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Best trail centres in Wales

By Mountain Biking UK | Wednesday, December 5, 2012 12.00pm

There are lots of reasons to love trail centres, whether it’s because of the all-weather trails, convenient locations, beginner-friendly routes or the availability of tea and cake and the end of a long, muddy ride. Their well made, well maintained trails offer a guaranteed buzz on every ride – something you can’t always rely on in the great outdoors.  

If you’re wondering which trail centre you should ride, that’s where this guide comes in. Within this article is all the info you need on what we consider to be Wales’ 10 best trail centres. 

The focus is on cross-country style trails, but we’ve included some class downhill locations and bike parks too. We tell you how to get there, what facilities are available and, most importantly, what the riding is like. So what more is there to do than grab your bike, get your helmet on and get riding? See you on the trails…

1 Afan Forest Park

About the centre

Afan consists of two centres. The older of the two, by the Afan visitor centre, contains The Wall trail. The second, at Glyncorrwg, is home to White’s Level and Skyline.

Who is it good for?

  • Beginners: 2/3
  • Intermediate: 3/3
  • Advanced: 3/3

The trails

The Wall

  • Distance: 24km
  • Time: 1-2.5hrs
  • Technicality: 3/5

The first half of The Wall is dominated by forest roads. The second, better half consists almost entirely of some superb singletrack.

White's Level

  • Distance: 15km
  • Time: 2-3hrs
  • Technicality: 3/5

The first bit is climbing but there’s enough technical interest. There’s an optional black downhill before a flowing, twisting run with singletrack and jumps. The final descent is thrilling.

Skyline

  • Distance: 46km
  • Time: 4-7hrs
  • Technicality: 3/5

Skyline is a long, hard ride, with awesome sections of singletrack that totally compensate for the effort you put in. It’ll test your stamina and your nerve, so make sure you go prepared. 

W2

  • Distance: 44km
  • Time: 4-7hrs
  • Technicality: 4/5

Similar to Skyline, this is another monster ride. It does have a watering hole halfway round though – whichever centre you start from, you can use the other as a service station for food, drink and a rest! W2 combines The Wall and White’s Level trails with a high level link between the two trails that offers fantastic views.

New adult bike park

Located near Bryn Bettws Lodge and Gyfylchi, the Afan adult bike park opened on Friday 7 December. It can be accessed via The Wall.

Please install Adobe Flash player to view this content

Teaser of Afan's new adult bike park, now open (courtesy Liam Murphy)

How to get there

Turn off the M4 at Junction 40 and head north. Turn left at the mini-roundabout onto the A4107, following signs to Afan Forest Park. The Afan car park is on your right after about five miles. For Glyncorrwg, continue three miles to Cymmer and turn left, following signs for Glyncorrwg. The centre is on your left, just before the village.

Afan: Grid ref: SS 821951 / Sat nav: SA13 3HG

Glyncorrwg: Grid ref: SS 872984 / Sat nav: SA13 3EA

Facilities

Bike hire, bike shop, bike wash, café, campsite, pay & display parking, showers, toilets, visitor centre (both trail centres)

More information

www.mbwales.com

www.cognation.co.uk

Afan: afan

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2 Brechfa

About the centre

Brechfa is a huge forest to the west of the Brecon Beacons, with great natural riding and manmade trails designed by downhill rider Rowan Sorrell.

Who is it good for?

  • Beginners: 3/3
  • Intermediate: 3/3
  • Advanced: 3/3

The trails

Derwen Trail

  • Distance: 9km
  • Time: 1-2hrs
  • Technicality: 2/5

An ideal trail for beginners, the Derwen sweeps through the forest on well surfaced, wide singletrack, with some steady climbs and fun, gentle descents. 

Derwen Trail Extension

  • Distance: 5km
  • Time: 0.75-1hr
  • Technicality: 2/5

An extension of the green, with an extra (steeper) climb and (longer) descent. It’s a good stepping stone up to the more technical, red-rated Gorlech.

