Offa's Dyke Path (Llwybr Clawdd Offa in Welsh) is a National Trail which runs through the varied landscapes of the Welsh Marches along or near the border of Wales and England between Prestatyn on the Irish Sea in the north and Sedbury Cliffs on the Severn estuary near Chepstow in the south.
Offa's Dyke Path is a popular walking route through the border regions of England and Wales. The dyke itself (Clawdd Offa in Welsh) has partially disappeared in places, although in the parts where it is preserved, it's about 20m wide and 2.5m high. In particular, there is an 130km (80mi) section between the Wye Valley and Wrexham where the Dyke is easily seen. The route is approximately 289km (177mi) in length, and takes between 12 to 14 days. The path was inaugurated in 1971 and thousands of people walk the route each year.
Much of the history of the Dyke is based on some speculation, but it is named after Offa, King of Mercia between 757 and 796 AD. It's believed that construction was started around 785 AD but it's not known if the Dyke represented an agreed border or a defensive structure. However, some sections still form the England/Wales border more than twelve centuries later.
Relations between the Welsh and the English haven't always been comfortable. To quote George Borrow in Wild Wales: "It was customary for the English to cut off the ears off every Welshman found east of the dyke, and for the Welsh to hang every Englishman whom they found to the west of it." Thankfully it's more civil these days.
There is much variety in the route, passing as it does through historic towns such as Knighton, Kington, Hay-on-Wye and Monmouth, some wide river valleys, moorlands, remote villages and woodlands. The route passes near old forts and castles, including famous ruins such as Tintern Abbey near Chepstow.
All of Offa’s Dyke Path follows legally defined Rights of Way for all walkers and is clearly signed with an acorn symbol. Some, but not all, sections are also available for horseriders and cyclists.
The route is quite convoluted in some places so a set of Ordnance Survey maps covering the area would be a help. Or a realistic and sensible lightweight alternative would be the National Trail Guides 'South' and 'North' by Eric & Kathy Kay and Mark Richards (Aurum Press) which include an OS Explorer strip map which is all that is necessary.
The south trailhead is at Sedbury Cliffs, near Chepstow. The train station at Chepstow is about 3km (2mi) from the trailhead where there is a commemorative marker, about a mile east of Chepstow on the east side of the River Wye.
The north trailhead is at Prestatyn which is 0.5km (0.3mi) from the train station.
After backpacking all the nineteen (2017) British National Trails, mostly wild camping and this one twice. This trail has got to be walked south to north. Maps go this way and the worst terrain is met near the end, when the backpacker is fitter. Also at Sedbury is one marker in a field where as at Pestatyn there is a bustling seaside resort, markers and at least a tempting paddle in the sea.
There are many types of accommodation along the route, including inns, B&Bs, campsites, hostels and self-catering facilities.
Listed below are a very small selection of things to see and do, places to stay and where to find food.
A sample 12-day walking itinerary from north to south would be as follows:
- 1 Prestatyn to Bodfari - 21km (13mi)
- 1 Downing Arms Inn, Mold Road, Bodfari LL16 4DW, ☏ . After 54 years backpacking this has got to be the friendlist pub ever. Note no food on Sunday but order from nearest town Chinese and eat on plates with cutlery kindly supplied by pub. Camp in garden or use bunk room Good modern facilities. (2014)
- 2 Valeside B&B, Bella Vista, Tremeirchion Road, Bodfari LL16 4EG (B5429, Bodfari), ☏ . 2 dbl (one en suite), 1 en suite twin. Sgl £50, dbl £75, twin £80.
- 3 Station House Caravan Park, Station House, Bodfari LL16 4DA, ☏ . Campground with a local pub nearby.
- 2 Bodfari to Llandegla - 27km (17mi)
- 3 Llandegla to Froncysyllte - 19km (12mi)
- 6 Valle Crucis Abbey, Llangollen (North of town on the A542). Cistercian abbey built in 1201 Adult £3.50.
- 7 Abbey Farm Caravan Park, Llangollen LL208DD (next to Valle Crucis Abbey), ☏ . Camping £6 pppn.
