The Dragon's SpineThe Dragon's Spine

THE DRAGON'S SPINE

Strap in. We’re going coast to coast in the land of cawl (warming soup), cwtches (hugs), and err sheep...

This Welsh road trip has a fittingly badass name - The Dragon’s Spine. It’ll take you through bustling cities, two national parks, and many miles (186 to be exact) of beaut countryside and old-timey pubs.

The Route

As far as roads go, the A470 lucked out. It runs from Cardiff in the south all the way to Conwy in the north. Which means you’ll be hugging the coast for part of the trip but also cramming in some big dog cities and Nat Geo countryside scenes too.

There are some key numbers you should know. First up, it’s a beastly 186 miles. You could bang it all out in a couple of days, if you’re a maniac who cares not for eye-tingling views and coastal eats. We recommend four to five days.

You’ll start in the Welsh capital, which is bursting out of it’s britches (pants) with culture. Then it’s a nice little cruise up through South Wales to the Brecon Beacons. Tick off the national park and continue through Wales passing reservoirs (Llyn Clywedog) and market towns (Dolgellau). Eventually you’ll hit the second NP, Snowdonia and the show-off mountains of Conwy.

What you'll do

Cardiff Bay, Cardiff Castle, Cardiff Coch (also a castle)...

You could spend a whole week ogling this turrety porn. Don’t. Timewaster. Instead you’re going to want to head to West Canal Wharf. There’s a multi-storey antique and vintage market in an old warehouse. Check the Facebook page, there are rooftop and basement parties.

For eats it’s got to be Street Food Social or Depot. These are pop-up markets and stalls. You’ll want to chow down on sticky beef from Brother Thai. Finish your day at a 47-seater pub theatre in Porter’s bar. This place champions new writers and fringe theatre.

Everybody hikes in the Brecon Beacons. It’s a no-brainer. Once you’ve finished abusing your calves head to the Geopark. It’s got four of the longest limestone caves in Britain and you can crawl around inside them. Newbs can go caving with an instructor and learn how to roam about underground like a regular Indiana Jones. You’ve wriggled about like an earthworm... now it’s time to fly. Your next stop is Snowdonia, which happens to have the longest zip wire in Europe. Get involved.

By this point you should be realising that Wales is catnip for adventurous types. North Wales Active do something called Canyon Extreme. You’ll be scrambling, climbing, abseiling, rockhopping and - wait for it - jumping into water and swimming down a canyon. Sweet baby Jesus.

Where to stay

The Jury's Inn, Cardiff

Jury’s Inn is a stumble from Cardiff’s best bars and restaurants. The rooms are modern, sleek, and simple. Ideal for face-planting after eating your bodyweight in street food. There’s also a swanky hotel bar and generous buffet brekkie.

Stable Lodge, Brecon Beacons

So wholesome it’d make Oprah weep. This cosy Brecon Beacons cottage is smooshed between lakes and mountains but just 10 mins from town. There’s also a 50" TV. SOLD.

Coach House, Snowdonia

A stupid big 16th century Coach House close to Snowdonia. You’ll be resting your pegs in the super luxe barn. There are views of the mountain range, horses grazing in the field, and the ocean in the distance. Ideal. A full Welsh breakfast can be served in the main house.

The Erskine Arms, Conwy

The main draw of The Erskine Arms is the locally sourced meals. The Sunday roasts are especially good. Rooms are cosy and breakfast is served in the bar area in the morning. Breakfast pint? Be rude not to.