It's the Year of Outdoors in Wales, and 'Visit Wales' is promoting "The Wales Way" - routes to follow through Wales, to which I'd like to add a great route into Wales! #YearofOutdoors #RealMidWales #FindYourEpic
From the Cotswold's to the Radnor hills and the Cambrian Mountains, the A44 can be followed all the way from Oxford to Aberystwyth, from one University town to another. With a few small detours it makes for an interesting drive.
'Route 44' or rather; the A44, follows the old coach road into Wales and by 'coach' I'm talking about coaches and horses. Nowadays we whizz along in our motorcars, blindly following the sat nav, missing the country towns with bye passes and the quirky villages or surprise view points.
Imagine travelling in a horse drawn coach in the past, the journey was, perhaps arduous, but enriched by how much you saw along the way and who you encountered when you stopped at a wayside Inn, - a motorway service station is not quite the same.
So why not make the travelling a part of the holiday? Take a journey of discovery, taking the time to follow an old cross country route. Use a map, or a road atlas, rather than google maps, (which somewhat lacks in detail and personality.)
The A44 crosses some lovely countryside in Oxfordshire, Worcestershire and Herefordshire before entering Wales beyond Worcester, Leominster and Kington. The latter is a delightful little market town easily missed if you take the bye-pass. The rolling Radnorshire hills soon swallow you, before emerging high up with a view across the shire, or is it middle earth? Mid Wales might be rather nondescript in name but the substance is a beautiful variety of rolling farmland, steep wooded hillsides, tumbling streams, waterfalls and above all tranquillity, a key element of a Cambrian Safaris tour.
Rhayader is the gateway to the Cambrian Mountains, straight on are the Elan Valley reservoirs, a "Lake District" of mid Wales, about which much is written. Here the modern A44 heads north for a stretch, coupled with the A470, before continuing west to Aberystwyth. The old route, however, climbs high up a parallel ridge to the west, summiting at 1600 feet with views to the Arans in Snowdonia and much of Northern Powys, with the Brecon Beacons behind you. Dropping into the wilderness of the upper Elan Valley, there is a tight pass into the Cwm Ystwyth as you enter Ceredigion, with a tantalising view ahead as you drop into the valley which changes character at almost every turn in the road, -magic around every corner, steep rocky outcrops, deep gorges, 4,000 years of Lead mines, a forgotten "secret garden". Over the hill and past 'The Arch' towards Devils bridge there are views of the characterful hills of the northern half of Ceredigion, to the sea and Aberystwyth.
So try following in the footsteps of those who came here at a time when Ceredigion - or rather Cardiganshire as it was then known, probably seemed as far away as New Zealand now does...