Cycling in Wales is having something of a boom right now, with both Geraint Thomas and Sir David Brailsford coming from this part of the UK. And which better part of Wales to head to than Snowdonia. According to Brailsford, “There’s no better cycling, or a more stunning part of the world than Snowdonia.”
Epic Road Rides reader Mark Bottrill has visited North Wales on average three times a year for the last 15 years - and here he shares his love for cycling in Snowdonia and North Wales.
Read on for tips for Snowdonia cycle routes and how to have an amazing cycling trip in this part of North Wales.
1.What’s great about North Wales and Snowdonia?
I love family holidays to North Wales as the beaches are beautiful and very dog friendly and there's always plenty to do for the kids.
For cyclists, it’s a must to bring your bike as the cycling in Snowdonia and North Wales is stunning; there's so much to explore and views on every road you turn down. Although the mountains aren’t that high (just over 1,000m), they rise up straight from the sea so they look dramatic and wild. They’re a bit like riding in the Scottish Highlands, but much easier to get to!
2. Where should cyclists stay in North Wales/Snowdonia?
On this trip, I stayed in Waunfawr in North Wales. It’s a great area to stay in as it’s only five miles away from Llanberis (which is at the start of the longest and most gradual of the six main paths to the summit of Snowdon).
Waunfawr is also just a few miles away from the local town of Caernarfon and around a 15 minute drive to the nearest beach. It’s also not far to Anglesey. Staying here means every day can be a different one.
On other trips to North Wales, I’ve really liked staying in Caernarfon. Caernarfon has a huge castle which goes all around the town and, as it's a reasonably big place for this part of Wales, it has everything you need for food and shops.
3. Tell us about your favourite north Wales/Snowdonia cycling climbs?
On this trip, I found some amazing climbs behind Llanberis Lake. They really tested my mental strength at 6am in the morning! But I did get to see the sun rising over Snowdon, so it’s not all bad!
One of the climbs was the Fachwen climb. It took me around 11 minutes to complete. After that, I turned right for around 100 meters and then left and rode up the Maes Eilian climb. It’s only around 0.1 miles but it’s followed straight after by Lon Garret, which is around a mile long and hard work too!
Llon Garret leads to a dead end, but the view overlooking Llanberis is stunning.
Marchlyn Mawr is an even better climb than the Llanberis Lake climbs. It’s on a closed road and leads to a dam. You can see for miles and miles up there, it’s simply beautiful.
Here’s the full climb: https://www.strava.com/segments/10513180
4. Tell us about your favourite North Wales/Snowdonia cycling routes?
I rode an amazing 29 mile loop from Waunfawr that I absolutely loved.
The route takes you up the famous Llanberis Pass, past Snowdon itself. This route is basically a ride around Snowdon and you can do it in either direction.
The route I chose was to ride up Llanberis Pass from Waunfawr and down the famous Pen-y-Pass climb. The climb takes you past the former mining village of Llanberis and the stunning Llanberis Lake. It’s useful to know that there are lots of cafes and restaurants in Llanberis, mainly due to the fact this is the start of the main walking route up Snowdon.
When I got to the top of Pen-y-Pass I stopped here for a moment to take a moment to enjoy the views to the Snowdon Horseshoe and get my breath back (plus obviously take a photo to tell everyone where I’d climbed on my bike!). Pen-y-Pass is the highest point of the Llanberis Pass, at 360m.
There’s then a lovely descent to Beddgelert, past Lake Llyn Gwynant. Beddgelert is also really pretty and has lots of cafes and tea rooms that are good for a break if you need it.
From there you pass Lake Llyn Cwellyn which then will lead you towards Waunfawr. You might also be able to see the Welsh Highland Railway that runs through these hills.
If you want, you could always extend the route to take you into Caernarfon town centre, which is home to one of Wales’s most famous castles (and where Prince Charles was invested as Prince of Wales).
Here's the GPX for the route:
5. Are there any other Snowdonia cycling routes you’d suggest people look at?
The beauty of planning cycle routes in North Wales is that the roads are generally pretty quiet and the scenery in the Snowdonia National Park is incredible.
This makes it difficult to go too far wrong.
