Mountain-bikers, why not try out newly refurbished longhouse, Ty Nant when you next visit the Coed-y-Brenin

Few people, who are into mountain-biking, have not heard of the Coed-y-Brenin. In fact it's widely acknowledged the rangers' team, headed by Dafydd Davis, helped to put this 9000 acre forest park firmly on the map, and establish mountain-biking as a popular pastime in Britain.

Not only has this biking mecca acted as a training ground for the UK's Olympic cycling team, but it has grown from a single track of 11km in the early 90s to a comprehensive 140 km cross-section of trails today. And what's more, it still keeps on growing.

Over £500,000 has recently been injected into upgrading an 800m section of the 18km MBR Trail, and into creating a totally new 5km long trail dubbed the MinoTaur, which is said to be aimed solely at attracting intermediate riders and beginners.

Factfile: The MinoTaur trail is named after a mythical Greek beast of the same name, the Minotaur, which was allegedly half man and half bull, and was kept by King Minos in a complex labyrinth at his palace at Knossos in Crete. Hapless Athenians were said to be sacrificed to it every year, after they were blamed for the death of Minos' son Androgeos at the panathenaic games. Minos waged war and demanded the sacrifice of seven young men and women each year as some sort of reparation for the war. The unfortunate victims were led into the labyrinth to be devoured by the said beast.

However, the King of Athen at the time, Aegeus, had a brave and heroic son, Theseus. He agreed to go along with the third group due for sacrifice in a bid to kill the terrible Minotaur once and for all. Theseus was successful in his quest and managed to navigate the maze with a ball of thread given to him by Minos' daughter Ariadne, and put the Minotaur to the sword.

Coed-y-Brenin ranger Graeme Stringer further explained that the new MinorTaur trail had been developed solely to galvanise more and more people across the UK into trying out some form of mountain-biking. The newer and easier trails were he said suited to families, novices and beginners.

Forest ranger Andy Braund also revealed that the trail had plenty of exciting features such as singletrack and berms and superb views of the River Eden and the Mawddach Gorge.

He went on: "It has all the blue grade (intermediate) features you'd expect but they are all designed to be progressive so it's suitable for all riders, from mums and dads who may just want to take kids down on a tag-along, adaptive mountain bike riders with disabilities, to keen new riders who want to develop their skills and aspire to ride the red and black graded trails. It's all about learning new basic and intermediate bike handling skills and having fun, to then be able to progress on to harder trails."

No expense has been spared in making the MinoTaur an experience quite unlike any other. A massive 3m high giant metal bull ring marks the start of the MinoTaur at the visitors centre. And it along with several 8 ft replicas of metal minotaur monsters were fashioned to decorate the trail by renowned Welsh sculptor Gideon Petersen.

What perhaps make the MinoTaur stand out is its 1.5m wide slipway. It has been designed to allow youngsters and disabled people to safely negotiate the trails in addition to offering the requisite thrills and spills that appeal to more experienced bikers. There is also no more than 90m of ascent at any one time.

The first section is said to be 3km long and incorporates 50 m of climbing and heads out from the visitor's centre on to the slipway, and returns via a forestry road to the visitors' centre. The second major section or loop starts at the end of the slipway and follows a forestry road out to the Pont Cae'n y Coed car park. From here, bikers are able to return along some singletrack sections, and then rejoin a forestry road back to the visitors centre. And over the next few years, it's hoped the trail will be extended by a least another 9km, and that there will be enough funds remaining to build a skills practice area.

Adrenaline junkies are also guaranteed to find much to their liking on the recently upgraded MBR trail, which now includes a fearsome new feature in the False Teeth section, the Cavity. The new 800m section took four months to build and ensures bikers are given nothing less than a jaw-dropping, rollercoaster ride. They are directed in to a big hole, where there is a surprisingly, steep drop, and no clear landing visible. But they soon regain the trail and emerged unscathed the other side. (People are warned to make a slow approach, to reduce the likelihood of accidents).

Bikers from all over the country flock to the Coed-y-Brenin, and its annual visitor figures are said to be around 120,000, and you can be on the the trails in under 20 minutes from our holiday let Ty Nant (located near Dolgellau on the Barmouth road).

All the biking trails start from the visitors' centre which was given an eco-award in 2010. It contains a cafe (Bwyd y Brenin), large outdoor verandah and a bike hire shop (Beics Brenin) and a tourism information point with plenty of leaflets about all the biking and walking trails in the vicinity.

Our holiday let makes for a superb base camp from which to explore all the myriad of biking tracks and trails. And if you want a break from the biking, there's also plenty of other activities to try out. For example, there's masses of walking or running trails in addition to opportunities to go white water rafting, climbing, sight-seeing, boating, fishing or swimming in local rivers, lakes, official swimming pools or the sea. There's also lots of cafes and pubs selling reasonably priced food and beer, in addition to miles and miles of the Cardigan Bay coastline to explore. The seaside resorts of Barmouth, Fairbourne, Harlech, Aberdovey, Borth and Criccieth are all within a short driving distance.

Our holiday let Ty Nant is an expertly restored longhouse that can house 10 people comfortably. With four bedrooms, all ensuite, no expense has been spared giving this old building a new lease of life. With 10 people at Ty Nant and 5 or 6 at our sister cottage of Glyn-yr-Aur (close to Morticia on the Beast, Dragons Back and MBR trails) we can accommodate 15-16 people albeit split into two locations.

For more details about booking a break away, please contact Bob or Jane Chilton on 01341 440611 or e.mail us at onygena@onetel.com
We hope we can look forward to welcoming you to Ty Nant very soon.

THE TRAILS

Afon

This trail of 13km should take most people about 1.5 hrs to complete. It is suitable for beginners and families and follows in the main sections of road and forestry track close to the River Mawddach. People will also pass the former workings of the Gwynfynydd goldmines.

Temptiwr

This trail of 9km in length is also said to be suitable for novices and beginners and should take people about an hour to complete. The trail is said to give people a short taster of some of the best bits of the trails close to the visitors' centre.

MBR

More advanced riders should find this 18km trail more to their liking, which is said to include more open-style trails that pass through some of the best scenery within the Coed-y-Brenin. Most people should take around 2 hours to finish this whole course. It has recently been upgraded to include new feature, the Cavity.

Tarw

This trail was the former Red Bull trail, which was also the very first biking trail to be laid out within the whole of the Coed-y-Brenin. But it has now been extended to a full 20km and includes plenty of technically challenging sections that include rocks, twists and turns that should almost certainly keep riders on the edge of their seats. Most people should take up to 2 hrs to finish the course, which is only suitable for more advanced bikers.

Dragon's Back

This 31km course is for expert riders only and is characterised by long climbs, tight singletrack and long, fast descents, that pass through some amazing mountain scenery. Riders should allow four hours to complete this particular course.

The Beast

This trail as its name suggests is not for the faint-hearted and is seen as the most challenging trail of all within the Coed-y-Brenin. At 38km long, the trail promises to be both physically and mentally demanding, and people should not try it if their fitness levels are low. Don't underestimate the 'bite of the Beast' say writers at mbwales.com. Taking an average of 4.5 hours to complete, people need to be really sure they're capable of lasting the course, or perhaps should just tackle it a bit at a time.

The MinoTaur

This newly built trail starts from the Coed-y-Brenin vistors' centre, and is split into two sections. The first shorter route covers 3km, while the longer route covers 5km in total. It leads people out along the Rivers Eden and Mawddach and allows beginners to practice their skills and agility before trying out the tougher and more challenging courses.