Gorlech Trail

  • Distance: 22km
  • Time: 1.5-3hrs
  • Technicality: 3/5

There’s a fair bit of forest road climbing, but on the way back down the trail is a total rollercoaster, with berms and switchbacks that get better the faster you ride them!

Raven Trail

  • Distance: 18km
  • Time: 1-2hrs
  • Technicality: 4/5

The Raven mixes the big-bermed, jumpy style of riding on the other routes with predominantly natural singletrack. It was designed by Rowan Sorrell and features fast, brash descents that sweep between trees and flow through berms and over jumps. 

How to get there

From Carmarthen, head east on the A40 towards Llandeilo. Turn left onto the B4310 at Nantgaredig and follow it up through Brechfa. Parking for the green, blue and black trails is on your left between Brechfa and Nant-y-ffin. For the Gorlech, continue along the B4310 to Abergorlech. The car park is on your left in the middle of the village.

Brechfa: Grid ref: SN 545315 / Sat nav: Brechfa

Abergorlech: Grid Ref: SN 585340

Facilities

Parking, café (weekends)

More information:

www.forestry.gov.uk/wales

www.bikebrechfa.co.uk

www.cognation.co.uk

Brechfa: brechfa

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3 Coed Llandegla

About the centre

Coed Llandegla gives a new meaning to ‘something for everyone’, with green and blue routes for beginners, a reasonable red route for intermediate riders and its infamous black route. There’s a good bike shop and a fantastic café.

Who is it good for?

  • Beginners: 3/3
  • Intermediate: 2/3
  • Advanced: 3/3

The trails

Green

  • Distance: 5km
  • Time: 0.5-1hr
  • Technicality: 1/5

The route climbs wide tracks up to the reservoir. Up top, there are picnic benches and good views, then a fun, swoopy descent. It’s relatively flat and wide, and suitable for beginners.

Blue

  • Distance: 12 km
  • Time: 1-2hrs
  • Technicality: 2/5

After a seemingly never-ending climb, the blue swings downhill. The surface is good, the trails are wide and the corners are fun.

Red

  • Distance: 19km
  • Time: 1.5-3hrs
  • Technicality: 3/5

Beginning with a long climb, the route ‘proper’ kicks off with a promising descent around berms and over jumps. From there, rough singletrack cuts up and down through the forest.

Black

  • Distance: 21km
  • Time: 1.5-3hrs
  • Technicality: 4/5

With a smooth, hard surface, berms around every corner and jumps on every straight, this is the route people come to ride at Llandegla!

Further riding…

The red and black routes have optional sections of ‘extreme’ trail along their routes, including JJ’s Jumps, Yellow Pine Jumps, Parallel Universe and B-Line. Good jumping skills are essential. Llandegla boasts a pump track near the visitor centre, and a skills area with berms, drop-offs, jump lines and some pretty steep North Shore. There’s also a freeride area that is definitely not for the faint-hearted. 

How to get there

From Wrexham, take the A525 signed towards Ruthin. Coed Llandegla is up a minor road on your left about eight miles from Wrexham.

Grid ref: SJ 227520 / Sat nav: LL11 3AA

Facilities

Bike hire, bike shop, bike wash, café, pay & display parking, toilets

More information

Coed Llandegla Visitor Centre, 01978 751656, www.coedllandegla.com

www.mbwales.com

Coed llandegla: coed llandegla

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4 Coed Trallwm

About the centre

Coed Trallwm is a small biking centre offering three good, if short, singletrack trails, which all share the same start point, and a friendly café. It’s within driving distance of larger centres such as Afan or Brechfa.

Who is it good for?

  • Beginners: 1/3
  • Intermediate: 3/3
  • Advanced: 2/3

The trails

Blue

  • Distance: 4km
  • Time: 0.5-1hr
  • Technicality: 3/5

The blue route goes up a long forest road before heading into the woods. The trail can get muddy in winter, but is good, fast fun.

