Take A Road Trip in Wales: Itinerary, Map & Ideas
When you picture an epic road trip, where does your mind take you? Your first thought might be America or Australia, but if you’re planning a holiday in Wales, don’t overlook the magnificence of its open roads. Dramatic mountains, scenic lakes, empty tracks – all this and more awaits you in the beautiful Welsh countryside.
This post will guide you through our top three Wales road trip ideas, complete with maps and itineraries. With recommendations for the best routes and places to stop off along the way, you’ll find everything you need to plan a road trip your family will remember forever.
These road trips will take you from the coast of Cardiff and the beaches of Llandudno to the Cambrian mountains and Welsh Marches. So, pack up the car, strap in, and get ready to discover some of the most spectacular spots in Wales.
1. South Coast to North Coast
Start point: Cardiff, South East Wales
End point: Llandudno, North Wales
Duration: Two days
Starting in the South East and ending in the Northern coastal town of Llandudno, this road trip in Wales is the perfect choice for anyone who wants to see as much of the country as possible. It will take at least two days of driving, but feel free to make it longer by leisurely exploring the stops along the way.
Day 1: Cardiff to Llandrillo
You’ll begin your road trip in Cardiff. From there, take the A470 northwards out of the city. This road will take you right through the middle of the Brecon Beacons National Park – a stunning mountain range which will provide a breathtaking backdrop to the first part of your Wales road trip. As you drive, look out for Pen y Fan, the highest mountain peak in South Wales.
Follow the road until you reach the Elan Valley, a river valley situated in the rugged Cambrian Mountains in West Powys. Some call this region ‘The Welsh Lake District’, and with good reason – the Elan Valley Reservoirs are thought to hold 100,000 megalitres of water!
After roughly four hours in the car, the Elan Valley Estate makes a welcome pitstop. Much of the estate can be seen by driving around the dams. Collect a leaflet map from the information desk for directions. But if you want to stretch your legs, leave your car in the visitor centre car park and explore on foot. As well as its 70 square miles of land, there’s also a café, gift shop, and tearoom – making it perfect for a lunch or coffee break, depending on what time you arrive.
If you want to break up your trip, you can always book the B&B on the Elan Valley Estate for a night or two. But if you’re keen to keep to the three-day schedule, get back on the road after lunch and drive on until you reach Llandrillo. This small village is situated in Denbighshire and boasts one of the best restaurants in Wales – Tyddyn Llan.
This Michelin star restaurant also doubles as a guest house. Sample the six-course tasting menu and sleep it off in one of Tyddyn Llan’s luxurious rooms or suites, before taking to the road again tomorrow.
Day 2: Llandrillo to Llandudno
After a long day of driving yesterday, you’ll be spending far less time in your car on Day 2. The entire journey from Llandrillo to Llandudno should take just over an hour, so don’t resist the urge to stop off along the way to walk around and take in the scenery.
Llandrillo sits on the very edge of Snowdonia National Park, and as you set off towards Llandudno, you’ll be driving through its eastern edge. There are a number of pretty villages along the way where you’re sure to find somewhere for morning coffee or lunch – try the Foelas Arms in Pentrefoelas or, further north, the picturesque Tu Hwnt i’r Bont tearoom in Llanrwst.
You don’t want to miss a trip to Swallow Falls. This is the highest continuous waterfall in Wales, accessible only on foot. It’s two miles or so from the village of Betws y Coed, which is roughly 40 minutes from Llandudno. Seeing as you’re in no rush today, take your time to experience the waterfall in all its tranquillity.
Your last stop before reaching Llandudno is the town of Conwy. This historic walled market town is separated from the A470 by the River Conwy, which makes for a beautiful drive across the water. The bridge will take you right past Conwy Castle – well worth a visit if you’ve got time. Conwy is also home to the smallest house in Britain. Located on the quayside, this bright red house is incredibly just 72 inches wide and was occupied until the year 1900.
Once you’ve exhausted the sights of Conwy, it’s time to drive further north to Llandudno. Congratulations! You’ve reached the final stop in your road trip. Llandudno is full of gorgeous seafront hotels, from the Imperial Hotel on the famous promenade to the Wildings Hotel with views across Ormes Bay. Finding somewhere to stay will be no problem. The only challenge you’ll face will be never wanting to leave.
2. The Welsh-English Border
Start point: Chepstow
End point: Old Radnor
Duration: Three days
There’s something magical about the Welsh-English borderlands. Spanning 160 miles, you’ll find some of the most romantic (and historic) sites in Europe here – think ruined abbeys, ancient castles, and Gothic priories. This road trip will take around three days, but as with the first road trip idea, you can easily make it longer by spending more time in some or all of the stops.
Day 1: Chepstow to Symonds Yat
Magnificent Chepstow Castle makes the perfect starting point for your road trip in Wales. At 800 years old, its castle doors are the oldest in Europe, and the site has enjoyed a colourful history since the 1100s.
The castle overlooks the banks of the River Wye. After stopping for lunch at one of Chepstow’s independent coffee shops, follow the A466 – which runs parallel to the river – for about 15 minutes until you reach Tintern Abbey in Monmouthshire. This ruined Cistercian abbey inspired one of William Wordsworth’s most famous poems, and it’s hard not to feel inspired yourself by its beautiful rural ruins.
