The area north of Hay-on-Wye , near Builth Wells in Powys is just how I imagined Wales, before I moved out here. Lush green sloped hills, bubbling brooks and streams, more sheep than people, and no flat roads !
So it was with a buzz of excitement that i planned a day riding a loop with a couple of friends, around Glascwn Hill + Llanbedr Hill, linking the hamlets of Hundred House, Glascwm and Rhos-Goch The guts of the ride was based on the Llanbedr Hill Red Loop in the Wales Mountain Biking book by Tom Hutton.
We metup the night before in Hay-on-Wye, and stayed at the Haystables B+B, which provided fantastic accommodation, comprising a triple room with en-suite, and Sky TV. The best part ?, well that was the fully stocked kitchen from which we were able to help ourselves and rustle up omelettes, toast, cereal, fruit juice, yoghurt and filter coffee. Perfect before a day in the hills.
One of our group needed to hire a bike, so we organised this through Drover Cycles. They provided a nice Saracen Hardtail, which worked well for the ride. They also have a cafe, toilets, showers and energy food.
Ok, so onto the ride. I decided to start the ride from Rhos-Goch, as this was nearest to Hay-on-Wye . We asked the Rhos-Goch Golf Club if we could leave our cars in their car-park, which they kindly agreed to.
From there is was a 10 minute ride along quiet roads to pickup the first off-road section.
The route comprises a lot of climbing, (approx 1300 metres) in about 40km. This made itself evident right from the off, with about 250m height gained in the first 5km. There was great of this first section was narrow The terrain was good. We were lucky, in that the weather was perfect for the whole day, so the trails were dry, dusty and firm.
You will notice from the Strava upload of the route that we got slightly lost at Lower Glasnant, specifically at 7.1km travelled. We entered a farm yard, with a steep track exiting straight ahead uphill . The farmer was super helpful, in that he shouted out that we needed to go back and cross the brook , but thinking we knew best we ploughed on. The end result was a pointless slog up a hill, only to turn round and drop back down to the farm, and then find the brook crossing about 200m prior to the farm yard. Its a fork on the right at 7.1km from the start (if you attempt the the route)
Once back on the route, from there its a fabulous section climbing up, and around Glascwm Hill, and then a blast down hill into Glascwm. You turn right in Glascwm to head North West and climb about 2km to reach the high point of the day at 445m at Giants Grave.
From here its a never ending scream of a descent (mostly on tarmac) down to Hundred House.
You pass through Hundred House, and then turn left off the A481, onto the fabulously named Hungry Green, and after 1.2km take a left turn to pickup a trail.
Here you start to climb, and after about 1km the trail does a hart left turn, and from here you continue to climb , now heading sue South. The terrain remains good, with this climb being friendly double track loose gravel, so easily rideable as long as you have the lungs to get you to the top !
The ride along the top, and then down to join the quiet road near Llanbadarn y Garreg, is pretty much heading due South all the way. So whilst some sections of the route are vague to the eye, its reasonably straight forward to navigate as you just keep heading south ! The best reference point during this vague section are that you pass a few derelict and unused farm buildings . Be aware that the final drop to the road is quite steep with a sharp hairpin bend, not especially difficult just a bit of a surprise after lots of easy riding along the top.
The route in Tom Hutton’s book turns right at this road junction whereas we turned left, and headed through Llanbadarn y Garreg , and onto Hergest Gilfach. The This section is on very quiet country lanes, and turning right by the phone box in Hergest Gilfach puts you on a long steep climb. Save your energy for this one, as its a bit off a killer !
At the top you swing left to pass over a cattle grid , and then onto a fantastic section of tarmac road crossing Rhulen Hill , and onto Llanbedr Hill .
At around Ireland you turn left to re-join the Tom Hutton route , which is nice easy riding double track trail which eventually drops down to Lettypeod, and the tarmac lane which leads back to Rhos-Goch
In summary this a great cross-country ride, with magnificent views, a few testing climbs, and some great descents. It is not a technical ride, more akin to riding across the South Downs or similar broad double track , with occasional single track and tarmac thrown in to mix it up. As you spend a lot of time up high ( above 400m), and exposed this ride will only be fun in calm dry weather.
The sträva link is here