|From:||King's Thorn (SO496323)|
|To:||Chepstow Interchange (ST534914)|
|Length:||30 miles (48.3 km)|
|Meets:||A49, B4348, B4521, A40, A4136, B4293, B4235, A48, M48|
|Route outline (key)|
The A466 runs from the A49 8 km south of Hereford to the M48 at Chepstow in Monmouthshire, following the Wye valley south of Monmouth and crossing the river into Gloucestershire for some 6 km along the way. The route passes a number of locations of historical interest.
King's Thorn - Monmouth
The A466 starts on the A49 at King's Thorn, a few miles south of Hereford. This is a T-junction, with a right-turn filter lane for A49 traffic joining the A466 and a long acceleration for traffic carrying out the opposite manoeuvre. There are also a couple of small tarmac traffic islands, to separate the traffic at would could be quite a dangerous junction.
The route sets off south towards Monmouth, running parallel to the A49 for a while before the more important road takes a more easterly course towards Ross-on-Wye. This section of the A466 is a regular single carriageway that belies its origin as the former B4232, twisting its way through the rolling farmland of the Marches. It soon arrives in the village of Wormelow, where it meets the B4348. A right turn onto this road leads up through Herefordshire's Golden Valley to the Welsh haven for second-hand books that is Hay-on-Wye. After a brief multiplex, the B4348 resumes on the left, heading towards the A49 and Ross. A 40 mph speed limit is in force through the village.
The A466 then returns to attractive open countryside and to the National Speed Limit. It passes through the attractive hamlet of Lyston before becoming more twisty and undulating. Farms are a common sight along this section of the road, as are tractors. There are, however, ample opportunities to overtake. We pass through Sandyway, where there is a blind summit before the road straightens and narrows. The road widens out again, and there are a series of long and gentle curves that deliver us to St Weonards. Here, we are again subjected to a 40 mph speed limit. The village has a curious old Post Office and village store, in a building on the left that looks more like a farmhouse. There is a primary school and a small village hall, but the village appears to consist of only a few houses; most of them are probably tucked away in the side-roads.
We exit the village and return to the National Speed Limit, enabling us to blast through a series of wide and lengthy straights punctuated by some very fast curves. This section of the road is a pleasure to drive. We pass the crossroads where the B4521 (the original route of the A40) crosses our path on its way from Ross to Abergavenny. The crossroads has traffic islands, but is very traditional in that it has not been deliberately staggered for safety reasons. The A466 has priority, and passes through it unrelentingly before yielding at LLancloudy. Another 40 mph speed limit is in force here. There follows another stretch of open road passing occasional farms and side-roads, until we arrive in Welsh Newton which also has a 40 mph limit. The road here is quite narrow, but straight, and the village consists of a scattering of attractive cottages.
Upon leaving Welsh Newton, the A466 follows the course of Mally Brook and, by virtue of being on the western side of that stream, finds itself in Monmouthshire. The road is tight as its winds alongside the brook, and there is no sign announcing our arrival in another county. As we enter the hamlet of Buckholt, the road enters a wood. For a time the little valley through which Mally Brook passes becomes quite steep-sided, and the road has been 'built up' to keep it above the level of the water. The 40 mph limit remains in place throughout Buckholt.
The road then rises out of the Mally Brook valley, and we enter the Wye Valley and Monmouth. Monmouth is a very attractive market town that lies in Wales but is very English in character. The centre of the town lies between two rivers, the Monnow and the Wye. A statue outside Shire Hall reminds us that King Henry V was born in the town. Nearby are the ruins of Monmouth Castle, and the Regimental Museum. Monnow Street, the wide main thoroughfare stretching through the centre of the town, leads down to the picturesque Monnow Bridge, a tower spanning the eponymous river, through which traffic once passed in single file. These days it has been closed off to traffic, but is still a nice way for pedestrians to enter the town centre.
Owing to a one-way system, it is only northbound traffic that can pass straight through Monmouth on the A466. Our road's southbound traffic must turn northeastwards at a crossroads north-east of the town centre. It must than pass along a Dixton Road, which used to be part of the B4293 but which has quite recently been renumbered as a spur of the A466. This brings us to the Monmouth bypass at the Dixton roundabout. This dual carriageway is the combined might of the A40, which can take you to Abergavenny or to Ross and the M50, and the A449 which can take you to Ledbury and Worcester, or to Newport and the M4. If we wish to remain on the A466, we need to follow this dual carriageway for about half a mile, before rejoining our road at a crossroads next to the bridge on the River Wye.
Monmouth - Chepstow
From Monmouth, the A466 head over the bridge on the River Wye to a mini-roundabout, from which it is possible to continue straight on towards the Forest of Dean. Our route turns right here, at what was originally simply a bend, and begins its long pursuit of the Wye. The road is a combination of straights and long sweeping curves, and can be driven very fast. At Redbrook, it crosses back over the border into Gloucestershire, and the former B4231 heads up out of the valley towards Newland and Clearwell (with its castle). A 30 mph speed limit and traffic-calming measures at in place through Redbrook. There is also a disused railway bridge at Redbrook, which provides pedestrian access to a pleasant pub on the other side of the river that is very popular with hikers.
The A466 exits Redbrook and hugs the river closely as it passes through the steep-sided, densely-wooded Wye Valley as far as Bigsweir Bridge. Here, the trees recede, and a tight left-hand turn will take you up to the ancient village of St Briavels (with another castle) on the Gloucestershire side of the valley. The bridge itself is a beautiful cast iron road bridge first opened in 1827. It is not unlike the old Wye Bridge at Chepstow, although it is less ornate and painted pale blue. Traffic lights control the traffic on the bridge, which is not wide enough to allow vehicles to pass side-by-side. The bridge also takes the A466 back into Monmouthshire, where it will now remain for the duration of its course.
