From the bustling areas of Cardiff and Newport to the wilderness of the Black Mountains and Snowdonia, Wales is an ideal place for a trip out on the open roads. Whether you're looking for spectacular scenery or easy driving, there are more than 1,000 miles of trunk roads, which are well maintained and are therefore guaranteed safe for driving. Aside from those main roads, there are thousands of miles of smaller B and C roads, as well as bike paths and walking routes to be explored, all combining to create about 21,000 miles of drivable terrain. However, not all of the roads offer must-see experiences, so to save you time and disappointment we've listed the five most scenic and challenging roads in Wales:
1. Abergwesyn Road
Stretching about 20 miles from the town of Tregar to the hamlet of Abergwesyn, this road is not for speeding or racing but rather slow and cautious traveling through the scenic countryside. Along the way you'll traverse a ledge on a steep hillside and face a 25% grade over the course of a half a mile. The road twists and turns sharply and is very narrow, giving it the nickname “Devil's Staircase.” While most of the signs on the road are self-explanatory, if you're not used to driving in Wales you might want to take a few driving theory quizzes on Toptests to prepare yourself for a trip to the area.
2. A470 – Conwy to Merthyr Tydfil
The A470 spans almost the entire length of Wales, but the stretch from Conwy to Merthyr Tydfil is a must-drive. You'll pass by the picturesque trees of the Coed-y-Brenin Forest before ascending Oerddrws Pass almost 1,200 ft. upwards into the Cambrian Mountains. If you travel the full length of the road, it'll take about four hours and you'll pass through both Snowdonia and Beacons National Park. If you're looking for an easy drive with lots of scenery, this north-to-south road is the way to go.
3. Black Mountain Road (A4069)
This 23-mile stretch of road pierces through the Black Mountains in the Brecon Beacons and reaches a peak of 1,617 feet above sea level. Be wary of stray sheep and sudden sharp turns. While this route is considered an A road, the sheep and sharp turns will mean you'll have to go slow and take stops to enjoy the scenery.
4. A5 – Chirk to Holyhead
While most local motorists would opt for the gentler A55 route to go from Chirk to Holyhead, for a more challenging and scenic drive you can take the A5 straight through the mountains of Snowdonia. You'll pass by the “Ugly House” near Shadow Falls and take in incredible views at the picturesque village of Capel Curig.
5. A493 Road – Along the West Coast of Wales
This road travels a 32-mile stretch of the West Coast of mid Wales, clinging to cliffs and offering expansive panoramic views of the Atlantic. Due to the frequent turns and presence of pedestrians and cyclists, motorists are urged to exercise caution and take stops to soak up the scenery rather than taking their eyes off the road.
While the above routes can certainly be some of the coolest places to drive in Wales, these roads are not for inexperienced or impatient drivers. Take your time and drive slowly to avoid any unnecessary accidents, and along the way you'll see some of the best scenery Wales has to offer.