Offa's Dyke Path

This article is an itinerary.

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.

Understand

Markers are not standardised

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 an estimated ??? 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.

Prepare

The route is quite convoluted in some places so a set of Ordinance 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.

Get in

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 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.

Walk

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:

Hay Castle was destroyed by King John in 1216
Monnow Bridge with its fortified Gatehouse
Tintern Abbey

Stay safe

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".

Connect

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.

Go next

The stone at Chepstow marking the southern end of the Wales Coast Path, with the path's "dragon shell" logo. Offa's Dyke Path is a mere 300m over the bridge on the other side of the River Wye in England at this point.
This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, January 25, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.