Just as is the case with Hadrian’s Wall Offa’s Dyke Path also follows a historical border of sorts. Offa (Icling) was king of Mercia from 757 until 796. Mercia was one of the different early kingdoms in England and bordered the kingdoms of Wales, mainly Gwynedd, Powys and Gwent. Even if it isn’t known to what extent Offa was responsible for the construction of the dyke (or even parts of it), it is linked with his reign. So now we know who Offa from Offa’s Dyke fame was, but what the hell is the dyke?
The dyke is an earthen wall, built as a defensive structure. In many places it was supposed to be 20 metres broad and 3 meters high. It went all the way from the Irish Sea in the North of Wales to the south, ending at the Bristol Channel. The whole border was 240 km (149 m), but it also made use of natural barriers. So there was probably about 130 km (81 m) of the actual dyke built. Some theories claim that it was already constructed, either partially or in its entirety, some centuries before Offa’s reign, but there is no historical consensus. In any case, the contemporary border between England and Wales follows the line of the Dyke, even if it is nowhere to be seen in most places. Yes, there does seem to be a similarity with Hadrian’s Wall Path.
A long distance trail?
Offa’s Dyke Path is, just like Hadrian’s Wall Path, one of the national trails of England, Scotland and Wales. It has a length of 285 kilometres (177 m). It starts up north in Prestatyn, at the Irish Sea, and meanders from England to Wales and back again. The path passes through consecutively through the Clwydian Range, the Shropshire Hills and the Black mountains in the Brecon Beacons, where the highest point of the entire trail, at about 800 metres (+- 2600 feet). It was officially “opened” in 1971. It is a varied and challenging path, where one can find beautiful nature as well as interesting villages and towns in Wales and England.
This blog series will, just as was the case with Hadrian’s Wall Path, describe the different stages, talking about the route, the food and the accommodation as well as giving natural and historical information. I do have to say that I won’t cover the entire path. We did about half of it, starting in Prestatyn and ending in Knighton (156 of the 285 kilometres or 97 of the 177 miles). We used the Trailblazer guide as well as the Cicerone-guide, although the second one describes the routh from south to north. So it’s a bit more difficult to use for navigation. But the path itself is, apart from one specific and cursed point, well-marked by the signs and symbols (the national trail’s acorn) we know and cherish.