After Bigsweir, where there is no village to accompany the bridge, the A466 enters a settlement with the obviously Welsh name of Llandogo. It continues to a point opposite the village of Brockweir, which offers drivers their last chance before Chepstow to head back into Gloucestershire. Brockweir also has a nice pub and some very scenic riverside walks to occupy a sunny afternoon. Although it is on the other side of the river, Brockweir is not far from Tintern. The A466 passes the fully restored Old Station at Tintern Parva, which incorporates a visitor centre and tea room but doesn't actually receive any trains. The road follows a big curve in the river to enter Tintern Magna, where a number of hotels, pubs and shops make it clear that this village is popular with tourists. Tintern is picturesque, tucked tightly into a corner of the valley, and here there is another disused railway bridge providing pedestrians with a means to cross the river. However, it is Tintern Abbey that is the biggest draw.
From Tintern, various unclassified roads lead up the steep and wooded Welsh side of the valley towards Trelleck, Catbrook and Devauden. The A466 resumes its fast and sweeping character as it heads out of Tintern down the side of the Wye towards Chepstow. Gradually, the road begins to climb above the level of the river, and runs along the cliffs that form the valley side. We don't get to see much of the river here, on account of the road's elevated position above it. Warning signs alert drivers to the danger of falling rocks, as the cliffs continue above the level of the road itself. At Wyndcliff there is a parking area from which it is possible to climb the "101 Steps" to a viewpoint that provides a striking panorama of the Wye meandering towards the mighty Severn, with the Severn Bridge visible in the background.
Before St Arvans, there is a sharp turn the right which prevents the road from running straight into the river, and then another to the left before the A466 meets an unclassified road from Devauden in the middle of the village. St Arvans is a pleasant village with some eateries and the remnants of an old-fashioned filling station. From there, the A466 follows a long straight Roman road down to Chepstow Racecourse, the home of the Welsh Grand National, as well as the Sunday morning Chepstow Market. The speed limit between St Arvans and Chepstow is 50 mph, which is a shame considering how straight the road is.
When we arrive at Chepstow, we meet the B4293, which has run all the way from Monmouth along the top of the valley that we have been following. This road crosses over ours at a roundabout, and follows the original route of the A466 down Welsh Street past Chepstow School and the leisure centre, to the interesting and bustling the town centre. Turn here for Chepstow Castle, which is easily the most impressive of the many that were built along the Anglo-Welsh border, and for Chepstow Museum. This is also the road to take if you wish to see the old Wye Bridge, the cream-painted cast iron structure dating from 1816, and which is not dissimilar from Bisweir Bridge, over which we have passed.
Shortly after the roundabout with the B4293, the A466 meets the B4235 from Usk, which ends here at a T-junction. The road then skirts through suburban Chepstow and passes by Chepstow Community Hospital before meeting the A48 at the Larkfield roundabout. The road once ended here.
The last stretch of the A466 is a modern, straight section with trunk status, that was opened in 1966 to link the A48 to the M48 (originally the M4) and the Severn Bridge at the Chepstow Interchange. Both the Chepstow suburb of Bulwark and the Newhouse Farm industrial estate can also be accessed here. The Wye Valley Link Road, as this final section of the A466 is imaginatively known, has three lanes throughout, with priorities organised to ensure that the middle lane serves the traffic approaching the roundabouts at each end. It has street-lighting and is subject to the National Speed Limit. It is busy, and there are long parking areas to either side; these were constructed to provide a refuge for HGVs that might need a special escort to cross over the Severn Bridge, but they do not have parking restrictions and are often used by Bristol commuters who wish to car-share.
The A466 first ran along Welsh Street in Chepstow, terminating on what was then the A437 in the High Street, at the gate in the city walls. By the 1940s, an effective bypass had been created along St Lawrence Road, linking to the former A437, which had become part of the A48 in 1935.
Importance (past and present)
The A466 is not an immensely important road. In fact, with the A49 at the top, the M4 near the bottom, and the A40/A449 connecting the two, it is at best a local route. The A466 is of course an important tourist route, judging by all the foreign-registered cars and the coaches packed with school parties or pensioners that can be seen careering around the bends.
- Tintern Abbey in Tintern is really an amazing sight. This is where the tourists are going.
- The ruined church on the hill overlooking Tintern.
- The parts of the road cut into rock with overhanging trees. Gorgeous.
- Tintern Station. Disused railway that is now a footpath. The station buildings are all renovated.
- The "Diversion that became the actual road" outside of Tintern. See below.
Most interesting thing
A few miles south of Tintern, the road runs very close to the cliff edge, with the River Wye far down below. At one point in the 1970s, a bit of it fell over the side. A convenient lay by on the other side of the road was pressed into temporary service. A car's width of new road was built where the original road was, but was never finished, and then the usual piles of gravel appeared. Meanwhile, the Diversion signs stayed, but the layby was gradually disintegrating. Every time we went down there, the signs were older and more covered in green stuff, and the layby was more crumbly. Then one day, the signs were gone. When we got to the layby, we found it had been resurfaced and had now become the actual road. In 1991, I went there in my Mini Clubman Estate to look at it again. The little bit of "new road" that was built was where I parked. I wandered about and looked at the gravel, and over the side at the bits that had gone. We came to the conclusion (or heard) that the contractor had gone bust, but I am not sure if this is true. Anyone know?
The A466 originally ended at Chepstow, but as the M4 passed about a mile to the south, it was common sense to extend it down to meet it.
What choice! One side is the Forest of Dean, which is lovely. The other side you have Devauden and Trelleck and the hills. Then there's Tintern. Chepstow is nice as well. Monmouth has loads of history and then there's the original Severn Bridge to the extreme south linking to the M5 and West Wales.