The Journey, Part 1: Heathrow to Swansea

The M4 will take you across the whole width of England and deep into Wales.

Here are some things to look out for:

Junction 6: quite soon into your journey you will pass Windsor Castle on your left. The earliest parts were built in the 11th century. It is an impressive building and rumoured to be the Queen’s favourite palace. It is difficult to see from the road, but you may catch a glimpse of it. If not, here is a better view:

Windsor Castle

Unfortunately a lot of the rest of the English part of the M4 is a bit boring, but things get more interesting when you get to Wales.

To get into Wales you will cross the Severn Estuary:

Fun fact: the Severn estuary has one of the widest tidal ranges in the world—the difference between high and low tide is 15metres.

You will cross over the impressive Prince of Wales Bridge . As you do so, look to your right (not the driver!). You will see the original (and much prettier), original Severn suspension bridge.

When you get to the other side you will a sign saying ‘Croeso i Gymru Welcome to Wales.’ From now on all road signs are in both Welsh and English. 

The dragon, is, of course, from the national flag:

Question for Maho and Lisa: How many dragons do you see on the rest of the journey?

Once in Wales, the first part of the journey will take you past two cities, Newport and Cardiff, the latter being the capital. The two cities are so close to each other that they are almost (though not quite) joined. Be careful along this stretch of road to STAY ON THE M4—there are several points where the left-hand lane takes you off the road.


There’s not a lot to see of Newport from the M4. At the half-way point alongside the city you will cross the River Usk (not very pretty) just before going into a short tunnel (Brynglas Tunnels):

Newport is an important Welsh city, though often seen as the poor relation to Cardiff, the capital. For me it is significant because my mother’s family is from Newport and my father’s family spent a good deal of their lives there, my Grandfather being Bishop of Monmouth (Newport was historically part of the county of Monmouthshire).

At the Western side of Cardiff you may get a quick glimpse of Tredegar House, though it only appears for a moment from the road:

Tredegar House

Road view (rather difficult to see!):

My mother went to school here!


Once past Newport you will quickly approach Cardiff, the capital of Wales. Again, there is not much to see from the road. Near junction 32, however, you may be able to see Castell Coch  (Welsh for ‘Red Castle’) on the right. This was rebuilt by the architect William Burgess, the same man who was responsible for the newer parts of Cardiff Castle.

Castell Noch

This was the best shot I could find from the road. Not easy to see, but if you zoom in it is there…

Port Talbot

After Cardiff there are no landmarks to see for a while. You will see signposts for places such as Cowbridge and Bridgend, though will see nothing of these towns from the M4. The steelworks town of Port Talbot, however, is very much visible from the M4. One might say ‘unfortunately it is visible’ since it looks very ugly and industrial during the daytime (and sometimes it is a bit smelly!). It is much nicer at night, when the lights from the steelworks and rising smoke and steam can seem quite magical.


Port Talbot at Night
Port Talbot at Night


After Port Talbot you will see signs for Swansea. This is the only really big city near my parents’ house, and even it is not very large (quarter of a million people approx.). Again, it is not visible from the road. There are some lovely areas in the city, especially around Swansea Bay, but more generally the city suffered quite badly during World War II and, like many towns afterwards, was not very sensitively rebuilt.


You now really are quite close to Lampeter Velfrey (40 minutes) and soon things will get more interesting in terms of navigation. For the moment however, stay on the M4 until its very end, which occurs at Pont Abraham, where there is a small service station.

At the roundabout go straight-on onto the A48, following signs for Carmarthen. 

The same at the Cross Hands roundabout—straight-on on the A48 heading for Carmarthen. These roads are fast dual-carriageways—they will still feel like motorways, though technically they are not.