In Search Of The Good Roads
Just Drive

The one thing that most, if not all, car enthusiasts can appreciate is a good driving road.

It’s fairly safe to say that no matter what you drive, what you’re into or where you are in the world, there’s a road that you look forward to driving each and every time the opportunity arises. It doesn’t matter whether you’re into the JDM scene or American hot rods, resto-modded quirky classics or European hot hatches, drifting or drag. It might be a quiet, rural route that you’ve only recently discovered, or a busy thoroughfare that you frequent on a regular basis. The mindset is the same. No matter whether it’s part of a commute to get from A to B, or a self-indulgent detour that you can’t resist.


We all know the drill. Your gaze locks on the horizon, you grip the wheel that bit tighter, the RPMs rise as you accelerate. You push that bit harder.

You know this road.


Your car glides through the curves, over the dips and out onto the open road, asphalt whizzing by as you savour every second of the drive. The road snakes along its route, etched into the landscape and your memory in equal measures.


As it comes to an end you ease off and transcend back into normal driving mode, the last great corner or straightaway a fading dot in the rear-view mirror. Your heart rate lowers to its regular rhythm and you think forward to the next time you’ll get to experience the thrill.


What makes for a good road? I wonder if there’s a formula that someone far smarter than me has come up with that can be applied. Something along the lines of: clear straights plus flowing curves, minus speed cameras, multiplied by hairpins, divided by how epic the scenery is, equals driving thrills.


For me, a good road isn’t even one that you need to travel on at an especially quick pace to appreciate. I don’t want to feel like I’m approaching the limits of my own or my car’s abilities when out on the road. Those kind of endeavours should definitely be saved for the track.

I’m sharing with you my favourite driving road, or certainly the best road that I’ve experienced thus far. I plan on taking in some more routes around the UK and Europe next year so this could quit easily change, but for now this is the one. A recent run over to see family in North Wales gave me the chance to clear the cobwebs out of my Honda S2000 and experience the route once again.

The Warm Up

If you pick up automotive magazines or frequent mainstream car websites from time to time then I guarantee that you’ll recognise this road. In fact, there’s barely been a time that I’ve been on it that I haven’t seen a magazine or press shoot taking place. Trace the approximate 30-mile path of the B4391 from Llangynog to Ffestiniog in North Wales on a map as it squiggles towards Snowdonia and you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was a road designed with the simple and efficient journey of getting from A to B in mind.

And you’d actually be right, I’d imagine.


But take a blast down certain sections of said road and you can’t help but feel that a route this good can’t have ended up being so satisfying purely dictated by the landscape and route efficiency alone.

I’m not buying it. It’s too much of a happy accident.


The pass is split into two parts. The first, known as the Milltir Cerrig mountain pass, runs from Llangynog to Bala, before the B4391 takes a momentary respite and continues, rather epically, on the other side of Bala towards Ffestiniog.

Coming out of the sleepy Welsh town of Llangynog, the slate cottages and smoking chimneys disappear in your rear-view as the pass climbs into the moorland above. There’s just a small slate wall separating you and the substantial valley drop off to your left, so your best bet is to enjoy the view as you slowly climb the pass.


The road immediately picks up pace as the valley walls open up; these sections with great visibility invite you to go heavier on the throttle. It’s frighteningly easy to end up going far faster than you should be here, purely because the surroundings are so vast.

Before you know it, a tight left followed by an even tighter right hairpin reminds you that you need to keep your wits about you, the road then slaloming between the rolling countryside. Just as fast as it opened out, the surroundings close in again as you start the descent down towards the town of Bala.


A series of tight downward switchbacks are best taken at a slow speed, especially during winter when the road here receives zero daylight and fallen leaves coat the surface. I’ve had the odd twitchy moment here!


Coming out of Bala, you leave the B4391 momentarily while you enjoy the view and loop around Llyn (Lake) Celyn. The local constabulary know that drivers often head from Bala up to the second half of the pass for some spirited driving, so it’s not unusual to see a police car or bike or two en route. The police also use the road for high-speed training from time to time, so I’m told.


With Llyn Celyn behind you, a small signpost and right turn directing you to Ffestiniog is your guide for the second, and best part of the pass.

In the name of continuity I need to point something out at this point – I’d taken a 60-mile detour to share this road with you, but on this day in particular the second half of the pass was completely closed. Call it a lesson in checking the route ahead of you before you set off, if you will! Unperturbed, I returned a couple of days later on my route home to pick up the second half.

