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Coed y Brenin Outdoor Centre, Wales

Posted by Holly Tuppen at 10:22 on Wednesday 13 October 2010

Coed y Brenin Visitor Centre. Photo: Holly GeeCoed y Brenin Visitor Centre. Photo: Holly GeeCoed y Brenin is legendary on the UK mountain biking scene as the first forest to be seriously developed for the sport. It is a 9,000 hectare playground just outside Dolgellau in southern Snowdonia, and in 1997 the first 11km trail was opened and began to draw helmeted enthusiasts from across the country.

Since then it has gone from strength to strength now offering over 40km of hand built trails ranging from rolling routes along broad fire trails suitable for families, to bottom clenching technical ones with names like the "The Beast of Brenin" and the “Dragon’s Back” that will test even the most experienced rider. With only one day to spend there biking on a week’s holiday it is hard to justify lugging bikes, helmets, tools, pumps and shoes for the rest of the time. Handily, there is a top line bike rental shop at the visitor centre which can solve all your problems.

Coed y Brenin is one of several Centres of Excellence, watch Greentraveller's video about these centres:

Coed y Brenin trails. Photo: Holly GeeCoed y Brenin trails. Photo: Holly GeeThe morning to head to the forest dawned clear and I felt like an excitable schoolboy. With a cafe, showers and ample parking we zipped in and were soon changed into biking gear and were salivating over the range of bikes on offer from Beics Brenin. Choosing between top of the range full suspension models from Santa Cruz, Specialized and Orange was a rare treat and within 20 minutes I was fitted up with a shiny Trek Fuel EX 8, spare inner tubes, pump and helmet and pointed it to one of the shorter intermediate routes. An hour later I arrived back at the visitor centre mud spattered and grinning like a goon.

The trails are built to give you as full a range of riding as possible. Tight and technical singletrack descents littered with rocks and roots to wide climbs that top out with breathtaking views across Snowdonia. With tracks graded like ski runs into different skill levels and a variety of lengths you can explore to your heart’s content for the day and you’ll be guaranteed to have had your fill of blind terror and satisfaction at conquering something special by the dusk.

The valleys of Snowdonia. Photo: Holly GeeThe valleys of Snowdonia. Photo: Holly GeeAt £45 for one of the top of the range bikes and £25 for a front suspension one more suited to the family trails it isn’t the cheapest hire, but it does have the added benefit that if something goes wrong you can head back to the visitor centre and switch it straightaway. A snapped chain was replaced in minutes and I was back on the tracks tearing through streams and leaping off jumps and drops.

Munching on some homemade cake after a day on the trails you can’t help but hope for more systems like this. Within 4 years of the trails being opened the forest visitor numbers increased tenfold and B&Bs and small businesses in the area have begun to flourish in a relatively neglected part of the country. The trails are built in sympathy with the land and money is re-invested in the forest. If you don’t like cycling there are even ranger led nature walks, marked running tracks and a new high wires course. It is taking the best of the country and making it’s preservation a sustainable reality rather than an optimistic dream. And at the end of a long day you just drop off your wheels, hop in the shower and head to the pub without worrying about hosing bikes, strapping on bike racks or repairing broken spokes. Wonderful

Extra Information

Visitor Centre: www.forestry.gov.uk/coed-y-breninforestpark

How to get there: Coed y Brenin Visitor Centre is in Coed y Brenin. Dolgellau, Porthmadog, Bala, Barmouth, Blaenau Ffestiniog, and Machynlleth are the nearest towns or villages. East off the A470, 8 miles North of Dolgellau just North of Ganllwyd, South of Trawsfynydd. Follow the brown tourist signs. OS Grid Reference: SH 725 272. 

For details of public transport visit www.traveline-cymru.info

Cafe: Open 7 days per week, from 10am until 4pm Mon to Fri and 9.30am until 5pm or dusk Sat and Sun.

Bike Hire: www.beicsbrenin.co.uk

Telephone enquiries: 01341 440728

Summer opening: 7 days  10am – 5pm or dusk

For more cycling holidays in Wales, see Cycling Holidays in Wales

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