the trees to a small clearing with a bridge. Head onwards, back into another woodland climb until you finally emerge onto an open summit, where you will officially enter the Snowdonia National Park.

Enjoy your descent as it meanders down to Rhos y Gwaliau, from where you will see Lake Bala. Briefly join the B4391 towards Bala, then take the first left (B4403) and follow this along the lake's southern edge towards Llanuwchllyn. We popped into the village — specifically, the ultra-atmospheric old railway station — for food, but if you don't feel the need, turn off left just before the drop to Llanuwchllyn and start your epic five-mile climb to the summit of the Bwlch y Groes.

Stop for a photo opportunity in the car park at the top to prove you've made it, then start the descent downwards. Don't set off too quickly because within a matter of a few steep yards you will want to take the hairpin left, which will return you to Lake Vyrnwy. When you reach the lake's shore, turn right and follow the B4393 all the way back to the nature reserve.

If you’re fit enough, it’s truly one of the greatest rides you will find in the British Isles.

Level of ride 
Type of bike 
Road bike