Onto The Good Stuff

At this point the B4391 goes from great to epic. A cattle grid and stone wall marks the start of the fun as you tackle a narrow, winding climb around a small hill. Round a couple of blind bends and the view opens up to your right as you start to accelerate.

A sharp right arrives quickly, but it’s perfectly cambered to slingshot the car around the bend and onto an open straight that climbs into the moorland, far out of sight. The road soon drops again, just slightly this time, as you enter a small section of woodland. Again, during the winter months the road’s surface barely dries here, guarded by the surrounding mountains and trees. It’s easy to be caught out by the lack of grip in comparison to the more open areas.


A sudden blind crest leaves your stomach somewhere near your esophagus. You could definitely get air time here with enough vigour. Not that I’m going to try it. The briefest glimpse of what awaits greets you as you gently apply the brakes and the nose dips into a sharp, blind right.


An enjoyable rally of sweeping left and right corners follows before the Snowdonia mountain range comes into view on the horizon. This road is equally enjoyable in either direction from a driving standpoint, but the view of the jagged terrain in the distance makes travelling from south to north my preferred path. As someone who hails from a very flat part of the UK, seeing mountains like this is always a thrill.


Once again the asphalt trails off, hugging the landscape until it disappears out of view. On some days you can drive the pass two or three times over without seeing another car, while on others you’re met with a steady stream of local commuters, or fellow driving enthusiasts who also know the secret. Thankfully, the famous ‘Evo Triangle’ isn’t far from here, and that tends to hold most people’s attention when they visit the area solely for the enjoyment of driving.


Pass a small cafe and you’re on the home stretch. The area seems to generate its own weather system, and the conditions can change in an instant; you can start the road in blazing sun and be caught in a sudden downpour by the end of it.


From here the road grasps precariously to a steep cliff as the valley below suddenly drops away. There’s a cattle grid here to mark the end of the ‘good bit’, although I swear it’s been placed in a rather evil manner so as to catch people out. Sitting right in the middle of a bend, with the drop to one side and the cliffside to the other, the lack of grip over the grid always causes a twitch, no matter your pace. I’ve experienced everything from a mild blip of understeer in a front-wheel drive saloon to an instant – and large – oversteer moment in the S2000 here.


This last section of the B4391 is far too narrow and risky to enjoy in any great measure, but it serves as the idea wind-down from the drive, especially during the late afternoon as warm light floods over the mountains in the distance.


There’s more road to go that takes you down into the town of Ffestiniog, but a well-placed carpark at this point offers the ideal chance to pull in, gather your thoughts and enjoy the view. I’m joined by the faint whiff of warm tyres and warmer brakes as the car ticks and taps while it cools down.


However you take your enjoyment from cars, getting out and driving is definitely the most rewarding element for me. Roads like this are the perfect place to clear your head, and acquire an appreciation for a car’s characteristics. When driving a road like this, nothing else matters for those few minutes.

With just the right measure of dips, twists, turns and open road, the B4391 pass takes some beating in my books.

Back to the start for one more go?*

Jordan Butters
Instagram: jordanbutters
Facebook: Jordan Butters Photography

*Apologies for the crackly sound.



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78 between N.M and A.Z.


Alfettaracer Got a Google maps link?


Alfettaracer Well that's pretty amazing then isn't it? Looks seriously fast in places too. Someone get me over to Arizona and stick me in a car!


UK B-roads do have something special. I'm sure there's plenty of other routes around the globe that can rival the geometry and topography of the road itself, but the open scenery in Wales, the stretching soft grass, the pretty well maintained asphalt, these all come together to make the routes unique and 1+ on many others. 

Also, those stretching grassy planes in Wales are awfully forgiving for the driver-that-pushed-too hard, as opposed to a large hardwood tree in Australia, or a plunging chasm in the Americas.


Love a good driving road. And, as a (now former) performance car owner in New York City, i would like to say that there are NO good driving roads close to New York City. None. I don't care if the topography and geometry of the road are correct (it twists, turns, and flows), the maintenance of the surface is worse the developing country status. You can fit a small child inside an average pot hole in NE USA. It's terrible!


Great post, Jordan. I'd love to go back and shoot my favorite route, but it's a 10hr drive and 4 states away from me. US129 between Alcoa, Tennessee and Robbinsville, North Carolina. Commonly called the Tail of the Dragon. 11 miles of road with 318 corners. I've heard the roads around it are better, but I've not had the chance to drive them. It's not the kind of road you want to drive super fast in a standard road car. Especially one like my 06 forester. Pretty sure Chris Forsberg drifts this road during Z-days every year.


