Wales is the heartland of the Roberts’. Gav’s great-great grandparents lived in Llangollen, just south of the Horseshoe Pass, before leaving the Welsh hills for London and eventually further east to Suffolk.
So, it was fitting that we took a road-trip along the old routes of our ancestors.
Road Trip Wales: The Horseshoe Pass, is our account of the journey we’ve taken twice along this route. And although the Pass itself is not a long journey, if you’re travelling in Wales it’s a route you must take!
But before we even reach the Roberts’ heartland, we’re going to start this road trip story back over the border in England…
From the Snake Pass to the Horseshoe Pass
We’d wild-camped in the Peak District before enjoying the glorious drive along the Snake Pass to Glossop and then south toward Buxton. From there we followed the A537 to Macclesfield – itself a beautiful route, twisting and turning across the desolate moors and hills.
Looking at a map of the UK, you’d never think it would take the best part of five hours to get from the Peak District and into Wales. But that’s exactly what it took in our old Cree.
We eventually entered the Roberts’ home country, heading in the direction of Wrexham and, once through the town, found the A525. A little further on we turned left, joining the A542 – the start of the drive south along the Horseshoe Pass.
At some point – if you’re driving an older van like ours – you’ll start to feel the gentle climb upwards, and it’s not long before you reach the Ponderosa roadside cafe. It made a welcome break for us, having been on the road for some time.
Indeed, it’s a very popular place to stop for a rest and a bite to eat – and to enjoy the views. The car-park is plenty big enough for motorhomes and we took a little walk on a footpath beside the road to take in some of the scenery.
Beyond the cafe the Horseshoe Pass starts…for real!
Once you leave the roadside cafe the views open up and you find yourself driving right close to the edge of a very steep drop. Of course, there are barriers to stop you falling off the side but you need to keep your wits about you, applying the brakes all the way down.
Gav’s parents did this same route on a coach trip way back in the mid 60s and he always remembers them speaking with some trepidation of the sheer drop they saw whilst looking out of the windows.
One person’s fear is another’s excitement.
The Hoseshoe Pass is best taken slowly so that you have time to admire the scenery, not easy of course if you’re driving! However, there are a couple of laybys after the cafe (if you’re heading south) where you can pull over and stop for photographs.
Most of the time, whilst Gav drives, Hobo Trudi is busy with her cameras, not quite knowing where to look as there are so many great views from up here.
Freewheeling to Llangollen
Once you’re round the two main hairpin bends (see the route map) the road begins to level out and before you know it you’re kind-of freewheeling all the way to Llangollen just a few more miles on.
We stayed here – the Roberts’ heartland – for a few days, finding a campsite close to the Llangollen Canal.
The town gets very busy in the summer months but our last visit was in October when it was much quieter, just how we like it. Whatever the time of year, it is well worth a visit if you’re in the area with lots to see and do.
Gav felt at home here, touching base with his ancestors and we’ll no doubt return, if only to do the Horseshoe Pass again.
Check out these old pictures showing some of the history of Llangollen.
And we’d love to hear of your journeys and road trips. Have you done the Horseshoe Pass? Let us know in the comments below or contact us here.
Would you love to do a road trip like this one but don’t have a van? Find out all you need to know before renting a motorhome for an epic journey. There are some vital things to ask before you hit the road!