Wales Road Trip Planner
Small but perfectly formed, the glorious country of Wales is a road trippers dream. With soaring mountains and valleys, miles of golden sands, craggy headlands and some incredible roads, head to Wales for an adventurous and eclectic road trip.
For those looking for a UK staycation, Wales makes a great destination on your doorstep. If you’re coming from further afield, travelling to Wales in easy. Fly into Heathrow, pick up a hire car, or even a campervan, and drive from London to Wales along the M4 motorway to start your Welsh road trip in less than half a day.
Wales Road Trip Resources
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Information About Driving in Wales
Whether you’re road tripping in a car, camper or motorbike, make sure you’ve got all your documents handy and your spare tyre is in good condition. If your Wales road trip itinerary is longer than a few weeks, you may want to consider a vehicle service before you go, and breakdown cover is probably a good idea.
- Drivers from non-EU countries may require an International Driving Permit. The general rule is that if your licence is not in English, then an IDP will be required. Check with your hire company or embassy if you’re in doubt.
- You will require a ‘green card’ as proof of insurance if your vehicle is registered outside the UK.
- Your car must be considered roadworthy in the country in which it is registered.
- Your headlights must be adapted for driving on the left if your vehicle is registered outside the UK.
- Unlike France, the UK does not have laws that require you to carry certain equipment in your car, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t. Being prepared in the event of an accident or a break down is invaluable. Ideally you should carry a reflective jacket, a warning triangle, a first-aid kit and a fire extinguisher.
- If you’re hiring a car, book well in advance and use a car hire booker like Rentalcars.com who will provide the best deals from all the top car hire companies. How? Because they have such a large market share, they’ve got way more buying power than individuals and can negotiate much harder on price.
- Understand insurance options, mileage limits and fuel policies before booking.
- Check the car for damage on collection and make sure anything you spot is noted, and the same again when you drop it off.
- Remember to drive on the left during your trip to Wales!
Best Time to Take a Wales Road Trip
December to February – The winter months in are generally cold and wet. It is likely to be cloudy in the mountains, leading to poor visibility, and there may well be snow. Although other visitors will be thin on the ground, this would be our least favourite time to road trip Wales!
March to May – Late spring is a wonderful time for visiting Wales, as the cold and wet retreats. Wild flowers appear, baby animals abound and life picks up a lively pace again. But, remember that Wales is so green because it rains, so always be prepared for a downpour, or a few drizzly days.
June to August – Summer brings sunshine to all of Wales, with Pembrokeshire getting the best of the warm Gulf Stream weather. This is the perfect time to road trip around Wales, especially for outdoor adventures such as hiking and coasteering.
September to November – Autumn is a fantastic time to visit Wales. The coasts will be quieter but still warm and the glorious colours of autumn bring vibrancy to the countryside. Don’t leave it too late, it will be cold and wet again by mid-October.
Wales Road Trip Route & Map
Wales in an extraordinary country of rugged coastlines, mountainous national parks, dark skies and spectacular beaches.
Alongside the spectacular wild landscapes, you’ll also find history, world-class attractions and warm hospitality.
Whether you’re an outdoor activity lover, history buff or a family on your annual holiday, you can explore the best of the country with our travel tips and Wales coastal road trip itinerary.
Start your road trip itinerary in the spectacular Snowdonia National Park in north Wales for drama, huge skies and plenty of outdoor adventures.
Perfect as a base for a few days, Betws-y-Coed is a typical mountain town in a beautiful valley, full of companies offering outdoor adventures, shops selling outdoor gear, and pubs and restaurants full of hikers talking about the day’s activities.
The town is a great base for outdoor sports such as climbing, hiking, abseiling, zip-lining, caving and mountain biking. You’ll also find natural beauty spots such as Conwy Falls, the Fairy Glen and Swallow Falls to visit in the nearby area.
Test yourself by climbing to the peak of Snowden, the highest mountain in England and Wales at 1,085m above sea level. If you still want to enjoy the views but don’t fancy the hike, you can get the Snowdon Mountain Railway up from Llanberis station, almost to the summit at 1085m. From here you can walk the last 20m of elevation to the cairn and conquer Snowdon on foot!
