The Largest Castles in Wales

Driving the Cambrian Way, Part of the Wales Way Driving Routes

Introduction: The Cambrian Way

Welcome to an exciting journey through the scenic landscapes of Wales! In this article, we will delve into the enchanting experience of driving the Cambrian Way. A prominent part of the Wales Way driving routes. Brace yourself for an adventure that combines breathtaking vistas, cultural discoveries, and memorable encounters with history. From the majestic mountains to the captivating coastline, the Cambrian Way offers an immersive exploration of the beauty and charm of Wales. So, fasten your seatbelts and join us as we embark on this remarkable road trip!

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What is the Cambrian Way?

The Cambrian Way is a driving route that spans across Wales. (North to South or South to North). It offers a captivating journey through its diverse landscapes and rich heritage.

It can get confusing as the Cambrian Way is also a walking route. (Known as the ‘Spine of Wales’for the driving route). Stretching over approximately 185 miles (300km), from Cardiff to Conwy. This road trip takes you through some of the most awe-inspiring regions of Wales. The Icons of Snowdonia National Park, the Brecon Beacons, and the Cambrian Mountains are all included. Driving the Cambrian Way is like unveiling the hidden treasures of Wales. It allows you to discover the untamed beauty of the country at your own pace.

We undertook this trip in June, but we have previously driven the Cambrian Way in October. The two trips were very different, but both beautiful in their own unique way.

Exploring the Route Step by Step

Cardiff: The Gateway to Adventure

Cardiff Start of the Cambrian Way

Begin your Cambrian Way expedition in the vibrant capital city of Cardiff. Immerse yourself in its lively atmosphere, and visit iconic landmarks like Cardiff Castle and the Millennium Stadium. Soak up the cultural richness of this modern metropolis. Don’t forget to explore the charming waterfront area of Cardiff Bay before embarking on your journey. You can read more about Cardiff here

The route from South to North follows the A470. If time doesn’t constrict you, zig zag off the route to visit attractions in the surrounding areas. We will highlight some of the most interesting things to divert you from the A470 as you head North. Research is the key, before you leave.

The first diversion, even before you have even begun is the Royal Mint.

The Royal Mint

For over 1,000 years the Royal Mint has made the coinage of the ‘empire’.  For the past 50 years, this has been undertaken at their dedicated site in Llantrisant.  The history of coins and medals is brought together in an exhibition. A good use of a few hours whatever the weather.  If you are planning your trip in advance (and not just reacting to the weather) then it’s worth joining a tour which will take you behind the scenes to give you a real hands-on experience of how the Royal Mint works.  This establishment is also brilliant for children.  Check out what is available when you plan to visit here

Castell Coch

Castle Coch

A building voted as the ‘nation’s favourite’ must be worth a visit. Castell Coch or the Red Castle you will see long before you arrive. Visible from the M4, the conical roofs rising out of Fforest Fawr, looks like something from a Classic Disney Film. The reality doesn’t disappoint. Having had lavish amounts of money spent on its original construction and decorations, today it is in the hands of Cadw. It will surprise and enthral you with its splendour.

Caerphilly Castle, The Largest Castle in Wales

The Largest Castles in Wales

If you decide to detour, it’s worth taking a couple of hours to wander around Caerphilly. Its castle has a leaning tower – it’s been on the wonk since the 17th Century apparently! This castle is owned by Cadw. If you are planning on seeing a lot of castles on your trip, then it’s worth getting some sort of membership to save you money. Cadw offers 3-day 7-day or annual memberships. Check out what’s on offer on their website before you leave. Or decide on the road and buy your membership at your first stronghold.


A short diversion off the A470 is the former coal mining village of Aberfan (Pronounced Aber-van).

It is known for the disaster which occurred on 21 October 1966. A colliery spoil tip slipped down the hillside onto the homes and a school in the village. 116 children and 28 adults died.

The primary school is now a memorial garden. If you can bare the sadness and wish to pay your respects, then a trip to the cemetery is a small drive away.

This diversion would be a challenge in a Motorhome and you should walk up to the village.

Brecon Beacons: A Majestic Mountain Range

As you leave Cardiff, you’ll soon find yourself surrounded by the breathtaking landscapes of the Brecon Beacons National Park. This mountain range offers a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, with its sweeping valleys, cascading waterfalls, and challenging hiking trails.

