There is so much to choose from in Wales, from adventure activities such as quarry go-karts or surfing in the man-made waves to exploring many historical sights that still exist today. If you love the outdoors, hiking or green landscapes then there is more to choose from than you could possibly ever do. If you want to climb mountains one day, go to the beach the next or explore the lakes then all of this is easily accessible by car.
Wales can be both deceptively large and small at the same time. There are two things you can rely on though; you’re never far from either spectacular views or driving roads but you’re also never really near anything.
Ok – that might be a bit of a wild generalisation. On the one hand if you’re based in South Wales and want to drive to climb Snowdon you can do it in a day. However, when you’re looking for fuel in an area you don’t know too well, you can pretty much guarantee you’ll have no signal and will be running on fumes before you find a petrol station. For that reason, if you’re driving in rural Wales, always assume you won’t be able to use your phone and fill up with fuel before you hit the red. You’ll thank me later.
For this road trip guide, we’ve chosen a loop starting from Builth Wells. This market town is still home to spectacular rallying in the British Rally Championship and was previously featured on the WRC Wales Rally GB, so what better place than to kick off our driving route. If you’re looking for a one-day route in Wales, full of interesting stops both natural and historic, then this will be ideal. It could easily be stretched out over up to three days if you want to spend more time on your feet exploring the area. Non-stop and without traffic it would take around four hours to drive.
We kick off heading north to Rhayader and the Elan Valley, which covers a series of man made reservoirs damming the river. It’s quite a spectacle to see the six dams cutting into the hills, and with five of the dams being accessible by car it’s an incredible place to drive through. For those looking for a relatively easy trail to walk, there are some great tracks running around the dams and through the hills too. Heading north, we start at the Caban-coch reservoir. This is the smallest but when the dam is full it looks like a natural waterfall and a big contrast to the largest Craig Goch Dam.
Devil’s Bridge Falls
From Craig Goch Dam follow the National Cycle Route 81 and follow this until it becomes the B4574. After around 16 miles you’ll reach a junction and on your right will be Devil’s Bridge Falls. If you can spare time for around a 45 minute walk, you can compare those man made waterfalls from earlier to a natural one. For a shorter stop, the Devil’s Bridge is just a 10 minute walk to see three bridges constructed over the top of each other and is thought to be the only one of its kind in Europe. There’s a free car park just over the bridges too and more in the town if this is full.
Tregaron to Abergwesyn
Leaving the carpark at the falls, turn left to stay on the A4120 before shortly turning left onto the B4343. This sweeping road with some sharp bends will take you all of the way to Tregaron where we stay on our theme of devilish sights. Turn right onto station road taking you over the bridge, and you’ll rejoin the B4343 towards Abergwesyn. This stretch is called the Abergwesyn pass but you’ll reach a section of the road called Devil’s Staircase, easily spotted as the road becomes narrower, steep and takes a series of sharp turns. This attracts some people because of the challenging driving but if that’s not up your street the views from this road are stunning as you weave through the landscape. Either way, it’s not a road to be driven fast – whether you think you’re a rally driver or not.
Black Mountain Pass
If you love Top Gear, this is a road you’ll want to drive. It was featured on the show way back before anyone had even thought of the Grand Tour or argued about steak. It’s called the Black Mountain pass and has been named one of the best driving roads in the UK. As you drive south from Abergwesyn head for Llanwrtyd Wells and the A483. When you arrive in the town, turn right over the river and then follow this road to Llandovery. Turn left onto the A40 and then right at the end of the road onto the A4069, where you begin your journey onto the Black Mountain pass. Stay on this road all of the way to Brynamman but make sure you stop at the top to take in the views if you have time. The pass is a series of sharp turns and some hairpins, and it’s generally agreed that taking it north to south like this is the best way to enjoy the drive.
We’re now in the Brecon Beacons. This is the second largest mountain range in Wales, after Snowdonia. Pick up the A4067 and cruise through more winding roads as you begin heading north. If you like your time out of the car as much as in, there are plenty of walks to try in the area too and small towns to explore throughout the hills and valleys. Brecon is a great place to stop for the evening with a selection of restaurants or pubs to choose from, hotels, as well as local shops and supermarkets if you need to restock supplies.
One of our favourite places to stop in Brecon Beacons is Llangynidr car park. It might not sound much, but set in the sweeping roads around Crickhowell, this small and sometimes muddy car park has some of the most spectacular views. As a place to stop, take in the valleys surrounding you and reflect on a day well driven, it’s up there as one of the best.
Stay safe – always follow government guidance.
We have teamed up with the awesome team over at The Road Trip Club to bring you some of the best road trips here in this very country. The Road Trip Club love the open road, finding new places and travelling by car, to find out more about the club head on over to - https://www.roadtripclub.co.uk/
July 23, 2021