Brecon Beacons, Wales, UK

This Great Road was initially published in issue 86 of Total 911.

We all like different things from our Great Roads. Some look for them to be billiard table EU money flat, others actually like a bit of rough and ready to focus the mind. Either way, it’s always the archetypal ‘open road’ that consistently stands out as being the characteristic we all long for. This month we look at such a road; the A4059 in South Wales.

Almost bang in the centre of the Brecon Beacons National Park, the A4059 threads south-west off the main A470 trunk road between Brecon in the north and Merthyr Tydfil, on the south edge of the National Park. A nice road in itself, but often busy, the A470 passes through some fabulous scenery, alongside numerous reservoirs and small clumps of forest.

Our focus starts as we turn west onto the top end of the A4059, near Beacons Reservoir. After passing over a narrow bridge by the dam wall, a left-hand bend opens to an inclined, long straight to reveal a taste of what’s to come.

Passing over a cattle grid, we now start the route proper. Surface is good, and relatively level, with a long, alternating weave the road rises up away from the valley. To our left, a glorious view opens past the Taff Trail and Cantref Reservoir. In the right light, this is fabulous countryside to experience.

A mile or so later, we set the pace of the rest of the route. Namely, long, open views, with the road snaking off into the middle distance. There are a couple of spots where visibility lessens slightly, with a few hidden dips, but in the main it is absolutely superb throughout. One view is of a wonderful right-hand bend in the distance, with a slow drop down just before, and a rise afterwards. Great fun to both spot, anticipate, and position the car to knock off.

Location: Beacons Reservoir to Penderyn, Brecon Beacons. 8.3 miles.

Latitude: 51.8563 -3.4719

Points of interest: Brecon Beacons National Park, Brecon Mountain Railway, Pen-y-Fan, Red Kite feeding centre.

Food and accommodation: Glancynon Inn, Hirwaun.

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After the right-hand bend, the scenery alternates, with an open valley on our right, and a hill on the left, and the road lazily drops in altitude over the next few miles. There are few bends for a mile or two, when the character changes, and dwellings slowly appear, as does bend after bend, descending into the small village of Penderyn.

The appeal of this road lies, I think, in the fact it matches that mythical ‘open road’ drivers long for. When everyday involves start stop, hustle and bustle, the A4059 offers the perfect antidote. A place where we can utilise a little more of the performance, and in scenery that is scarcely troubled by development. At no point is the road very high – 450m is about its limit – but the character of the Brecon Beacons mean that the views over to receding hills is enchanting. One word of warning, though; this is rural Wales – watch out for sheep!

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