Red

  • Distance: 5km
  • Time: 0.75-1.5hrs
  • Technicality: 2/5

The red trail has recently had some maintenance and inprovements. It heads away from the centre on a big forest road climb. There’s a fair bit of height gain, which means that you are rewarded with a big descent! 

Black

  • Distance: 6km
  • Time: 0.5-1hr
  • Technicality: 3/5

The black follows the blue, but misses out the final descent, continuing up a big forest track climb. The trail follows the edge of the wood to the route’s high point, from which there’s a great view and a wilderness feel.

How to get there

From Llandovery, take the A40 west and turn right onto the A483, towards Builth Wells. Stay on the A483 for 15 miles to Beulah and turn left onto a minor road, towards Abergwesyn. The centre is four miles along here.

Grid ref: SN 882543 / Sat nav: LD5 4TS

Facilities

Café, parking, shop, showers, toilets

More information

Visitor Centre, 01591 610546, www.coedtrallwm.co.uk

Coed trallwm: coed trallwm

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5 Coed-y-Brenin

About the centre

Coed-y-Brenin was the first dedicated trail centre. Now it’s the largest in Britain, with eight trails – six graded red or above – with something for every level of rider. There’s also a skills section in the pipeline, the Ffowndri Skills Area, which is due to be completed in early 2013.

Who is it good for?

  • Beginners: 3/3
  • Intermediate: 3/3
  • Advanced: 3/3

The trails

Yr Afon’ Trail

  • Distance: 7/11km
  • Time: 1-3hrs
  • Technicality: 1/5

A nice family trail with spots to watch the river from.

MinorTaur

  • Distance: 3-8km
  • Time: 0.3-2hrs
  • Technicality: 1/5

The MinorTour aims to introduce new riders to singletrack. The trail comprises three loops (one 3km, one 5km and one 9km).

Temtiwr Trail

  • Distance: 9km
  • Time: 0.5-1hr
  • Technicality: 2/5

The Temtiwr Trail is a quick-hit Coed-y-Brenin ‘teaser’ that gives you a taste of the different routes. It’s pretty technical, and the route plenty of variety.

Cyflym Coch

  • Distance: 11km
  • Time: 1.5-3hrs
  • Technicality: 2/5

A great introduction to red-grade riding, starting with a technical climb up Pinderosa. It then pieces together the best of Coed-y-Brenin’s flowing singletrack. Climbs are fairly short and the rewards are great riding entertainment.

Dragon’s Back

  • Distance: 31km
  • Time: 3-5hrs
  • Technicality: 4/5

At 31km, this is one large dragon, so make sure you’re feeling fit! There’s lots of singletrack, lots of distance and lots of fun – you’re thrown into the heart of the action as soon as you leave the car park.

MBR Trail

  • Distance: 18.4km
  • Time: 1.5-3hrs
  • Technicality: 3/5

The MBR is a staple of Coed-y-Brenin. It’s fairly rocky, with loose climbs and jagged, technical descents. It’s a solid, technical XC route.

The Tawr Trail

  • Distance: 20km
  • Time: 1.5-3hrs
  • Technicality: 3/5

The trail formerly known as the Red Bull has aged well. The triple-whammy of Snap, Crackle and Pop has been joined by some faster, flowing sections.

The Beast

  • Distance: 38km
  • Time: 3-6hrs
  • Technicality: 4/5

Coed-y-Brenin combines the MBR and Dragon’s Back trails to create The Beast. It packs in a lot of singletrack. 

Further riding…

A new centre called Antur Stiniog is now open in nearby Blaenau Ffestiniog. There will be downhill trails, an uplift road, a jump site and a cafe, showers and bike workshop.

How to get there

From Dolgellau, head north on the A470, towards Betws-y-Coed and Porthmadog. Go straight ahead at the roundabout and the centre is signposted on your right after about five miles.

