Great Roads: B4521, Ross on Wye to Abergavenny, UK
UK-based readers can be forgiven for imagining that most of the best driving roads in the world are in the western US or the Alps. But while Britain can’t boast a route Napoléon or a West Coast Highway, you can build a worthwhile and challenging road into many itineraries. All that is required is the short study of a document that many people now erroneously believe is obsolete: a map.
Location: Julian, Between Herefordshire and Monmouthshire, United Kingdom
Latitude: 51.877ºN 2.788ºW
Length of drive: 22 miles
Points of interest:
Skenfrith Castle, St Bridget’s Church
Food and accommodation:
Bell Inn, Skenfrith, tel 01600 750235 www.skenfrith.co.uk
Take a journey from London to mid Wales: the M4 is boring at the best of times, so take the M40 to Oxford and the A40 across the Cotswolds to Gloucester and Ross on Wye, but then be a bit different. Forsake this relatively pleasant and usually reliable stretch of A40 dual carriageway and take the B4521 running slightly to the north. Ahead are 22 virtually uninterrupted miles of varying twists, turns, short straights and elevations.
Though perhaps a little under-specified for the latest GT3s, the B4521 is an outstanding piece of blacktop for the older 911. It has a surface that puts main roads in the home counties to shame, few other vehicles, and serves up sustained involvement for the driver so inclined.
The route traverses the pretty, rolling hills of the Welsh Marches. Fought over so fiercely in medieval times, the only reminder of those tensions today is a string of ruined castles. The hamlet of Skenfrith (Yynsgynwraidd in Welsh), notable for its castle and the welcoming Bell Inn ( Michelin pub of the year in 2007), marks the half-way point: pause here to savour the intense quiet of this unspoiled settlement, described as “the village time forgot” in a recent episode of Doctor Who, parts of which were filmed here. Continue west for the final dozen miles to the bustling market town of Abergavenny, the gateway to mid Wales.
A low-key route, the B4521 is too remote for cyclists and of little interest to bikers, who prefer the wider, open moorland (and busier) roads beyond Abergavenny. For Porsche enthusiasts, however, it’s a minor gem: half an hour of driving pleasure and a satisfying reminder of why you bought the 911 in the first place.