Offa’s Dyke Path, one of several long-distance hiking trails in Wales, runs 186 miles from the Severn River to the Irish Sea. It roughly follows the original earthen dyke built around 789 by King Offa of England. It’s not positive why the dyke was built, whether for defense or border purposes, but one thing is sure. It aimed to keep out the barbarians (the Welsh).
Although the ancient dyke is not apparent with each passing step, there is always a sense of walking through history. The trail also presents the walker with much diversity in landscape and terrain. While the south portion is farmland and river walking, the northern section is quite hilly.
The towns along the way, though not like the perfect English towns of nearby Lakeland or the Cotswold, are interesting and friendly. Hay-on-Wye is known world-wide for its number of second-hand bookstores. The 12th century castle, narrow streets and row upon row of little shops and bookstores, make this a place you might want to spend an extra day.
What Wales lacks in sophistication it makes up with a total lack of pretense. One of the best things for the long-distance walker in Britain is the warm welcome after a long day on the trail and here the Welsh excelled. At several places we were met with large pots of hot tea, fresh home-made cake and the kind of hospitality that says, “take your shoes off and stay awhile.”
Offa’s Dyke ends in Prestatyn, a seaside resort which has seen better days. But like the Coast to Coast, Offa’s Dyke has a definite beginning and end. It’s fun to stand on the shores of the Severn River, walk north, then end by walking right into the Irish Sea hiking boots and all.
Our guide book had warned about the lack of proper signage along several portions of the route. It seemed the local ramblers had read this as well and corrected the situation.
HOW IT STACKS UP
If you’re new to long-distance hiking, don’t start with this trail. It rivals the Pennine Way in difficulty with lots of mileage and a lot of ups and downs. However, if you’re fit and love a challenge, this trail delivers.