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.