However, if you want some specific route ideas you could look at the two cycling routes that were opened in Deiniolen a few years ago, in honour of Sir David Brailsford. One route is 50 miles and the other is 75 miles. They were used during stages of the 2014 and 2015 Tour of Britain. This video has more information:
It’s also worth knowing that the Snowdonia tourist board has put in a couple of marked routes in Dolgellau and the Llyn Peninsula. They also have a number of route suggestions on their website.
Family cycle routes in Snowdonia
Finally, if you’re on holiday in Wales with your family, there are some good family friendly cycling routes in North Wales. Barmouth is home to my favourite pizzeria in North Wales (see below), and there’s also a great trail along a disused railway line from Barmouth to Dolgellau. It’s called the Mawddach Trail and is flat and car free.
There’s also the 16km Caerfnarfon cycling route alongside the Welsh Highland Railway on the Lyn Peninsula (also known as the Lon Eifion cycleway). The route gives views to Caernarfon Bay and passes through Llanwnda, Groeslon (and near the Glynllifon Country Park), through Penygroes to the village of Bryncir. There are great views of the countryside and Snowdon.
6. What are your best tips for people road cycling Snowdonia/Wales for the first time?
The best tips I can give you for cycling North Wales is to be prepared for rain, wind and sun. Also be aware that if you ride around Snowdon, the weather can change very fast and be very unpredictable.
Often the weather forecasts are wrong, so I always try and judge it by simply reading the sky at the time.
I always carry a gilet in my back pocket as even when it's sunny and hot, the wind can change direction which can make you cold very fast and you will appreciate it for the fast descents in Wales!
Talking of descents - what goes down must go up, and you'll want to bear in mind that Snowdonia and North Wales are very hilly when you're thinking about your gear. Planning flat road bike rides in North Wales is pretty difficult!
7. Have you found any good cycling cafés on your Snowdonia/North Wales cycling trips?
I highly recommend stopping in Beddgelert. It can get quite busy as it's such a pretty village, but they have a lovely variety of coffee and cake cafes. In particular, I would highly recommend stopping for an ice cream at Glaslyn Artisan ice cream.
However my favourite place to eat is at Barmouth. It’s around 50 minutes away in a car from Waunfawr, so although it’s a bit of a trek, the Isis pizzeria is amazing. They have home made pizzas that are worth the trip! Barmouth is a really nice place to visit too.
8. Is there anything that visitors to North Wales shouldn't miss?
I love going for a walk to Aber Falls and then around Devil's Kitchen (Cwm Idwal in Welsh) which is a 30 minute drive from Aber Falls, on the other side of Snowdon.
The Devil's Kitchen walk takes you around the Llyn Idwal lake that's set under a backdrop of huge bowl-shaped mountains. You see all the waterfalls coming off the mountains; it’s such a beautiful place to go.
It's around an hour's walk from the car park to Aber Falls and back. The Devil's Kitchen walk is around a 2 hour walk if you walk slowly, maybe more if you go for a swim in the lake too.
9. What can non-cycling partners do in Snowdonia/North Wales?
If you love walking and views, Snowdonia is perfect but North Wales offers some of the best beaches in Britain too, especially if you’re lucky with the weather. There's so many and Google maps is a great tool to use to find the best beaches.
My personal favourites are Borth y Gest and Llanbedrog beaches. Llanbedrog has a bar on the beach, which is ideal! If you go over to Anglesey, make sure you visit Ty Mawr lighthouse on the beach - it’s stunning.
We often take a visit to Zip World too. It has some fantastic, wacky things to do - like the world’s fastest zip lines, tree climbing, toboggan through the forest or going trampolining in a cave too. The kids love it (and so do I!).
10. What’s the best time of year to visit?
North Wales is a great place to visit all year around, as every month offers something different due to the seasons changing. I personally love October, when the leaves start changing colour from green to yellow and orange. July/August are also great for the beaches.
A big thank you to Mark for sharing his experiences of cycling in Snowdonia/North Wales.
Have you cycled in this part of Wales? Let us know your experiences below.
Want to know more about cycling in Wales and other parts of the UK?
Don't miss our guide to cycling in the Brecon Beacons.
We've also got lots of useful content on cycling in other parts of the UK here.
And plenty of inspiration for other amazing cycling destinations too on our destinations homepage.