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PostPosted: Mon Sep 29, 2008 11:38 pm 
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"Suddenly, ahead of me, across the mountainside,
A gleaming alloy AirCar shoots towards me, two lanes wide..."


Well, not quite, but the song was in my head.

Photos from this ride (and a few others) can be found here

This is one of those rides that is so obvious that when you consider it, you find yourself wondering why you haven't already done it - after all, I've been visiting Anglesey since I was about 9, so it was about time I cycled round it, surely?

It started, as things often do with me, as an off the cuff comment from Nick - in this case about cycling round the island. We were walking part of the coastal path at the time, between Wylfa Point (my, what a nice power station you have there) and Cemaes, and I realised that not only had I never ridden round the island, I didn't even know how far it was by road. Coffee and cake (Wylfa visitor centre: Try the Yum-yum cake, as it's well named, if a little on the sweet side), and back to base later for Memory Map and a little madness. A quick bit of rubber-banding with a course track gave me an estimate of 110km (about 73 miles in old money), if I didn't go up into the wilder corners and just stuck with the main road loop. "That'll do me" says I, and so to bed.

Next a.m., and Nick seems surprised that the idea has stuck so firmly that I intend to set off and do this today. He won't be joining me - he has a substation to find, so he's off on the mtb in the other direction. False start - I remember to fill my water bottle, only to leave it in the kitchen, realising I've done so after about half a mile. Ho hum. Pause, rewind, replay.

Anglesey basically only has four roads: The A55 expressway, a motorway in all but name, which runs across the island (and beyond, going all the way to Chester, and destroying any chance of cycling the mainland North Wales coast in comfort - just Google Pen-y-Clip & cycling and you'll see what I mean). The A5, which the A55 replaced, was the old trunk road, passing through all the villages, which now carries little but local traffic. The last pair are the A5025/A4080, which run around the island, joining to the others more-or-less at the East and West ends of the island. There are, of course, lots of little local B-roads, to-ing and fro-ing around the villages and farms, and some very pleasant lanes to bimble along, whilst looking for windmills and tea and cakes, but for actually getting around the island, those are the main useable routes.

I was starting from Trearddur Bay on Holy Island, taking the B4545, heading onto Anglesey itself at Four Mile Bridge, then clockwise round the North side of the island on the A5025 from the junction with the A5 at Valley; around towards Amlwch, Benllech, Moelfre, Menai Bridge, meeting the A5 again at Llanfair PG, then down to the southern half of the loop on the A4080; past Plas Newydd, Niwbwrch (Newborough), Malltraeth, Aberffraw, Rhosneigr, then joining the A5 at Bryngwran, back to Valley, and back to base. This is the simple route around the island, which cuts some corners: To the Northwest, is misses a large chunk of rural and sparsely populated land around Llanfairynghornwy. At the East, it misses the Penmon Point and Beaumaris. At the Southwest, the route is forced inland by the presence of RAF Valley - there are roads to / through all these places, but I was playing for broad brush strokes, not a map-reading session, and I didn't fancy fighting with the tractors, so I was pretty much sticking with the main roads.

So, first pause was the chapel near Llanfaethlu, and the Soar Standing Stone (named after the chapel). This is simply one of many on Anglesey, and I'm pretty certain that a fair number of gateposts used to be out in the fields too. It's close to the road, and tall, thin and flat - the flat face looks out over Holyhead to the West and Snowdonia to the East. The Anglesey stones generally seem to be tall, often with sloping or pointed tops. Why? who knows? Anyway, I've wanted a picture of this one for a while, so here was a perfect opportunity to take one.

I carried on towards Wylfa, and briefly considered stopping for a brew, but decided that it was far too early in the ride. I carried on around through Cemaes, and Bull Bay, aiming to stop at Amlwch. I went into the town when I arrived, but there was little in the way of facilities, so out again, and round the corner, taking the turn for the old Port, and its heritage centre. Amlwch was once one of the world's most important ports, exporting copper from Parys Mountain (a site which you have to see to believe). Latterly there was an oil terminal there, with a pipeline to Stanlow, but now even that's gone. The old harbour is still going, and a few charter fishing boats are based there. There's currently a topsail schooner in there too, which may or may not be the replica of HMS Pickle - I didn't get the name, like a dimwit. However, the flag (see the photos) suggests there may be more to this than meets the eye(patch)...
I had coffee and cake in the cafe in the old sail loft, which is also the museum of the port, and then picked up the pace for the next bit.

