But before we get to the routes, what do we think makes a great leisure ride? And how does leisure cycling differ from a full-on roadie outing?
A leisure route is less about riding for the sake of it, and more about what you see along the way. Distances are shorter and less physically demanding. You’re not obliged to go all out to tick off a categorised climb and routes generally take quieter roads with interesting stop-offs en-route – which is another way of saying they’re great for adventurous families.
Sold? Then saddle up, let’s ride…
1. Eardisley and Bredwardine – 24 miles / 2-4 hours plus stops.Download file for GPS
This one straddles the border between England and Wales and explores sleepy Herefordshire villages via quiet country roads, with two great pub stops along the way!
Turn right out of the Drover Cycles car park and right again at the bottom of Forest Road. Stay on the main road, heading out of town towards Clifford and onwards to Whitney where the historic wooden toll bridge takes you across the River Wye.
Head east for a short distance on the A438 then bear off left on a quiet lane to Eardisley, where the Tram Inn ( * sadly closed at the moment,) serves great home-cooked food and quality real ales and ciders.
Another quiet lane takes you to Almeley (continue into village for the Bells Inn pub, shop and deli) before you head south to Kinnersley, crossing the A4112 and continuing to Letton. After half a mile on the A438, head south again to the tiny hamlet of Bredwardine, crossing the Wye again via a brick arched bridge. As a diversion, (pop up cafe open in summer) consider stopping off at nearby Brobury House and Gardens. There is also the Red Lion pub in the village – a former 17th Century coaching Inn – before the final 8 miles back to Hay along the B4352.
Extend this route and make a day of it – an extra 28 miles / 3-4 hours – to explore some of Herefordshire’s black and white villages. From Almeley trend east through Woonton and Meer Common to the A4112, crossing it to Weobley. Leave the village again trending east, then swing north to Dilwyn and onwards through Lower Burton to Eardisland. Go west then South to Pembridge and continue south to Bearwood – you’ll pass legendary cider mill Dunkertons on the way where you can stock up at the mill shop. Go west through Weston ,then head southwest and, finally, south back to Almeley.
2. Bronllys Castle – 20 miles / 2-4 hours plus stopsDownload file for GPS
An award-winning eatery and a Norman fortress feature on this ride, which criss-crosses the Wye to the West of Hay-on-Wye.
Head southwest out of town on National Cycle Network route 8, through Llanigon and Felindre to Talgarth, where the cafe at the restored watermill serves light lunches, freshly baked bread and cakes and tea and coffee. (Check for opening hours.) From there it’s a five-minute ride to Bronllys Castle an 870-year-old motte and bailey fortress – its three floors are free to explore.
Head north, crossing the A438, and climb steeply past Mintfield Farm before descending to the main A479 road where you turn left and through Llyswen (opportunity here for a pub stop at the Griffin Inn ) to Boughrood (another pub opportunity – the Bridgend Inn).
Cross the Wye here taking the B4350 east through Boughrood Brest to Glasbury, where you will pass By the River Cafe, Glasbury – Coffee, cakes and and snacks in a beautiful setting on the banks of the River Wye, check opening hours, as limited at the moment. Cross the Wye again climbing away from the main road to re-join NCN route 8 for the last dig, retracing the route northeast back to Hay.
3. The Golden Valley – 29 miles / 3-5 hours plus stopsDownload file for GPS
Set your sights on an idyllic country pub, or extend the route for more award-winning food (fish and chips this time!) over the border in neighbouring Herefordshire.
Head out of Hay trending east on the B4348 Hardwicke Road, staying on the B4348 by turning right at Hardwicke and onwards to Dorstone. (Here, a steep diversion northeast takes you to Arthurs’s Stone a neolithic burial chamber on the hill overlooking the Golden Valley.)
Stay on the B4348, through Peterchurch to Vowchurch, where there’s a chance to stop at the Poston Mill Restaurant, then turn off right on a tiny lane to Michaelchurch Escley, home of the Bridge Inn country pub. Here you’ll find locally produced food plus real ales and ciders.
Briefly retrace the route back towards Vowchurch, then bear off left on another quiet lane towards Urishay before heading east back towards Peterchurch. Turn left before reaching the village to take a quiet road back to Dorstone. From here, retrace the route on the main road back to Hay.
Extend this route for award-winning fish and chips! Instead of turning off for Michaelchurch at Vowchurch, head south on the B4347, past Bacton Stud and through Abbey Dore to Ewyas Harold, home of The Old Stables fish and chip shop. Then head west, cross Escley brook, and go north to Michaelchurch Escley.
4. Erwood Station – 25 miles / 2-4 hours plus stopsDownload file for GPS
This route skirts the rolling Radnorshire Marches north of Hay and returns with a stint beside the River Wye, taking in a country pub and art gallery / tea room along the way.
From Hay, cross the river on the main bridge (B4351) towards Clyro, cross the bypass and climb out of the village following signs for Painscastle. The road opens at the National Trust-owned Begwns common before a rollercoaster descent towards Painscastle followed by a short, steep dig up into the village itself. Replenish at the Roast Ox Inn, then head west on the B4594 to Erwood where there’s another chance to refuel at Erwood Station Gallery. (Take away cold snacks and ice-cream, picnic tables.)
Stay on the east bank of the River Wye, taking a lane south to Boughrood , then as for the previous route, follow the B4350 back to Glasbury, (chance to stop at By the River Cafe, Glasbury – Coffee, cakes and and snacks in a beautiful setting on the banks of the River Wye, check opening hours, as limited at the moment,) before climbing to the Llanigon Road and National Cycle Network route 8 back to Hay.