Wales in Winter : Wales in a Weekend : Day 1 : 20/02/2017

If you happen to be a Twitter or Instagram User and do this route (or something similar through Wales) I have used the hashtags (Wales In Winter & Winter In Wales) #WalesInWinter and #WinterInWales – make sure to add to them!

This time last year (20/02/2017) I set off on a quick trip through Wales.  I was using up the remanants of my leave from work and in an effort to feel that I wasn’t taking time off just for the sake of it, I found a quick route that I could do for very little outlay that would take in the entire length of Wales.

Starting South of Brecon and heading north I would take in the Beacons then head into Snowdownia National Park before crossing into England from North Wales and returning back to Northern Ireland on an overnight ferry.

I found the route on www.adventurebikerider.com and having never seen Wales before, but with the ease and affordability of travel to and from Northern Ireland it seemed like a sensible option.  Accomodation was also easily sorted with a bucket load of options available on sites like Booking.com – and prices ranging from very reasonable to ‘oh that must be quite fancy.’

The route can be found here : https://www.adventurebikerider.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=140&t=36263&hilit=wales+in+a+weekend

Wales in a Weekend Route
Wales in a Weekend Route

Should you need it the sat nav gpx file can be found here : Wales in a Weekend Sat Nav GPX Download Link

The route is called Wales in a Weekend – which is realistically two days long especially in the Winter – if you like a good long distance challenge you probably could snort round it in a (long) day, but spread over two it is easily managable and very enjoyable.

Remember to factor in any travel time to get to the ‘Starting Point’ just outside Aberdare.  But from Aberdare to the end of the route at Betws y Coed you should set aside 2 days to complete.

For me – I needed 3 days – the first being a travel day from Northern Ireland to Wales.

Day 1 then is an early start at 05:45 hours in Northern Ireland travelling to the Republic of Ireland and onward to Dublin Port for the 08:20 hours Stena Line sailing from Dublin to Holyhead, Wales.

Be aware if travelling from Northern Ireland (or anywhere North of Dublin) for this sailing from about 30km out the traffic gets horrendous.  Obviously hitting rush hour but what you will find is that the Irish commuters are terrified of Lane 1 on the motorway and their brakes are digital – by that I mean either fully on or fully off – be aware and expect heavy and sudden braking from everyone!

This is not a generalisation of Irish drivers.  I have travelled extensively all over Ireland and the vast majority of drivers are very pro bike and very bike friendly – on the motorway though don’t expect the same.  It is not a pleasant experience.

But you will make the boat, so get the bike secured and then it is time to chill out and relax and get fed.

The fry on the boat costs a whopping £12, it is expensive but to be fair it was tasty and if you buy a hot drink you get unlimited free refills – you’d need to drink an awful lot of tea though to be in profit following a £12 breakfast.

The boat itself was quiet, I pretty much had this entire lounge to myself so if you needed to get your head down for a couple of hours it shouldn’t be a problem.

Wales in Winter : Wales in a Weekend : Stena Line Lounge Dublin to Holyhead
Wales in Winter : Wales in a Weekend : Stena Line Lounge Dublin to Holyhead

The sailing itself was smooth and after a few hours we were docking in Holyhead.

Stena Line Dublin to Holyhead
Stena Line Dublin to Holyhead
Holyhead Port, Wales
Holyhead Port, Wales

From Holyhead it is basically a case of head south.  As the actual ‘Wales in a Weekend’ route is designed to take in the sights I opted for the direct route – just zip down as quickly possible and let the route back up be the scenic one.

The means lots of M and A Class roads.

It also means that you will dissect Snowdownia and the Brecon Beacons – don’t worry about that though – it is on the route back when you will actually get to take in these areas of outstanding natural beauty.

So if you do travel in from Holyhead or North Wales don’t panic about stop offs and photo locations you will have dozens of better ones (and more time) on the way back up.

This really is just a travel day – a day to get you to the starting point so don’t be concerned about missing anything.  Anything you see on the way down you are going to get a much better view of on the way back up.