Me and a couple of mate are off to Scotland next July in search of some similar thrills. We've so far done most of the best roads in Europe twice and a trip to Wales once, so will be nice to see how Scotland compares, we like to feel we've got a pretty good range of roads to compare now!
We did find some great roads in Wales, but found that often the amount of traffic on them or poor visibility due to hedges etc dampened the enjoyment somewhat.


Also, loving your posts so far! Nice to see the viewpoint of a fellow enthusiast in the UK about cars/events/experiences that on a more relative level for the normal person. It's a nice opposite to the crazy builds and events that are also featured.


Im a new starter in automotive photography and I would like to know what set up did you use to take the cockpit shots!
Im a big fan of your work!


I recently took a trip to my favourite road, Snake pass in the peak district, in relatively early hours on a Saturday morning there was next to no cars around, I just drove up and back down it 3-4 times, watched the sunrise and the fog lift off the summit. Cant beat it when you find that one road


That's cute how you call those "mountains" :P. Great story, great photos though. Nothing like a favorite section of road to help block out all the stress of the day and just live in the moment.
Fortunately, I'm lucky enough to live in south central BC, so these type of roads are the norm here. When I drive back to the Kootenays to visit my parents, I drive for 4 hours straight on nothing but pure driving roads :)
If you ever get a chance to make it to Western Canada, I highly recommend checking out the Okanagan Valley and the Kootenay valley...some of the most best roads you'll find anywhere.


The NC500 is on my list for next year for sure. Everyone I know who has done the drive says you have to stop every mile or so to take pictures!


A combination of head mounts and mouth mounts (for GoPro), suction cups, Magic Arm and good old fashioned hands for the others.


That's a great road! I drove it in a 350bhp S14 in a blizzard once. That was a very slow trip!


Seriously, Google 'the Fens' in England - that's where I'm from. My ears pop over speed bumps.


I hope I never have to find out just how forgiving the run off is!


I've heard of this road before. But 10 hours with a good excuse to be in that region isn't too bad.


Jordan_Butters Thank you for the quick response! You really helped me.
Keep on going the good work you really inspire me!


Nothing like finding a new road, unless it's dark and rainy and you brake at the peak of a crest mid turn.  Gets things moving faster than Taco Bell.


Lol it's flat as a pancake, you poor thing!!
Tellin ya, you should check out BC. Thousands of miles of amazing roads, beautiful scenery, snow capped mountains, glacial fed lakes, ghost towns, golf courses, hot springs, and enough wineries to keep you busy when you aren't driving lol.
I swear it's an untapped, motoring enthusiasts playground.


Great article!
I'm from Portugal and i can say we have pretty beautiful and enjoying roads down here but recently i'v been to Scotland, Highlands to be more precise, and i've found myself in the most beautiful roads/scenarios i've ever experienced.
If you live in the UK i think its mandatory that you drive yourself up there, just gorgeous.
Really tight roads, amazing scenery, low traffic, 1 lane roads.
The only downside (but actually a really small fun car) was i was driving a 2016 rented Fiesta. Nontheless had a really fun blast.


2tan I see no downside. Everyone knows a rented car, no matter the make or model, is the fastest road-going vehicle in the world. I personally have had one airborne, with a clothes dryer in the back.
Um, on a private road under controlled conditions, of course.


2tan   you can get paid $9264

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Great writing.
Is that this road?


It's hard to tell from such a close crop but I don't think so.


I wasn't just about to say the same thing. There's nothing faster than a rental economy hatchback.


CJC_Matty 2tan I got air in rented Chevrolet Spark XD

JeanLuc Cartwright

Been up and down that road plenty of times! The best I have found yet in the UK... Although I have just moved to the Scottish Borders so hoping to find some roads up here that I can stretch the ISF's legs on!


If you ever find yourself in Austrian Alps, I recommend the Styrian Seeberg Pass among others. . The AW11 you can see after 2 minutes in is me.


BozoMotosport CJC_Matty 2tan i see we all share the same experiences then. 
Always a thrill to find other airborned rental lovers!


Alfettaracer this is only 3 hours from me!  i can't wait to try it


Jordan_Butters I hit it up with some frends En-route from Michigan to Braselton, GA for FD Atlanta back in 2013. First time down and back, the weather was perfect. Also saw a few cars that were super rare at the time. The aventador was still brand new. Someone had one out there. HAd the huge task of trying to keep up with an 02 Bugeye WRX and an Infinity G20 in my 173hp NA Forester....