Grid ref: SH 720270 / Sat nav: LL40 2HY

Facilities

Bike hire, bike shop, café, pay & display parking, shop, showers, toilets, visitor centre

More information

Coed-y-Brenin Visitor Centre, 01341 440747

www.forestry.gov.uk/wales

www.mbwales.com

See the Coed-y-Brenin Facebook page for regular news and updates

Coed-y-Brenin: coed-y-brenin

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6 Cwmcarn

About the centre

Cwmcarn is easily accessible, yet never seems to get too crowded. There’s an uplift service – see www.cwmdown.co.uk for details .

Who is it good for?

  • Beginners: 1/3
  • Intermediate: 3/3
  • Advanced: 3/3

The trails

Twrch Trail

  • Distance: 14km
  • Time: 1-2hrs
  • Technicality: 3/5

The Twrch Trail winds upwards, over fiddly rocky sections and sharp climbs. Once up, you can bounce around tight corners and spiral through the woods before blasting down berms and over jumps.

Y Mynydd Downhill

  • Distance: 1.7/1.9km
  • Time: 5-10 mins
  • Technicality: 4/5

The Downhill has two runs – an easier red and a more technical black. Both contain plenty of roots, turns and jumps. They're rideable by relative beginners, and scorchingly fast for better riders.

How to get there

From Junction 28 of the M4, head north on the A467, following signs for Cwmcarn Forest Drive. Go straight ahead until the fifth roundabout, then go right and right again. Cwmcarn Forest Drive is the second turning on your left.

Grid ref: ST 230936 / Sat nav: NP11 7FA

Facilities

Bike wash, café, campsite, parking, toilets, uplift service, visitor centre

More information

www.cognation.co.uk

www.cwmdown.co.uk

Cwmcarn Visitor centre, 01495 272001

Cwmcarn: cwmcarn

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7 Gwydyr Forest

About the centre

Another trail opened relatively early in trail centre history, the Marin Trail in Gwydyr Forest mixes singletrack descents with forest road climbs. Sitting in the woods above Betws-y-Coed, it’s in a great location.

Who is it good for?

  • Beginners: 1/3
  • Intermediate: 3/3
  • Advanced: 3/3

The trails

Marin Trail

  • Distance: 25km
  • Time: 1-2.5hrs
  • Technicality: 3/5

With a big ascent straight out of the car park and a fair amount of forest road climbing, the Marin Trail doesn’t sound like a promising option. But throw in fast, twisting trails, pleasant open singletrack and a jagged rocky section and things start looking up. The clincher may be the final few stretches of singletrack descent – they’re long, winding and fast, with some large humps and compressions that offer plenty of opportunities for taking to the air.

How to get there

Turn off the A5 through Betws-y-Coed beside the chip shop in the centre of town. Cross the bridge and follow the road around to the right. Go straight ahead for about 3.5 miles until you pass Gwydir Castle on your right, then turn left up a minor road. The car park is on your left.

Sat nav: LL26 0PN

Facilities

Parking, toilets, full facilities in Betws-y-Coed and Llanrwst

More information

www.mbwales.com

www.forestry.gov.uk/wales

See the Marin Trail Facebook page for regular news and updates 

Gwydyr forest: gwydyr forest

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8 Nant-yr-Arian

About the centre

Nant-yr-Arian’s trails are some of the finest in Wales. It’s known for its long singletrack runs, the big climb in the middle of the Summit Trail and the huge, wild Syfydrin loop.

Who is it good for?

  • Beginners: 1/3
  • Intermediate: 3/3
  • Advanced: 2/3

The trails

Pendam Trail

  • Distance: 9km
  • Time: 1-2hrs
  • Technicality: 3/5

Pendam is the one to ride when you’re short on time. You’re quickly up to speed and leaning through the corners. After a short section of forest road you’re into the trees, carving around berms before a stiff climb up for the final descent.