Take a moment to appreciate the serenity of nature. Trek and enjoy panoramic views from Pen y Fan. The highest peak in southern Britain. Please pick your route carefully. When we did the hike we chose the hardest route and I thought it was more exhausting than Snowdon! There are a few routes outlined via the link above. Some are easy enough for children so pick your route based on your capabilities.

Brecon: A Market Town in the Heart of Wales

Brecon High Street The Cambrian Way

The City of Brecon is to be found on the A470. You can’t miss it, as you will have to drive through it. If you can find a spot to park, give yourself a little time to take in this lovely city. The Cathedral, the Royal Welsh Museum, the Canal Basin and the towpath are all Instagram-worthy.

The Royal Welsh Museum, Brecon

Spending some time in Brecon? You may find the Royal Welsh Museum to be free. It was recently flooded and following its reopening the entrance fee has been waived. It’s not clear for how long.

Brecon Canal Basin, The Cambrian Way

The canal basin is beautiful and from there you can take trips down the canal. There’s a blackboard which shows what time the trips are and if there is availability. Next to the Canal basin is the theatre. In here you will find a cafe with little tables outside to enjoy your beverage ‘Al Fresco’. You can also give in to the temptation which is Welsh Ice Cream, I highly recommend the Mango!!

Canoes on the river Usk

The River Usk leaves the town, from the weir. At the Boathouse, you can hire canoes and pedaloes. Make the most of your time in the town, but be careful in which order you do your sightseeing. The day we were there the Cathedral closed at 4 pm.

Motorhome Parking

It’s worth noting here that Powys council is Motorhome friendly and we have often used their car parks to sleep overnight. The car parks are free from 6 pm but you have to be gone by 8am. There’s a wonderful car park at the Boathouse. Being on the river path is blessed with both wonderful vistas and a quiet night’s sleep.

Leaving the Brecon Beacons behind, you’ll enter the heart of Wales—the Cambrian Mountains. This remote and sparsely populated region is known for its rugged terrain and untouched beauty. Experience the joy of driving through winding roads that meander through picturesque valleys and along crystal-clear rivers.

Builth Wells

The following morning take time to visit the home of Welsh Lavender. If you have time take a short detour to ‘Farmers’. Wander the lavender fields and enjoy the range of products the shop has to offer.
Unfortunately, this place isn’t really suitable for motor homes longer than six meters. The approach road is pretty skinny with few passing places.

The destination however is more than worth it. You can spend time here, see the processes, admire the garden, or swim in the pond! The site is dog friendly. You have to indulge in their little shop and you have to go home with a pot of hand cream. Why? Because if it is Supermodel worthy…….. then it’s good enough for me (it also smells divine).

The scenery here is very much a tale of two halves. It depends on which side of the road you are facing. On one side it is the epitome of a six-year-old drawing. Flat single-tone green fields, broken up with hedges and the odd oak sticking out into the skyline. The sky flat blue with some cottonwool clouds.
A stressed GCSE Art Student created the view framing the other side of the road. The might of the Beacons, rugged hills, deep hedgerows, broken with mighty oaks…… and the lone hillside cottage.

Elan Valley Reservoir Visitor Centre

Elan Valley on the Cambrian Way

Keep your camera ready to capture the captivating landscapes of Elan Valley. You have to detour off the A470 in order to do it. The area in many ways pays homage to the villages which were flooded in its creation, over 120 years ago. The reservoir was created to provide water for Birmingham. The Corporation of Birmingham also built a Victorian church on the site to replace the one lost. It’s a peculiar church because there’s no graveyard.

There are various places to park up and admire the views. You can also walk or cycle it. Please do take time at the Visitors Centre to familiarise yourself with the length of the journey you choose. This is a network of three dams and reservoirs and they are huge.

Moving on

The Soar y Mynydd and the Abergwesyn Pass are also worth taking a detour to do, but not if you are in a motorhome, the road is unsuitable for vehicles other than cars.

Returning to the A470 heading towards Llanidloes.

Pont Minllyn

Just after Mallwyd junction on the left keep your eyes peeled for Pont Minllyn or Pack Horse Bridge. Here a 19th and a 20th Century bridge transverses the river. The older still intact, is now disused under the care of Cadw and covered in a verdant green grass. It’s a testament to the craftsmen who placed those stones four hundred years ago; that after all this time the original bridge still stands.

