At 7 miles this was a bit of a stretch for the kids as we don’t often do bike rides quite this long and upon arrival they both seemed slightly perturbed at the size of the lake knowing as I’d already told them on the drive over that we were going to cycle all the way around it (best keep that bit to yourself if your audience is a little reticent).
Built between 1909 and 1921 the Alwen Reservoir and Dam were created to supply water to Birkenhead on The Wirral. It sits in the vast Hiraethog Forest, an undervisted part of North Wales and is surrounded by moorlands and conifer forests, so it’s quite a scenic little spot.
The route is completely free of cars, so all you’ll have to dodge are walkers and fellow cyclists. For the most part it’s on hard standing ground and ranges from wide forest roads to narrow tracks. Mountain bikes are best, although Mr AOTG managed it on a hybrid but it wasn’t ideal. Cyclists are asked to travel in an anti clockwise direction although there were just as many coming in the opposite direction so I’m not sure if people are aware of this or just take no notice of it.
There is a large car park (£2 all day) right next to the reservoir and from here you’ll see the Dam ahead of you. To travel anti clockwise, head away to the right of it, meaning you’ll cross the Dam bridge at the very end. It’s extremely well signposted, just look for the way markers with the little cycle sign on.
It’s an undulating (my favourite word from my A Level Geography) route so if you’re after a completley flat one then this isn’t for you. That said, all bar one hill (and I’ll come to that in a minute) none of them are that bad. The kids had had a very late night before so I hadn’t picked the best time for them to complete the longest bike ride of their lives, so I must admit we did walk quite a lot of the hills but who cares, as long as we got round in the end!
The best place we found to access the lake was on the Northern side (on the first half of the ride). We stopped and had a refuel here and played skimming stones on the lake.
Halfway round you’ll cross a bridge which takes you to the other side of the lake - this felt like quite an achievement I can tell you and spurred the kids on for the second half.
We stopped and had lunch here. I’m glad of this because next up is the mother of all hills…my word this thing went on forever, it wasn’t massively steep, but we walked the whole way up it. Had they had bikes with gears it might have been achieveable at least for my eldest but I’m glad they couldn’t do it because I’d of had to then. Every time you got near the top, you realised it wasn’t the top and another summit would magically appear! The views were really good from here though and the kids were proud of themselves getting to the top (me too) albeit on two legs rather than two wheels.
But what goes up, must come down, so the final stretch from the top of Mt. Olympus back to the car park was mostly down hill or flat so this was the kids favourite bit and we were all really happy to cross the dam bridge at the end!
There are no facilities at Alwen (its alfresco wees I’m afraid), so after completing the Tour De Alwen we drove 5 minutes to Llyn Brenig Reservoir where there is a visitor centre, cafe and new playground so it was some very well deserved ice creams and a play for the kids.
If you want a longer riding experience, Llyn Brenig has a 9.5 mile route around its lake with only a small part on road. There’s also the Two Lakes Trail which includes both the Alwen and Brennig Reservoirs and covers 22.5km.