I have to mention it although I don’t want to and I have tried my best to resist. It’s less than 4 weeks away. As you can probably tell, I’m not a fan. At all. So if you do stay here over Christmas do not expect tinsel, baubles, flashing fairy lights or Christmas trees. There are some of those – Christmas trees that is and real ones too, still in the ground – in the woods behind the hill and there’s a holly tree outside the Stable. I have been known to provide mince pies but they’re not just for Christmas, I like them. I also like sprouts. Do expect a warm and cosy cottage (there’s underfloor heating), spectacular views, plenty of places and time to cycle or walk and peace and quiet.
The Barn is available until 27 December and the Stable until 26 December. Dogs (or cats if you must) are welcome in the Stable. £85 per night, minimum 2 night stay.
The snow’s gone, spring is in the air and normal service has resumed so here’s a reminder about who we are, what we do and why we are here.
We moved to North Wales in 2013 after living in South East London for nearly 20 years. We have always been cycling obsessed. We met while both members of Dulwich Paragon cycling round the lanes of Kent and the North Downs and later getting our arses handed to us on a plate at Crystal Palace Crits. At the time I was the only single female in the cycling club so I had the pick of the club and Richard didn’t. Make of that what you will.
That’s me in 2009, 2nd in line looking a little chunky
After years of city living and spending many weekends escaping London to find good places to ride we decided to make a permanent move. I left my job of running a classical concert venue in central London, Richard re-located his furniture making business and we moved to Sarnau near Bala.
We knew the area well. Richard’s family is originally from near Llangollen and he spent many a family holiday in the Tanat Valley riding his BMX or ancient Peugeot MTB around what is now the Revolution Bike Park. I used to come here most summers with a ragtag group of cyclists from Southwark to attempt the Wild Wales Challenge.
I handed in my notice in March 2013 and by the end of June we were living in Ty Hen. We found the house from a small ad in the local paper. We didn’t immediately fall in love with the place but there was a lot that we liked, including the views of the Berwyn mountains, and we thought we could make it work for us.
The first job was to build a workshop for Richard so he could continue with his business (www.catchweasel.com) and work on converting the derelict outbuildings into holiday cottages. The workshop is the Swiss style chalet behind the house. One of our friends in Bala once said we would make more money from it as a holiday let than a workshop. He may be right.
Work began on the barn conversions in November 2014. We wouldn’t have chosen to start work then but we needed to get going as time and money were running out. It was not a labour of love. It was very, very hard work and I never want to do anything like that again. We finished the Barn in August 2015 (4 hours before our first guests) and the Stable in December 2015.
The cottages are designed to appeal to cyclists as cycling is our passion. We provide secure bike storage, bike wash, workstand and tools and can give advice about the best routes, rides and bike parks. One of the reasons we chose to live here is that we are no more than a 40 minute drive from about eight trail centres and mountain bike trails. One of our first guests described the area as Singletrack Epicentre which is about right and since moving here we have discovered that there are also some great natural trails in the hills behind us and over on the Berwyn. Last year we started to build a bike track in the large, steep field at the front of the property.
The road riding is exceptional with quiet roads, challenging climbs and exhilarating descents. We can go out for a 30 mile ride, pick the right roads and not see a car.
After about a year of living here we acquired a dog. Jac (spelt the Welsh way without a ‘k’) is the photogenic Labrador you see in nearly all of our photos. As we like dogs so much it seemed daft not to allow dogs to stay in our cottages so we made one of the them, the Stable, pet friendly. Dogs love roaming around the grounds and playing in the field and Jac gets on with everyone and everything. We’ve also had cats to stay and Jac didn’t eat them.
Our cottages are not your normal barn conversions. We both have unusual and quirky taste and have a habit of picking things up in junk and charity shops. These have found their way into the cottages along with some of Richard’s creations.
Neutral they are not. They’re also much nicer and much warmer than our house. We wish we lived in one of them.
Yep, it’s started, we’ve begun work on the long awaited Ty Beic bike track. Take your mind off politics for a few moments and have a look what we’ve been doing in our field (the very steep one).
As most things do, it’s starts at the top and then goes quickly downhill. Before you know it you’re at the bottom of the field and hitting a berm which in theory should propel you towards the top. Hmmm. And then the fun really starts with a tight and twisty climb. The test pilot did discover that maybe some of the turns are a bit too steep and a bit too tight or maybe a 35mm stem really is just too short. There’s work to be done here.
We are full in June but we still have gaps in July and August if you fancy giving it a test ride or even lending a hand. Prices per cottage are £80 a night or £475 a week and there are discounts if you are a Singletrack Subscriber. We don’t charge for digging.
