|Location Map ( geo)
|79.3 miles (127.6 km)
|M4, B4290, A474, A423, B4434, B4242, A4109, A4059, A4061, B4276, A470, A4060, A469, B4257, A4048, A4046, B4560, A467, A4047, A4077, B4246, A4143, A40, A4042, B4598, B4521, B4347, B4348, B4349, A49, A438, B4359, A4103, A417, B4214, A44
South Wales TRA
|Route outline (key)
The A465 has something of a 'Jekyll and Hyde' character, and can be easily divided into two very distinct sections: the "Heads of the Valleys Road", which is part of a major link from South West Wales to the English Midlands (via the A40 and M50), and then a pleasant drive through rural Herefordshire. It is probably best left to the user to decide which part is Jekyll and which is Hyde. The two halves are certainly completely different in nature.
Section 1: Neath – Abergavenny
The road starts at junction 43 of the M4 (which is an on-line upgrade of the A48) and is a fast dual carriageway running all the way up the Vale of Neath. Heading north-east, there are a couple of minor junctions providing access to local businesses in the Neath Abbey area. It then crosses over the A474 via a recent grade-separated junction (GSJ) which enables traffic to drive straight into the centre of Neath itself. The A465 runs close alongside the Tennant Canal, crossing over it a couple of times, before passing through another GSJ, this time with the A4230 from Cadoxton, the A4109 which heads up the Dulais Valley before rejoining the road again to the north-east, and the B4434 which shadows our route on the other side of the River Neath.
Most of this section up as far as Glynneath is fairly new road, and it is no longer marred by the slow grinding traffic with which it struggled to deal in the past. The only interruptions in the modern dual carriageway are a couple of roundabouts. The first of these connects with the B4434 at Resolven; the second links to the B4242, which at this point has taken over the role of shadowing it on the other side of the river (although, as we have crossed over the river, the local road is now on the opposite side from us). Glynneath itself is served by a trumpet junction where we meet the A4109 again, the latter road ending here.
Past Glynneath the A465 climbs the hill to Hirwaun, leaving the River Neath behind and skirting the south side of the Brecon Beacons National Park. The route loses its dualled status for the first time at a future-proofed roundabout with the A4059 and the A4061. The former road heads north to Penderyn and the Brecon Beacons, joining the A470 a short distance from Pen y Fan, the national park's highest mountain. The latter route heads south along a twisty and scenic route to Treorchy and beyond. Between here and the next roundabout, just a short distance away, the A4059 comes with us in a multiplex that takes it to the south of Hirwaun, before being released towards Aberdare and Abercynon, where it meets the A470 again.
From here to Abergavenny, the A465 runs along the heads of the many former coal-mining valleys, hence its popular name. After Hirwaun, it continues as a three-lane single carriageway, though there are plans to dual this part. After descending a kilometre-long straight (opened in the early 60s) we intersect the original route of the A465 (now a purely local road) at a staggered crossroads close to Croesbychan, and then begin a long, scenic, and frequently tree-lined run up into the Brecon Beacons National Park. The road bridges the Nant-hir Reservoir, and the scenery is lush and green as we press onwards with the climb towards Merthyr Tydfil.
Soon after meeting the old Neath to Merthyr road again (coming in from a turning on our right) we reach the summit of this section at an odd kind of not-quite-a-roundabout, which serves the B4276 from Aberdare and Llwydcoed to our right and a former hotel (now a Jehovah's Witnesses charity home), as well as the entrance to a large (but hidden) LPG plant, on our left. There is a small tarmac-covered central circle at the point where the A465 and B4276 meet, but this is flanked by two wide tarmac-covered central reservations in the middle of the A-road, and the A465 has priority all the way through the junction.
The A465 briefly loses its third-lane through this strange junction, but soon regains it and heads along a section that – we are warned – is policed by average-speed cameras. A turning to the south – to and from which traffic in our direction does not have access – takes an unclassified road into the village of Clwydyfagwyr. Then we meet the A470, the mighty and very varied road from Cardiff to North Wales, at a roundabout which is surprisingly normal, considering some of the quirks that can be found along our route. From here, we pass to the north of Merthyr.
The A465 resumes its course along the southern boundary of the Brecon Beacons reduced to two lanes, although the road remains wide and curves are gentle. As it bridges the Taf Fawr, the impressive Cefn Coed railway viaduct is clearly visible to the right, although the only traffic to pass over it these days will be bicycles and pedestrians. To our left, a local road provides an opportunity to leave for the A4054, which carries the former route of the A470 down into the centre of Merthyr. This junction has access only for traffic on our side of the road; traffic on the other side has a chance to head for the A4054 at a similarly limited junction a short distance later.