- 1 The West Arms, Bridge St, Llangollen LL20 8PF, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com.
- 8 Pontcysyllte Aqueduct World Heritage Site, Froncysyllte (Near B5434), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Longest and highest aqueduct in Britain. The visitor centre is in Queen's Square, Wrexham, a few km north of the aqueduct.
- 9 Oaklands B&B, Llangollen Rd, Trevor LL20 7TG, ☏ .
- 10 Duke of Wellington (Pub), Acrefair, Wrexham LL14 3SG, ☏ .
- 4 Froncysyllte to Trefonen - 21km (13mi)
- 11 The Barley Mow Inn, Chapel Lane, Trefonen SY10 9DX, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Pub food and pub drinks from the Thomas Mcguinness range of beers together with those from their own Offa's Dyke Brewery (which actually straddles the border between England and Wales): Harvest Moon 3.4% Dark Mild, Harvest Gold 3.8% Light Bitter, Barley Blonde 4.0% Cask Lager made with saaz hops and Thirst Brew 4.2% Premium Bitter.
- 12 [dead link] Forest Cottage Self-Catering, 1 Forest Cottage, ☏ . B&B; Self-catering accommodation
- 13 [dead link] Glan-yr-Afon B&B, Glan-yr-Afon, Candy SY10 9AZ (North of Trefonen near Oswestry), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Bed and Breakfast with 3 bedrooms (1 en suite) welcomes families and also has camping facilities. Evening meals and packed lunch (£4) available on request. £30 pppn (£25 for >2 nights) includes guests' sitting room and own entrance.
- 5 Trefonen to Buttington Bridge - 24km (15mi)
- 14 Moors Farm, Oswestry Rd, Welshpool SY21 9JR, ☏ . 6 en suite B&B bedrooms with TV, DVD, radio alarm clocks, hairdryers, bath robes. Also self-catering accommodation. Camp site has ceased. Sgl £60, dbl £70-£90 inc B'fast.
- 15 Leighton Arches Caravan Site, Welshpool (East of Welshpool on B4381). Campground
- 6 Buttington Bridge to Brompton Crossroads - 19km (12mi)
- 16 Blue Bell, Churchstoke, Montgomery (East of B4385-A489 junction), ☏ . Hotel
- [dead link] Drewin Farm, Churchstoke, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. B&B
- 17 Dragon Hotel, Market Square, Montgomery SY15 6PA, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Accommodation and food in an historic 17th century, former Coaching Inn at the centre of the attractive, quiet, village-sized former county seat of Montgomeryshire. 20 en-suite B&B bedrooms, many with exposed ancient timbers and Wi-Fi. Cosy restaurant; indoor swimming pool and sauna. Restaurant and Bar are open daily for lunch and dinner. Food is served 12.00-14.00 & 18.45-21.00. 2 courses from £11.95.
- 18 Mellington Hall Hotel, Mellington, Churchstoke SY15 6HX, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 11:00. 1870s Gothic mansion set in 280 acres of mature gardens and tranquil parkland with mullioned windows, oak panelling and beautiful staircase. 10 individually designed rooms and suites, all en suite with unlimited Wi-Fi. No pets allowed. Afternoon tea and home made cakes in the Offas Dyke Bar. Lunch 12.00–14:00, Dinner 18.30–21:00 served in one of 4 restaurants: the Cwm Dining Room, the Mahogany Panelled Restaurant, the William Morris Room, or the Shropshire Lounge. Local ingredients and suppliers are used wherever possible with many ingredients traceable to source. Graded *** with Welsh Tourist Board. The most luxorius camp site I have met. Camp by lake next to facilities block. Phone owner for entrance code. Pay £5 pppn (2014) in the morning to groundsman. 5 star hotel next door are polite but claim to know nothing about camping as its under separate ownership. Hotel £90-140.
- 7 Brompton Crossroads to Knighton - 24km (15mi)
- 8 Knighton to Kington - 21km (13mi)
- 9 Kington to Hay-on-Wye - 23km (14.5mi) - Hay-on-Wye is well known for its many antiques and bookshops and antiquarian fair. There are also ruins of two Norman castles.