I have a confession. I enjoy road cycling as much if not more so than mountain biking. I didn’t feel that way when we lived in South London where I endured and survived a 7 mile commute into central London everyday and weekend rides into Kent meant a 20 minute slog through South London’s Mean Streets. I don’t cycle as far as I used to and all day epics are a thing of the past – I blame that dog – but a 30 mile ride can be just as worthwhile and rewarding. The roads around here are so quiet that we can cycle for miles without seeing a car and there are very few roundabouts or traffic lights to break the rhythm. Bala’s driving test centre is famous, and much in demand, as one of the few centres where a test doesn’t involve such things. I took my driving test a couple of years ago in Bala, not having the need for a car when living in London. The first time I negotiated a roundabout and dual carriageway behind a wheel was driving to Chester and back to visit Richard in hospital after he broke his hand. But that’s another story.
The weather last week was great so we had no excuse not to get out on the bikes. Sunday was a 32 mile ride (with 3000ft of climbing) over Bwlch y Groes, down to Lake Vyrnwy and back over Rhosygwalia. Monday was another 30 mile ride through Llandderfel to the top of the Berwyn before turning round and heading back to Bala with a detour around Llyn Tegid. We had planned to ride over the Berwyns to Llangynog and then Vyrnwy, Bwlch y Groes back to Bala but realised we would be late for our Welsh conversational class in Stori, or ‘siarad caci tarw yn Gymraeg’ as we like to call it, so we cut the ride short. Thursday is chaingang night, a 20 mile thrash starting and finishing at the Bryntirion.
Begin with four bikes and three dogs. Add dry dusty trails and sneaky singletrack. Throw in some big views and empty landscapes. Add lashings of sunshine and a dash of Welsh beer and cider, combine with lots of enthusiasm. The result is two satisfied customers, three tired dogs and two very happy hosts.
MB Wales has made a film about mountain biking in Wales. From trail centres, epic downhills, natural trails and family rides, it manages to convey in just over 5 minutes the incredible variety of riding to be enjoyed in Wales. It would be rude not to share.
It’s been a very wet winter here. I’m not complaining – we haven’t been flooded out of our home unlike a lot of people, but it has meant that the natural riding has been pretty much out of bounds. But every now and again the sun shines brightly and the landscape is transformed. And I’m reminded that summer is not that far away.
Walking the dog the other day, the sun came out and the shadow suddenly revealed all the sheep trails criss-crossing the hill. I’ve suddenly discovered a new series of trails for when things are a bit drier. This stuff is so narrow it’s not even singletrack – more semitrack, giving just enough to ride across the steep hillside.
Ever fancied conquering the highest peak in England and Wales, by bike?
STOP PRESS Only two places left
Snowdon, as everyone knows, is our highest mountain and a magnet for hill walkers, climbers and mountain bikers. Sometimes it is smothered in dense cloud or a blanket of deep snow. At other times it is bathed in glorious sunshine revealing staggering, awe inspiring views across the National Park and North Wales. A journey to it’s peak is a true adventure unlike anything other and one that a mountain biker will remember for a very long time. But it is a proper mountain with terrain and weather to match and needs to be treated with respect.
We have teamed up with our friends at Carbon Monkey* to offer a guided ride to the summit and back. Enjoy an epic adventure in the knowledge that you’ve got the backup and support of a local professional MTB guide to take you down the best lines, help out with any mechanicals, get the best photos and make sure you get to the top and back in one piece.
Here’s a rough edit from Carbon Monkey’s trip last October to give you a taster…
At the end of an epic day return to Ty Beic for a hot shower, enjoy a beer or two on your terrace (while gazing at the Berwyns, good riding there too) and then collapse into “a very large, very comfortable bed” (not our words). We are giving you a late check out on Sunday – 12noon rather than 10am. Spend the morning relaxing or squeeze in a cheeky ride, if you’ve still got the energy, before heading home to plan your next adventure.
The Snowdon Adventure takes place on Saturday 23 April. Two nights accommodation for two at Ty Beic (22 and 23 April) and two places on Carbon Monkey’s ‘the Welsh Classic’ costs £250**. There are only four places available so get in touch quickly to secure your place by completing the form below.
man, dog and Berwyns
enjoy a beer or two on your private terrace
or from inside your cottage
what about that for a view?
superking, super comfy bed
single or super kingsize beds, your choice
*Carbon-Monkey is a specialist MTB skills course provider running mountain bike courses in North Wales, the Lake District, Peak District, Scotland and on Cannock Chase.
** Please get in contact for longer stays and prices excluding the Snowdon trip for non cycling partners.
Three inches of snow on top of a foot of mature welsh bog – think I have found the limits of the Geax Saguaro.
Up on the tops the wind is whipping the snow off the ridge against a bright blue sky. A frighteningly sketchy descent (the brakes work but nothing’s gripping anything) and ten minutes later it’s like a summer’s day in the valley.
Apart from the half mile stretch of black ice on the road, which I can’t even walk on.