The road around from Amlwch to Menai Bridge is somehow less interesting to me than other parts of the island. This, despite the history of the area encompassing invasions - Traeth Coch / Red Wharf Bay is apparently named for the bloodbath on the beach, but whether it was Romans, Vikings or Welsh and Irish involved seems a matter of conjecture - and shipwrecks with gold (the Royal Charter foundered off Moelfre). The road feels stupidly long before it actually goes anywhere, but I suspect that that's more to do with only ever having travelled this bit of road by car in the past. The Northeast of the island is also more or less where the hills are - not many, as the whole road around the North is rolling terrain, but the coast is mostly cliffs, and the road passes over a fair few lumpy bits, the steepest being a section of 12%. Of course, my clockwise route meant I had to climb that bit. Instead of going right into the town, I cut the corner above Menai Bridge, and crossed the A5 just east of Llanfair PG.

Second stop was the tea room at Plas Newydd. This is the ancestral home of the Marquess of Anglesey, now owned by the National Trust. It was a glorious afternoon by now, so I took my scone and coffee outside, and sat in the sunshine for a bit. After refilling my water bottle, I was off for the last leg, past the turning for Bryn Celli Ddu, one of the best neolithic burial chambers in Wales, on down through Niwbwrch (invented by Edward I for people displaced from the site of Beaumaris, hence "New Borough"), Malltraeth ("Desolate Beach!"), and to Aberffraw, where the princes of Wales used to hold court. Then on past the old firing / rocket range (now a motor circuit) of Ty Croes, and another neolithic chamber, Barclodiad y Gawres, followed by Rhosneigr. Turning inland again, finally joining the A5 for the last run down to Valley, and then home in time for tea.

Total distance was almost exactly that predicted, at 73.5 miles, actual riding time was a minute under 6 hours, but with stops this added up to more like 7.5.

<edited for spellinje>

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 30, 2008 6:15 pm 
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Sounds like a grand day out! HMS Pickle, srsly? What a fab name.... :grin:
You're turning into a bit of a mile monster my dear....


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 30, 2008 6:55 pm 
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That's made me want to do it too 8) .

Sam

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 30, 2008 8:59 pm 
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Heh. It just seemed like a good idea at the time.

HMS Pickle.

Now I've had a proper look at the Pickle replica pictures, I'm sure it's not her, but anyway, it's a nice little vessel. The chap who owns/owned the replica came from Amlwch, and a few years ago was hoping to berth her there, which is why I thought it may have been her. The pirate flag was just too frisky to manage a good shot with only a compact camera, but I had to try.

As for turning into a mile monster, I had planned to cycle to Anglesey this year, but communication with a few people about that stretch of coast is very depressing. Cyclists are prohibited from long stretches of the A55 (not that you'd want to ride it, really, it is practically a motorway), including the tunnels at Pen-y-Clip near Penmaenmawr. Since the tunnels take up what used to be the only road space on the headland, you're left with an at-grade crossing of a minimum of two 70mph lanes of traffic to get to the cycle path that goes over the hill. Assuming you aren't killed doing that, you have to cross back over from the centre to the roadside cycle lane within about 100m of the tunnel exit, which is on a curve. You can see absolutely Jack shit in either direction. This autumn they appear to be building bridges, but they're a long way from being done yet.

The next most southerly road goes through the Sychnant Pass, which was used to mimic the Khyber in the 'Carry On...' film (no it wasn't!), so that's not for the faint of heart. Even that simply dumps you between the two sets of tunnels with the same problem. The next road south is the A5, so I'd have to head down the Conwy valley into Snowdonia and come up through the Ogwen Valley to Bangor. That about doubles the distance I'd have to ride. I'm leaving that one 'til next year.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 01, 2008 11:42 am 
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A whim transmogrifying into a great day's ride. Perfect.

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