Category Archives: Walks

Local cycle routes (& the all-important cafe stops)

Granary Cottage is a great base for both for mountain bikers and for roadies. Last weekend Sam and I took to the roads for a bit of an explore. On recent visits we have stuck to our old faithful route, the “Llanthony Lap” but this time we thought it was time to venture further afield. Dorstone’s location near the Brecons but not actually in them does give us the best of both worlds – you can choose to go for the big climbs or you can choose the kinder rolly ones and just enjoy the great views of the Brecons. Having said that, those ‘rolly’ ones can still pack a punch – there’s a 25%’er out of Dorstone to Arthur’s Stone!

Ras de Cymru

Ras de Cymru coming through near Glasbury

See the links below for our routes (and I’ve included the Llanthony Lap too).

The Back and Beyond of Hay on Wye
60km, 650m of climbing. Some good long flats on decent surface. Great views of the Brecons. Great river crossings.

Herefordshire Rollies
58km, 850m of climbing. Some steep sections! Whitney Toll Bridge is 10p for cyclists to cross – we genuinely didn’t know and cycled on through, no one chased us!

The Llanthony Lap
70km, 1000m of climbing
This is an awesome route either way around. Llanthony Priory is a must-see and has a great little pub in the old cellar – check opening times before you go.

While out in the wonderful isolation of the Powys/Herefordshire countryside, it’s still good to know where you can stop for refreshment. I haven’t tried and tested all these places but they were all open and looking lively when we past them (July 2014):

The River Cafe, Glasbury 
The Honey Cafe, Bronllys
The Wye Knot Stop
Whitney Farm Shop
Whitney Toll Bridge – tea and coffee and snacks available

A few snaps from our rides:

Canoeing on the Wye

From Dorstone we are a short drive from many good canoeing launch points along the Wye. I have enjoyed many days and half-days paddling the beautiful river.

I have done half-day trips with Paddles and Pedals canoe hire: from the launch point by the Hay bridge, it takes about 3 hours to paddle downriver to the Boat Inn at Whitney on Wye, where you can recover with a drink in the pub before being picked up and taken back to Hay. The views on this stretch of the river are gorgeous – you can see over to Hay Bluff marking the start of the Brecon Beacons, and there are lots of sections of open fields where you can hop off to enjoy a picnic (or just a leg stretch if the paddling position gets too much).

Recently I did a full day trip with Monmouth Canoe Hire. We got kitted out at their rather swanky centre in Monmouth, then they drove us up river about 15 miles to Kerne Bridge. We were in the water around 10am, and made it back to Monmouth around 3pm. That was going at a fairly energetic pace with a leisurely picnic stop just before the Simmonds Yat Rapids. We took our own picnic, though there are a couple of pubs just before the rapids. The scenery is different to the Hay stretch – though just as pretty – with forestry on either side most of the way, and the rocky cliffs (including Simmonds Yat Rock) in sight for a good while. There was quite a suspense built up around “the rapids” on the day. There’s a short stretch of quick water were you need to point the boat between the rocks and just keep paddling – it’s over before you know it!

Things to know: the water level will effect whether or not you can get out – if it’s too high and fast flowing it can be deemed too dangerous or if it’s too low it’s impassable by boat. Check the day before with your hire centre.

Both centres I’ve mentioned offer kayaks and Canadian canoes of different sizes, so accommodate sporty types, leisurely types, big groups, small groups, odd numbers etc etc.

You can opt to have your canoes rafted together, making the canoes more stable. Good for kids (or nervous passengers).

The centres provide you with lifejackets, helmets, maps and a watertight barrel for possessions (and picnics!).

The Hay-on-Wye Cycle Sportive 2013

The alarm clock failing, I was awoken last Sunday by the sound of rain lashing on the window and wind howling round the Granary garden. What a lovely day for a cycle round the Brecons I thought!

We had signed up for the inaugural Hay-on-Wye Sportive and had come up to the Granary especially for it, so there was no ducking out now. Furthermore, we had eaten a significant amount of cake the day before, in preparation, so we had some calories to burn!

Turning up at Drover Cycles, we found a good number of cyclists, all trying to smile at the weather ‘situation’. We signed in, layered up and got on our way. (See the route map here.) Doing the 65 mile route, turning left out of Drovers, the first section was up, up, up. At the first junction a gaggle of hefty white geese had aligned themselves to guide us the right way by threatening to peck our legs. I was glad to have my full length lycras on!

The road from Hay up to Craswall is a tough climb, but there are some rolly bits where your legs get a few seconds respite. Nearing the highest point, the road becomes free of hedges and the view of the Black Hill is brilliant. It is however very exposed – metres from the final crest, I was blown clean over! Just a little graze but my pride was somewhat hurt!

Onwards and, now, downwards. We enjoyed the cruise through Craswall, Longtown, and Michaelchurch, stopping at Vowchurch where some very friendly sportive helpers greeted us with tea and flapjacks in the village hall.

After the Vowchurch stop was a decision point – turn back to the cottage or continue on the route. Feeling re-fuelled, and now out of the wind, we continued. Through Abbey Dore, Kentchurch, Skenfrith, the route rolled on past some great buildings – manor houses, castles and country cottages. Mental note to come back this way again on a more leisurely cycle – there were a couple of potential coffee-stop places.

Passing the half-way point, we plugged on to Pandy, crossing the A465 (there’s a central section on the road so it’s easy to cross on a bike), and the Black Mountains were again in view. We knew we had to head right into them! Feed Station No. 2 awaited us at Cwmyoy – this time coffee and more flapjacks.

We past Llanthony Priory and pushed on to Capel-y-Ffin. Although I was somewhat suffering by this point, the wonder of the Llanthony Valley pulled me through. I have been in the valley countless times, on horse, bike and foot and never tire of it. The route took a final burst up the Gospel Pass and we rounded the corner of Hay Bluff, revealing a rather bleak but still magnificent view of the Wye Valley below. We had made it! Although still 5 or so miles from the finish line, we knew it was down, down, down to Hay from here.

All in all it was a great ride. A super route, well organised – and fantastic flapjacks!

If you’re interested in the preparation… “Carb-loading” started on Friday night – we made it to Dorstone just in time for a Caribbean bread and butter pudding at the Pandy Inn. Absolutely divine. We spent Saturday in Hay – great soup and rolls and milkshakes at Oscar’s Bistro – then a mooch round the bookshops and antique emporiums before coffee, carrot cake and tiffin in Tomatitos – a great find. Dinner at home in the Granary then off to the Pandy again for pud – this time sticky toffee pudding….

I didn’t manage to get the camera once on the ride, the weather being so awful. I did get a few of our day in Hay, and Tomatitos carrot cake:

Hay on Wye Sportive Routes 2013