If you’re like me and really enjoy going for a leisurely drive, then South Wales has the perfect roads for you to get out and enjoy. From tricky narrow mountain passes in the Brecon Beacons National Park to long coastal roads, South Wales is an incredible place to drive regardless of the time of year and what your car performs like. In this post I’m going to Talk about my favourite places to drive in South Wales, in no particular order.
We’ll talk about how the roads are drive, what you’ll experience and what’s to visit on the routes.
Bridgend to Cardiff Airport – The B4265
This route to drive is one of my personal favourites. It starts off in Bridgend near Ewenny Garden Centre and ends near Cardiff airport, being only 15 miles it is a relativley short drive but it’s totally worth it. If you drive the route direct, you can expect it to take around 25 minutes, but there are plenty of places to stop off and take a bite to eat, explore castle ruins or explore old country villages. You can take the route from either direction but in this post I will be talking about it as if you’re driving to Cardiff Airport from Bridgend. This route is best kept to a leisurely pace as you’ll pass through small villages and it’s the best way to take in the scenery.
Ewenny Garden Centre (CF35 5AD) is our starting point on this short drive, but there’s lots to see right here, Ewenny Garden Centre has a fantastic large cafe and small shop selling locally produced honey, jams, ciders and beers! You can also pick up a bottle of German red wine, which is usually hard to find in the UK. From Ewenny Garden Centre take the B4265 away from Bridgend, you’ll be greeted with a sign Welcoming you to the Vale of Glamorgan as you leave the junction.
From here the road passes though a few houses and once you go over a bridge the roads are quite windy so consider how fast you are driving, you’ll pass some quarries, I’m not sure if they are in use anymore, but to keep safe I wouldn’t consider this a place to stop and explore.
As you keep going and the roads unwind you’ll approach the Village of St Brides Major. St Bridges Major is home to a few pubs, and a luxury campsite (Spot the fake speed camera as you’re passing through!). Not long after leaving St Bridges Major, you’ll see Slade Farm on the right hand side, selling award winning Pork, Lamb, Beef and Mutton.
From here the road becomes less windy as you head toward the small village of Wick. There’s a woodland about half way where Red Kites can be seen during Springtime as they are nesting.
From Wick to Llantwit Major the road straightens out, widens up and becomes very enjoyable to drive in, you can maintain your speed though the bends. You’ll arrive at a roundabout in a short amount of time. From here, if you’re enjoying the drive, by all means go straight over but for the purpose of this article, I will talk about what you can find if you turn off here.
- If you take a left to toward Llandow trading estate, a former RAF airfield which is no primarily an industrial estate, but that does not mean there’s nothing to do. There’s a Caravan park, race track and even a Karting Centre!
- If you take a right into Llantwit Major, you’ll find a rural town rich in history (Dating back to the 15th Century and links to the USA) with a bustling town centre, you could spend a good couple of hours exploring and learning about the local history. Llantwit major, being rural has a lively night life with lots of smaller pubs within a small area.
Back to the “main road” heading towards St Athan, a current RAF base. The roads are long and sweeping with a great view of the ocean. If you’re looking for something stop and see, there’s a recently opened aviation museum which is only open on weekends.
The last leg of the journey takes us from St Athan past Aberthaw power station, if you like exploring abandoned places, then right by the entrance to Aberthaw power station there’s an abandoned “village” known as St Athan boys village which started life as a holiday camp for the sons of miners from the South Wales coalfield. Then turned into a residential Bible study destination and finally used as an Airsoft playing field.
From the boys village we head almost straight to Cardiff airport passing Fonmon castle (Which hosts numerous events but it’s primarily a private household). The roads here become straight and very smooth on the final approach to Cardiff Airport (with one or two roundabouts!).
If you’re looking to complete this into a round trip back to Bridgend, I reccomend taking the A48 from Culverhouse cross back. It’s not as scenic or with as many places to stop (Apart from Cowbridge) but it’s a very wide road that cuts right though the heart of the Vale of Glamorgan.
Merthyr Tydfil to Talybont-on-Usk
The drive from Merthyr Tydfil to Talybont-on-Usk is an incredible drive driving alongside the Brecon Mountain Railway, past the Pontsticill reservoir, over a mountain pass and finally alongside the Talybont Reservoir. I would say this drive isn’t for the nervous driver, I would like to recommend this to people who are confident drivers as the roads are not great, they’re narrow and very steep in places. It’s important to pick the right time of the year to take this route as the roads are liable to severe icing next to very deep waters and they are not maintained during the winter months. However, you’ll be rewarded with incredible views, a feeling of being out in the wilderness with just you and your car.