Holyhead to Aberdare Route
Holyhead to Aberdare Route

As you can see you have four and a quarter hours of a route from Holyhead to Aberdare.  Now the actual ‘Wales in a Weekend’ route doesn’t start in Aberdare but it is close enough.  Aberdare also has plenty of options for accomodation and is only a short liason to where the attached GPX route will have you start the following morning.

By the time you factor in a few leg stretches and a quick lunch stop the four and a quarter hours were more like a six hours.  Getting out of Holyhead is pretty grim, it is so busy, as is the first section of dual carriageway you will encounter.  Push through it, it gets better as you head down.

Despite it looking like the sun was trying to break through on the sailing across I opted for my wet weather gear as soon as I got off the boat.  I picked up an Oxford Rain Seal Jacket and Trousers (and boot covers) prior to this trip.  The jacket is high vis so serves two purposes – waterproofing and visibility.  It was dry when the boat docked, but that was soon about to change.  It was also pretty grey so the high vis couldn’t hurt.

There was a third reason that I picked the rain seal and that was to protect my jacket from all the salt and other ‘minging’ road grime you get on the UK’s roads in the winter.  I have absolute faith the waterproof capabilities of my Raiden DKR jacket but I didn’t see the point of getting it ruined thanks to the crap that lines the roads.  That was a good decision and if you haven’t already you can pick up a rain seal for about £25.  They are 100% waterproof, and offer good protection to your gear underneath from road grime.

The only negative I encountered is condensation – it must get pretty warm in there in the layers – so make sure you get your jacket hung up and if necessary air dried when you are done for the day.

It didn’t take long for the weather to change, it was dry for the first hour or so, but then the rain started and it didn’t really stop.  Sometimes it was heavy, sometimes it was ‘mizzle’, but it was always raining.  The weather closed in, the clouds came down and the scenery just dissapeared.  It was still clearly evident though that this is a beautiful part of the world.

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This sign – should you see it – is very important.  Basically be very careful if you are in a lorry as aliens abduct lorry drivers from this location.  If you are lucky enough to not be abducted though this route will not be suitable for your large vehicle even if your sat-nav says so.  That normally means it is very suitable for a motorcycle.

Wales in a Weekend - Lorry Drivers be aware of aliens and the unsuitable route
Wales in a Weekend – Lorry Drivers be aware of aliens and the unsuitable route

There are plenty of places to rest and stretch your legs should you need to, and even though I have already said don’t panic about what you might be missing it is difficult not to stop and snap a few photographs.  Even in the grey the scenery is formidable.  Enjoy it, the hotel is going anywhere.

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Accomodation : Mount Pleasant Hotel, Aberdare :

For my first night I found Mount Pleasant Hotel in Aberdare.  It’s a pub with rooms above it – that’s no bad thing.  At £31.50 for the night it is also an absolute bargain.  The room itself was basic, a double bed, with a small TV and an en suite.  It is also spotlessly clean.  (Pictures in the gallery).

Simple and basic it ticks all the boxes with a big bonus – it is above a pub.  A proper pub with pub seating, an open fire, a pool table a big TV on the wall and a dart board.  Add to that that the Champions’ League Football was on TV, Coke comes by the can at £1, and a hamburger with homemade chips at £9 was a for dinner.  Winner winner.

Mount Pleasant Hotel - Aberdare
Mount Pleasant Hotel – Aberdare

I mentioned above the Oxford Rain Seal jacket and how it is waterproof, high vis and has the added the advantage of protecting the gear underneath – this is it having dried out showing the grime that it saved my jacket from.

Oxford Rain Seal - Waterproof, high visibility and protective
Oxford Rain Seal – Waterproof, high visibility and protective
Oxford Rain Seal - Waterproof, high visibility and protective
Oxford Rain Seal – Waterproof, high visibility and protective

Looking at the weather forecast for the following day it looks as if the rain seal may be needed again!

Weather Report Wales 21/02/2017

Additional Links :

Wales in Winter : Wales in a Weekend : Day 2 : 22/02/2017

20/02/2017 : Wales In Winter : Day 1

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