A National Trail with a lot to Offa

24th October 2013

From the quaint gift shops of Chepstow to the sandy beaches of Prestatyn, the swathe of country either side of Offa’s Dyke, which forms the border between England and Wales, brings together a host of inspiring scenery and fascinating attractions that make the area a truly unique place to visit. 

And with a designated National Trail following the route of the famous Offa’s Dyke, it is attracting walkers and visitors who want to experience something a bit different. The 177 mile Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail, which takes the line of much of the dyke, built by King Offa in 757 to 796 AD, passes through three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) and a National Park.

We call it ‘Irresistible Offa’. A lush, undulating landscape linking the Irish Sea and the Bristol Channel taking in the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley, the Shropshire Hills, the Powys Countryside, the Wye Valley Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Brecon Beacons National Park.

As well the National Trail path, which weaves you in and out of the spectacular Welsh and English scenery, the land either side of Offa’s Dyke has some unusual visitor ‘must-sees’. As well as much-loved attractions, including the world famous literary festival in Hay-on-Wye and the Brecon Beacons National Park, there are plenty more lesser-known ones just waiting to be discovered.

In Llangollen, you can become a locomotive train driver for the day aboard one of Llangollen Railway’s stunning heritage steam trains, or you could witness the wacky Kington fancy-dress wheelbarrow race, which hurtles through the Herefordshire town’s streets each summer as part of the annual Kington Festival. Or if you don’t mind heights, you could take a colourful traditional canal boat across the Pontcysyllte aqueduct, which towers 126 feet above the River Dee. Alternatively take a picturesque canoe trip down the Wye and follow in the footsteps of Nelson and Wordsworth.

Offa’s Dyke is truly unique and Walking with Offa, a cross-border cooperation project involving different organisations throughout the area, is working hard to ensure it stays that way by developing more circular walks and improving access across Offa’s Dyke so that even more visitors can enjoy the walks and all that it has to offer along the way. 

If you are thinking of visiting, here is a quick guide to just some of the places you can look forward to discovering along the way.

Chepstow

Most famous for its magnificent castle that sits on a cliff over the River Wye, Chepstow in South Wales is the most southern point of the Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail. It offers a real mix of attractions from the adrenalin of Chepstow Racecourse, which hosts some of the UK’s biggest races, as well as beer festivals and a food and flower market every Sunday, to a slower pace of life with traditional afternoon tea in one of the town’s many independent cafes or coffee shops.

Ross-on-Wye

This English town has a wonderful mock-gothic wall and tower overlooking the river which has been a magnet for visitors for centuries. From its Tudor timbered houses and Roman ruins, to the prehistoric caves that lie just outside the town, Ross-on-Wye has an air of mystery about it. Life often revolves around the beautiful River Wye, which snakes past the town. Canoeing is popular as the modern equivalent of the historic Wye Tour which traditionally started from here.

Hay-on-Wye

Known as ‘the town of books’, this small market town hosts the world famous Hay Literary Festival, which attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. But it is a fantastic place to visit all year round with two Norman castles, popular farmers’ markets and plenty of independent shops including, of course, one of the best selections of book shops in the UK.

Llandrindod Wells

Every year this Powys town celebrates its history with a Victorian Festival. From the top hats and laced boots of the costume parade, to traditional food, theatre performances and street dancing, Llandrindod Wells is transported back in time to the 1800s once a year. The town’s women even take to the streets to re-enact the Suffragettes’ marches and the whole festival is rounded off with a spectacular torch parade and fireworks display.

Ludlow

This Shropshire town is a foodie’s heaven. Surrounded by the beautiful countryside, its local food and drink producers are fiercely proud of the local environment that has helped them to create the best local produce. The ‘Local to Ludlow’ farmers’ markets are held twice a month and the annual Food Festival celebrates all that is local with fun events such as The Sausage Trail and the Real Ale Trail helping visitors take in the town and discover different types of local produce at the same time.

Mortimer Country

South of the Shropshire Hills is Mortimer Country, which is steeped in a rich history. Boasting many historic castles, ancient forests and extensive estates which stem back from medieval times when the Mortimer family were the powerful Marcher Lords. Now it is a beautiful area to visit with some fantastic walks past picturesque villages, the River Teme SSSI and the River Lugg, a tributary of the Wye.

Oswestry

Near Oswestry is Pistyll Rhaeadr, the highest waterfall in Wales. At 240ft, this fairytale-like waterfall is taller than Niagara Falls, and lies hidden away in the Berwyn Mountains. While the spring and summer see the waterfall at its most impressive, it is equally as beautiful when frozen in the winter.

Prestatyn

What better way to end the Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail than the stunning golden sandy beaches of Prestatyn? The most Northern town on Offa’s Dyke, Prestatyn’s beautiful beaches, which roll on for miles, are tucked away between grassy hillsides and mountains giving them, many say, a unique climate all of their own.

 

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