The Offa’s Dyke Walk 


Original Photo by Phil Parsons –  CC-BY-SA 3.0

As far as walks go, the Offa’s Dyke walk has an incredible tale to
tell. It follows Offa’s Dyke, the longest of Britain’s archaeological
monuments, and crosses the border of England and Wales more than 10
times, but it’s not for the faint-hearted.  If you follow the whole
trail it will take you over an incredible 176 miles (283 kilometres),
on a journey through some of the United Kingdom’s most beautiful
countryside, including 3 designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The story of Offa’s Dyke starts back in the 8th century and the Saxon
King Offa of Mercia (now known as England’s Midlands). Troubled by
Welsh marauders constantly disregarding the borders of his land Mercia
and their native Wales, the king decided to define his territory by
building a huge earthwork border on the western side of Mercia.

Today the raised embankment, which once drew a line between Mercia
and Wales can be followed for its full surviving 80 miles (129
kilometres) taking you on a countryside hike over mountainous terrain,
down deep ravines, through patchwork fields and market towns, and past
ruined Norman castles, medieval abbeys, oak woods and refreshing
babbling brooks.

The full route links Sedbury Cliffs in Gloucestershire, to Prestatyn
on the north Wales coast. You’ll pass through areas as diverse as The
Clwydian Hills, the Shropshire Hills and the Wye Valley, as well as the
lush Clun Forest, the infamous Brecon Beacons mountain range, the Vale
of Clwd and the Black Mountains, which are actually much less mysterious
than they sound.

The path crisscrosses the English-Welsh border, allowing you multiple
opportunities to view the Offa’s Dyke from both the west and east,
though don’t expect to be walking high up on the Dyke at all times as
much of it has disappeared
over the years, but at times the drop from the higher areas can be as much as 30 foot!

Getting started on the walk means getting to the Midlands, the
easiest route there is to start in London to catch a train or coach to
Sedbury Cliffs via Chepstow.  From there you can head to the mud flats of
the River Severn before joining the Wye Valley and looking over
the beautifully rustic views of Chepstow and the ruins of the Chepstow
Norman Castle.

As you ascend higher look out for Tintern Abbey and the settlements
below, before descending towards the 19th century industrial village of
Redbrook.  Before going onward, take a peak at the little town of
Monmouth in Wales, for its quaint Welsh charm, and its colourful houses
and regal architecture such as that found at Monmouth Castle and
Goodrich
Castle. Afterwards a day’s trek to Llangattokck Lingoed will take you
through glorious hilly terrain and pretty woodland.

Next you should journey to Hatterall Ridge and into the misty Black Mountains, then into the Brecon Beacons National Park. It’s close to here that you’ll need to employ a little extra stamina to reach the highest point of the walk at Red Darren to conquer some 703 metres (2306 feet) of mountain. 

The rest of the walk will take you across the River Wye and into the
Radnorshire Hills before eventually dropping into the little parish town
of Kington and onward to Knighton, the only town actually on the route.

The route between Kington and Knighton will keep you in constant company with Offa’s Dyke, and the dyke becomes much more evident.  On clear days you’ll enjoy some of the most magnificent panoramic views of the whole walk, complete with breathtaking views out over the Brecon Beacons and the Malverns.

As the sun begins to set and the mountains become but shades of grey in the distance, you’ll begin your descent to the quaint market town of Knighton which is worth a night or two in itself, if only to explore the lovely collection of 17th century shops and inns.

If you decide to attempt the whole length of the dyke, the last
stretch takes you past Llangollen, with its spectacular Pontcysyllte
aqueduct and through the Clwydian Hills, where a scattering of Iron Age
hill forts provides a sense of the rich history in the area.  Once you
reach Prestatyn you will be treated to spectacular views over the Irish
sea, out to Anglesey and on a clear day you will be able to see
Snowdonia in the distance.