Snowdonia National Park is also perfect for star-gazing and only the second area in Wales to be designated as an International Dark Sky Reserve. On a clear night in Snowdonia you can see the Milky Way, all the major constellations, nebulas (bright clouds of gas and dust) and shooting stars.
From Snowdonia it’s easy to head north-west on the main north Wales road, the A5, over the iconic Menai suspension bridge to the beautiful Isle of Anglesey, home to some of the best beaches in Wales, fantastic coastal hiking and cycling paths.
Newborough beach is a favourite of many on Anglesey, backed by the tranquil Newborough Forest, where you might see red squirrels. Take a walk through the forest and dunes to the peninsula of Llanddwyn Island to see the fascinating lighthouse and pilots cottages.
Designed by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis in the early 20th century, Portmeirion’s colourful houses, ornamental garden and iconic campanile are like no-where else in the UK.
Considered by many to be one of the most beautiful places in Wales, Portmeirion is also known for Portmeirion Pottery (now made in Stoke-on-Trent) and its role in the 1960’s cult tv show The Prisoner.
Look beyond the obvious though and enjoy local walks, tropical gardens and interesting architecture.
You can also get to Porthmadog from Minffordd Station just a mile from Portmeirion. From there you can travel to on the Welsh Highland Railway, the UK’s longest heritage railway which runs for 25 miles from Porthmadog through the stunning Aberglaslyn Pass and the picture-perfect village of Beddgelert, past the foot of Snowdon and on to Caernarfon.
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Coed y Brenin
Cyclists should make a stop at Coed y Brenin, the UK’s first and largest dedicated mountain bike trail centre, with miles of exceptional single-track for experienced and expert riders, but also great intermediate trails for all abilities.
You can hire bikes at Beics Brenin and start a trail from there, or visit the Ffowndri skills area and bike park to test your skills.
You’ll also find hiking, geocaching trails, orienteering routes and running tracks in the Coed y Brenin Forest Park, with even a half-marathon route if you’re feeling really energetic!
Nestled between Snowdonia and the Mawddach estuary, Barmouth’s location on the west coast has to be one of the most beautiful in Wales.
Steeped in a history rich with connections to the shipping and slate industries, this is a good old-fashioned seaside resort.
The town’s beach, Abermaw, is west facing with a mixture of sand and some fine shingle and is ideal for sea swimming and watersports.
You’ll also find a land train which runs along the promenade, traditional donkey rides, swing boats and amusement arcades as well as lots of pubs and restaurants.
The Mach Loop
As you head south, check out the Mach Loop on the A487, a series of valleys notable for their use as low-level training areas for fast jet and propeller-driven aircraft.
With an average of two to five movements a day you have a good chance of seeing some action.
Castles in Wales
Wales is home to over 600 castles, more per square mile than anywhere else in the world. Some have been lived in continuously for over a thousand years, while others are romantic ruins. Many are native Welsh castles, built by Welsh royal dynasties, often in very beautiful places and you’ll find lots along our suggested route.
These are our stand-out castles to visit along the way;
- Dolwyddelan Castle in Conwy County is one of those romantic ruins – a stronghold built in the early 13th century by Llywelyn the Great, Prince of Gwynedd and Wales.
- Remote and evocative, the 13th century ruins of Castell y Bere are strung along a jagged rocky outcrop in the Dysynni Valley at the foot of Cader Idris.
- Medieval Pembroke Castle was originally the family seat of the Earldom of Pembroke. A Grade I listed building since 1951, it underwent major restoration during the early 20th century.
- Shaped by conquest and conflict, Carew Castle is one of the most architecturally diverse castles in Wales and set in stunning surroundings.
- Another romantic ruin, Pennard Castle is dramatic and beautiful, and the views are glorious.
- Cardiff Castle is a renovated medieval fortress and Victorian Gothic revival mansion dating from 1081, shortly after the Norman Conquest of England.
Head south through coastal mid-wales to the vibrant seaside town of New Quay, following the Coastal Way (which makes up part of the Wales Way) along the length of Ceredigion Bay and stopping at the stunning Llanrhystud Beach on the way.
