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The Welsh countryside

Putting Wales on the map: a Welsh road trip through the ages

For many holidaymakers and road trippers alike, Wales is a country of winding mountain roads, grassy hills and hidden coastal town gems. And, with three stunning National Parks to explore – the Brecon Beacons, Snowdonia and Pembrokeshire – it’s easy for travellers to feel as though they’ve escaped to a different world.

This summer in particular, we’ll undoubtedly see a great number of staycations, making it the perfect opportunity to take to the Welsh roads and experience this beautiful country in all its glory. At Heritage, we’ve put together a driving map of the top 12 routes in Britain to help you do just that, as well as a Spotify playlist so you can hear some classic songs along the way.

We’re not the only ones interested in the spectacular routes around the UK, either. In his fascinating new book Putting Wales, Carmarthenshire and Llandovery on the Map, Heritage customer Richard Jones delves into the rich history of the Welsh map, bringing light to a few South Walian routes which have survived through the ages. In particular, he explores the development of cartography (or map-making) in Wales, and uses the small Welsh town of Llandovery to illustrate how map-making has evolved over time. We’ve listed a couple of our favourites routes in Putting Wales, Carmarthenshire and Llandovery on the Map below.

Talley Abbey to Strata Florida

Carmarthenshire is one of Richard’s main focuses throughout his book. Surrounded by green fields, rolling hills and hedgerows, the southwest county is a beautiful place to explore. Richard explores numerous routes around this area, one being a road connecting two former monasteries: Talley Abbey and Strata Florida. The route, which is just shy of 30 miles long by today’s standards, begins at the ruins of Talley Abbey in Carmarthenshire and moves north to Strata Florida (also a ruin) in the county of Ceredigion.

The route from Talley Abbey to Strata Florida is full of interesting stops for travellers to explore. Talley Abbey is a beautiful ruin which sits beside the Upper and Lower Talley Lakes – a lovely place to take a picnic. Strata Florida is also stunning to behold, with a visitor centre set to be completed in the future, promising lots of explanatory material for those interested in the history of the area. Along the route, you’ll also pass Tregaron Bog, an area of Outstanding Scientific Interest and the perfect place to appreciate the natural beauty of Carmarthenshire. If you’re feeling peckish, you might want to stop for a bite to eat at the Talbot in Tregaron. It’s the only pub in Britain, or perhaps the world, to have an elephant buried in the back garden! Finally, you could also take some time to explore the Dolaucothi Gold Mines – the only known Roman gold mines in the UK.

Talley Abbey
The striking remains of Talley Abbey. Image credit: VisitWales.com

Drovers’ Roads to London

Another point of interest in Richard’s new book are the Drovers’ Roads, used by the legendary Welsh drovers to herd cattle from place to place, and described by Richard as the ‘cattle trails of the Wild West.’ The practice of droving started in the Middle Ages, and was especially common in Wales as they supplied cattle to other major cities in the UK. According to Richard, there were several Drovers’ Roads which merged in Llandovery. Several came together and today form part of the A40 route between Fishguard and Hyde Park Corner in London. Llandovery has the narrowest point on the whole route (by the Castle Hotel), as well as the only railway level crossing!

Although some of the Drovers’ Roads are now narrow country lanes which are still drivable, many are also used as green lanes by walkers, equestrians and 4x4s. For those wanting to hear more about the Drovers’ Roads, head to the small museums in Fishguard and Llandovery, or stop by the town’s information office.

In the modern day of motorways and tarmacked roads, it is easy to forget that there is a rich history of paths etched across the map of Wales. The study behind these historic pathways is a fascinating one, and certainly worth a read if you plan on taking a Welsh road trip this summer. You can get your copy of Putting Wales, Carmarthenshire and Llandovery on the Map by emailing hrandjmbooks@gmail.com. In the meantime, safe travels!

 

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