To kick off our brand new Great British Bike Rides series, we’re heading to South Wales to sample some of the best rides that this region has to offer…
It might not be the first region of the UK on everyone’s must-cycle bucket list, but what South Wales lacks in cycling popularity it more than makes up for with stunning swathes of countryside, idyllic stretches of coastline and truly traffic-free, rolling country roads.
Here are our three best bike ride picks from South Wales for you to try:
1 – Cardiff Bay Trail
An ideal route for a leisurely Sunday saunter, this ride tackles an easy, circular trail around Cardiff Bay – passing by some of the city’s most vibrant, waterside attractions.
Starting and finishing in the lively seaside town of Penarth, the trail plods along the flowing outline of Cardiff Bay, following the traffic-free National Cycle Network (NCN) Route 8.
It’s an easy 6.2-mile route on smooth tarmac cycle paths, making it an ideal ride for families looking to enjoy a fun-filled and carefree day out on their bikes.
The ride passes by some of the best visitor attractions in South Wales and Cardiff in particular – the Dr Who Experience, Wales Millennium Centre and Techniquest science centre all lie minutes from the trail.
It’s a great route to make a day of, cycling in the morning followed by a busy afternoon exploring all of Cardiff’s seaside attractions. If you’re planning on catching the train into the city, then Cardiff Bay station is an ideal place to alight – the trail mere minutes from the station’s front doors.
Feel free to start the route from wherever. The beauty of a circular route is that you can hop on – and hop off – whenever you please.
2 – Afan Valley
Home to some of the world’s best mountain bike trails, the Afan Valley is a hidden gem within South Wales with thick forest concealing all the wonderful, flowing trails that lie within.
Starting at the seaside, the route heads north from Port Talbot where it soon encounters the wooded Afan Valley. The trail is an out and back route which cuts through the valley’s forested landscape for 12 miles, so the length of your ride depends on the time on your hands and the strength in your legs – ride as far as you want and then turn back.
The route follows the NCN Route 887 all the way to Glyncorrwg, a quaint village shrouded in the shadow of Afan Forest Park to the immediate west. From here you can jump onto NCN Route 47 and take a circular route back to Port Talbot through the town of Neath. Or, as we would recommend, you can meander back the way you came, drinking in the forest views for the second time round.
The route is best suited to mountain bikes as the tarmac roads of Port Talbot soon transition into leaf-littered mud and gravel tracks. Arriving on a mountain bike will then allow you to sample some of the hidden, single-track that emanate from the Afan Forest Park Visitor Centre.
3 – The Celtic Trail
Tackling an intrepid tour of Pembrokeshire, this ultra-endurance ride travels all the way from the Old Norse trading post of Fishguard to Swansea, Wales’ second most populous city.
From Fishguard, the Celtic Trail follows the rugged Pembrokeshire coastline for a mammoth 143-miles, mostly keeping to the traffic-free NCN Route 4. Along the way, it passes through the city of St Davids, the UK’s smallest city with a population of just 1,841 people, the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, famous for its puffins, seals and dolphins, and the Millennium Coastal Park.
It’s not the hilliest route in South Wales but it is one of the toughest, with the up and down nature of the rugged coastline really taking its toll on your legs. This is one ride that you may want to split into several shorter and more manageable stages. While it is possible to complete the 143-mile trip in a single day, it would be hard work to also soak up all of the stunning views and characteristic charm that the Celtic Trail has to offer.
The route is a touring cyclist’s dream and one that might as well be designed for tackling on a classic steel road bike laden with bulging panniers. Do watch out, however, as some of the NCN bike paths suddenly transition into dicey gravel paths, liable to turn your serene, steel-powered saunter into a white-knuckle ride.
Make sure you tune in next week when we’ll be heading to North Wales, home to some of the UK’s toughest and most notorious cycling climbs. Until then, why not check out our cycle insurance packages and start planning your cycling trip down in South Wales.