Machynlleth Loop by Emily Chappell

Ride level Experienced cyclist
Distance 74 mi / 119 km
Type of bicycle Road bike
Traffic free
Circular route

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. 

This ride takes in what I humbly believe to be two of the UK’s best climbs – the famous Bwlch-y-Groes (more colourfully known as Hellfire Pass), and the lesser-known mountain road between Machynlleth and Staylittle, which climbs from sea level to 500m in ten miles, steepens painfully towards the top, and passes Glaslyn, a remote mountain lake that was the site of my very first cycle-camping trip, with my father, when I was seven.

From here you’ll descend to Llanbrynmair (Machinations, with its rabbit village and collection of moving models, will be one of your more memorable coffee stops), and head north along a tiny lane, which you’ll love until its final eye-wateringly steep section up to the A458.

As I follow the lane from Dinas Mawddwy towards the dreaded Bwlch-y-Groes, I still sometimes feel as though I’m heading for a dead end, and wonder where the road could possibly be that will take me out of this increasingly steep-sided valley. And then I see it and I remember. A mile or so of unrelentingly steep tarmac, overlooked by a magnificently corrugated cliff face, all of a sudden you’re in a very different world, catching your breath as you gaze out over the peaks of Snowdonia.

From here I usually descend to Lake Vyrnwy for tea and a scone at Artisans café. (You can hire bikes here, and there’s a very nice flat loop around the lake, should you fancy something less taxing.) Then it’s a pretty (and mercifully gentle) climb over to Llangadfan, a brief blast along the main road, and another leafy lane ushers you along the Dyfi valley, back towards Machynlleth and the coast.