A ride around the beautiful Llyn Brianne reservoir and climb up the 25% slope of Devils Staircase
Total Distance: 73km/45 miles
Total Elevation: 1366m/4480ft
Difficulty Rating: 7/10
Estimated Time: 3 to 5hrs
From Llandovery Car Park exit onto the A40 and follow for a 300 metres, then turn right (before the level crossing) onto the A483, signposted Builth Wells. Follow for 7km and as you enter Cynghordy, turn right on a nasty junction on the brow of a hill, signposted Tirabad. Continue uphill and through Tirabad to the village of Cefn Gorwydd. Turn left, signposted Llanwrtyd Wells and continue to the town. Turn right at the t-junction into the town centre, then turn left immediately after the bridge of the Irfon, signposted Abergwesyn.
Follow the minor road for 8km to Abergwesyn, then turn left signposted Llyn Brianne. Follow the minor going over Devils Staircase. As the steep descent finishes, turn left towards Llyn Brianne and continue around Llyn Brianne. Continue on a long descent after the reservoir and a few hundred metres after a campsite, turn right (not signposted). Pass over the Towy river to a t-junction at the Towy Bridge Inn.
Turn left at the Towy Bridge, continue through Cilycwm. After the village, continue on the road without turning off for approximately 1.5km to a t-junction immediately after a stone hump bridge. Turn right, signposted Llandovery and follow for just over 4km back to Llandovery. Head straight across the crossroads onto Stone Street and continue to a t-junction near the Craft Centre. Turn right, then after 100 metres turn left immediately before the Castle Hotel back into the car park.
If there is a “must do” ride from Llandovery for riders comfortable with more challenging terrain, then this route needs to be at the top of the list. Matching a few tough climbs with one quite famous one, the Devil's Staircase. The route then heads around Llyn Brianne, one of the best roads to ride in all of Wales.
From Llandovery for the first 7km the route sticks to a busier A-road, being the only reasonable route out to the North East. The A483 can be busy at times, although overall and compared to most A-roads it is decent and the pay off later well worth it. After turning off as the road enters Cynghordy and onto quieter and narrower roads it immediately heads uphill and the pitch and length of this climb makes it tough, at 6% average for 3km. At the top Crychan Forest will start to be seen ahead and the road heads through a section of this forest and onwards to Tirabad, a village that sits on the edge of the Sennybridge MOD area and given there are rifle zeroing ranges nearby don't be too alarmed if you hear gunfire!
After a few more kilometres sweeping through roads within the forest area the route arrives at the tiny village of Cefn Gorwedd and from here it turns left and on to Llanwrtyd Wells. Located within Powys the town is the one of the smallest in the UK and has become well known for some of the rather alternative games and festivals that take place including the Man v Horse race and the Bog Snorkelling World Championships among many others!
From Llanwrtyd heading upstream along the Irfon river to Abergorlech is a beautiful ride and gives a chance to get yourself prepared for the much tougher challenges that lie ahead. After turning in Abergorlech the road starts to become lumpy with one sharp climb right away and then one of the most beautiful valley sections you will ever see up the northern section of the Irfon river. The view as you ride along is incredible but as you ride you will notice that there is no easy way out and what lies ahead is Devils Staircase. Now visible from the bottom due to some recent tree felling the road goes up to 25% gradient and the steepest sections are at the bottom. Only just over 1km in total and there are a few micro flat, or flatter sections to try and recover but overall it is a steep hill and a really challenging one.
The descent on the other side is equally steep and one to take carefully before turning left just as the gradient starts to ease and following the road towards Llyn Brianne. The reservoir was created in the 1960s and several farms and houses were flooded in the creation. Very occasionally, perhaps 3 or 4 times since it has been built and only during a very hot dry period one farm house becomes visible, giving some idea of what the landscape must have looked like before the reservoir and before the forestry was here. Much of the forestry has been felled in recent years opening up the views as you ride and work around the outskirts of the water. This section is one of the best roads in the whole of Wales, being quiet but also well surfaced with a never ending rollercoaster of hills as you ride around.
The ride to see the dam wall is a short excursion off the route but one that is worth visiting if you have not seen it before. A fast descent takes you down towards Rhandirmwyn and joining the path of the river Towy which you follow through the village of Cilycwm and back to the finish in Llandovery to finish what is a very special route.
Devils Staircase – A steep, challenging climb with ramps up to 25%
Llyn Brianne – Secluded with quiet roads and stunning views all around
Irfon Valley – Leaving Llanwrtyd Wells the road as it slowly gains height is an enjoyable ride with the most spectacular section just before Devils Staircase
Llanwrtyd Wells – Spar general store
Llanwrtyd Wells – Caffi Sosban Cafe
Rhandirmwyn – Towy Bridge Inn
Cilycwm – Neuadd Fawr Arms
Llandovery – Penygawse Tea Rooms
Llandovery – Craft Centre Cafe
Llandovery – West End Cafe
County Cycles – Bike shop, Cross Hands