My scenic driving holiday around south Wales.
Sunday Morning, The Route There.
What prompted Florie to get up at 5 o’clock on a Sunday morning I’ll never know, but she brought in a cup of tea and woke me at 5.05 and that meant she was firing on all cylinders and I was expected to get up quite soon. Because of that we were on the road heading for Peterborough then the A14, M6, M42, M5 for Worcester by 7am and yes, the roads were clear, but only because all sensible people are still in bed at that time on Sunday.
You may wonder why a rich youngish good looking bloke like me is off to Wales on the 29th July at this time of the morning for a whole week. Well it all started a few weeks back, on the 4th July a hot sunny day, that we in Kings Lynn have begun to take for granted lately; Florie had been home only two days from her luxury weekend away in Warrington and I think she was missing the hi life, so I looked in the diary and chose the first week we had free of commitments and asked her if that was OK, “Yes,” she said, so I got out the large yellow road map of Gt. Britain and Ireland 2017, had a quick look through, and asked if Wales was OK, “Yes,” she said (I hope you have a road map of the UK). I thought a holiday in the sun looking at beautiful scenery would be nice, now, the “AA“ atlas has certain roads marked with a green shading that denotes ‘a scenic route,’ so if you look down at the roads leaving Worcester you will find quite a few of these, and thought it would be good to do a clockwise tour of South Wales for a few days; so in less than an hour I had booked hotels and guest houses on the web on a roughly circular route from Cardiff across Pembroke up the coast and back to Worcester on the way back. About two weeks later Florie said “You realise that you have booked that week away in the first week of the School holidays don’t you.” in an accusational tone, as if it was my fault. I fought back the feelings of injustice of the wrongly accused and I didn’t shout or point my finger, I didn’t even say, “Well you said OK.” I just thought next time I will just ask what week do you want to go?
Back to the journey, our first disappointment was about an hour and a half into the journey, when we usually stop for a coffee and a toasted teacake in the Little Chef services on the A14 near Kettering, opposite where they rent those big cranes across the other side of the road. When I drove off the road and went through the petrol station only to find that the place had changed into a starbucks, so we didn’t get our anticipated breakfast in convivial surroundings, we got bitter coffee and a hard croissant in an empty cold drab interior on uncomfortable chairs with an inadequate sized table; we left half the coffee in the venue as quickly as possible and carried on our journey.
I had hoped to kill an hour over breakfast but I was now ahead of time which meant we drove into Worcester just after 10am and we found a car park just as the heavens opened and with only one umbrella between us, one of us got soaked and I wasn’t happy as I sat down in my wet trousers, not a pretty site as my clothes gave off a feint steamy effect as they dried on me. Eventually Florie turned up with the coffee’s as I was starting this diary and reflecting on what led me here today in rainy Worcester.
I planned to leave Worcester on the scenic A449 on what looked like an easy route to Ross on Wye and it was; initially, until we got to Ledbury, then my route plan fell to pieces I lost the road; if you look at the map it seems easy but I am here to tell you I spent the best part of an hour trying to find the A449 as it left Ledbury, I have racked my brains as to how I went wrong but even up to now as I enter this in the computer with the map next to me I still can’t figure it out, the sat-nav wanted me to go via the M50 whatever I did so I ignored the urgent messages given by it and looked for that A449 but it was not marked, yes I know, I must have gone past it or even up it but it didn’t show as A449, I ended up going down what looked like the road it was big and the sat-nav promised me it was taking me to Much Marcle but it lied and took me to Little Marcle passing the Heineken brewery there but, right after the brewery the road narrowed alarmingly as the high banks of the fields at the side of the road closed in and the ferns and grass brushed against the side of the car, I was on a tarmac farm track with no hope of turning round, heading towards Ross on Wye I hoped. The scenery was absolutely beautiful with every tight turn in the narrow road, I was driving at a snail’s pace hoping that nothing would come up the other way, eventually I got to the junction of the B2442 and turned left towards Crow Hill then right and went down on the A449 towards Ross the scenic road I had been seeking.
I turned left at the junction onto the A40 towards Gloucester then right onto the A4136 another scenic route through stunning views of the valley alongside stream next to the road on the way to Monmouth, then right onto the A466 to Chepstow another beautiful road; all afternoon the weather had been changeable but as we approached Chepstow the heavens opened and they stayed open as we looked for somewhere to eat; we came across what looked like a popular Mr Toby Carvery at 3.45pm in Newport when I pulled into the car park it was full to overflowing with cars, there was also an overflow of people stood round the door trying to get in the place, we turned tale and got out of there deciding to go straight to our hotel in Cardiff which as it happens when we drove up to it we found another Mr Toby right next door to it, great! Within minutes of arriving we were in the Toby and enjoying a roast dinner, after which we were up in our hotel room relaxing with a drink and finishing the diary for the day, the big news down here in Cardiff is Geraint Jones winning his big bike ride in France much to the consternation of the French; our room was sparse with ill fitting windows and bed pillows made of full cement sacks with fresh clean cotton covers on, so sleep was painful and intermittent.