Once you’ve managed to tear yourself away, it’s time to drive north towards Symonds Yat in the Wye Valley. This popular village is actually situated in Herefordshire, so it’s English rather than Welsh – but more than worth the visit. Its most famous landmark is Yat Rock, an ancient monument that once housed an Iron Age fort. With cycling and walking trails aplenty, it’s the ideal place to stretch your legs after an hour or so in the car.
After exploring Yat Rock, head to the Saracen’s Head Inn on the east bank of the River Wye. Centuries old, this inn offers a wide variety of locally sourced food and real ales. Sit on the riverside terrace to watch the ancient ferry cross the Wye while you eat.
Day 2: Symonds Yat to Hay-on-Wye
Day two will bring you back into Wales, skirting the eastern edge of its spectacular Brecon Beacons National Park. In a valley of the Black Mountains, you’ll find Llanthony Priory – a partially ruined priory that enjoys breathtaking views across the beacons.
You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing somewhere for lunch. Llanthony Priory Hotel and the Half Moon Inn are both fantastic choices, offering a delicious range of vegetarian food as well as meat-based dishes and local ales.
After lunch, take the single-track road which leads from Llanthony to the famous market town of Hay-on-Wye. This road will take you high into the Brecon Beacons, giving you gorgeous unspoilt views on both sides. Make sure you choose this road instead of the slightly more direct route via Hereford – the scenery is not to be missed!
Once you’ve arrived in Hay-on-Wye, spend the rest of the afternoon exploring its range of bookshops. There are lots to choose from – over 20 in fact – which gives Hay its nickname of ‘the town of books’.
Much like bookshops, there’s no shortage of hotels in Hay either. To continue the literary theme, book a night at the Baskerville Hall Hotel, which featured in the Sherlock Holmes novel ‘Hounds of The Baskervilles’. Alternatively, choose the beautifully decorated Swan Hotel which is closer to the town centre.
Day 3: Hay-on-Wye to Old Radnor
Morning and Afternoon
It’s less than half an hour from Hay-on-Wye to Old Radnor, so feel free to spend a lazy morning in Hay before heading off to explore Offa’s Dyke Path. This ancient monument, which dates from the 8th century, is 177 miles long and takes roughly two weeks to complete end-to-end – but you can select a much shorter trail to while away a couple of hours.
Drive on towards Old Radnor, the final stop in your Wales road trip. This village in Powys boasts just one pub, The Harp, which offers five guest bedrooms that make a wonderful base for exploring the historic local area.
Start point: Blackpool Mill
End point: Tenby
Duration: 2 days
Famous for its stunning coastline and historic cities, Pembrokeshire is one of the UK’s most picturesque counties. This road trip will take you round a circular route, showing you the best of everything that Pembrokeshire has to offer.
Day 1: Blackpool Mill to The Preseli Hills
Near the town of Canaston Woods, you’ll start your road trip at the 19th century Blackpool Mill – an old mill situated on the banks of the Cleddau River. This is a great place to start your day with a walk before heading back onto the road.
From the mill, take the A40 and head eastwards towards the market town of Narberth. Here, you’ll find plenty of artisan shops and independent restaurants, so stop for lunch and explore the colourfully painted streets on foot.
Take the A478 north towards the Preseli Hills (or mountains, as they’re known locally). These hills stretch for 13 miles from Newport to Crymych, and mysteriously, provided the smaller ‘bluestones’ that were used in the construction of Stonehenge 180 miles away!
The wild moorlands offer some of the most stunning views in Wales. On a clear day, you can even catch a glimpse of Ireland across the sea.
You’ll find plenty of places to stay in Pembrokeshire. Look for somewhere nearer Narberth, or between the Preseli Hills and Fishguard – your next stop on your road trip in Wales.
Day 2: The Preseli Hills to St. Davids
As you follow the A487 towards St. Davids, you’ll pass through the coastal town of Fishguard, about an hour and a half from the Preseli Hills. This road will take you through the beautiful Pembrokeshire countryside, with green fields for miles on either side.
Outside of Fishguard you’ll see a monument that commemorates the last British invasion in 1797. (Legend has it the invaders were so startled by the traditional Welsh dress of a group of women that they retreated instantly!) Stop off for lunch in the main town before wandering along the harbour.
Continue along the A487 until you reach St. Davids, the smallest cathedral city in the UK. The cathedral is well worth a visit to see the resting place of St David himself, the patron saint of Wales.
You can easily spend longer than an afternoon here, with walks along Whitesands Bay, an interesting landscape gallery, and the ruins of a magnificent medieval palace to explore. If you want to extend your road trip, book a night or two at one of the city’s B&Bs.
Your final stop is Tenby, a bustling Pembrokeshire seaside town surrounded by a medieval stone wall. Head for dinner at Waves Cliff-top Bar and Restaurant, which uses local Welsh ingredients for its traditional Italian-inspired menu. There’s no better way to round off your road trip than by sipping your favourite cocktail while you look out towards the sea.
These ideas should leave you spoilt for choice when it comes to planning your Wales road trip itinerary. Got more time on your hands? Why not combine these trips for the ultimate tour of Wales by road!