Work up a sweat this spring by exploring one of Britain’s exhilarating national trails, the Offa’s Dyke Path. Running along the spine of England and Wales for 177 miles, this ancient path follows the eighth-century fortification built on the order of King Offa in an attempt to divide Mercia from rival kingdoms.
This energetic circular walk meanders in and out of the Brecon Beacons National Park, negotiating the scenic Hatterall Ridge that separates England from Wales. Lying in the Vale of Ewyas, the evocative ruins of Llanthony Priory, a 12th-century Augustinian abbey, can also be enjoyed. However, to appreciate its full splendour, grit your teeth and prepare for a heart-pumping climb…
1. Into the woods
Starting from Llanthony Priory car park (free to use and toilet facilities available), head past the abbey to the site entrance and walk diagonally across the field. You will soon reach the lower Wirral Woods. The route here is well sign-posted – follow the national trail towards Hatterall Hill. At the top of the field, keep an eye out for Offa’s Dyke waymarks, before continuing upwards along a woodland path.
Next, you will join the Beacons Way. Follow the route towards Grouse Butts and the rural parish of Cwmyoy (again, well sign-posted). It is a stiff but well-trodden climb to the summit of the ridge. If you need a break, pause for a moment to enjoy breath-taking views of the Vale of Ewyas and the distinctive Sugar Loaf mountain.
3. Wild encounters
At the top of the ridge you should see a stone marker and cairn. Here, turn left and head along the Offa’s Dyke path for a little under two miles. Wild ponies and birds of prey can often be spotted along the route.
4. Turning point
Halfway along the ridge path you should pass a large cairn. Continue straight on until you see another stone marker – at 605m, this is the highest point on the route and signifies the turning point for Llanthony.
5. Abbey from above
From here, head south-west.The trail is gentle at first but soon becomes steep as it descends into the valley. Despite this, the path isn’t difficult to follow and soon you will find yourself rewarded with a splendid view of the old abbey. Continue back to the village car park across a series of fields.
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