Monday Morning, Cardiff.
This morning saw a sky full of dark forbidding rain clouds with pinpricks of bright sunlight here and there that looked set for the day; we drove round to our friends home some 5 miles away, I was glad I had the sat-nav, with the amount of twists and turns around the many roundabouts — it was worse than Milton Keynes — but it was worth it to see them, they greeted us warmly, and immediately we all started where we left off at our last meeting on board ship, eagerly catching up with each other’s events, holidays are what we have in common, time passed quickly and we were soon on our way to lunch.
Clive drove us through Cardiff town to a great Italian restaurant on the first floor, overlooking Cardiff Bay; (just like our flat back in Kings Lynn overlooking the gasworks) here we stuffed ourselves with tomato based delicacies while we swapped stories of holiday tragedies on land and sea while the rain bounced off the other side of the window we were sat next to. Two hours passed quickly and too soon we were on our way back to Clive and Linda’s for more stories with coffee, until it was time for us to leave and drive to our next digs the other side of the Brecon Beacons just past Builth Wells; after a tearful farewell and guidance on how to get to the A470 to go through the Brecon’s, we had a most picturesque journey the whole way to Trecoed Farm where we were to spend the night; a sheep farm a mile off the A483 north east of Builth Wells set in stunningly beautiful countryside, run by Elsie, a lovely matter of fact lady, who has lived on the farm ever since she married Dillwyn who was born on the farm. Elsie went out of her way to make us comfortable with her attention to detail and common sense approach. (view from bedroom window below)
Tuesday morning, The Brecon’s.
Elsie served us a delicious English breakfast while we were surrounded by beautiful hanging plate’s English china and many other personal trinkets making us feel at home, we were sorry to leave but we had to move on. After a farewell to Elsie, our journey led down through the Brecon’s, it was outstanding, over the green hills and through the picturesque tree filled valley’s and the impressive mountains covered in green, we were lucky that the sat-nav took us along the B4520 from Builth Wells first then along the A4067 and then the A4069 before we took the A40 to Carmarthen and on to Haverfordwest where we were to stay; the whole of the journey made me tingle with pleasure as each corner revealed more fantastic views, I drove as slow as I dare with the prevailing traffic so I could soak up the never ending vistas. Our destination today was just 4 miles south west of the main town in a pub come guest house, I had the address in my contacts then in the sat-nav which has worked well up till now, but now we ended up in a tiny hamlet with no pubs or guest houses and as we were to find out, 5 miles from where the actual digs were, I phoned the digs and got an answer-phone; then I decided to put just part of the address into maps and it worked it took us to the correct village where we found the pub, Hurrah! I thought, until I tried getting into the place, it did not open until 4.30pm. We had to go for a ride round to kill time until the place opened then we booked in, the greeting was nothing like the name of the place promised, in fact it was the opposite in every way to last night’s digs, the place had been done as cheaply as possible the bedding smelt very strongly of some cheap scented washing powder it was overpowering, there was no attention to detail or attempt at comfort and we could hear next doors TV quite clearly one of the lights didn’t work, there was nowhere to put things in the bathroom which was dark and dismal as it only had one 40 watt light bulb in a normal bayonet light fitting in the ceiling above the shower, lucky us, we are booked in for two nights.
Wednesday morning, The Coast Road.
1st August and our fourth day of the scenic holiday, we left Haverfordwest and went to Llanmiloe on the banks of Carmarthen Bay then travelled west along the coast roads through Tenby, Pembroke, Neyland, Milford Haven, (I think this is Little Haven below)
Talbenny, Little and Broad Haven, (I think this is dropping down into Broad Haven)
Newgale, stopping at St Davids and it’s Cathedral (below)
then onto Fishguard and Cardigan the whole coast road journey and the little villages and towns on the coast are very picturesque, this was helped by a very nice sunny day; our return journey was on the B4329 another scenic route over hills and through valleys with sheep all over the place, a day of ever-changing views from hilltops covered in sheep to small hamlets on the waterfront, I drove along tree-lined roads, between green fields, through very narrow streets, we started at 9am and finished at 6.15pm, when we found out just how bad our digs were. When we got back into our room we found the beds had not been made, the cheap throw away plastic cups in the bathroom were still there where we left them and the towels we had left in a neat pile on the floor were still there used and wet from the morning, I went downstairs and told the landlady that our room hadn’t been serviced, “It has.” She said, “I did it myself, I didn’t make your beds because I thought that’s how you would want them left and I cleaned your cups. “But you haven’t changed the towels,” I said, “I don’t change the towels daily,” came the reply. I was almost speechless and very angry inside, “Well my Wife and I require clean towels tonight please,” I sputtered. She looked at me with one of those looks that said — should I throw him out of my pub or tell him to go to hell, — she relented after a long minute and said, “I’ll bring then up to your room later.” About 2 hours later there was a knock on the door, it was the landlady, she virtually threw the towels at me with a look that said, don’t ask for anything else.
Thursday morning, Aberystwyth.
