The Desert of Wales [n.]
a glorious, desolate area of the Cambrian Mountains in Mid-Wales
Travel writer John Henry Cliffe first coined the Elenydd Uplands “The Desert of Wales” in the late 1800s, because of the desolation, and wildness. Today, the sweeping hills, moors, forests, rivers, remote roads and tracks are still much the same but for the damming of several rivers and spread of man-managed forests; still desolate but for Red Kites sweeping the skies >> one vast empty oasis where
“road and river…wander side by side…into a land of mystery”
40km // +500m
80% tarmac / 20% gravel
Intro ride to our group, the area and your bikes (if hiring). We ride a 40km loop of stunning quiet roads and gravel tracks in and around the Elan Valley…
Accommodation: Pannier Basecamp
55km // +1100m
40% tarmac / 60% gravel
The real escape. We set off on an overnight bikepacking ride into the Cambrian Mountains, spending the night at a remote bunkhouse in the Desert of Wales. Expect bothy lunches and #coffeeoutside…
Accommodation: Off-Grid Bunkhouse
65km // +1400m
75% tarmac / 25% gravel
…we head back to Basecamp across dams and up famous road climbs >> pausing for lunch and a wild swim on the banks of the River Irfon. A cracking day out on the bikes, finishing up in Pannier style, with a short bike-hike over moorland…
Accommodation: Pannier Basecamp
0km // +0m
…wake up in the glorious Welsh hills for a Basecamp breakfast, social, and pack-up
“…what an adventure! I’m relatively new to cycling so I was nervous at the thought of joining 10 people in the middle of Wales for my first bikepacking trip, but the Pannier welcome was amazing. The Basecamp setup was beyond expectation and the route was really special – it genuinely felt like an escape – the landscape was made for our bikepacking adventure and although it was a challenge, the 15KPH slow travel pace made it accessible. I’m officially hooked!” // Sophie, UK
“…our four-day adventure in the middle of Wales was a fantastic experience – I can honestly say I ate better on this trip than when I’m at home! At Pannier Basecamp we were treated to a delicious curry around the campfire, and at the Overnight Bunkhouse we even made our own pizzas, with hot and cold drinks on tap throughout. As an experienced tourer, I felt every food, water and snack break was well thought out, perfectly time and, importantly, in the authentic bikepacking spirit that I’ve grown to love” // Will, UK
“…the chaps at Pannier do a first rate job of organising tours. Well thought out routes, excellent accommodation, fantastic food, great company and negronis at the end of a day. The tour was described as “accessible but also challenging” and that’s accurate – I found the hills a challenge but that I could ride further and for longer, on consecutive days. It’s given me confidence to realistically plan my own tours with regards to pace and achievable distance on and off-road” // Steve, UK
“This Pannier Camp has reignited my love for cycling again! Riding bikes in the wild, in Pannier style, is an entirely different experience; journeying at a speed that matches the glorious slow flow of nature, concentrating on how to negotiate the varied terrain rather than how to stay alive on main roads, and being fully exposed to the elements all make for a truly wonderful cycling experience … Oh, and ending the day with a log fire and negroni is pretty special too!” // Meg, UK
“The Desert of Wales trip was my first proper foray into gravel biking, having previously had a lot of experience with mountain bikes. From the get go, arriving at camp, there was an organised but chilled vibe and the Pannier staff were incredibly welcoming. A warm-up ride on the first day was a great sight-see around the immediate area and made for some good chat with the other tourers. The overnight leg of the trip took us to beautiful remote parts of the country where we ate exceptionally and shared story after story cruising a mix of winding gravel and sweet single-track roads. The Pannier Team put on a great show…” // Duncan, UK
>> Adventure Bike & Accessories
>> Bikepacking Bags
>> Camp Kit (sleeping bag, sleeping mat, liner)
>> Private Tent (at Basecamp)
>> 2.5 days of guided riding and adventure
>> Basecamp & bunkhouse accommodation
>> Food and drink
>> Pannier Tourer Pack: branded dry bag, branded enamel mug and spork
>> Travel to and from Pannier Basecamp
>> Riding Insurance (required for overseas tours – see FAQ)
>> Pub meal on the final evening
*Please see Trip FAQ/Field Notes for more info, and note about booking travel before a tour is guaranteed*
Basecamp is not far off NCN Route 8
Nearest Stations: Llandrindod Wells / Caersws / Hereford
Parking is available. Please let us know if you’re planning on travelling in your own vehicle. We can be in touch about opportunities for car-shares etc.
Nearest Airports: London / Cardiff / Bristol / Birmingham / Manchester / Liverpool
The boring stuff. Sorry.
To confirm your place(s) on the Camp, we require a 50% deposit. At which point, we’ll be in touch via email or over the phone to have a chat about your requirements / arrangements. Please don’t book travel to Wales until the Camp is 100% confirmed by us 🙂
Pannier (Pannier Ltd) is a Tour Operator, and is compliant with the Package Travel Regulations 1992. We do not arrange or book travel to and from our Camps/Tours.
