Driving Snowdonia: Exploring the roads in one of the UK's most beautiful national parks
Jack Evans heads to Snowdonia in one of Porsche’s latest models to see what the area has to offer drivers
There are few places to drive in that are quite as mesmerising as Snowdonia. Brimmed with cloud-grazing mountains, awe-inspiring lakes and a wide variety of different colours, it’s also home to some of the best roads the UK has to offer.
One of the key routes that winds its way through the Snowdonia National Park is the historic A5. Created by Thomas Telford and completed in 1826, it was built in response to the Act of Union 1800, which highlighted the need for better transport links between London and Dublin following the unification of Great Britain and Ireland.
We’d be joining it at its most northerly point in Bangor and following it south until Oswestry – far beyond the Snowdonia borders.
Right from the off, the route staggers in its ability to deliver breathtaking views corner after corner.
Leaving the outskirts of Bangor and travelling through Bethesda, the road quickly opens up as you travel towards Pen-y-Benglog. It’s as the A5 get twistier that it’s worth mentioning our car of choice for this particular trip – the Porsche 911 GTS. Claimed to be the ‘sweet spot’ in the range, our car is a rear-wheel-drive, manual version – and is therefore ideally suited to the sweeping bends and sharp hairpins that you find on the A5.
From Pen-y-Benglog, the scenery continues to get better. Steep cliffs frame the route either side as you snake towards Capel Curig, with the large Llyn Ogwen lake proving a perfect stopping point. In truth, you’ll probably want to stop at every opportunity – keep your cameras at the ready.
One place worth stopping at is the Ugly House. According to legend, it was created in the 15th century, under a tradition at the time that decreed that if a house could be built overnight and have smoke coming from the chimney by dawn, then the builders could claim it as their own. It’s now a popular tearoom and one that sits right by the side of the A5, making it an ideal stopover point.
Back in the car, and we’re on the way once more. The next major town is Betws-y-Coed, and it’s here where we make a small detour away from the A5. The B5106 darts north, and you can take this up to Llanrwst before falling south once more on the B5427 before rejoining the A5 at Pentrefoelas via the B5113.
In truth, this is hardly the route you’d want to take to make quick progress, but the B5113 treads the very edge of the Snowdonia National Park, with its spaghetti-thin road quite the challenge to drive. Just make sure you take your time – herds of sheep lie either side of the carriageway, while the changing weather conditions can prove hazardous.
Snowdonia is one of the UK’s most beautiful places. Staggeringly impressive mountains, take-your-breath-away lakes and dramatic weather all combine to make an unforgettable landscape. However, as we’ve found out here, there’s something for the keen driver too – just watch out for the sheep!
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