The Wales Way has three different routes - The North Wales Way, The Cambrian Way and The Coastal Way. To fully appreciate the scenic views, you'll want to allow at least a full day to drive these routes across Wales. Better still, follow our suggested itineraries and allow time to visit some of the many attractions along the way.
A six day trip along the North Wales Way follows the coast of Gwynedd and Clwyd taking in some great backdrops with its castles, mountains and sense of history. A seven day trip along the Cambrian Way is a complete north-south journey through big green spaces, along the mountainous spine of Wales. While a week travelling the Coastal Way follows the west coast, taking in the entire length of Cardigan Bay and threading it's way between blue seas and big mountains.
There are lots of shorter road trips that can be taken off these main routes, with lots of scenic views to enjoy. We've put together some suggestions below, to inspire your road trip adventure.
If you're keen to discover more options with stunning scenery around every bend, the best roads in Wales are some of the most scenic drives through Wales.
North Wales road trip routes
The A5 gateway
As an alternative gateway to North Wales, the A5 does the job nicely. This road trip of North Wales takes the historical route to Holyhead crosses the border near Chirk Castle, heads up through Llangollen (take the aptly-named Horseshoe Pass road for a scenic diversion), and on to Eryri (Snowdonia). The stretch after Capel Curig through the Ogwen Valley is one of our best roads for dramatic views, cutting between the Carneddau and Glyderau ranges, which includes the knife-edge spine of Tryfan, a favourite peak of many British climbers.
Clwydian Range and Dee Valley
A lap of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon)
For a tour of Eryri's highest peaks, there’s a spectacular circuit from Bangor to Capel Curig, across to Beddgelert, up to Caernarfon and back to Bangor. This forms a 50-mile (80km) square that’s bisected by the Llanberis Pass, where the Pen-y-Pass car park is the most popular starting-point for a walk up Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon).
The Menai Strait
There are two bridges onto Anglesey: you can cross on Thomas Telford’s 1826 original masterpiece, or the slightly more modern Britannia alternative. The latter is quicker, and has better views of the former (and of the Swellies whirlpools below). Either way, it’s worth diverting along the Menai Strait to visit gems like Beaumaris Castle, Llanddwyn Island, and that small town with the very long name - Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch - which all Welsh people are obliged to recite on request.
Driving around Anglesey
A circular tour of our largest island is around 75 miles (120km) on the main roads. It would take up to two hours to drive around the whole island - that’s a pleasant half-day excursion. If you walk on the Anglesey Coastal Path it would take about 12 days to cover the 130 miles (200km). Highlights include RSPB South Stack Cliffs Reserve, sea arches at Rhoscolyn, dunes at Aberffraw, the Cemlyn Beach nature reserve. With 125 miles of splendid coastline, there are many beaches to choose from. The most popular of the island's beaches, awarded with the Blue Flag status, is Benllech.
The Bala Loop: Trawsfynydd to Llyn Tegid
Head east from Trawsfynydd and the road sweeps past the much-painted Arenig mountains to Llyn Tegid. Popular with windsurfers, yachters and anglers, it’s the largest natural lake in Wales, with its own unique species of fish – the Gwyniad. Bala itself has always played a big role in Welsh culture and politics. A few miles north, the River Tryweryn was dammed in 1965 to create a reservoir to supply Liverpool, submerging the village of Capel Celyn. Cofiwch Dryweryn – Remember Tryweryn – is still a rallying cry (and graffiti slogan) of the nationalist movement.
The Cambrian Way driving routes
The Cambrian Way is a spectacular route - watch the video below to experience the journey!
The Narrow Mountain Road
Locals tend to cut the corner between Machynlleth and Llanidloes by going past Llyn Clywedog via the Narrow Mountain Road. It’s a twisty, swoopy road for much of the way, but plenty wide enough for two-way traffic if you take care. The best views are northbound: stop at the Wynford Vaughan-Thomas memorial for the greatest of all. This vast panorama of Eryri (Snowdonia) was the venerable broadcaster’s favourite view in the world.
The Welsh lakelands
Victorian travellers called the Cambrian Mountains the ‘green desert of Wales’: big space, no people. It’s still our most thinly-populated (by humans, at least) quarter: wildlife rules the roost in this vast landscape. The Elan Valley Visitor Centre is the best place to start with a driving route that follows a scenic mountain road. The journey winds through a network of dams and reservoirs with views of the moorland and woodland that surrounds them.
