The thing about the really cool places to go in Wales — the castles, the ruins, the awesome landscapes — is that they tend to be way out in the middle of nowhere AND by themselves. The dolmen of Pentre Ifan, a neolithic burial site over 5000 years old, stands strong to this day in the hills of Pembrokshire, defying the gales howling off the Irish Sea. Y Garn Goch, a Bronze-Iron Age fortress complex among the massifs of the Brecon Beacons, is as forbidding now as they were then.
And the two may as well be on two different planets because they are so far from everything else. Including each other. Thus, your tour through Wales really will be a tour. Get a car, because you are going to be seeing a lot of roads. And they are gorgeous.
If the Great American Roadtrip involves the Great American Highway, the Welsh equivalent is the country road so narrow cars have to drive on to the shoulder to let others pass. Throw in hedgerows and sheep and voila! They actually make for nice shots in and of themselves.
Take a look at Wales and all the big cities, Cardiff, Swansea, Newport, Holyhead, Aberystwyth, are on the coast, with the interior a lacework of tiny villages with equally tiny roads. More over, the cities tend to be very compact; when you leave them, you leave them fast. There isn’t the “fade-away sprawl” you find in the USA. Twenty minutes out of Aberystwyth (if that) and you are in the COUN-TREE. So the quaint country road is actually actually a big thing in Wales.
It really is a land where getting there is half the fun. At least, if you like to take pictures of it. Many of the roads go right back to Roman times, which themselves may stretch back to the timeless tracks humans have been treading in Britain for millennia. Others have a curious zig-zag pattern to them; these roads thread between long-gone farms along the original property lines. Many seem to be in ditches; maybe that’s just urban planning to keep the roads level, or maybe the surface wore down that far by the time asphalt came long. Claustrophobes take note.
The good news is that as rural as these thoroughfares are, they are very well maintained. This is the UK of the 21st Century, after all. You won’t be taking out the suspension of your car on any of them, although the curvy nature of a Welsh country road means drag racing is most unwise. You never know what is around that turn or tree, in a country where flocks of sheep regularly surge across roads to get to the next field.
They also make quick work of getting around, since the human traffic is minimal (never mind the sheep). Wales is barely the size of New Jersey, so nothing is really far from any place else in the country, despite appearances to the contrary. You can drive from Aberystwyth on the Irish Sea Coast to Hay-on-Wye on the English border within a morning.
And it is a great drive. Take some photos along the way!