From impressive mountain landscapes to pretty harbour towns, see some of the best of Wales with these three car journeys
Whether you want a day trip or a short break, you can see some of the best scenery that Wales has to offer – and have some memorable stops along the way – with our pick of Welsh road trips.
1. Conwy to Lake Vyrnwy (84 miles)
Our zig-zag around Snowdonia National Park starts in Conwy, a tiny town with a huge, perfectly preserved medieval castle. It is a picturesque starting point but within five minutes of leaving it behind on the A470, the prospect is even better, as magnificent views of Snowdonia’s peaks and lush valleys open up ahead. The next 80 miles are immersed in beautiful, remote landscapes.
Inside the National Park, you could stop in Betws-y-Coed, the (comparatively) bustling capital of Snowdonia, but maybe press on and stop instead at Pen-y Gwryd the cosy, remote 1800s guesthouse full of mountaineering memorabilia where Edmund Hillary and co stayed when training for their 1953 Everest expedition.
Past the beautiful lake, Llyn Gwynant, it’s a short drive to Beddgelert, which, with its stone cottages and little bridge over the bubbling Colwyn River, may be the prettiest village en route – although nearby Portmeirion, an Italianate fairy-tale village on the Welsh coast, has its own ‘wow’ factor.
Head back eastwards, initially on the A487, to Capel Celyn and beyond, taking in some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. Journey’s end is Lake Vyrnwy, a six-mile-long reservoir with wooded shores. It’s lovely driving country: beautifully peaceful and remote, but also home to a colonial style hotel offering afternoon tea and magnificent views.
2. Gospel Pass (22 miles)
The Gospel Pass, just inside the eastern border of the Brecon Beacons National Park is the highest road in Wales and one of the most scenic in the UK. The little towns at either end – Hay-on-Wye and Abergavenny – both make perfect weekend breaks.
After a little browsing around Hay’s many bookshops, it is the A479 that offers the quickest route south to Abergavenny: you have to actively seek out the start of the Gospel Pass, down side-streets on the edge of town instead. It is a treat. Initially, a slow climb, with hedgerows obscuring the view on either side, it is pretty much single track and there is always a chance of having to back up to let a tractor through.
Then, after five miles, the road finally emerges into open country 500 feet above sea level and a magnificent panorama is revealed: peaks ahead, and valleys and slopes stretching away on either side. Pull over for a picnic on the plateau: the view westwards is huge, with layers of hills and valleys receding into the distance.
Over the Pass, Abergavenny is a great base for further exploration of the Brecon Beacons: a friendly, pleasantly busy market town, with a string of nice restaurants (including two that are Michelin-starred) and an annual Food Festival (this year, running 16-17 September).
3. Abergavenny to Tenby (96 miles)
A road trip sweeping south west, taking in a rich array of the history and landscapes of south Wales. It could be driven easily in a morning or – with stop-offs and detours – it could be the basis of a short break.
Abergavenny is the starting point for our drive westwards, initially along the fringes of the Brecon Beacons National Park. The first 30 miles of the route follow the A465 – the Heads of the Valleys road, taking you through the green, rolling countryside in which nestle the south Wales pit villages. Later, leaving the Brecon Beacons behind, follow the A48 to Carmarthen, by way of a short stretch on the tail end of the M4.
As elsewhere in Wales, it is always possible to find a quieter, slower back-way – here, starting the first leg on the B4246 from Abergavenny takes you deeper into the landscape. Stops along the way could include the Big Pit National Coal Museum in Blaenavon – free, widely acclaimed and including a tour of an old mine shaft, the Penderyn Distillery tour (best enjoyed by your passengers, but interesting even for non-drinkers), and the National Botanic Garden of Wales (including the largest greenhouse in the world) near Carmarthen.
To get a true feel of Welsh magic, drop in and listen to an evening rehearsal of a village male voice choir, based close to the route.
Beyond Carmarthen, you could opt to explore the small town of Laugharne, on the estuary of the River Tâf and once home to Dylan Thomas, before pressing on to the pretty walled town of Tenby with its miles of sandy beaches and a beautiful harbour lined with pastel-shaded buildings.