C2C Cymru – a great idea for a coast-to-coast ride in Wales. But should it be Caerleon to Caernarfon, Casnewydd to Caergybi, or some other combination?
The idea of a Welsh “End to End” had been on my mind for years, something to daydream about when work was tedious. Short enough to fit into a week, it should have a distinctive Welsh character to make it worthwhile. More daydreaming came up with the concept of The Dragon’s Backbone, taking in all the big climbs from one corner to the other.
I was 18 when I set out on my first-ever cycle tour. Myschoolmate Russ and I had youth-hostelled from Queensferry (the north-east corner) to Pembrokeshire (the south-west) and back. A journey along the opposite diagonal would have a nice symmetry to it.
Our route had taken in the Bwlch-y-Groes, which we were told was the highest metalled road in Wales. Recently I’d read that this Bwlch was not the highest road, and that the Gospel Pass from Llanthony to Hay-on-Wye was slightly higher. True enough, electronic OS map has a spot height on the Bwlch at 545 m and one on Gospel Pass as 549 m. Then the Tour of Britain route was announced, with a stage finish on The Tumble. This seemed like too good a chance to miss, as I could take in The Tumble summit (not to be confused with a village of the same name near Swansea) en route from Newport to Llanthony. Add in the Devil’s Staircase and Nant Gwynant for sentimental reasons, join the dots and the route was pretty much there.
The south-east and north-west corners are well-served by rail, so I could easily get from home in Oxfordshire to Newport for a 10:00 am start. So that was it – Casnewydd (Newport) to Caergybi (Holyhead) via Caerleon and Caernarfon.