Off-road on an e-bike in the Pembrokeshire Preseli Hills

The road where I rode my e-mountain bike in the hills of North Pembrokeshire is known as the bridge road, but for Ed Sykes, who grew up in these hills, it’s an e-track. Ed is the founder of Hidden Routes in Newport (between Hardigan and Fishguard), an e-mountain bike group that takes clients on guided rides through what is probably the least known corner of Pembrokeshire.


He coined the term “e-trail” because “he wanted a name that distinguishes what we’re doing from regular mountain biking,” he says. Our routes can of course be driven on a regular mountain bike, but we think they are more fun and easier on an e-mountain bike.”

Ed tells me about this when we took a break from riding our state-of-the-art (and rather expensive) Orange Phase e-bikes below the 347-foot summit of Carn Ingli to enjoy the winter scenery across the vast expanse of Newport Bay. .

A torrential downpour from the Irish Sea washed the landscape so its colors shone in the watery sunlight – the distant steel-blue sea hurls brilliant white waves over the golden sands, giving way to bright green fields crisscrossed by a labyrinth. dry stone walls and ancient fences. Above these are the windswept prairies and the rocky peak of Carn Ingli, where Saint Brynach is said to communicate with angels (of course, most of the magic mushrooms growing there had nothing to do with supernatural talk).

Hidden Routes is a new venture that uses local mountain bikers as guides. “They’ve been horseback riding in Pembrokeshire for years and they know all the hidden trails and bridge paths you’d have trouble exploring on your own – hence the name,” Ed says.

It’s all very different from trail center driving (although Secret Routes also offers this option at the recently opened trail center on the shores of the Llys-y-Frân reservoir near Haverfordwest), and I can already see what Ed means. barely pressed three miles.

The network of bridge paths, country roads, and “boats” (all-traffic bridge paths) we travel on is the kind of complex cat cradle you’ll only get to know by years of exploring, and is one of Ed’s main assets. that the tracks are drivable in all conditions. Again, local knowledge is crucial here: frequent heavy rains in West Wales can turn some trails literally into rivers at times. When that happens, Ed says, “we’re going somewhere else.”

At this stage we are about 300 meters above sea level, the highest point of today’s ride has been reached without undue effort thanks to the electric assistance of our bikes, but still requires a reasonable level of fitness as you have to pedal.

But the next stage of the 15-mile trail is easy and exciting – a steep downhill through the fields and into the sheltered woodlands of the Gwaun valley, an extraordinarily beautiful part of Pembrokeshire, rarely on the tourist trail even at the height of summer. As the nearby beaches fill with visitors, the valley retains its idyllic solitude.

We leap through a gorge and then climb a steep, muddy slope that is nearly impossible on a regular mountain bike.

You can almost feel the past hanging in the air as it is one of the few places in the western world that does not use the Gregorian calendar – instead the inhabitants of the valley adopt the Julian calendar (which was abolished in the rest of Britain in 1752). and see it in the new year at a celebration known as Hen Galan (former New Year) on January 13.

At this time of year, little light and dense tree cover mean the valley is getting dark, but we only travel a few hundred meters before crossing a shallow and taking a steep, muddy slope out of the valley. impossible on a regular mountain bike. Within minutes we find ourselves panting (yes, even on e-bikes) on the ridges of Preseli hills.

These ancient peaks make the calendar antics of the Gwaun valley seem like recent history – some of the trails through Preselis have been used for thousands of years and some are now used by Hidden Rides to allow their clients to explore the highest peaks. in southwest Wales.

We follow a fast bridge across the open steppe on the eastern flanks of Carnedd Meibion ​​Owen, with views north across Cardigan Bay to Snowdonia. It looks the same today as it did to the neolithic people who built Pentre Ifan, a chambered dolmen made of oak, ash, and birch just a few hundred meters from our route.

So far we’re making our way back to the coast, eventually driving up and down along the tree-lined north shore of Afon Nyfer, past the beautiful village of Nevern, and down a small road (the only paved section of any length in our journey). ) to the Newport and Hidden Routes base at the award-winning Llys Meddyg hotel.

Related: E for Easy: Cycle through the Swiss Alps on an e-bike

It’s here that we reap the rewards of our (relative) hard work and splashing mud – Llys Meddyg is a Georgian carriage house on the edge of Newport, whose spacious, bright and comfortable rooms are decorated with works by Pembrokeshire’s best-known artists. The hotel restaurant focuses on ingredients collected from the surrounding coastal and rural area. After a hot shower, I joined Ed for an après-bike dinner of roasted parsnips, wild mushrooms, and chestnut gnocchi plus my mom’s best molasses pie I’ve had since I was a kid.

Next comes Cellar Bar, the oldest part of Llys Meddyg, built on the site of a 15th-century sailor’s tavern. While my cheeks are still glowing from the journey, the woodburner and inglenook fireplace combined with a cheeky cocktail or two make me feel like I’ve just come back from a day of skiing in a cozy chalet.

The unassuming peaks of Pembrokeshire will never compete with those of the Alps in terms of altitude and drama, of course, but in terms of history, culture and character, they’re hard to beat, as is exploring the area’s newly minted e-roads by e-bike.

Secret Routes offers two offers daybike rental (including bike helmet) and two guided rides nightAccommodation at Llys Meddyg (breakfast and dinner included) £349pp is based on two shares. Half-day guided excursions are also available. £75bike and helmet rental included

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