For something really adventurous, the Mid Wales Paragliding Centre is just outside Aberystwyth, on your route to New Quay. Stop off for a few days and learn to fly with their BHPA School.
New Quay is a pretty fishing town, popular with tourists for its picturesque harbour and sandy beach, and an ideal base for exploring the west Wales coastal area for a few days.
There is so much to do in this little corner of Wales, but you’re mainly here for the sea. With every kind of water sport on offer and the Ceredigion Marine Heritage Coast offering wildlife and sea-birds a plenty, you’ll find lots to pack in for a couple of days.
Start with a trip to one of the activity companies in the area, where you can organise (perhaps in advance) sailing, stand up paddle, kayaking and canoeing.
There are several spectacular beaches nearby, including the beautiful Llangrannog Beach, which is good for surfing.
You’ll also find boat trips from New Quay harbour to see bottle-nose dolphins and seals in Cardigan Bay, and sea fishing trips – fresh BBQ’d mackerel for dinner maybe?
The famous Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas, lived in New Quay during World War 2 and it’s widely believed to be the setting for one of his most well-known works ‘Under Milk Wood’. You’ll find lots of places in the town connected to him and his work.
Famous for its rough cliffs, huge beaches and remote islands, the coast of Pembrokeshire offers limitless opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, and is one of the most stunning places in the UK.
It’s no surprise that National Geographic have voted the coastline the second best in the world.
Stop at beautiful Fishguard on the way south, famous for its role in the Battle of Fishguard. A military invasion of Great Britain by revolutionary France during the War of the First Coalition, the brief campaign in February 1797 is the most recent landing on British soil by a hostile foreign force, and thus is often referred to as the “last invasion of mainland Britain”.
If you’re looking for somewhere lively to spend a few days, then you’ll find Fishguard a great choice. Right on the Pembrokeshire Coast path, with lots of bars, shops and restaurants plus sailing, coasteering and sea kayaking on offer, you’ll find lots to keep you busy.
Pembrokeshire boasts that it invented coasteering, and it’s an activity you must try. The sport of jumping from land to sea, cliff scrambling and swimming between rocks will stretch you mentally and physically but give you hours of fun.
You can find a pace to suit you, there are guided expeditions and courses for beginners of all ages, some of which include marine biology education along the way.
The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is an activity lovers paradise and as well as coasteering, you’ll also find surfing, kayaking, paddle boarding, canyoning, climbing, coastal hiking and many more activities in this gorgeous corner of the country.
If you’re looking for child-friendly activities, check out Pembrey Country Park, perfect for a family day of adventure.
Set in 500 acres of woodland and alongside eight miles of golden sands, there’s a dry ski slope, toboggan ride, crazy golf, pitch and putt, train rides, adventure play area, nature trails …in fact, pretty much everything a family on holidays wants!
Sight-seeing in Pembrokeshire
Pembrokeshire is also home to St Davids, the smallest city in the UK. With an historic cathedral, the UK’s first pollen trail, multiple artist galleries and St Nons Chapel, the city makes a great day trip.
Or check out Tenby, one of the prettiest seaside towns in Wales, steeped in history and surrounded by an imposing medieval stone wall. With several excellent sandy beaches, a colourful harbour and narrow cobbled streets, this charming town is perfect for a relaxing day out in between sporting activities!
Finally, the wild island of Skomer is really worth a visit if you enjoy nature.
A haven for migrant birds such as puffins, razorbills and guillemots, you may also see seals here, which come to moult in April, along with owls, buzzards and peregrine falcons.
In the spring, wild flowers cover the island, making it a truly beautiful and fascinating place to visit.
The boat over works on a first-come, first-served basis and numbers are limited. Tickets can be bought at Lockley Lodge visitor centre just outside Marloes, make sure to get there early!
United Kingdom Road Trip Ideas
Next up is the spectacular Gower Peninsula in south Wales, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and famous for its breathtaking coastline and 30 or so unspoilt beaches and coves.
Gower offers unrivalled coastal walking, including the gorgeous Rhossili Beach and Down(voted ‘Best Beach Wales’) and the dramatic Worm’s Head, whose long ridged back rises straight from the sea, rearing up in a precipitous wall at the end of the promontory.
