The King of Wales
I pulled back the curtains in my little Welsh B&B that overlooked the beach, to discover it was a frosty but beautifully sunny morning in Aberystwyth. I was here not only to find out what a Full Welsh breakfast was, but to drive a few roads that I'd heard were pretty special in this area. For many people, Aberystwyth is one of those places that you've probably heard of but have most likely never visited. I wasn't there to stroll the beach with its pier or experience the longest electric cliff railway in Britain, with its nice little cafe at the summit. I was here to have a go on the 25 mile stretch of road which, I'd argue, is far more appealing than the aforementioned attractions.
The A44 takes in some of Wales' most beautiful countryside and makes a long journey west well worth it. It starts fairly normally as you leave Aberystwyth, with its pleasant cricket pitches and schools. Further on you pass a charming butterfly house. But things really start getting interesting when you hit the DayGlo oversized Playstation-style chevrons of Cwmbrwyno, that will you to follow the path of the road and not career out of control into the welcoming arms of Father Time. As JC likes to say, "backwards on fire." Over a period of a mile you gradually rise 100 metres or so when, without warning, Wales suddenly jumps out from behind a bush and exposes itself to you in all its splendour. From this moment on the sky appears bigger and brighter and lights up the road ahead, the road that's about to lead you into the most beautiful scenery, the likes of which Wales is known for.
As you continue, it's almost as if the A44 is vying for your attention against the stunning valleys that accompany you on your journey. To be honest it's a close call. You'll find yourself rounding a bend and there in front of you is a view almost alpine like in its beauty, only for it to be matched by a wonderfully attractive fast sweeping turn. Around the next corner the road wiggles its arse at you in the form of a tight set of chicanes, only to be equalled by a vista fit for the walls of the Tate. The later 3rd of this road is close to driving perfection. Smooth surfaces see quick sweeping corners clinging onto the terrain while busy chicanes send you into a trance-like state - at one point you might imagine yourself in the opening credits of the Italian Job (well, nearly).
This is a joyous road to drive but you do need to concentrate. Not because it's overly technical but because the views can easily steal your attention and, before you know it, the last thing going through your mind (apart from the stunning Welsh countryside) will be your steering wheel.
Don't come to Aberystwyth for the Full Welsh Breakfast, it's like the English version but smaller. Come for the A44, it has it all - fluidity, smooth tarmac and amazing scenery. When you hit the roundabout at Llangurig, turn around and do it again. You might even find time for a stroll on the pier.
At a glance
Things you'll love
A road as beautiful to drive as the surrounding Welsh valleys.
Look out for
The Elvis rock, the most iconic pieces of graffiti in Wales (allegedly originally read "Elis" written in 1962 by John Hefin and David Meredith in support of a local Plaid Cymru candidate, Islwyn Ffowc Elis). It sits alongside the A44 near Eisteddfa Gurig in Ceredigion.
In and around Aberystwyth to Llangurig
The ruins of Aberystwyth's castle date from the thirteenth century. They now house a pleasant park and play area.
Constitution Hill is home to the Victorian electric cliff railway and camera obscura, as well as great views across the town. 'Consti' dominates the north end of Aberystwyth's Promenade.Situated at the northern end of the promenade, Constitution Hill reaches 430 feet in to the sky, making it a magnificent viewpoint. On clear days it is possible to see one hundred miles of coastline, including the Llyn Peninsula and even Snowdon.
Cardigan Bay Watersports
You can choose from dinghy sailing, yacht cruising, power boating, windsurfing and kayaking with both short sessions and longer courses suitable for all levels and abilities whether: you are a first timer; you wish to enhance your skills/qualifications; build up your team; you simply want a fun experience whilst on a weekend break or longer holiday. Our centre offers a range of equipment to accommodate beginners as well as those who already have experience.
Cardigan Bay Marine Wildilfe Centre
The centre offers interpretive displays on a wide variety of marine wildlife with research focused on the bottlenose dolphins of Cardigan Bay, Wales. The centre is supported by the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Group, a marine interest group of the Wildlife Trust of South & West Wales.
See the spectacular waterfall and terminus of the Rheiddol Light Railway and find out why it is called Devil's Bridge!
Driving in Britain
The UK is the only country in Europe to measure their speed in Miles Per Hour, not Kilometers. Along with Malta and Cyprus they are the only country in Europe to drive on the left hand side. The UK speed limits range from as low as 20mph in built-up city areas up to 70mph on the motorway. It's understood that Police will allow you to drive 10% over the speed limit but it's the speed cameras you need to look out for. They are scattered everywhere and will take a picture of your car / plate while speeding. If you're driving a hire car when caught by a speed camera you'll probably be tracked down through your rental agency and issued with your ticket! Speed cameras are always accompanied by warning signs so look out for them while enjoying your drive.
The law states that it is illegal to ride a motorbike or drive a car while you are using a hand held communication device. Hands free phones may be used, but they are ultimately a distraction and you are still open to a charge of careless driving should a police officer think you are driving poorly while using one.
Things you might want to have with you
Driving licence (if from UK both card and paper licence)
Vehicle registration form
Headlight beam deflectors
First aid kit
High visibilty jacket
For more information on driving in Europe visit the European Traffic Police Network website www.tispol.org