Keep cycling until you're too drunk to care

Or you could try swimming the length of a rather mucky ditch. Rupert Isaacson on the Real Ale Wobble and Bog snorkelling
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The Independent Travel
If mountain biking has always seemed a little on the serious side for you - too much panting uphill and getting muddy - you might want to give this a try: cycling from pub to pub through the Welsh hills until you are too drunk to care about the mud and exhaustion, or about being seen getting off and pushing. The Real Ale Wobble is a once-a-year charity event organised by the Neuadd Arms Hotel in Llanwrtyd Wells (which, with a population of 600, claims to be Britain's smallest town). It's about as silly as it gets as, for an pounds 8 entry fee, you cycle up through forestry plantations drinking Felinfoel's Double Dragon and Tomas Watkins's bitter at set places among the trees. The 25-mile off-road route is clearly marked, so that even with double vision you would have a hard time getting lost. The routes have to be off-road, not because it makes for a harder cycle, though that is certainly the case, but because the police get upset with cyclists drinking free beer along the public roadways.

However, the hotel will now organise private Real Ale Wobbles for groups of around 10 people, laying on the beer for as little as pounds 5 per head. Nobody cares if you fall off, nobody cares if you need to stop to pee every few hundred yards. The only thing the guide does care about is that you make it home. But that is the beauty of a Real Ale Wobble; you can drink as much as you like (pretty much) but it is unlikely that you will get too drunk to manage the bike. The exercise you get in between the drinking stops is generally enough to work off the booze from one session to the next. So in fact, you can go away for a serious weekend's beer drinking and come back fitter than you went away, or at least without having put on any weight. If you feel at the end of a day in the forests that you have not drunk enough, the hotel serves the same real ales, so you can make up for lost drinking time in the interim between washing off the mud and sweat and dropping down with exhaustion after the day. Twenty-five miles off-road is enough for anyone, beer or no beer.

The Real Ale Wobble is not the only silly thing organised by the Neuadd Arms Hotel. It also hosts Britain's annual 20-mile mountain-bike bog-leaping point to point, held in conjunction with its bog snorkelling championship. Bog snorkelling is a truly pagan affair. Every August bank holiday, people flock from all over Wales (and increasingly, from England) to enter the bog snorkelling race. The original bog, up on the mountain above the hotel, has had a 200ft-long trench cut into it.

Competitors must swim two lengths, face-down, using only a snorkel to breathe in water which Mr Green, the hotel owner, describes as "pretty dirty". You are expected to provide your own snorkel and flippers and to be in reasonably good physical shape. You'll need to be to win. The fastest time so far is two minutes, 11 seconds for the two lengths, a record set by a member of an English all-girl underwater hockey (a sport known as Octopushy) team. In the second week of every August, the hotel also organises its Red Kite Bash, with a bike-dismantling limbo contest, bike footy and bike polo and, for the really suicidal, chainless downhill.

If you don't want to get quite so frantic, the hotel also offers guided and self-guided mountain biking on your bike or the hotel's through the Cambrian mountains. These can be anything from short pootles in the forest to 50 mile-a-day epics.

After all this it seems irrelevant to say how beautiful the hills around Llanwrtyd Wells are. There are deer in the forests, red kites and buzzards circling over the hillsides. Even peregrines occasionally flap out of the craggier sections of hillside, screaming at you to bugger off away from their nesting grounds.



Neuadd Arms Hotel, Llanwrtyd Wells, Powys, LD5 4RB, (tel: 01591) 610236


Year round for Wobbling. August bank holiday weekend only for bog snorkelling.


14 double, 6 single rooms.


Real Ale Wobbles for a group of 10 cost about pounds 5 per head, including beer. Bike hire is pounds 14 per day or pounds 50 per week.B&B, pounds 18 to pounds 23 per day; full board pounds 30 per day. Discounts for children and groups available.


pounds 25 deposit per person, balance due 6 weeks before holiday. Cancellation charge of 50 per cent of total cost if notice received more than 4 weeks in advance, 75% if less than 4 weeks.


Clients must have their own insurance


On you own head be it. The bikes are regularly serviced though

Access The nicest way to get to Llanwrtyd Wells is by train on the Heart of Wales Line that runs between Swansea and Shrewsbury. The hotel will pick up from the station. Be aware, however, that trains do not run on Sundays. Llanwrtyd Well lies on the A483 about half-an-hour west of Builth Wells.