28 Jun 2015

Wales and Scotland 2015—Part 1: Wales

This year my main trip by motorbike was a week through Wales and Scotland. Never one to pass up an adventure, Zev once again joined me, observing the world from the pillion seat of my R1200GS.

Part 1: Wales

The trip started out somewhat wet, ploughing along the soulless M4 motorway from London to Wales. We left late, around noontime and by mid afternoon the skies started to clear up, sun peeking out among the clouds.

Exiting the motorway just past Cardiff we headed to the Brecon Beacons for a ride through on our way towards northern Wales. These roads are beautiful and fast—the speed limits realistic and the traffic exceptionally light. Wales has gone to the top of my list of best countries for motorbiking.

The rolling hills of the Brecon Beacons never get boring—the narrow roads alternate from rolly-polly humps (which have the bike airborne at less speed than you’d expect) to twisty blind corners requiring a wish and a prayer that nothing else, human, sheep or mechanical, is occupying any of the space within a given trajectory.

The dales are stunning in a way which cannot be captured by the camera—endless expanses of open scenery, interrupted only by the odd hill in the distance. To be there is absolutely breathtaking.

Stopping just past a cattle gate we walked around to get the blood circulating—no cows to be seen, but sheep in every field (and occasionally on the road).

Past the Brecon Beacons and deeper into Wales we stopped at this hillside pullout for a short break. A man came along who had been walking his dog in the forest and was very pleased that we’d come to visit from London—before he left he got a packet of biscuits from his car to keep us going on our journey. The Welsh are friendly, delightful people.

Another stop in the late afternoon. The clouds in the distance looked ominous but amounted to nothing. The light was amazing—almost golden in colour and enhancing the thousands of shades of green all around. It was almost surrealistic.

We were getting tired and found a bed and breakfast hotel nearby through a booking app on my phone. What would we do without technology? I remember, as a child, when travelling through Europe with my parents we would take our chances for vacancies as we came across hotels, sometimes going to two or three before finding something suitable—this can still be done of course, but it’s just so much more convenient when tired to book a place and go straight there.

We checked in at the Dolanog B&B where our hosts Sue and John had us in our room with a cup of tea each in no time. They recommended the restaurant at the Lake Vyrnwy Hotel and Spa about six miles away, so we freshened up and headed out.

On our way to the restaurant we stopped at the Lake Vyrnwy Dam—the sun was low in the sky and made the dam glow. It is a Victorian dam built of stone in the late 1800s, the first of its type in the world.

While at the restaurant we had a view of the sunset over Lake Vyrwy while enjoying Welsh cawl (broth with lamb and vegetables) and salmon fishcakes. We snaked our way back to the B&B through the narrow lanes in the dark and retired for the night.

The next morning we stopped at the Colinette Yarns shop in nearby Powys to pick up some yarn as a thank you gift for our friends in Scotland with whom we were going to be staying.

We continued through Wales and re-entered England for a quick loop through the Lake District. Unfortunately, while it was beautiful, it was also backed up with traffic and absolutely rammed with tourists, spoiling a potentially amazing place to ride—indeed I was feeling so grumpy I didn’t even take any pictures.

We decided not to go deeper and so set the GPS to take us to Hawick in the Scottish Borders, only 60 miles away.