The Melin Meirion Mill Woolen Centre can be found in the old station yard of the Mawddwy Railway. It’s well-signed from the road. Also, if you park up here you can visit the Pack Horse Bridge from its car park. Passing through the old station gates it is very obvious that the house used to be the station with the drop from station to rail level still very evident. It’s a perfect place to view and buy local crafts and blankets. Don’t forget to stop at the cafe for a Welsh cake or slice of Bara Brith and a cup of tea.


Dolgellau was our place for evening provisions. Boasting its own stone bridge over the river, although this time its proportions are massive! At the heart of the town, you will find plenty of traditional Welsh buildings, all centred around another St Marys Church.

On leaving the town we wanted to see Cymer Abbey. This is a free ruin. There is a campsite on the grounds which turned out to be where we decided to stop for the day. If you are interested in matters ‘Klondike’, then near here (on the road to Barmouth) you will find Bontddu. Here Wales’ gold rush took place and where the Clogau gold for the rings of the Royal family originated.

From here you venture into the Snowdonia national park.

The drive through the Cambrian mountains in mid-June has been stunning. It is without a doubt the sort of road trip which is weather dependent. Before we head into the next National Park and onwards to the coast, it’s worth mentioning the hedgerow. It’s currently wonderful and a real demonstration of our nature at its best.

At this time of the year, the foxgloves stand proud above the gently uncurling ferns. Nettles fight with the sticky weed. The red champion creates a sea of pink. The russet tan of the sorrel is just beginning to fade. Its colour is slowly being replaced by the dog roses. …………and the honeysuckle is just beginning to mix in some heady Lemons and creams. It’s just gorgeous.

Snowdonia National Park

A Haven for Nature Lovers, continue your journey, and you’ll reach Snowdonia National Park, a true gem of Wales. Towering mountains, shimmering lakes, and ancient forests await you in this breathtaking natural wonderland. Challenge yourself to climb Mount Snowdon. It is the highest peak in Wales, or take a leisurely stroll around one of the serene lakes. Snowdonia offers countless opportunities for outdoor adventures, including hiking, mountain biking, and even zip-lining!

Moving on

For our road trip, we stuck to the A470, heading north out of the campsite. The mountains of the Brecon Beacons seem to plateau around Dolgellau (which itself is only a short hop from the Beach at Barmouth). The mountains soon rise again as you head north. What you initially convinced yourself to be Pink Heather turns out to be mountainsides covered in pink Rhododendrons. We found this day to be a day of small diversions. We had to divert initially to avoid a low bridge. Later we found ourselves in a few circumstances where breathing in seems to be the natural reaction. Even though common sense tells you that this is in no way going to make your vehicle narrower!


The journey north will take you through old slate towns and amazing scenery and where the A5 meets the A470 will deliver you to Betws-y-Coed.
This place is always heaving with day trippers in the summer months. Make use of the central car park in the town to indulge in some ‘Tourist’ shopping

Whilst you are there walk out of town to the Swallow Falls. An extra special treat to be smug about if you have inclement weather. It’s a great base for exploring and around the village. You will find museums and places to shop eat and stay. Thomas Telford’s 1815 Waterloo Bridge (he also had a hand in the old suspension bridge in Conwy) is also here. It’s a great gateway town for the wilds of Snowdonia with its forests and rivers and amazing walking in all directions.
South of Betws-y-Coed, (turning right at the junction with the A5) a visit to Penmachno won’t disappoint. There are a number of sites worth visiting here including a Roman Bridge framing beautiful waterfalls. Rhaeadr Y Graig Lwyd itself is a wonderful forest gorge with great walking and viewing platforms to really bathe yourself in your surroundings.

The Cambrian Way: Other attractions

Other attractions to consider during the planning of your road trip north of Betws-y-coed.

Rowen (Ty’n-y-Groes)

This village at the foot of the Tai-y-fan Mountain is a detour off the A470. It has to be one of the prettiest villages in the county, its front gardens bursting with colour from spring onwards. There is a village pub and Conwy Water Gardens just a mile outside the village.

Bodnant Welsh Food – near Tai-y-Cafn

is housed in an 18 Century agricultural building at Furnace Farm. There’s a farm shop, cafe, bar and grill specialising in food and drink from the Bodnant Estate and local producers. Also on site is a cookery school and an in-house bakery butcher and wine cellar.

