Walking the English/Welsh border; Offa’s Dyke Pass

Named by Lonely Planet as one of the world’s greatest walks, Offa’s Dyke Pass is Britain’s longest ancient monument.  
Stretching 177 miles along the English/Welsh border between Prestatyn in North Wales and Sedbury Cliffs, near Chepstow in The Forest of Dean, Offa’s Dyke Pass takes in eight counties, the Brecon Beacons National Park and several areas of outstanding beauty. It’s hardly a surprise that it is a favourite with BCH Camping customers.
Offa was King of Mercia from 757 to 796AD and built his famous Dyke to separate his kingdom from Wales. The pass was opened as a National Trail in 1971. It takes approximately two weeks to complete the full length of the pass, but short sections are often walked in day trips and there are many circular walks that are popular along the route.
The walk is moderate in difficulty terms. The most challenging sections are between the Black Mountains, Knighton and Cwm where there are several steep ascents and descents but the view from the Black Mountains makes them worthwhile.

Offa’s Dyke Pass Highlights

Most people walk Offa’s Dyke Pass from South to North, but of course there is no right or wrong way, and guide books are available for both directions. Going with the majority, you’ll find the commemorative stone that marks the official start of the path about a mile east of Chepstow across the river Wye. The beginning of the walk hugs the river, mostly along wooded hills to its east side.

Chepstow Castle

Not long after setting off you will come across Chepstow Castle. Built in 1067 Chepstow Castle is the oldest surviving post-Roman stone fortification in Britain, giving it special significance to British history as other Norman castles built during William the Conqueror’s reign have long since disappeared. 
Chepstow boasts the oldest castle doors in Europe. The 800 year old doors hung in the main gateway until 1962, but are now on display to protect them. Over the centuries the castle was extended along the cliff top with the oldest building being the Norman great tower. The castle is open to visitors throughout the year.

Tintern Abbey

Tintern Abbey is the best-preserved medieval abbey in Wales. The remains that can be seen today were built over a 400-year period between 1131 and 1536, although today very little remains of the first buildings. On September 3rd, 1536 Tintern Abbey was surrendered to King Henry VIII, ending a way of life that had been enjoyed by monks for 400 years.
A major conservation programme has recently been completed on the 13th Century west front which represents one of the greatest examples of Gothic architecture in Britain. The statue of Our Lady of Tintern can be viewed in the south aisle of the abbey.

Bigsweir, Wye Valley

Bigsweir is located in the Wye Valley which is the first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that you pass through. Its breath-taking views alone make Bigsweir a rewarding highlight of Offa’s Dyke Pass. Places to visit in the area include Bigsweir Bridge, Bigsweir House and Bigsweir Woods.
Bigsweir Bridge is a cast iron road bridge built in 1827 that crosses the River Wye, straddling the boundary between the Parish of St. Briavels in Gloucestershire, England, and Llandogo in Monmouthshire, Wales. There is a restored toll house on the Welsh side of the river.
Bigsweir House and Estate, on the Gloucestershire side of the weir, was originally part of the lands of the Bishops of Hereford until 1445. It was rebuilt around 1740 and was given Grade II listed building status in 1954. The nearby Bigsweir Woods is a biological Site of Special Scientific Interest. The woods are one of the most important areas of woodland conservation in the United Kingdom, with a rich mixture of tree types of rare and local species.

The Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons National Park

Moving on to your next Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – you really are spoilt on Offa’s Dyke Pass – you will find the Black Mountains. This group of mountains forms a natural border between Wales and Herefordshire in England.
The Black Mountain range is made up of peaks that seasoned walkers will be familiar with, such as Black Mountain (703m), Hay Bluff (677m), the Sugar Loaf (596m) and Ysgyryd Fawr (486m), also known as The Skirrid.  These old red sandstone hills with many rivers, dominate the landscape, with Waun Fach having the highest peak at 811m.
The area is popular for walking, mountain biking, horse riding and hand-gliding. For historical sites there is Llanthony Abbey and many ancient churches in the area.

Knighton, Powys

Knighton is a historic town set in the Marches (a term from Middle England meaning “disputed country” used to describe the English counties which lie along the border with Wales). The Welsh name for the town is “Tref-y-Clawdd”, which translates as the town on the Dyke. Knighton is the only town directly on the line of Offa’s Dyke, and is the home to the Offa’s Dyke Centre which denotes the mid-point of the Offa’s Dyke Pass.
Knighton has been a Mid Wales market town since 1230, with half-timbered houses from the 17th century and narrow winding streets. Although there is evidence of settlement in the area dating back to the Stone Age, the current town is mostly medieval in origin. There are several places and buildings of historic interest in the town including the Norman castle, Bryn y Castell.
At the Offa’s Dyke Centre, there is a free exhibition which covers the construction of Offa’s Dyke, the Welsh Princes of the Anglo-Saxon period, the history of Knighton and the maintenance of the Dyke and the National Trail. Interesting fact; until the mid-1800s a man could obtain a divorce by “selling the wife” at the place where the clock tower now stands. The husband would bring his wife to the place at the end of a rope!

World's End Llangollen

This beautiful narrow vale can be explored on a circular walk near Llangollen. With streams, small waterfalls and beautiful woodland, World’s End Llangollen is an atmospheric place enclosed by the cliffs of Craig y Forwyn, Craig y Cythraul, and Craig yr Adar.

You’ll walk through a wooded gorge, then up to the heather moors on top of the Eglwyseg Mountain. You’re rewarded with wonderful views of the River Eglwyseg and the surrounding Welsh hills. This route is designed for walkers, but the area is also popular with mountain bikers.

Moel Famau

Moel Famau is the highest hill within the Clwydian Range, on the boundary of Denbighshire and Flintshire in Wales. Surrounded by well-preserved Iron Age hill forts, the hill has been classed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty since 1985.
Offa’s Dyke Pass cuts through the summit of Moel Famau at the Jubilee Tower which was built in 1810 to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of George III but was never completed. In 1862 a strong storm blew it down and what you can see today are the sturdy remains of the Tower.
The Jubilee Tower represents the highest point of the Moel Famau Country Park. From here you can see Liverpool, Isle of Man, Cumbria, Blackpool Tower and the West Wirral coast.

Can we help?

If you like the sound of Offa’s Dyke Pass, or any other walk that we have told you about or has been recommended to you, we’d be delighted to see how we can help provide all the necessary kit to help you embark on such a long trail.
We have an extensive range of footwear, clothing, backpacking tents, rucksacks, sleeping bags and  much more. Most of all, we can offer invaluable advice for planning for such a walk, whether you’re planning on completing it in its entirety or in short day trips. Just get in touch to see what we can do to help your walk go smoothly.