As always, there are multiple places to stop off, check out the local attractions and enjoy the countryside and not to mention the views of Pen y Fan from the opposite side to all of the tourists and hill walkers.
This drive starts are Brecon Mountain Railway (CF48 2DD). Getting there you do have to pass though a industrial estate in Merthyr Tydfil which does look rather uninviting, but rest assured, as soon as you get to the Brecon Mountain Railway, that all changes. The Brecon Mountain Railway only takes you half as far as this drive will so naturally, we recommend the drive, but if you like the idea of the Brecon steam train, then by all means take the trip on the train and back, then continue the drive. You’ll drive along this tight narrow lane until you get to Pontsticill Reservoir. Bare right at the Y in the road and just watch out for the bridge after a sharp turn (Remember I said this drive should really be for confident drivers? This is just a taster).
When you arrive at the reservoir there are a few places where you can park up and enjoy the views of the gargantuan body of water. There’s even a steam train museum! Our drive from here lets you drive straight over the dam, it’s narrow so make sure that the way out at the other end of clear first. You’ll pass through a small village and take a right (Almost a U turn up a hill!). This is where the drive becomes really interesting, you’ll drive down this narrow road alongside the reservoir on your right and woodlands on your left. Keep going until you reach a junction where straight on is a dead end, take the left following the signage to “Talybont-on-Usk”. Keep going until you come to a junction with a grit bin in the middle, you’ll turn right and head down a steep hill.
At the bottom of the hill you’ll find The Old Barn Tea Room serving afternoon tea in an idyllic location.
Continuing along the road, you’ll enter woodlands, there’s parking areas with board walks through the forests you can explore if you wish! But from there we start to climb up the hill to Torpantau railway station. This was the highest railway station in the Brecon Beacons and is now the Northern Terminus of the Brecon Monutain railway. Here there are places to park and hills to explore. You’ll find empty reservoirs and the back path to the top of Pen Y Fan from here.
From here we descent down steeper lanes, with a few hair pin turns (Coming up from this side is difficult in just rain). At the bottom there’s a car park and you can explore Pont Blaen-glyn (waterfalls). The next leg of the drive takes us onto slightly wider roads, but be warned as this is an active farming area, mud and tractors on the road are very common. You’ll see a small stream turn into the mighty Talybont Reservoir. There’s parking near the dam where you can cross and enjoy the scenery.
The final part of this drive takes us from the Reservoir to Talybont-On-Usk where you can find numerous traditional inns with beer gardens and campsites situated on the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal.
The A470 Cardiff to Brecon
The A470 from Cardiff to Brecon is a great drive, but it’s a main road that gets heavily used for all purposes. If the road is quiet, the drive is amazing, it’s fast paced with incredible scenery. Lots of places to visits and Lots of things to see. The reason I haven’t given this particular drive a full run down is because it just gets too busy, the traffic moves too fast for you to make a decision to pull over and see what’s around.
There are things I will mention which are worth stopping for, but you’ll need to know in advance where you need to start slowing down and get ready to turn off.
- Pen Y Fan, it’s near the top part of the pass north of the Beacons Reservoir on the right. There’s a big car park, but on a warm day cars overflow and park along the main road in a dangerous manner.
- Nant ddu lodge. Another one you have to prepare for in advance, but Nant Ddu lodge has a spa, restaurant and makes a great weekend get away.
- Bike Park Wales. Between Merthyr Tydfil and Pontypridd is Bike Park Wales. A mountain biking Mecca for south wales with over 40 world class trails and offering uplifts 7 days a week.
The A40 Fishguard to Ross-on-Wye
The A40 stretches from Fishguard to Ross-on-wye, traversing the entire country West to East. Staring off in a small port in west Wales, crossing an entire mountain range, crossing the border into England and finally finishing off in a rural farming town called Ross-on-wye. This is an incredible drive, but expect it to take the best part of a day and a full tank of fuel.
There are simply too many places to mention on this stretch of road where you can stop and do something. Maybe we’ll come back to this at a later date?
The old coast road (Wentloog Avenue/B4239)
The old coast road (As I like to call it), stretches from the end of Wentloog industrial estate in Cardiff to Tredeagar park in Newport is a great shorter drive. With not a lot of places to stop or pull over this road gets a mention from me because of the wildlife that you can see along this road. It’s a great road to drive as it’s rarely populated and in pretty good condition. The road goes straight through marshland behind a coastal dyke between Cardiff and Newport.