The Best Driving Roads in North Wales
The ultimate route map including the location of super unleaded petrol stations, photography hotspots and where to eat. Featuring all the best roads of North Wales, including the B4391, EVO triangle, Horseshoe Pass and more...
orth Wales has long been one of the bucket list destinations for driving enthusiasts. The land of Dragon's and leeks might not be the petrolheads paradise it once was, but that's only because attitudes have changed. The amazing roads twisting across the Denbigh moors or squeezing through the tight mountain passes of Snowdonia have barely changed since the first road testers sought them out.
What has changed is attitudes and perception - popularity inevitably led to the recklessness of the few. The local inhabitants rightly became less tolerant and tough enforcement quickly followed, backed up by the rise of the safety camera van, average speed monitoring and even prosecution via YouTube uploads. To many, driving in North Wales has become a constant gauntlet of fear around every swooping bend. But pick your moments, leave the thrill seeking to the race track, be mindful and always respect village speed limits - you'll quickly discover you can still have a driving epiphany.
As always, we begin our planning with the all important brimming of the fuel tank in mind. Ruabon Shell is handily located just off the main North to South A483 trunk road/dual carriageway, and being essentially brand new, it has handy additional features such as an on-site Greggs and jet wash should you wish to keep your car looking sharp for any potential photography.
Written by Craig Toone
Photography by Ben Midlane
START /END POINT
Shell Petrol Station and Services, Ruabon LL14 6EQ
Travel time - approx. 3.5hrs
Distance - approx. 130 miles
Ideal car - Porsche 997.2 911 GTS
The first target of the day is to head towards the pretty Vale of Llangollen and the Horseshoe Pass (A542). It’s a short but cracking way to ease yourself into the drive, with a fast and flowing ascent - save for the signature double hairpin that gives the road its name. At the 1,400ft summit you’ll be rewarded with a picturesque view back down the valley, and if you didn't fancy a Greggs sausage roll for breakfast there's the option to stop at the re-known Ponderosa Cafe, where there is usually a gathering of interesting metal.
On the descending side the pass switches tactics - undulations and tight turns come thick and fast. From there the link to Ruthin is scenic but tame save for the Nat-y-garth section (A525), which will tie you in knots through the brief forest. Leading out of town is one of our favourite roads in the area - the B5105 - which ticks all the classic B-road hallmarks - fast, smooth and rhythmic one minute, tight, twisty and bumpy the next.
Handily it spits you out at Ceredigion by the starting point of the infamous EVO Triangle, which is now lined with average speed cameras, but enjoyment can still be had along the eastern leg (B4501) where you’ll struggle to break the speed limit. Aim for the Sportsman's Arms taking a left onto the A543 (western leg) which offers some fantastic photography opportunities.
Take a right at the T junction onto the A5 towards Betws-y-Coed, where you'll find another Shell station (LL24 0AR) where you can usually find us doing our best teapot impression beside one of the Optimax pumps. We are also big fans of the tempting Hangin' Pizzeria in town, or if its summer, you can grab an ice cream at Cadwaladers.
Hydrocarbons and carbohydrates replenished, you'll have a decision to make;
The A470 - a wide, fast A-road that cuts out the Llanberis Pass and heads directly to Ffestiniog and the B4391 (map route)
LONGER DRIVING LOOP (+1hr)
The A4086 out of Capel Curig is a fantastic ribbon or tarmac, as is the Llanberis Pass, climbing up the side of Mt. Snowden. It can often frustrate as much as it elevates, but get a clear run and you’ll experience an exhilarating drive framed by sky-scraping peaks and giant slate boulders. Time it fractionally wrong however, you’ll become frustrated as it's a difficult road to overtake on due to the frequency of turns and lack of extended straights.
After Llanberis, its simply a case of maintaining your heading along the A4086 towards Caernarfon, cutting the corner at Caeathro, where you can find another Shell garage. Trace the A4085 to Beddgelert, turning right onto the A494, before picking up the B4410 towards Ffestiniog, seeking out the absolute star road of the day - the B4391.
This road has it all - the star of countless magazine photoshoots, it's one of those rare occasions where everything aligns - a gummy surface, a mix of every type of turn, minimal traffic and most importantly, clear sight lines for the majority of the drive.
I've no doubt that once you reach the A4212, you'll be tempted to make use of the small, perfectly placed lay-by to perform a U-turn. Word of caution - watch your step the closer you get to Bala along the A4212, the local constabulary is fond of placing a camera van in proximity of the town.
There is a small petrol station on Bala high street, however it doesn't offer premium fuel. The local chippy is a worthy distraction though, as is the beauty of Bala Lake itself. At this point a literal fork in the road presents itself as your journey continues. Depending on what kind of drive you seek, we present three options, all heading towards Oswestry.
Route A as indicated involves picking up part two of the excellent B4391 over the top of the hills. Routes B and C are narrower, less direct, more sedate, but more scenic. Option B follows the B4393 towards Lake Vyrnwy, whereas option C heads further south, taking on the Bwlch-y-Groes, aka Hellfire Pass, once used for Hillclimb trials. For those who prefer driving thrills over scenic spills, sticking to the B4391 is the way to go, but sometimes a change of pace can't hurt.
At this point you'll have been on the go for nearly four hours, a good time to pick up the A483 once more, a mere fifteen minutes South of where the day began, having covered in the region of 130-160 miles. If you're still keen for more, cross straight over the A483 and take the B4396 and B4397 through Knockin, but we assure you, by this point, North Wales will have delivered.
POINTS OF INTEREST
OTHER ROADS IN THE AREA
Llanberis Pass (follow the A4086 West out of Betws-y-Coed)
A5 from Betws-y-Coed to Tregarth (can get busy at times)
B4407 (off the B4391, leads back to the EVO Triangle. Beware becomes single track after the first few miles)
Bwlch-y-Groes (Hellfire Pass, South out of Bala)
SUPER UNLEADED PETROL STATIONS
RUABON PARK SERVICE STATION - Shell LL14 6EQ
SHELL BETWS-Y-COED - Shell LL24 0AR
Shell ▷ Caernarfon ⏰ opening times ➤ CAEATHRO | FindOpen UK (find-open.co.uk) LL55 2SS