by Tom dB
Arguably the first of the modern trail centres, Coed y Brenin in deepest, darkest North Wales has done much to determine how thousands of mountain bikers view trail centres.
Back before the Red Bull trail opened in 1997, there was a forest and a hut that did hire bikes, tea and cakes. Then along came Dafydd Davis who persuaded his Forestry Commission bosses to let him build some singletrack in the forest. The first Red Bull sponsored trail was a mere 11km in length when it opened, yet riders would drive across the country to ride it. This influx of riders proved the model and led the way for the Karrimor and MBR trails to be built. Visitor numbers at CyB increased tenfold in a few short years, bringing loads of cash into a reasonably neglected part of the country. And this example was then used by other forests around the country as a model on which to build their own trails.
Just a little more history… Coed y Brenin had started to be eclipsed a few years ago by the might of the 7Stanes and the fact that its own trails were unchanged and, indeed, falling into disrepair. However a new effort to spruce the place up a couple of years ago resulted in a spanking new visitor centre, complete with café, nice showers and a bike shop, along with revamped, renamed trails and several fun new sections too.
- MBR Trail: (RED) – This predominantly open and flowing trail offers long sweeping descents through spectacular scenery. The new section of the Pink Heifer is something special. Once at the bottom, expect to climb and then descend the “Beginning of the End”, the most technically challenging section of the trail.
- Temtiwr Trail (Green) All other trails at CyB are graded red and above and all include a technical ‘qualifier’ section shortly after leaving the car park to give you a taster. If you don’t like the first 100 yards, then you’re not going to enjoy the rest. Saying that, though, the trails are all well built and consistent in all weathers (we’ve all been there…) Follow the Temtiwr for a short taster of some of the best bits of trails near the centre. Good for a sampler if you’re not sure that you (or your companions) are going to enjoy the bigger loops or if you’re after a quick blast after cakes and before getting in the cars home.
- Yr Afon : (GREEN) – This is a new trail taking in some of the most picturesque parts of the River Mawddach. You will pass the gold mines of Gwynfynedd and go along the length of the river valley. One for all the family to enjoy. It’s a relatively low level route on forest roads with no singletrack sections, but includes a short section of constructed track leading from the centre. It also includes a heavily pot-holed longer section of private road. There are a couple of rocky, steepish climbs which may be difficult for some families to ride up.
- Dragon’s Back: (BLACK) – Previous mtb experience is recommended should you decide to tackle this trail. Long climbs, tight singletrack and long, fast descents have made this ride into one of the most revered throughout Europe. Enjoy, but show it respect!
- The Beast: (BLACK) – This long distance route promises to be both physically and mentally demanding and should not be attempted unless fitness and skill levels allow. Go prepared with adequate fluids, clothing and bike spares. Expect to come back tired, muddy and exhilarated.
- Food – The Visitor Centre has a big and cheerful café. There’s plenty to eat and the mugs of tea are good and big and the flapjack is great. There’s also a café hidden in the woods that you’ll find if you’re passing.
- Parking – The car park is extensive and chargeable. £3 will get you paid up for most of the day.
- Accomodation – There are holiday cottages dotted about the region and a flurry of B&Bs 5 miles down the road on Dolgellau. Head north towards Trawsfynneddand you’ll stumble across campsites and log cabins to rent. Dolgellau Tourist Office: 01341 422888
- Spares/Bike Shops/Bike Hire – There’s an onsite bike shop at the visitor centre full of spares. You can also rent from their fleet of decent full-suss and hardtail mountain bikes if you want to leave your own bike at home.
All the best places in Wales are hard to reach by road, comparatively speaking. But from the North Take M53/A55 south and west round Chester then A494 to Mold. Follow A494 through Ruthin and Bala to Dolgellau. From Dolgellau head north on A470, taking a right turn for visitor centre after five miles.
From the south, turn west onto M54 past Telford. Take A5 round Shrewsbury then turn onto A458 through Welshpool. Take A470 north to Dolgellau at Mallwyd roundabout. From Dolgellau head north on A470, taking a right turn for visitor centre after five miles.
Postcode for Sat Nav – LL40 2HY