A rustic vegetarian café in the popular Welsh town of Llanidloes. The Great Oak is fantastic when you need a break from the relentless ups and downs of the Welsh mountains.
My cake-radar firmly switched on, I immediately clocked three incredible-looking slices being devoured by some hungry customers inside the cosy cafe, and knew that the coffee and walnut cake had to be mine. Nick, my sherpa for the ride, opted for a seriously chocolatey chocolate cake, which he couldn’t resist upon witnessing its conveyance fresh from the kitchen to the counter whilst ordering.
Both cakes were fresh out of the oven, light, flavoursome, and had generous layers of indulgent buttercream. The freshness of these cakes is evidence of just how delicious they are; no sooner has one cake been devoured than another is escorted fresh from the oven, with ounces of home-baked goodness nestled within.
The cafe also serves freshly cooked and homely-looking vegetarian savoury food, including casseroles, jacket potatoes, frittata and salads. The rustically hip interior – with walls adorned with artwork by local artists – has plenty of seating if you can lock your bike outside.
A stop at the Great Oak will without doubt leave you sufficiently fed, watered and able to tackle the second and final mountain pass of the ride – from Llanidloes to the equally lovely village of Machynlleth.
The Route – 85 Miles, 2,600m Climbing
The ride starts at the top of Penparcau on the outskirts of Aberystwyth. Head east along the rolling hills of the A4120, taking in some stunning views for miles across the Rheidol Valley. A fairly long but gentle climb brings you to the first summit of the day, marked by Hafod Arch, then a fun descent takes you down into the beautiful Elan Valley.
Keep a look out for an eerie disused quarry and the derelict homes of its former workers on your left, before another climb brings you out of the Elan Valley and on to the descent into Rhayader.
Heading north out of Rhayader taking the mountain pass to Llanidloes, this is where the ride gets tougher, with some steep ups and downs after the initial climb out of the small Welsh village. A 12% climb past the beautiful Clywedog Reservoir is well worth the pain for the stunning view upon reaching the top.
There are a few more sharp ups and downs along the B4518 then its a left turn for the final push to the summit before a breathtaking and seemingly endless descent into Machynlleth. The descent takes in some absolutely incredible views of the mountains of Snowdonia in North Wales, and on a windy day can feel a little dicey with narrow, windy roads with sharp drops either side.
Once through Machynlleth its south again back to Aberystwyth, on the A487 for a short while before turning off right on the B4353 to Ynyslas and Borth. Cycling along the seafront at Borth, you’ll clock a rather intimidating hill that still stands between you and Aberystwyth. This, the steepest climb of the ride, reaches a testing 25%, then its past Clarach and up the final climb of the ride before taking a right down the final descent back into the welcoming arms of Aberystwyth.