The Evo Triangle

22 08 2010

Crap week at work, a pass-out for Friday and Saturday, and some reasonable weather.  Time for a drive.

I’ve been planning to do this trip for a while – it seems that recently we’ve not had chance to get the cars out and just drive.  To fix this, we thought we’d treat ourselves to a weekend of doing just that: find the best roads we could and head out just for the pleasure of driving a small car hard in gorgeous surroundings.  Just need to pick the route – but where?

I like Evo magazine.  As it turns out, there’s an open secret that they test their review cars on a small section of North Wales.  The triangle’s formed by the meeting of the A5 just east of Betws-y-Coed, the B4501 heading north, and the A543 heading south back to join the base of the triangle at the A5.

We settled on something approximating this Google Map route.  It’s worth having a look at this if you’re contemplating doing the Evo Triangle using Google Street View.  There wasn’t really much chance of me taking pictures of the route itself as I was concentrating on the bendy bits.,-3.592186&spn=0.171002,0.406151&z=12


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If you idly flick through back copies of Evo, you’ll start to notice the same scenery cropping up again and again.  As a backdrop for a magazine feature the scenery is hard to beat, but the Triangle’s attraction for petrolheads is the quality and variety of the road itself.

We came in via the Horseshoe Pass – not a bad road, by any means, but traffic meant that fairly slow progress was made up to the top.  We stopped at the Ponderosa for a brew and a chat with another MX5Nutzer with a nice BRG Mark 1.


We brought along Neil and his Big Scary German – an R20 Scirocco.  Sure, it’s putting out roughly the same horsepower as both of our Roadsters combined, and ran a 13.6 standing quarter at GTI International last month, but what the hell.  I bet we weigh half as much, we’re RWD and the roof comes off.  This must count for something, surely?

As we descended towards Betws-y-Coed the weather was still pretty poor although if you go fast enough, you stay dry with the hood down: for a Friday evening a tent was looking less appealing by the second, although magically the rain stopped as the tents went up.

We camped at the Swallow Falls Hotel, a few miles west of the Triangle in Betws-y-Coed.  There’s a hostel and a hotel here for those that don’t want to pitch a tent, there’s a decent real ale pub with food, and they do cooked breakfast in the morning.  Result.


Warning: front splitters and the entrance to this campsite aren’t a great combination.  Neil, that car isn’t going to stay that clean for long.

Tent up, walk into Betws-y-Coed, few pints of Brains SA at the Pont-y-Pail then over the road for perhaps the greatest Fish and Chips ever.   Then back across the road to the Pont-Y to talk bollocks with the locals.  The friendliest taxi driver-ess in the world took us back up to the Swallow Falls for yet more beer.

Afterwards, back to the tent where I was confronted by this.  In less than seven hours this man would be hanging off my rear bumper with around 270BHP under his right foot, on damp twisty mountain roads.  Excellent.


Next morning, breakfast, pack up tents, roof down and hit the road.

The corners of the Triangle are easy to miss.  We started at the south-east corner, coming in from the western side of the A5 and turning left onto the A543.

It’s not particularly well signed –   it’s a pretty innocuous looking junction.  Notice the speed camera signs though!  Whilst there we didn’t see a single speed camera.  I’m not condoning speeding – the Triangle’s derestricted, and to be honest 60mph is plenty fast enough to enjoy it for most of the run.   OK, I said “most”.  Be careful out there.

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It took about a mile before it became apparent that this road was pretty special.  The western side of it climbs and works its way round the side of Llyn Brenig and the Alwen Reservoir.  Beautiful scenery, but the roads are superb:  the road surface is perfect, the altitude changes give you an amazing view and there’s huge forward visibility of the roads in front of you which allows you to be a little creative in your line through the corners without worrying about oncoming cars.  We set off with Jon on point in his Roadster, Neil taking center position in the ‘Roc and me bringing up the rear in my Roadster.

Around halfway up, Neil took over point and pressed on.  We let him pass, honestly.  Hell yes.

We stopped a couple of miles later for an adrenaline break, grinning like loons.  There are some serious undulations in the road up here which make the corners interesting, particularly for a blind drive.



Onwards and further north – the road just keeps on giving.  I’m having a whale of a time: with just 130BHP the Roadster’s a momentum car, so I’m concentrating on hitting the right line, and being at the right revs to take me through the corners.  I’m double declutching for no reason other than I want to, and I’m addicted to the popping and banging my twin exhaust makes on serious downshifts.  On these roads, the sweetspot when you hit the corners just so is something else – the challenge of getting it just so, and the feeling of connection to the car when you downshift at just the right point… I’m grinning a lot at this point.  The two Roadsters are keeping up quite nicely with the ‘Roc at this point – we’re all driving this for the first time and so it’s more about being wary going into the corners instead of horsepower, and we’re not being stupid and racing on public roads.  More, please.


Some happy miles later you hit the north-most tip of the triangle there’s a junction and a left hand turn onto the A543 that looks like this:

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Hang a left here, and you start the descent of the western leg of the triangle.  Slightly different character to this road, although some of that may be due to coming downhill.  Great road – brakes are warm now, exhaust is hot and popping on every lift-off.  Again, huge grins.  Very little traffic, too, especially for a Saturday lunchtime.  On the descent we passed a handful of MX5s coming the other way: cue lots of waving and flashing.  More grins.  Complex corners with great visibility, no traffic, and not a man-made object in sight other than our three cars.

I’ve no idea how long it takes to cover all three legs of the triangle – being too involved in trying to read the road and enjoy it rather than watching the clock.

It’s an awesome drive -an absolute pleasure from beginning to end.  This is a route that it’d be worth learning: I’m coming back soon.

We regrouped at the A5 afterwards to look at the map.



Where now?  Half tempting to do another run, but with families calling we decided to head on up northwards via Nebo to grab lunch at The Groes Inn near Conwy.

Apparently this is where Evo tent to stay when in the area.  The reviews on the web look good: let’s go.

Some 15 miles north, we arrive just in time for starting serving lunch.  Lunch which is awesome.  In an awesome pub.  With awesome (half-pints) of beer.  Result again.

The Groes Inn started life as the first licenced house in Wales.  It’s now a fairly large pub, with a small hotel attached.  It’s truly great.  They have their own brewed beer on tap, the food’s very, very good and after thinking about it long and hard we reckon it might be the finest pub in the UK.  And I’ve been in quite a few.


Lunch done, time for a return to Manchester.  I took point, figuring that so far Jon’d been saddled with the map reading on the grounds that I’m useless at navigating.  We took the coast road just west of Rhyl.  This was generally accepted as a Bad Move as you have to drive through Towyn.  Ugh.  Just don’t, take any road other than this one.  I felt like having a shower afterwards.

The M53 home felt very dull indeed after Wales.  You can forget how much fun you can have on a fast road in a fun car – congestion, the daily commute, speedbumps and potholes can take the pleasure out of everything.  Go find some interesting twisties and remind yourself how much fun it’s still possible to have out there.

So, where next?

It’s got to be the Oopnurthring: