Wednesday, 20 September 2017

308 GTi was the perfect drive for Welsh odyssey

ACCORDING to my trusty print edition of the latest AA road map, which unlike satnav does

ACCORDING to my trusty print edition of the latest AA road map, which unlike satnav does not disengage your brain while driving, the A487 is the primary route on the west coast of Wales.

Up and down this rather wonderful road that stretches from Haverfordwest in the south to Bangor in the north, you can explore the visual delights of Wales.

Along the way, the A487 appears to merge with the A470 where the latter crosses the beautiful Snowdonia National Park. The A487 then skirts around Snowdon itself (1,085metres/3,560ft) before heading for the coast once more.

In the second part of our mini-break in Wales, which for me has re-established the joy of touring by car without once touching a motorway, we used the A487 on various day trips on the west coast.

As always in a limited amount of time, we were not able to “do it all”. But in Wales, as in any country that has a lot to offer car tourism, there is plenty to leave for another day.



We were based at the Old Vicarage Cottage in Llangeler, about 13 miles from the coastal town of New Quay.

Staying at one of the many cottages spread across Wales is a good way to see this stunning country by car. Alternatively, you might stay a few nights in one cottage then move on to another, depending on the length of your visit.

Our drive for this trip was the stylish Peugeot 308 GTi Coupe Franche, described at some length in last week’s episode.

Suffice to say this “two-tone” car was a very able vehicle to take on tour, though the low-profile, sports wheels and tyres meant that on some rough lanes you felt the bumps.

Another safe bet for this kind of touring would be the Peugeot 2008 with grip control, which is a medium-sized SUV (sport utility vehicle).

If you want to venture further away from the motorway (and major roads) on to tracks and lanes, you have more traction in the 2008.

However, that aside, the 308 GTi with its comfortable sports seats, roomy boot and good all-round cabin ambience, coupled with crackling power when and if you needed it, was for me an ideal touring car. We struck north on the A487 on day one after travelling the afternoon before through the exquisite Brecon Beacons in the direction of Aberystwyth.

The road hugs the coast most of the way towards this university town, known affectionately as “Aber”, which is also an historic market town.

A university college was established in Aber in 1872 and its students swell the town’s population by thousands of young souls during term time.

This gives the town an air of spontaneity, with a heavy leaning towards the arts. One interesting photographic exhibition I would have liked to have seen, invitingly depicted by a poster in the high street, featured the Rolling Stones’ drummer Charlie Watts.

Alas, the mini-breaker is on a mission to see as much as possible in a fairly short time.

So after Aberystwyth we returned down the A487 to Aberaeron. Actually, Aberystwyth is well placed for the motor tourist and could be a good base.

If you continue north you can visit Dolgellau, Porthmadog and go up the A487 to Bangor and Anglesey. But our mini-break time was precious so we concentrated on the south.

And we were well rewarded. Aberaeron is a standout seaside town, mainly because of its attractive harbour and its buildings, the latter of which are painted in a variety of striking colours.

I managed to find one with a nice little Mazda MX-5 sports car parked outside — the contrasting colours of car and building illustrating perfectly this town’s appeal.

Aberaeron’s smart appearance, it has to be said, is in contrast to some of the smaller seaside towns up and down this coast, and could be so because the headquarters of its county council is found here.

Yet I was assured by a council worker that there was no official directive that houses had to be painted in vibrant colours. That was up to the residents, she said. Then I discovered the “secret” of Aberaeron’s distinctive look. Around 1830, Edward Haycock, an architect from Shrewsbury, laid down the principal square in the form of elegant Regency-style buildings grouped around the harbour.

Just down the road, New Quay is perhaps immediately less attractive than Aberaeron, but nevertheless an impressive harbour stretches out into Cardigan Bay.

And New Quay claims Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, who lived there for a while and drew inspiration for Under Milk Wood, as one of its own.

You might then be tempted to go further down the A487, to Cardigan and on to Fishguard and around the coast to Tenby, Saundersfoot and other delights of Pembrokeshire.

When you are on the A487 in Wales, the country’s coastline is your oyster. And what better way to see it than in a car, without ever touching a motorway.

FACTFILE

Touring Wales

For cottages: Wales Cottage Holidays, telephone 01686 628200 or visit www.walescottageholidays.co.uk

10.45 million overnight trips to Wales by British residents in 2015.

Sixty per cent of British visitors to Wales were on holiday

970,000 international visitors spending £410 million during 2015

VisitWales recommended drives include: the A470, from Cardiff to Conwy, 186 miles, coast to coast; the A4069 Black Mountain Pass (made famous by one J Clarkson when on Top Gear but what’s your hurry?)



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