Our Booking T&Cs need to be agreed to/signed in order to secure a place on our Camps.
Our Hire T&Cs will need to be agreed to/signed on arrival at a Pannier Basecamp, if you are hiring anything from us.
In accordance with the Package Travel Regulations, Pannier Ltd is is a company committed to customer satisfaction and consumer financial protection. At no extra cost to you, and in accordance with The Package Travel, Package Tours Regulations 1992 all passengers booking with Pannier Ltd are fully insured for the initial deposit, and subsequently the balance of monies paid as detailed in your booking confirmation form. The policy will also include repatriation if required, arising from the cancellation or curtailment of your travel arrangements due to the insolvency of Pannier Ltd. This insurance has been arranged by Towergate Chapman Stevens through Zurich Insurance PLC. Exclusions: Travel Insurance, and any claim relating to Air Flights.
FAQ / Field Notes
Desert of Wales Camp
Joining instructions >>
The tour starts and ends near Rhayader, Wales.
Full joining instructions including parking information, addresses and timings will be sent out to all riders six weeks before departure.
We recommend you arrive at Pannier Basecamp by 12:30 at the latest on day one to allow time to check in, sort kit out and meet the Pannier team before heading out on the intro ride.
If you are bringing your own bike we recommend you allow more time to re-build / sort your bike on day one as there will be limited time to build bikes in the afternoon before we ride off.
Please do not book non refundable travel before a tour has been guaranteed to go ahead [see our general FAQs]
Bike details >>
This tour is across mixed terrain – you will encounter paved road, gravel, rocks and sometimes mud. We recommend using a gravel/cyclocross/adventure bike with a minimum tyre width of 38mm. A cross country mountain bike would also be well suited to the terrain. A typical road bike is not suitable for the riding on this tour.
Our hire bikes for this tour are Surly Straggler adventure bikes with low gearing, 700c X 41mm tyres and a Brooks Cambium saddle. Please note: This is subject to change if, for example, we have too much demand for specific sizes.
Food & Drink >>
Included are: two evening meals; three lunches; and three breakfasts.
We put a lot of planning and effort into making sure our tourers are very well fed and watered whilst out with us, so there is no fear of going hungry. Please feel free to bring your favourite riding snacks with you, though. You can expect freshly made pizzas and fire cooked curries in the evening, and waking up to fresh pancakes and egg muffins in the morning.
On the last night we visit a traditional country pub in town. This meal is not included in the tour price.
Dietary Requirements >>
We are, of course, happy and able to cater for all. Please let us know as soon as possible about any requirements (vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free) or allergies so we can work on meal plans and contact the eateries we visit, if required.
We would class Pannier Basecamp as off-grid glamping – the firepit area acts as a heart, around which our tipi accommodation and communal social, eating and drinking areas sit. Tipi accommodation is communal, they each sleep 5-6, laid out with your own Pannier blanket. If that’s not your thing, you can hire or bring your own private tent. We have composting loos, and a river to wash in (makeshift showers TBC), too.
The bunkhouse offers a fantastic off-grid experience. There is running water but no electricity or mobile reception. The building has a large communal seating area and kitchen with a roaring fire and ample Rough Stuff Fellowship Journals to flick through. Sleeping is in bunk rooms, in one 10 bed room and one 6 bed room, with shared facilities. Bedding is supplied.
What to bring >>
Bike (if not hiring from us)
Cycling kit, jackets, shoes, gloves, helmet and pedals
Bikepacking bags (if not hiring from us)
Off-the-bike Clothing – warm layers, warm jacket, warm hat
Off-the-bike Shoes – for use at Basecamp and accommodation
Tent (if not hiring from us, or using tipi)
Favourite Ride Snacks (we do provide food and snacks)
General information >>
Most nationalities do not need a visa to visit the UK. If you are unsure, please check www.gov.uk for details.
There are no mandatory vaccinations for the UK.
You will need a passport or identity card that is valid for the entirety of your stay.
Average temperatures for Wales are between 16° / 4° Celsius. We hope to have warm and sunny weather but rainfall can’t be ruled out. It can be warmer, and definitely colder (especially if wet) so please be prepared and pack appropriately.
Local currency is GBP£
All food and drinks are included, apart from the pub meal on the last night.
We pass a couple of shops on route, you will need some cash if you want to purchase drinks, snacks and souvenirs.
The pub on the last night accepts most credit/debit cards.
Health and Fitness
Please make sure you have read through the itinerary and are confident you can complete the distances and elevation listed before booking. There is one short section on this tour where it is necessary to push/carry your bike so please take this into account.
Please make us aware of any ongoing injuries or health issues before travelling with us. This information will be requested before departure as it is vital we know of anything before heading to remote areas.
If you are an overseas visitor on this Camp, you are likely to need riding insurance. Please contact us for info.