Cycle Tracks using former railways

Welsh National Cycle Route
Lon Menai
Lon Eifion
Mawddach Way
Taff Trail
South Wales Cycle Route
Neyland
North Wales Cycle Route

Lon Las Ogwen
Lon Peris
Others

Govilon Cycle Route

Welsh National Cycle Route

Lon Menai (6.5 km)

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Along the former Caernarfon to Bangor line. From the north of Caernarfon it just runs to the other side of Y Felinheli (Port Dinorwic), although at Y Feliheli you have to travel thru the town on the main road.

It was built in 1852 as a single line, but was later doubled. The LNWR took it over in 1867. Despite being reprieved from closure in the early 60s, it was closed in February 1972.

From Caernarfon, there is one section where it exits onto a main road (i.e where the road has used the trackbed for improvements) and you have to keep on the left of the road ahead (use the pavement) before picking up the track proper farther on.

At Y Felinheli, you have to ride thru the town itself, before picking up another small section adjacent to the old station (look for the turn-off on your right).

A bit further on, you can see (and ride down) the branch off to the harbor, where slate was transshipped from the Dinorwic Quarry in Llanberis.

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Lon Eifion (20 kms)

runs along most of the former Caernarfon to Afon Wen line, from Bryncir in the South to Caernarfon in the North.

This line was opened as standard gauge in 1867. From Penygroes northwards the Caernarvonshire Railway had taken over and converted the Nantlle Tramroad of 3.5 ft gauge, which dated back to 1825 ( There are, however, sections here and there of the Nantlle trackbed which were not actually used by the new railway ).

The rails for the Nantlle had actually been laid by the Stephensons. The route into Nantlle itself was standardized in 1870, although the quarry lines themselves remained at the old gauge, requiring transshipment at Nantlle. This latter section became the only 3.5 feet gauge to pass into the hands of British railways, and was also one of their few horse-drawn sections.

The Caernavonshire Railway was taken over by the LNWR in 1869.

The site of Penygroes station is still discernable (the platform is still there). South of the station, look for the old route of the Nantlle curving away to Nantlle itself.

Between Graianog and Llanwnda the route is metalled by virtue of it formerly being used as a temporary route by trucks.

At Llanwnda itself the route becomes indiscernibly briefly as you have to cross over a road.

At Dinas Junction, you meet the new Welsh Highland Railway, which has taken over a portion of Lon Eifion to extend its track into Caernarfon. You now follow this railway all the way, exiting directly adjacent to the station in Caernarfon.

There is a decent Fish and Chip shop in Bontnewydd, between Dinas Junction and Caernarfon (exit when the track goes over a minor road).

On the outskirts of Caernarfon, the point where the Llanberis route converged from the east has become obscured by a new bridge layout.

Just prior to crossing the River Seiont, you can look for traces of where the Nantlle Railway took another direction to cross the river further down.

See also :-



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The Mawddach Way (15 km)

runs from the outskirts of Dolgellau to Barmouth (via Morfa Mawddach station and the Barmouth Bridge.

The Morfa Mawddach-Dolgellau line was completed in 1869 by the Cambrian Railway - according to reliable sources, in order to oppose the spread of the Great Western with which it connected at Dolgellau, at the end of the latter's line from Ruabon (Rhiwabon). The line was closed in 1965.

The estuary itself was carved out by glacier during the Ice Age which ended about 10.000 years ago. The line passes two SSSIs (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) - The Penmaenpool Reedbed which is the largest area of common reed in Wales, and is an important breeding center for otters and birds, and the Arthog Bog. It is also possible to walk thru an RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) site adjacent to the track, in the Arthog area.

The Mawddach was frequented by much shipping in the past, before the arrival of the railway, and several shipyards also existed in the area, using the local oak. Ships carried the coarse flannel produced in the area, a product derived from wool. A probable by-product of this activity is the spread of Spartina grass, which is believed to have been accidentally introduced by shipping. This grass is used extensively in the Netherlands because it is useful in reclaiming land from the sea, but is causing the Snowdonia National Park authorities some concern here.

The path starts on the outskirts of Dolgellau, and it has to be said that the surface is not too good for most of the way, initially.

The surface gets better at Penmaenpool, where it becomes an official path of the Snowdonia National Park.

