The time I took on the Welsh countryside in a silver Porsche 981 GT4

wales cars

Last September, 20mph was introduced as the default speed limit for ‘most Welsh roads’. But hemmed in by the roadworks and bottlenecks in our small English market town, 20mph felt glorious. So with two friends, we hatched a plan to set off in a Porsche 981 GT4 and a 718 Boxster for the open expanses of Wales.

e were excruciatingly aware of the cliché of middle-aged men in sports cars looking for adventure. Although it wasn’t so much adventure we were looking for; we just wanted to enjoy the vastness of those lush Welsh vistas with a couple of overnight stays and cholesterol-quaking Welsh breakfasts thrown in.

We wanted to rediscover the undiluted exhilaration of driving. But would we still experience the sense of untethered fun we were looking for or would the speed limit (and forecast for driving rain) dampen our spirits as well as our tyres?

Carnival ride

The 981 GT4 limited edition is also known as the 982, simply because it follows the 981. Logical, but the rest of this joyous carnival of a Porsche is anything but. Flawless engineering, technical aerodynamism and a quiver of ingenious features make this icon the embodiment of boyhood dreams. Curved lines dip and swoop; the front spoiler lip is emboldened by a quartet of spoilers at the wheel arches; and side blades are embossed with ‘GT4’ should age or amnesia momentarily make you forget.

For all its grace, this is not a vehicle that sidles into a party unnoticed and develops an unhealthy attachment to the vol-au-vents. This is a car that bowls in singing ‘Land of My Fathers’ at the top of its rich baritone voice. Its interior is illuminated by fun and permeated with pleasure, with more than a nod to its motorsport heritage. Fabric pull loops on doors save valuable grammes and carbon fibre seats eradicate the clunkiness of traditional seats, while the Alcantara leather has the touch and grip of suede but expels moisture from the inevitable sweaty palms the 718 Cayman’s driving experience generates.  

It’s no coincidence that the Boxster 718 GTS we drove is 2019-registered – a year that produced Lewis Capaldi’s ‘Someone You Loved’ and Rag‘n’Bone Man’s ‘Giant’ – as passion for this bijou Boxster runs deep. Its four-cylinder, 2.5-litre turbocharged engine and PDK dual-clutch transmission deliver the perfect harmony for pure, dynamic motoring pleasure, while the after-market Milltek custom exhaust generates a cleaner, refined and deeper sound. Sleek-lined and contoured, this delightful synchronicity of city-smart and autobahn-ready creates a beaut of a Boxster.

Through the doughnut

The first leg of our road trip took us from leafy West Hertfordshire through the Cotswolds along the A40, with a pitstop at perennial favourite Kingsley Cars in Eynsham. From there, we headed to the charming Dunkertons Cider Shop in the spa town of Cheltenham, home of GCHQ (affectionately known locally as The Doughnut). We bypassed motorways in favour of scenic routes along the A40: enjoyable, relaxed motoring.

The historic architectural grandeur of Raglan Castle was our next stop: a formidable and striking medieval presence high on a ridge that provides a film set-worthy backdrop. In fact, the castle’s been featured in TV series Wolf Hall and Merlin, as well as the Led Zeppelin concert film The Song Remains The Same back in 1976.  

Onwards to Abergavenny, ‘The gateway to Wales’, and through the lush and beautiful Usk Valley. Lowe Classics was our next stop. Founder Oli Window’s passion for “anything with an engine and wheels” has led to a nostalgic, eclectic collection of cars for sale, with a Corvette C2 Stingray, a Morgan, a Westfield Megabird, an Audi R8 and a Volkswagen Crafter on their books at the time of our visit. The adjoining Baffle Haus combines a love for all things petrolhead with great coffee, cake and community at its heart and is well worth a visit.

Beams, beers and big ears

Next, we headed out on the A4042 into incessant grey mizzle as we motored through to Abergavenny. The Kings Arms was our hostelry for the night, where we picked up the classic combination of a pint and a parking ticket. Traditional 16th century beams complement modern, contemporary décor in warm, inviting rooms, and the bar boasts a great selection of local beers.

The Angel Hotel was our dinner destination, and a haunt for celebs too, as we spotted Doc Martin himself, Martin Clunes, and gravel-voiced Game of Thrones actor Mark Lewis Jones, also recognisable as The Crown’s Welsh tutor tasked with teaching the language to a young Prince of Wales.

Fuelled by a generous Welsh breakfast, the next stretch of our trip took us along the A465. Speed restrictions and roadworks were a gentle nod to the roads we’d left behind at home, but we kept our eyes on the prize: the bleak expanse of the A4069 Black Road Mountain Pass, often referred to as the best driving road in Wales. It didn’t disappoint: cameras and maximum speeds of 40mph did nothing to curtail our fun, although the view remained stoically shrouded in the mist.

The home leg

From there, we picked up the A483 and headed to the quirky Erwood Station café at Builth Wells. A pot of steaming tea served in an old railway carriage set us back just £1.40 and prepared us for the next and furthest point of our trip: out on the spectacular, prairie-like A470 and across the reservoir to the stunning Lake Vyrnwy Hotel.

The reservoir was built in the 1880s to supply water to Liverpool, with a fairytale gothic tower rising from its depths. Driving around the reservoir on single track roads – probably better suited to 4x4s – was a highlight of the trip. An indulgent dinner and incredibly comfortable overnight stay at a hotel followed by another full Welsh breakfast – this time with views of the glittering lake as the elusive sun finally revealed itself – refreshed and regenerated us for the home leg.

And the 20mph? The cars were definitely happier at higher speeds, expressing their displeasure with a little burbling and stuttering, but the restrictions are only really  built-up areas. There isn’t a ‘blanket’ 20mph speed limit across Wales after all – roads that were 30mph are now 20mph. Other roads are not.  

And what roads they are! Asphalt stretches across sweeping landscapes as far as the eye can see; majestic mountain peaks piercing low clouds across the horizon; winding single tracks circling gothic spires. This is auto tourism at its best – and it was on our doorstep.

Will Amlot is an automotive photographer, whose work is often found in the pages of MotorPro

If you’ve had a journey that changed your life or made a lasting impression, email to feature in our next edition

This is an edited extract from IMI's new MotorPro magazine, received free as part of IMI membership