Bodnant Garden – near Tai -y-Cafn.

If you are a nature lover or a photographer you will love it here. The Gardens are amongst the best in Britain. The Famous Laburnum arch and terraced gardens. The wildflower meadows (is that where all the insects went!) and plants from all over the world. Set against perhaps the best backdrop in the world – The Conwy Valley and Snowdonia.

Trefriw Woollen Mills – Trefriw.

This is one of the few remaining woollen mills in Wales producing traditional Welsh Tweeds. Run by the same family since 1859 it still uses water from the River Crafnant to power its looms. It’s open all year and offers weaving demonstrations.


A market town named after St Grwst. A 15th Century church and a 17th Century bridge across the River Conwy. A lovely town with great places to eat and shop. Also a gateway to some lovely walking in the surrounding area.

Zip World Fforest

Betws-y-Coed. Bring your ‘big girl/boy pants’ and embark on Sky-High fun and adventure. Try Europe’s highest Swing, rides, zip lines and bouncy bridges.

The amount of time you spend here is purely down to the level of activity you want to indulge in. As you head north before you know it you have left Snowdonia and have entered the county of Conwy.

Conwy: The Final Destination on ‘The Cambrian Way’

After an exhilarating exploration of Snowdonia, your Cambrian Way adventure concludes in the historic town of Conwy. Encircled by ancient castle walls, Conwy is a place where history comes alive.

It is also extraordinary watching the Big Red Bus Tour Bus navigate the tiny gateways in the city walls! This is the only town we can think of where the height of bridges and arches are declared in Feet rather than Meters. As such, watching a double-decker bus negotiate the gaps in the ancient walls filled us with unexpected confidence when it came to manoeuvring our Motorhome around the town. Don’t get overconfident though, they are still narrow gaps, a lot of the roads are one-way so you won’t be expecting to see something coming at you in the opposite direction.

Conway Castle End of the Cambrian Way

Take time to explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Conwy Castle (chargeable, owned by Cadw), wander the castle walls (free), stroll along the quayside, and indulge in fish and chips (watch out for the seagulls!).
I’d like to recommend Fisherman’s Chip Shop, it even has a takeaway ‘hatch’ and tables on the waterfront. If you would like to eat inside then there is a seating area, by entering the shop at the front and heading upstairs to the Schooner Restaurant.

The waterfront

Of course, as you walk along the waterfront you must also look around the smallest house in Britain. It only costs £1.50 to take in this oddity, and you can have your photo taken with a woman in Welsh dress.
She is happy to pose but replaces the standard ‘say cheese’ with ‘iechyd da’ (Pronounced yucky dah). This is the Welsh for Cheers (‘to your health’). Not Cheese. Perhaps it’s easier to get the non-Welsh speakers to say that, than Caws (pronounced Couws)?
I am kicking myself that I didn’t ask, perhaps someone would and let me know?

The End? Or is it?

However, you finished your road trip and so now you have to work out how to get home. Or don’t go home! If you have time, this is where the North Wales Expressway is helpful (see article on North Wales Way). Or consider the West Wales routes (see article on the West Coastal Way).
You can combine these two to make this trip into a circular route back to Cardiff by adding in some gems from the South Wales coast.

I’m not sure why the beautiful South Coast of Wales gets forgotten in the Welsh Assembly/Tourist Board road trip suggestions. Hopefully, we will help you fix that. I may call it the ‘West Wales 500’ ……….Keep an eye out for it, you heard it here first!

Ensure you take a moment to reflect on your incredible journey and cherish the memories you’ve created along the way, ideally by having them printed into a photo book so you can share your adventures with your friends and family

Why Choose The Cambrian Way?

Driving the Cambrian Way is more than just a road trip; it’s an opportunity to experience the essence of Wales. Here are some compelling reasons why this adventure should be at the top of your travel list:

Unparalleled Natural Beauty

The Cambrian Way showcases the diverse landscapes of Wales, from rolling green hills to dramatic mountain peaks, and serene lakes to picturesque coastal views. Each turn of the road unveils a new vista that will leave you in awe. The beauty of nature in Wales is truly unparalleled, and the Cambrian Way allows you to immerse yourself in it.