At Penmaenpool ( Llynpenmaen) the old signal box has been converted into an RSPB observation point and exhibition center. The adjacent George 3 Hotel was built in 1650 as a tavern for estate workers, and served also as a ship’s chandlers, and it has absorbed the station buildings. An old signal also still exists.

The toll bridge at Penmaenpool was opened in 1879.

Barmouth Bridge requires the payment of a toll - pedestrians 50p, cycle 10p extra. This bridge was shut for repairs in the 1980s, due to an infestation of seaworms. Today, no locomotive (as opposed to diesel multiple unit) is allowed to cross it. Solomon Andrews Tramways operated to the south of the bridge.

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The Taff Trail (80 km)

from Cardiff to Brecon, mostly along old railways and the old Glamorgan Canal. It follows the trackbed of the following railways (described South to North) :-
  • The Melingriffith Railway, which ran between Melingriffith Tin Plate Works and the Garth mountain. The Taff Trail includes the section from the site of the Tin Works ( a water wheel survives at the site ) to the bridge where the railway crossed the Taff.
  • A short section (about 20 meters or so) of the Cardiff Railway, immediately before the Trail goes under the A470.
  • North of Castell Coch, the Barry Railway
  • and at an obvious point, it changes to the Rhymney Railway until the main Caerphilly Road
  • on the other side of Caerphilly Road, it picks up the Caerphilly, Newport and Pontypridd Railway as far as Glyntaff.
  • From Abercynon to Pontygwaith, it follows the Penydarren Tramroad, on which Richard Trevithick made his famous steam ride in 1804. The northern section still contains many old sleepers and is therefore quite cycle-unfriendly
  • From Cefn Coed to the road north of Pant Glas it follows the Brecon and Merthyr Railway (when it reaches the road, it runs parallel to the Brecon Mountain Railway almost up to Pontiscill Station. The view at left shows Pontsarn Viaduct.
  • On its way to Torpantau, the trail passes over the Brecon and Merthyr adjacent to the old Torpantau station. The station site is only noticeable if you know what you are looking for - the site has no remaining buildings and is used for agricultural purposes. Beyond the station lies the entrance to Torpantau tunnel, once the highest tunnel in Britain.
  • On the other side of Torpantau, the trail picks up the track of the Brecon and Merthyr again, the old tunnel is on your right. This is the notorious Seven Mile Bank, offering views over Talybont Reservoir. For cyclists, the official trail diverts onto the road at the reservoir dam, although an old route follows the railway into Talybont village, where it crosses over the Brecon Canal.
  • This alternative route for walkers, then passes along the Bryncir Tramway

From just south of Aberfan to Merthyr Tydfil, the trail follows the route of the old Glamorgan Canal. In Aberfan, it passes directly adjacent to the remains of the school which was the site of the 1966 tragedy (today a memorial garden).


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South Wales Cycleway

Neyland

along the route used by the South Wales Railway, Neyland being a departure point for Waterford.

The railway was built in 1856. However, in 1906, Irish journeys were re-routed via Fishguard.

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Lon Las Ogwen

(sections also known as Lon Bach and Lon Penrhyn). The long-term plan is to construct a cycle track from Porth Penrhyn in Bangor to Llyn Ogwen, via Bethesda, using the Penrhyn Railway (narrow gauge) and the LNWR Bethesda branch (which crossed the Penrhyn Railway three times).

The standard gauge branch was shut in 1963.

Currently, the former Penrhyn Railway is used as far as the A5, and then you exit onto a further stretch along the former standard-gauge line (you can see the track of the Penrhyn Railway over to the side).

The Penrhyn railway section is very different from most other cycle tracks, it is a bit more "intimate" and "closed-in", presumably because it was a narrow-gauge railway. Highly recommended

Brief details only are given here. See also :-


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Lon Peris

uses sections of the Llanberis-Caernarfon branch.

The Llanberis branch was opened in 1869. It lost its regular passenger service early on, in 1930. It was shut completely in 1964.

Currently runs from Llanberis for a short distance. There are plans to extend further

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Govilon Cycle Route

from Llanfoist to Govilon along the LNWR Abergavenny to Merthyr Tydfil line.

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