I was almost frightened of going down to breakfast today, luckily there were two other fella’s down in the dining room, Florie and I got our breakfast without saying a word to mine hostess, a little while later I put the key on the bar where we checked out and I could swear that she snarled at me from the other side of her computer, I got out of there as quickly as possible and didn’t look back I just kept driving in the mist until we got to Aberystwyth-in-the-rain where the visibility was only a few yards; we were planning to go on the Vale of Rheidol (narrow gauge) Railway (see green engine below)
to Devil’s Bridge to see the waterfalls but the weather put us off so we went across the road to Marks & Sparks and got a cup of coffee. Later we left Aberystwyth on the A4120 a very impressive route to the Devil’s Bridge, with the valley far below us to our left, it wasn’t a wide road but luckily it wasn’t busy, then we turned right onto the A44 and left up the B4518 and on up the A470 to Dolgellau, on the way I looked at the dashboard and saw that I was running very low on fuel and no petrol stations around, WOW, isn’t diesel expensive in the valley’s! (I can’t think where this was but it was worth stopping for today)
The weather had been improving intermittently from leaving Aberystwyth and we got some views of outstanding beauty from time to time; we left Dolgellau and carried on down the A493 along the narrow windy road with unforgiving stone walls each side until we got to the Dovey Valley where we turned right onto the A487 back to Aberystwyth where we are booked into a Marston’s hotel/pub called The Starling Cloud a relatively new place that has nice comfortable rooms and the pub serves good tasty food by really helpful staff, the Wi-Fi internet connection really fly’s, a great service a overall, when I got out of the car there I couldn’t resist a quick look at the sides of my car to check for scratches.
Friday morning, Talyllyn (narrow gauge) Railway.
After a great breakfast we drove back up the road we came down yesterday, to the town of Tywyn; to catch the 10.30am train on the Talyllyn (narrow gauge) Railway with the blue RAF engine pulling it (see below).
We had a ride up the picturesque valley to Abergynolwyn and back, it’s a lovely ride on well maintained rolling stock; it was just a shame that it rained a lot. (this is it, from the train)
When we got back to the car we drove north along the coast road and then turned right onto the B4405 that runs up the same valley parallel to the train route but we carried on past Abergynolwyn up to the A487 where we turned south along more scenic roads onto the A470 and down to Llanidloes; a nice little town in the centre of Wales on the banks of the Afon (River) Dulas where it joins the River Severn, a place I last visited 58 years ago when I came on a week’s camp with the Boy Scouts (those were the days canvas tents real fires made with wood from the forest and chopped with axes etc, etc; what would health and safety say?).
Before we got to the town the sun came out and the skies cleared and it stayed that way all evening, which we found convenient when we stopped in the town centre to get our bearings and have a look round at what was on offer in the warm afternoon air; we found our guest house at the end of the main street so moved the car to their car park for the night. The pub was closed, but luckily for us the owner had to come out and see to a delivery man so she reluctantly booked us in early, “We don’t open until 5.30pm but I will book you in now, you’re in number 8, top of stairs and right to end.” then the pub door slammed shut quickly behind us as we went to our room the other side of the car park, the pub wouldn’t reopen again until 5.30pm, but it was only 3.30 now, so Florie planned to scour the town for bargains (I think she was getting scene fatigue and needed some shop therapy) and I took myself off to a pub further down the High Street that was open, I got a large cold lager and lime and settled myself in an armchair in the shade and got stuck into getting this diary up to date and planning tomorrows journey home.
My sanctuary for the afternoon was serving up food to others while I sat and wrote, and it looked good to me, I had just got my second pint when Florie joined me so we ordered our meals there, which were very tasty; then we slowly walked back to our digs and settled ourselves in, when we looked around our room we could see that this pub/guesthouse had all the hallmarks of the place in Haverfordwest overpriced cheap accommodation with more than half the bulbs not working in the room, the lack of any facilities made the room look bigger, convenience in the bathroom was the toilet roll on the floor by the right foot this time, all the wood work is the same drab very dark brown with every horizontal surface covered in thick dust, the beds felt well used and we could feel the springs when we turned over in the night, but it was reasonably quiet and peaceful in the night.
Saturday morning, Across Country.
Breakfast was between 8.30 and 9am only which was later than we wanted but as we had paid £68 for the privilege of staying there, we delayed our departure; it was a rustic but tasty breakfast and set us up for our journey. Our way home was via the A470, A44 these were scenic, M5, M42, M6 these were like car parks, A14 progressing through to Peterborough then on to Kings Lynn; when we started out this morning it was 18°C as we passed through the beautiful valley’s on the A470 where the scenery flattened slightly and likewise as we went through the Vale of Evesham on the A44, as we progressed across the country the temperature slowly rose to 26°C.
Well our holiday is well and truly over, our brief respite from the hot drought conditions is finished, we had a lovely time in the cooler conditions and the relief in the rain which all helps to give Wales its special character.
I wanted to put lots of photo’s of the trip up but I sure you realise that while driving through the beautiful parts, the roads are busy and there isn’t always a place to pull over to take a pictures, so you have seen about half of what I took, I hope you enjoyed the pictures and the piece.