Flexibility and Freedom

Unlike organized tours or rigid itineraries, driving the Cambrian Way gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace. Stop whenever and wherever you please, linger in places that captivate you, and deviate from the beaten path to discover hidden gems. The flexibility of this journey ensures that you can tailor it to your preferences and create memories that are uniquely yours.

Rich Cultural Heritage Wales

Wales is steeped in history and boasts a rich cultural heritage. Along the Cambrian Way, you’ll encounter ancient castles, historic towns, and sites of significance. Engage with locals, discover folklore, and delve into the stories that have shaped this remarkable country. From Conwy Castle to the vibrant cultural scene in Cardiff, Wales has a wealth of cultural experiences to offer.

Outdoor Adventures

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, the Cambrian Way is your gateway to thrilling adventures. With the Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia National Park on the route, you’ll have ample opportunities for hiking, biking, kayaking, and much more. Challenge yourself with adrenaline-pumping activities or simply enjoy the tranquillity of nature—there’s something for everyone.

Warm Welsh Hospitality

The people of Wales are known for their warm hospitality and friendly nature. As you drive through the towns and villages along the Cambrian Way, you’ll have the chance to interact with locals, savour traditional cuisine, and learn about the traditions that make Wales so special. The genuine warmth of the Welsh people adds an extra layer of magic to your journey.

The Cambrian Way: FAQs

FAQ: Is the Cambrian Way suitable for all seasons?

Yes, the Cambrian Way is accessible throughout the year. However, it’s important to note that weather conditions can vary, especially in mountainous regions. During winter months, some parts of the route may experience snowfall or icy conditions. Before embarking, check weather forecasts and road conditions and pack appropriate equipment and clothing.

FAQ: How long does it take to drive the Cambrian Way?

On average, it takes about 5-7 days to complete the entire route. However, the duration of any trip depends on your pace and the time you allocate for stops and sightseeing. However, you can customize the duration based on your preferences and available time.

FAQ: Are there accommodation options along the route?

Yes, there are numerous accommodation options available along the Cambrian Way. From cosy bed and breakfasts to luxury hotels, you’ll find a range of choices to suit your budget and preferences. It’s recommended to book in advance, especially during peak travel seasons, to secure your desired accommodations.

FAQ: Can I drive the Cambrian Way in a campervan or motorhome?

Yes, this route is a popular choice among travellers. Offering designated campsites and motorhome-friendly facilities, it allows you to enjoy the freedom of the open road while having all the comforts of home. Be sure to familiarize yourself with regulations and restrictions regarding overnight stays and waste disposal.

FAQ: Are there any driving challenges along the Cambrian Way?

While the majority of the route is well-maintained and easily navigable, there are some sections that involve narrow, winding roads. It’s advisable to drive cautiously and be prepared for challenging driving conditions in certain parts of the Cambrian Way. It’s also recommended to have a good map or GPS navigation system to ensure you stay on track.

FAQ: Are there tourist attractions near the Cambrian Way?

Yes, there are several popular tourist attractions located near the Cambrian Way. Some notable examples include the Welsh coast, with its charming seaside towns and beautiful beaches, and the historic town of Caernarfon, home to a stunning medieval castle. These attractions can be easily incorporated into your itinerary to enhance your overall experience.

The Essence of The Cambrian Way Experience

Driving the Cambrian Way, Part of the Wales Way Driving Routes is an extraordinary journey that encapsulates the essence of Wales. It’s a captivating fusion of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and unforgettable moments. The route takes you through landscapes that have inspired poets and artists for centuries. Immerses you in the warm embrace of Welsh hospitality, and introduces you to the wonders of this remarkable country. Whether you’re an adventurer seeking outdoor thrills or a history enthusiast yearning to uncover ancient tales, the Cambrian Way offers a truly immersive experience.

Conclusion: The Cambrian Way

As we conclude our exploration of driving the Cambrian Way, Part of the Wales Way Driving Routes, we hope that this article has ignited a sense of wanderlust within you.

The beauty and charm of Wales await you along this remarkable road trip. Every turn reveals a new vista and every mile brings you closer to unforgettable experiences. So, gather your travel companions, plan your itinerary, and set off on an adventure that will leave an indelible mark on your heart.

Driving The Cambrian Way is an invitation to discover the soul of Wales and create memories that will last a lifetime.

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