Summit Trail

  • Distance: 16km
  • Time: 1.5-3hrs
  • Technicality: 3/5

The Summit Trail is the backbone of Nant-yr-Arian. It packs in the most singletrack, creating a fast, flowing ride. The trail is never too technical, leaving you to concentrate on the corners and take them as fast or slow as you like.

Syfydrin Trail

  • Distance: 35km
  • Time: 3-5hrs
  • Technicality: 3/5

The Syfydrin branches off the Summit Trail to carve a big loop with a really ‘out there’ feel through the countryside. It’s a long ride with good singletrack and solid natural riding.

How to get there

From Aberystwyth, take the A44 east towards Llangurig. The centre is on the left after 10 miles.

Grid ref: SN 718813 / Sat nav: SY23 3AD

Facilities

Bike wash, café, pay & display parking, shop, toilets, visitor centre

More information

www.mbwales.com

www.forestry.gov.uk/bwlchnantyrarian

Nant-yr-Arian Visitor Centre, 01970 890453

Nant yr arian: nant yr arian

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9 Penmachno

About the centre

There are no unique trail features here, no jumps and no rock gardens – just good, solid singletrack. It’s for this reason that many riders rate Penmachno as their favourite trail centre. The two trails below can be looped together to create one 30km ride. The trails are managed by the community, funded by donations from bikers and maintained by volunteers.

Who is it good for?

  • Beginners: 2/3
  • Intermediate: 2/3
  • Advanced: 2/3

The trails

Dolen Machno

  • Distance: 19km
  • Time: 1.5-3hrs
  • Technicality: 3/5

This is an unashamed cross-country trail – there are no bermed or jumpy sections, just tight, flowing singletrack. It’s never too technical, so you can focus on the corners and compressions that weave through the woods. The final descent ensures you finish on a high!

Dolen Eryri

  • Distance: 11 km
  • Time: 1-1.5hrs
  • Technicality: 3/5

The second trail is less steep and relatively flat in nature – there are no big climbs or descents, so you end up doing a lot of pedalling to keep your speed. The singletrack is good – not too technical but nice and flowing – and there’s the odd tricky section here and there. 

How to get there

From Betws-y-Coed, head east on the A5. Once over the bridge and out of the town, take the second right onto the B4406, signed to Penmachno. Follow the road into and through Penmachno. The trails begin from a small car park on your right.

Grid ref: SH 786498 / Sat nav: Penmachno

Facilities

Parking, full facilities in Betws-y-Coed

More information

www.mbwales.com

www.penmachnobiketrails.org.uk

Penmachno: penmachno

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2 Cwm Rhaeadr

About the centre

Cwm Rhaedr has no facilities and it’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere. The one, red-rated trail here takes you through great scenery and with views towards Carmarthenshire’s highest waterfall.

Who is it good for?

  • Beginners: 1/3
  • Intermediate: 2/3
  • Advanced: 3/3

The trail

Red

  • Distance: 6.7km
  • Time: 0.5-1hr
  • Technicality: 3/5

The trail is all about enjoying the descending. The ride begins with a big forest road climb – towards the top, this gives way to loose singletrack. The descent is fast, full of jumps, berms and compressions, and flows really well. Although it’s short, it’s definitely entertaining enough for a few laps and could easily be combined with a weekend’s trip to Brechfa or Afan.

How to get there

From LLandovery, take the A40 south-west towards Llandeilo. After half a mile, cross the river and take the first right. Follow this towards Cilycwm. Go through the village until you reach the car park on your left after about two miles.

Grid ref:  SN 765422     / Sat nav: SA20 0TL

Facilities

Parking

More information:

www.forestry.gov.uk/wales

Cwm rhaeadr :

Related links

The information in this article is taken from Britain’s 50 Best Trail Centres, free with issue 277 (June 2012) of  Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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