After crossing the Taf Fechan, we regain our third lane and begin to climb once again. As we pass close to the south of Morlais Castle, Park and Golf Club, and then to the north of Ifor Park, near which there is a rare example of a GSJ on a single-carriageway road; this junction provides access to both parks. At Dowlais Top, we arrive at a very curious roundabout where the A465 splits into two. The junction is clearly future-proofed for potential grade-separation. The exit to the north heads into an industrial estate, while to the south the A465 takes a brief section of dual carriageway to meet the A4060 at another roundabout through which the west-bound side of the A465 passes. In order to continue eastwards, however, we must take a one-way exit from the roundabout onto a carriageway where there is only one lane in our direction, and from which the other side of the A465 is not visible due to a large mound forming a central reservation.
After passing through this weird section, the other carriageway reappears, and the road continues as a more normal dual carriageway to the north of Rhymney, which can be reached via a dumbbell junction with the A469 at Pant-y-waun. The A4048 leaves up at another GSJ near Nantybwch, heading down into Tredegar. The next few junctions provide limited access for traffic travelling in each direction, to the A4281, a large trading estate, and the town of Ebbw Vale.
Here, for many years, the dual carriageway ends, obviously incomplete, a short distance from a roundabout with the A4047 and the A467 at Brynmawr. The A465 then followed the River Clydach closely past the eponymous village, before following the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal down to Abergavenny along an inadequate single carriageway. There are a few T-junctions with minor roads before another future-proofed roundabout with the A4077, which heads north through Gilwern towards the A40 at Crickhowell, and the B4246, which runs alongside the A465 through Govilon. From here the road returned to dual carriageway. In December 2021, long running works to dual carriageway and grade separate this section were completed.
Following this, the road runs through another GSJ with the A4143 and B4246 and over the River Usk, before meeting the A4042 and A40 at a strange collection of roundabouts at Abergavenny. This strange interchange can best be described as a regular roundabout with a gyratory attached to it. The A465 along which we have travelled meets the A40 from Abergavenny and Brecon and the A4042 for Newport at the roundabout. A trip around the gyratory – which is built beneath a railway line and resembles an oval with one squashed end attached to the roundabout – offers us the chance to exit onto the A465 for Hereford, the B4598 for Usk, and the A40 for Raglan. It is a fairly safe bet that the overwhelming majority of the traffic coming from whence we have come will take the A40 for onward travel to the West Midlands via the M50. For those who wish to remain on the A465, the road now turns north, and changes character completely.
Section 2: Abergavenny – Hereford
At this point, the A465 changes from Dr Jekyll into Mr Hyde or, depending upon your preferred type of road, from Hyde into Jekyll. It swings around to the north and bypasses the pleasant market town of Abergavenny to the east. From here onwards, the remainder of its route it almost entirely single-carriageway. The Abergavenny bypass, however, is straight and modern, and runs parallel to the railway line. It now passes through the eastern section of the Brecon Beacons National Park, closely following the railway all the way to Hereford. We pass under the B4233, to which there is no access, and through a brief section of dual carriageway from which a link road descends to join the B4521, the original route of the A40 from Abergavenny to Ross-on-Wye. The old route through Abergavenny joins us to the north of the town.
As the A465 passes through the national park, there is little to say about it, other than that the surrounding countryside is extremely pleasant and sparsely populated. After passing through the hamlet of Pandy, we leave the national park behind. The road narrows a little, and there is a long straight section alongside the River Monnow, which here forms the border between England and Wales. The route follows the river for a few miles before cutting across it and entering England. The A465 has been a trunk road up to this point, but it now loses that status, albeit remaining primary. At Pontrilas, the B4347 crosses our route at a staggered crossroads, from which a left turn will take you up the Golden Valley towards Hay-on-Wye, famed for its second-hand bookshops, while a right turn heads through the village towards Skenfrith and Monmouth. Our road stays close to the path of the railway line and snakes its way through the rolling Herefordshire countryside besides the River Dore. The B4348 crosses our path at another staggered crossroads, on its way from Hay towards the A49 and Ross-on-Wye. The B4349 arrives, also having come from the direction of Hay, shortly after.
As it enters the cathedral city of Hereford itself, the A465 passes through the suburb of Belmont, to which access is provided via a roundabout and several side roads, before meeting the A49 at an elongated roundabout to the south of the city centre. Here, it disappears, following the route first of the A49 as it crosses the River Wye as an urban dual carriageway, and then eastwards along the newly opened City Link Road. It used to head along the route of the A438, before regaining its number by turning left at a set of traffic lights onto Commercial Road which has now been renumbered the A4193. The Link Road section crosses Widemarsh Street and passes both the railway station and Morrisons where it re-joins the original route near the hospital and turns left to head out of the city by climbing Aylestone Hill, passing the Hereford College of Arts halfway up at a double mini-roundabout junction. A mile later, the road meets the A4103 at a roundabout in Burcott.
