Pentop Cottage is the mountain-biking equivalent of a luxury doorstep skiing chalet in Val D’Isere.
It’s hard to imagine a more perfectly placed cottage from which to ride – the cottage even has its own eponymous section of singletrack. If cycling’s not your thing, however, the trail is far enough away never to intrude on your peace.
As mountain bikers ourselves, we know what’s needed to make a place friendly to bikes and bikers. At the back of the cottage is the ‘Adventure Room‘ containing everything to make your bike’s stay a happy one including secure storage, a workstand, Park tools, lube, a track pump and complementary inner tube, while outside you’ll find a hose to wash your bike down. For you, the ‘Adventure Room‘ contains books, maps and guides as well as providing a drying area to hang your gear.
Saddle-up at the back door, head straight out onto a forestry track and within a few metres you’ll come across a marker showing that you’re on the Penmachno Trail – the perfect mix of singletrack descents and forest climbs (with a few technical climbs thrown in for good measure!). They can be ridden as one 30km route or as a 19km loop (Loop 1 – Dolen Machno), or a 11km loop (Loop 2 – Dolen Eryri). The cottage is situated just below the the halfway point where Loop 2 branches off from Loop 1, so from the cottage you can choose to ride them both, or ride one loop, pop back for a coffee and then head back out to the other.
Dolen Machno (Loop 1) – 19km
This has the fastest descents and biggest climbs, with fast, technical single-track, tight switch-backs and a couple of leg-testing climbs.
Dolen Eryri (Loop 2) – 11km
This is all about the flow and the views, with a great mix of sweeping single-track, carving boardwalk, technical pitched stone trail and some of the best views you’ll find in the UK. A truly breath-taking ride.
Penmachno Trail (combined Loop 1 & Loop 2) – 30km
This has got it all – 30km of fast descents, flowing singletrack, technical riding and boardwalk plus views across the Snowdonia mountains.
The Penmachno Trail website has videos, pictures, maps and lots of other information including any closure notices that might affect your stay, or check out this short video for a taste of the trails.
Not only is Pentop ideally situated just yards from some of the best singletrack in Wales, but it’s at the epicentre of Welsh riding. Within 45 minutes are four of the best mountain biking trail centres in the UK.
Closest are the Gwydir Trails that can be picked up just 4 miles away, close to Betws y Coed. You can either drive there or follow a mainly off-road route on your bike that includes some fine sections of natural trail (you’ll find a laminated route plan in the Adventure Room).
The Gwydir Mawr Trail is a proper mountain bike trail with big climbs, big descents, brilliant singletrack and amazing scenery. Most, but not all of the climbs are on forest roads and tracks and all of the descents are on the singletrack which varies from very tight, technical and rocky to wonderfully open and flowing, from dark forest to exposed ridgelines. The 25km route can be done at race speed in less than 2 hours, or up to 4 hours if you take in all of the amazing views of Snowdonia. It incorporates the shorter Gwydir Bach trail, which is a 8.7km version taking between 45 to 90 minutes to complete.
Just over the hill from Penmachno on the outskirts of the slate mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog is the newest addition to Welsh trail centres – Antur Stiniog. It’s predominantly a downhill and freeride centre with blue, red, black and double black trails and an efficient uplift. While all have big trail features including flowy berms, big tabletops, rocky descents and double jumps they do cater for a full range of abilities. Check out the website for opening times and uplift bookings.
Only 40 minutes (21 miles) away from the cottage is probably the UK’s premier trail centre. Coed y Brenin was the first forest to be developed for the sport of mountain biking and to this day retains its reputation as the sport’s premier location. A range of routes suitable for everyone from families and novices to rocky technical trails for expert riders radiates out from the eco visitor centre. The trail network is constantly being expanded and improved with increased technical challenges on many of the longer trails as well as the ‘Minor Taur’ novice trail and a new skills area.
Some 30 miles in the other direction is Coed Llandegla. The 650 hectare forest has mountain biking trails suitable for beginners and family groups, more challenging routes for experienced bikers including a rollercoaster black run, a pump track, skills area and free ride area. All tracks are completely enclosed within the forest, with no main roads to cross. The trails at Coed Llandegla have been significantly developed and expanded in recent years with more single track being built. There are a number of optional loops that incorporate steep downhills and wild table top jumps. Llandegla also has one of the best laid out visitor centres with plenty of parking, a comfy and stylish cafe and a bike shop full of quality gear.
Finally, Pentop Cottage is wonderfully placed for exploring the huge network of natural trails and routes that cover North Wales. There are too many to describe here, but in the ‘Adventure Room‘ you’ll find laminated route guides and maps for a range of half-day and full-day rides – all from the back door. The only down-side is that, situated at just under 900 feet, there’s quite often a bit of a hill on your way home!
If you’re set on planning to use the cottage to explore the natural trails on the area, the late Pete Bursnall’s ‘Mountain Biking Guide to North Wales‘ is well worth getting in advance.
Finally, if gnarly trail riding isn’t your thing, but you enjoy getting out on your bike, the area can be explored on an extensive network of forestry track and miles of minor, traffic-free roads. Again, you’ll find suggested route-cards for a number of half or full-day rides at the cottage or take a look at the Conwy Valley Cycling webpages.