- 21 Radnor's End Apartment & Campsite, Hay-on-Wye HR3 5RS (500m from bridge towards Clyro), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. toilets, showers, washer, dryer, fridge, freezer, children's play area. Camping £6pppn.
- 22 The Swan at Hay Hotel, Church St, Hay-on-Wye HR3 5DQ, ✉ email@example.com. from £80-165.
- 23 Davlyn B&B, Hay-on-Wye (in a cul-de-sac off Lion St), ☏ . Wi-Fi. from £30/person.
- 10 Hay-on-Wye to Pandy - 27km (17mi) - This section is either within or abutting the Brecon Beacons National Park and includes the "summit" of the route at 700m (2,300ft).
- 24 White Castle, Llanthony Crosseny, Abergavenny NP7 8UD. 4 Nov-31 Mar daily 10:00-16:00; 1 Apr-3 Nov daily 10:00-17:00 (last admission 30min before close and closed 24-26 Dec, 1 Jan). One of the best preserved of 3 castles near the Dyke south-east of Llanvetherine. Under 16s must be accompanied by an adult. 4 Nov-31 Mar: Free, 1 Apr-3 Nov: adult £3 family £9.
- 25 [dead link] The Old Pandy Inn, Hereford Rd, Pandy, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Accommodation and food service; Free Wi-Fi.
- 26 The Park Hotel, Pandy, ☏ . Accommodation and food services.
- 11 Pandy to Monmouth - 28km (17.5mi)
- 27 Monnow Bridge & Gate, Monmouth. The only medieval fortified bridge in Britain with the gate tower in the middle of the bridge.
- 2 The Bell Inn, Redbrook Rd, Redbrook, ☏ , ✉ Info@thebellinnredbrook.co.uk. Accommodation and food services
- 28 The Boat Inn, Lone Lane, Penault (Redbrook) NP25 4AJ, ☏ . Lunches served W-M 12:00-14:30 ; Evening meals W-Sa 18:30-20:30 Amazing old style pub. Not to be missed
- 29 Robin Hood Inn (pub), 126 Monnow St, Monmouth, ☏ . Wetherspoons, Kings Head, Monmouth
- 12 Monmouth to Sedbury Cliffs - 28km (17.5mi)
- 30 Tintern Abbey. View the Abbey from Devil's Pulpit on the opposite east bank of the River Wye.
- 31 The Village Inn (Pub), Beachley Rd, Sedbury NP16 7AA, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. M-Tu 16:00-23:00; W-Th 12:00-23:00; F-Sa 12:00-24:00; Su 12:00-17:00. Probably the closest a pub could be to the end of the hike....
- 32 Chepstow Castle, Chepstow. Possibly the oldest (surviving) stone castle in Britain.
Although few of the villages and towns along the route have hospitals or medical centres, fixed line telephones and mobiles are common and in any emergency you should just dial 999. Then tell the emergency operator whether you need the Fire, Police or Ambulance services.
When it’s less urgent than a 999 call, contact the local police in England and Wales on 101. This number should be answered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Don't refer to the Welsh as "English".
Cell phone coverage is patchy in some parts, but all all towns and most villages along the trail have a public phone box. Most of them need coins and do not accept cards.
Many of the pubs and hotels will have Wi-Fi service.
- Clwydian Way - If the Offa's Dyke Path has whetted your appetite for long distance walking, consider this 196km (122mi) circle route that connects at Prestatyn and Llangollen. The route south from Prestatyn to Llangollen actually intertwines with the Offa's Dyke Path.
- The Wales Coast Path (Welsh: Llwybr Arfordir Cymru) intersects with both the start and the finish of Offa's Dyke Path and offers a 1,400km (870mi) long dedicated footpath along the entire coastline of Wales - the first country in the world to provide such an opportunity. This path runs through eleven nature reserves and Lonely Planet rated the coast of Wales first in its Best in Travel: top 10 regions for 2012.
- Either at the beginning or the end of your hike, a visit to Bath, Bristol or Cardiff would be worthwhile.