Section 3: Hereford – Bromyard
From Burcott, the A465 disappears again, this time as the junior partner in a mile-long multiplex with the A4103 Roman Road. It is by this means that it crosses the River Lugg, before regaining its number and turning northwards. It is perhaps surprising that the A465 does not continue eastwards along the A4103, as it is that road which forms the primary route to Worcester. Instead, the A465 forks off to the left towards Bromyard. Whereas the route to the south of Hereford and west of Abergavenny is a largely improved primary route, this final leg lacks primary status and is largely unimproved. In places, hedgerows grow right up against the carriageway, which is noticeably more twisty than any of the more important stretches along which we have passed.
We follow the River Lugg upstream for some distance, passing the hamlets of Eau Withington, Sutton Marsh, and Withington Marsh, before entering cider country where we cross the A417 at a roundabout at Burley Gate. Here we have two roads that for part of their length are important strategic routes, yet at this point are much reduced in significance. To the north the A417 connects with the A49 and the Marches, while to the south it heads for Ledbury, Gloucester, and the Vale of Severn. If we continue straight over the roundabout, and unclassified road departs from a T junction on the right towards Bishop's Frome. Thereafter, we enjoy a pleasant drive but pass nothing of particular note.
Shortly before entering the town, the B4214 arrives from Bishop's Frome on our right, and then joins us for a very brief multiplex before departing from our left for the western edge of Bromyard. The A465 plays out its final act by cutting through the quiet southern reaches of the town until it meets the A44 at a triangular junction on the Bromyard bypass, some distance short of the town centre. Thus, in relatively insignificant circumstances, one of the most important strategic routes across Wales fizzles out.
Heads of the Valleys Road
Abergavenny Bypass - the 3 mile road from Glanbaiden Roundabout, east of Gilwern to Hardwick Roundabout, south-east of Abergavenny was opened on 3 August 1962. It was the first section of the "Heads of the Valleys road". Contractor was Messrs. John Morgan (Builders) Ltd. and cost £700,000. It had a 33 foot wide single carriageway and also bypassed Llanfoist and Govilon. The River Usk was crossed by a post-tensioned, pre-stressed concrete bridge with a centre span on 120 feet and side spans of 40 feet, with 2 groups of six V shaped supports.
Gilwern Bypass - opening details to ascertain.
Brynmawr to Gilwern - The 3.5 mile section through the Clydach Gorge was expected to be opened in early summer of 1963 per the South Wales Gazette of 3 August 1962. It was the final section of Stage 1. It involved a climb of 700 feet with a gradient of 1 in 20 to replace the 1 in 8 gradients on the climb over Black Rock Hill, and was carried through the gorge on a shelf cut into the hillside requiring the removal of 300,000 tons of rock.
Hirwaun Bypass - the 1.8 mile road was opened in July 1964 per the Wales 1964 Report.
Hirwaun to Dowlais Top - This included the Merthyr Tydfil Northern Bypass. The 8 mile road was opened on 15 December 1964 by James Griffiths, Secretary of State for Wales. Cost was £3.1 million.
Beaufort to Brynmawr - opening details to ascertain.
Rhymney Bridge (Llechryd) to Beaufort - It included Tredegar Bypass. The 4 mile road was opened on 26 September 1966 by Ifor Davies, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Wales. It was the final section of the 24.5 mile "Heads of the Valleys road" between Hirwaun and Abergavenny. The alignment of the closed Dowlais to Abergavenny railway line was used for this section and westwards to Dowlais Top.
- The A465 Trunk Road (Llangua Bridge to A49/A465 Belmont Roundabout) (Detrunking) Order 2008 - Detrunking following 1998 review A New Deal for Trunk Roads in England
- The Neath to Abergavenny Trunk Road (A465) (Abergavenny to Hirwaun Dualling and Slip Roads) and East of Abercynon to East of Dowlais Road (A4060), Cardiff to Glan Conwy Trunk Road (A470) (Connecting Roads) Order 1999
- The Neath to Abergavenny Trunk Road (A465) (Abergavenny to Hirwaun Dualling and Slip Roads) and East of Abercynon to East of Dowlais Trunk Road (A4060) and Cardiff to Glan Conwy Trunk Road (A470) (Connecting Roads) Order 1999 (Brynmawr to Tredegar) (Amendment) Order 2012
- The Neath To Abergavenny Trunk Road (A465) (Abergavenny To Hirwaun Dualling And Slip Roads) And East Of Abercynon To East Of Dowlais Trunk Road (A4060) And Cardiff To Glan Conwy Trunk Road (A470) (Connecting Roads) Order 1999 (Dowlais Top To Hirwaun) (Amendment) Order 2019 - This looks to do some tidying up of the original orders