Driving through the Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons)
The A470 cuts through a dramatic pass in the Bannau Brycheiniog mountains in the centre of the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park. But it’s worth exploring the Beacons’ sister ranges. To the west, the Black Mountain (singular) falls away into the Carmarthenshire, stopping just shy of Llandeilo. To the east, the Black Mountains (plural – confusing, isn’t it?) stretch to the English border (the fabulous Green Man festival takes place in this range, at Crickhowell). And to the south, Waterfall Country has the best concentration of cascades and gorges in Britain.
Driving routes off The Coastal Way in Wales
The Llŷn Peninsula driving routes
Before heading off from Abersoch, you could easily spend a few hours (or days) driving around the tip of Llŷn to explore the peninsula’s wilder north coast. Head past Porth Neigwl's (Hell’s Mouth) four-mile (7km) beach to Aberdaron, then up the coast. You’ll pass the ‘whistling sands’ of Porthor (they squeak when you walk on them), Nefyn Golf Club (which is a spectacular peninsular golf course - it’s like playing off the deck of an aircraft carrier), a cracking beach pub at Porthdinllaen, and a quarrying village that’s become a major Welsh language centre at Nant Gwrtheyrn.
The Talyllyn Pass
Instead of following the Mawddach Estuary to the sea, head inland to Dolgellau, take the A470 southbound, and pick up the A487 to Minffordd. This leads down perhaps the most spectacular mountain pass in Wales - the Talyllyn Pass - with Cader Idris high above you to the right. The hills are often lined with aircraft spotters: this is the Mach Loop, where jet pilots from the RAF (and many other air forces) test their low-flying skills, often descending to 250 feet (75m).
The signs to Tywyn take you back to the coast through the beautiful countryside, passing the Talyllyn Railway along the way. Or head deeper into the Dysynni Valley and explore the remote ruins of Castell y Bere.
Valleys around Aberystwyth
The Ystwyth Valley is a dramatic circular drive which takes you on the west side of Pumlumon mountain, and across the impressive Nant-y-moch reservoir dam. From Aberystwyth, take the A487 to Bow Street, and on to Tal-y-Bont. Turn right in the village square and follow the signs for Nantymoch. After crossing the dam carry on to Ponterwyd and the A44. As you head back to Aberystwyth you will pass Bwlch Nant yr Arian Visitor Centre which sits at the head of a dramatic valley and it’s amazing views of Cardigan Bay and the Cambrian Mountains. It is well-known for its the daily feeding of hundreds of red kites, Wales’s National Bird of Prey, so well worth a pit-stop!
Teifi Pools - Llyn Egnant, Lyn Hir, and Llyn Teifi, are upland lakes, wonderfully situated in close proximity, at the end of a remote mountain road, about five miles from the village of Ffair Rhos, just off the main road from Pontrhydygroes to Pontrhydyfendigaid. The drive takes you through some of the wildest areas of Mid Wales in a scenic setting which is characteristic of the upland plateau of Pumlumon.
The Gwaun Valley
The Gwaun Valley still celebrates New Year on January 13 - it refused to join the new-fangled Gregorian calendar in 1752 - with a pint at the Dyffryn Arms, known locally as Bessie’s, after its estimable landlady, who’s been serving jugs of Bass from the barrel for 60-plus years. The surrounding Preseli Mountains are littered with prehistoric monuments like Pentre Ifan and the hillfort on Carningli (it means ‘mountain of angels’). Stonehenge’s bluestones were hewn from these hills. Nobody knows quite how they got to Wiltshire (that’s one to ponder while drinking locally-brewed Bluestone ale).
The Pembrokeshire Coast Path
The Coastal Way ends at St Davids, but it’s well worth crossing the Landsker Line that divides Welsh-speaking North Pembs from the Anglophone ‘down-belows’ in South Pembs. You can’t actually see the line, but you can hear it: local accents get distinctly ooh-arr as you head along St Bride’s Bay. The Pembrokeshire Coast Path follows the fabulous coastline, so don’t ask us to pick favourites. Druidston, Marloes, Skomer Island, Barafundle, Manorbier… and we haven’t reached the perfect harbour town of Tenby yet. Make sure you do.