By Eddie Smyth
It’s a bit tricky finding the correct road from the West end café but we made it at the first attempt. It’s the A483 which is the road all the way to Builth Wells. This road takes on much more rugged terrain and the gullies, drops, summits and tree lined avenues have you grinning like a hyena at a feeding frenzy as you approach each bend. Yeah, it rained a bit again and the clouds shrouded some of the hill tops but it changed back to glorious sunshine more times than I could count. It is stunning all along here. Sugar Loaf hill pops up on your right and to prove it a railway station is marked as Sugar Loaf Halt to your left. We also passed Pen y Bont, not to be confused with Penybont that I pass through on my way home later.
Llanwrtyd will give you a game winning score in Scrabble if it were not a place name and Beulah, where you will find the Trout inn, is the place where you keep left and take the B4358 road on towards Rhayader. The summit of High Reach Pointing offers stunning views as you begin more descents than climbs. You get more thrills on this trip than there are locks on the Canal du Midi, I promise (there are 65, I looked it up for you).
At Newbridge on Wye you need to take a left onto the A470 which takes you right to the obelisk in the centre of Rhayader (32 miles from Llandovery). For wild life lovers there’s a Red Kite rehab centre just outside the town. I didn’t realise substance abuse was such an issue with these creatures, but what is a journey without learning something? Perhaps that’s where the phrase, ‘as high as a kite’ comes from. On the left, just short of the town is a large café cum tourist spot. As we sped by I counted at least 4 police bikes parked up. It must be donut time which was good for us since you rarely have time to check your exact speed when there is so much to enjoy of the whole journey through this fantastic part of Wales we might have gone a bit quick on occasion.
We took the bikes up to the Elan Valley for a look at the reservoirs there. That’s on the B4518, and then right onto the high moorland road which could take us all the way to the Devil’s Bridge falls, a fabulous visiting spot, but that is for another day.
If the views and tranquility up here don’t take your breath away, the sharp winds will. The buzzards overhead are a pleasure to watch as they glide and float like kites on a string.
Coffee and cake in the Old Swan café back in Rhayader was just the perfect ending to our day out together. We refilled the tanks on the way out and as I kept straight ahead at Crossgates on the A44 Gareth waved a cheery bye as he took the right back towards Builth Wells and his home in Cwmbran.
At Penybont (I said there were two) there’s a left to take for the A488 up and over the cattle grid protected moors lined with sheep as I headed through Bleddfa and Monaughty to Knighton. A right onto the A4113 takes you to Brampton Bryan (there’s a great café and book shop here) and Leintwardine which is a gorgeous village with chocolate box cottages and a stunning river that runs by a very inviting pub. Heading up the hill after here you pass the Jolly Frog restaurant. That’s got to be worth a return visit, if only for the name.
There’s even more lovely places all the way to the A49 just after Bromfield. That route alone is worth the trip. A short skit along the A49 to the roundabout at Ludlow and then I am on very familiar territory again as the A4117 takes me up and over Clee Hill and another cattle grid sectioned moorland, down some swooping bends and smart homes and into Cleobury Mortimer. Out the other side, passed the Plough Inn at Far Forest (best carvery for miles) and then left onto the A456 at Callow Hill towards Bewdley and home by tea time.
Not a bad road encountered all day. 213 miles all in, the final leg covering about 60 brilliantly twisty miles.
The Bulldog behaved impeccably and the Suzuki has clocked off another couple of hundred miles of its nursery life.
I miss the remote highlands of Scotland, where I used to live so much but these Welsh roads are every bit as beautiful in their own right. This was an ad hoc route, created at short notice by Gareth to tempt me to join him on a day out to get him used to his new wheels. I did not need any persuading. In fact I’m eager to put a few more together with him before those squally showers become winter storms.