Some of the best beaches in Wales are on the Gower’s coastline, with the most famous being Oxwich Bay beach in the south and the huge Whiteford beach to the north.
If you like your sand a little more secluded, try Brandy Cove beach, only accessible by a cliff path, or head for Three Cliffs bay, a spectacular shoreline of sand dunes, salt marsh and limestone cliffs.
Surfers and kitesurfers should check out Llangennith beach or Broughton Bay beach, both popular spots with good facilities.
At the eastern end of the peninsula and often referred to as “the gateway to Gower” is Mumbles, a traditional sea-side town. Head here to walk along the bustling prom, where rollerbladers weave between pedestrians, and ice-cream parlours tempt.
As well as the usual water based activities, you can also hire jet skis and take a speed-boat ride into Swansea Bay from Mumbles. Perfect if you’ve spent the last week or so hiking, cycling and paddling under your own steam!
Black Mountain Pass
If you have time, take a detour to the western edge of the Brecon Beacons for one of the best driving roads in Wales.
The epic Black Mountain Pass of Top Gear fame gives unrivalled views of the surrounding valleys and mountains, and enough hairpin bends and switchbacks to satisfy any dangerous road enthusiast.
The Black Mountain Pass is actually the South Wales road A4069 which climbs from Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen, between the breathtaking viewpoints of the twin humps of Pont Aber and Herbert’s Pass, before arriving in Landovery.
From here, you’re can head south-east on the A40 to Sennybridge, and then south on the A470 into the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Make sure to add Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen and Landovery as via points in your sat nav, or you’ll be routed on a more main road.
Be aware that sheep will cross the road indiscriminately and it is known that mobile speed cameras are sometimes hidden along the route in things like horse boxes or small trucks.
Undulating dramatically across the landscape, the Brecon Beacons National Park (Parc Cenedlaethol Bannau Brycheiniog) encompasses some of the most spectacular scenery in southern Wales.
Known simply as ‘the Beacons’ to hikers, these mountains are scattered with ridges and plateaus, glacial hollows which rise above forested valleys, hidden waterfalls and gorgeous remote and empty landscapes.
There are many trails to choose from here, including the Cambrian Way, a long-distance hiking route from Cardiff to Snowdon through some of Wales’ most mountainous and wild landscapes.
Pen-y-Fan is a favourite, the route a challenging ten mile slog through forest and moorland to the steep ridge at the summit at 886m, where the views are superb.
But there is more hiking here than just Pen-y-Fan. Sugar Loaf in Monmouthshire is stunning and the beautiful Brecon Beacons waterfall walk is a must do.
From the Brecon Beacons you can head north into the beautiful and protected landscape of the Wye Valley and the literary town of Hay-on-Wye, or make your way south to the lively city of Cardiff.
Either of these provide excellent transport links back into England and your journey home.
But, we have one more small detour for you, if you like great driving roads!
In the Black Mountains at the eastern edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park is the Gospel Pass, the highest road in Wales at 549m. The pass is one of the most scenic drives in Wales with spectacular views and a few good hiking routes from the top.
Snaking along the narrow Vale of Ewyas the mostly single track paved road rises steadily as you head north before dropping into the Wye Valley. To get to the pass, branch off the A465 five miles north of Abergavenny at Llanvihangel Crucorney.
Most of the valley is in Monmouthshire but the last few miles, including the pass itself, are in Powys. The ridge line to the east, extending south from Hay Bluff, marks the border between Wales and England.
This is not a route for the winter months or those in motorhomes or larger campervans.
The capital city of Wales, Cardiff is a unique blend of British culture, Welsh attributes and Celtic personality.
Cardiff has a subtle charm that you learn through the independent stores, laneways of bars, medieval Cardiff Castle smack-bang in the centre and a diverse culinary scene.
There’s lots to explore here, including the Senedd Cymru (Welsh parliament) building in the lively Cardiff Bay area.
Hay-on-Wye is famous the world over for books and the annual Hay Festival of Literature and Arts.
Known as Hay by locals, this charming market town in Wales sits on the gently flowing river Wye and abuts the Wales-England border.
The pretty centre is made up of skinny sloping lanes characterised by a shabby elegance that suits the quirky bookshops and antiques emporia that thrive here.