Jordan_Butters here's the website for whats known as the "Devils Triangle" in Tennessee....Part of it is the Tail of the Dragon...only a small part though..


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Omer (beercoozie)

Laurales Grade in Monterey, California does it for me.


Ha! Me too! However now between S.Wales and Holland so mix of awesome Brecons bursts


Another great 1. Most folk who go to the Highlands in Scotland to drive a good road. Every on picks Glagow to Fortwilliam via A82 some realy good long strightways to a couple of hairpin bends with thing in between. But being a local up their if I want a blast in my BMW 135 M I driveve from Spean Bridge to Dalwhinnie! You've two 1 mile strights and some pure amazing twists, curves, dips, inclined corners. You have some amazing Veiws including driving along the side of lock laggon and house that was in Monarch of the Glen. My fastest time from Village name traffic sighn to Village name traffic sighn in 41.33. Set at the very quiet time of 20.00pm in the Summer time. No tourists about by then. I did it 2 years ago in my EvoX but only the 340bhp. I've just not managed to have a clean run in the 135 yet but still getting to grips with it. Its not the 135i Coupe its the hatch. I think I can in a few months. Its also much faster up the semi duel carraige way to Dalwinnie then Spean Bridge/fortwilliam or inverness!! Much faster. But get fule at Dalwinnie if you have less than 1/4 tank or go to forilliam cheaper than any other place as it has 4 fule stations. Oh and its great and equal to race motor bikes. Had some amazing races. You can even top out and hit speed limiter. I mean I think??? Just incase.


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Man, this is the kind of article you'd find in evoUK. You're quickly becoming my favorite contributor! Keep it up!


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JakubVenhuda Very nice, I may be relocating to Austria in a couple of months and this might come in handy.


EvolveWRC JakubVenhuda You'll have hell of a lot beautiful roads to choose from. We make trips there from Slovakia.


Great writeup and choice in driving machine :) Hard to find a better experience than a favorite run in a Honda 2000.
we're blessed with utterly great roads in SoCal, and I've been hoping Larry runs his Lil' Orange Bang through it sometime :)


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A little different than im yoused to (western canada scenery but all in all forgiving that, this is my perfect road.


Twitch_6 yes  those roads are great


Jordan_Butters a canadian would not slow down in that.  more snow =more fun.


D1RGE I'm yet to visit but I've heard plenty about the canyon roads around SoCal – very jealous. We really don't have a huge number of truly great roads on this small island, but I guess that helps build an appreciation for the few that are really good.


JeanLuc Cartwright Head north and west and just follow the coast until you get to the top – you won't be disappointed!


JDMLife Haha – it was my first time driving the car, with very low tread summer tyres on and some pretty substantial drops alongside the road. At one point I had to stop to wait for cars to pass just so I could tell which bit was road and which wasn't. It'd take a braver man than me to have done that drive quickly! :)


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Lol I hear ya. Need good snow tires for winter driving. I love drifting in the snow. Even low power cars can do well and with none of the tire wear of summer drifting


JDMLife Jordan_Butters  It can be a very dangerous road if you're not careful even in the summer months, so it must have been fun in something rwd in those conditions, you're a braver man than me for even trying it! if something were to go wrong you're looking at a rock face or a sheer drop in some places, great views once you reach the top though and some good lines too, especially being able to look so far into the distance to look for other traffic

JeanLuc Cartwright

Jordan_Butters Will do :)


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Here is a great suggestion in addition to Highway 129 "tail of the Dragon". Take 129 to 28 to 64, and then you will find the diamond in the rough "Wayah Road". The traffic is almost non-existent and the road is an asphalt road with amazing elevation changes (even within a hairpin corner). Be vigilant while driving this road though, because although the locals are few, they like to drive down the middle of THEIR road. Enjoy :).


I guess I'll play: highway 9 from downtown Saratoga, CA up to Skyline blvd/highway 35. Turn right/North on highway 35 from highway 9 and drive the run to Alice's restaurant. Watch out for motorcyclists or ride a motorcycle on clear weekend days though. If its clear you can see from Silicon Valley all the way to San Francisco from atop the ridge on Skyline.


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Twitch_6 I'm totally going to try both those roads. I'm from WA, I'm just itching to go on some good road trips. 

What else can you recommend in the area? I'll be driving my (soon to be) BRZ.


Some of the most gorgeous pictures I've seen. Beautiful.

I can't wait to get out on the road when I buy my subie brz. So many prime roads in the comments here.


Which lens did you use for these shots?