7. Welshpool – Montgomery (18,5 km/11,5m)

Welshpool

We had entered Welshpool by the path next to the canal and decided to take a other way to head back towards the official path. Sometimes it’s better to chose the route you already know, even if you won’t discover any new sights. We went through the center of the town, following less than charming roads in the suburbs. After a while you link up with the canal once more, and that’s a good thing. Our return to the Offa’s Dyke Path meant an added total of 2,5 km, but luckily, we would see some pretty sights today.

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Welshpool – Kingswood & Forden (10 km/6,2 m)

The first part of the stage is a relatively steep hike to the top of Beacon Hill, an old hill fort amidst a beech forest and a telephone mast on top of it. Thanks to the yellow fields of grain the climb is not only challenging but also visually pleasant. The top of Beacon Hill was the perfect place for a short break.

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The highlight of the day was the passage through Leighton Estate, a very agreeable path through an imposing forests. These woodlands are not only used to please hikers, but here roam dozens and dozens of pheasants. It may have been fun to be surrounded by those manic birds, but it was obvious that these animals were bred as proverbial cannon fodder. Once you leave the forest you enter the small villages of Kingswood & Forden.

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Kingswood & Forden – Montgomery (8,5 km/5,3m)

The second part, heading towards Montgomery, offers a more pastoral experience and leads you to fields and meadows. It was here that one of the bloodiest battles in the English civil war, in the 17th century, was fought, in the vicinity of Montgomery. During this 8,5 km you can spot a bit more of the Dyke itself. It is a quiet, peaceful and easy stroll and a good place to walk.

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Montgomery

Montgomery is probably one of the prettiest places we’ve seen on this first half of Offa’s Dyke, a small village with beautiful houses. Despite its relatively modest size, you can spend quite a few hours if you’ve arrived early. The local museum has a surprisingly interesting collection and the castle, although it’s actually a ruin, is also a must, especially since you get a lot of interesting information during your visit.

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The food

It was proven once more that small villages can offer great food along a relatively touristic long distance trail. I chose a risotto and my girlfriend picked the vegetarian pasta. I also have fond memories of the chocolate cake.

The accommodation

The Dragon Inn is a neat hotel with spatious room and a very good shower (quite important while walking in summer). The staff was very friendly, which was especially welcome since we had to order a taxi for our next day.

Trivia

– The border country become of great strategic importance from the invasion of William the conqueror onward. It was called the Marshes, a buffer between England and the Welsh kingdoms.

– Montgomery got its name from one of those Norman noblemen, loyal to William of Normandy, Roger de Montgomery.

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3. Clwyd Gate – Llangollen (23 km/14,3m)

Clwyd Gate

Because of the fact that our accommodation was located in Llanferes, a couple of miles from the starting point at Clwyd Gate, we treated ourselves to a ride. The owner of the Druid inn brought us there, after a good breakfast. For some strange reason we had decided not to take a packed lunch for the day and trust in our parovita crackers and cheese. A fatal error, we would later found out. Unaware of our miscalculation we left for our third day of walking, one that would lead us out of the Clwydian Range and into the Dee valley.

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Clwyd Gate – Llandegla

We had walked the main chunk of the Clwydian Range on the second day, but the third one began as the the previous one had ended. Again it went up and down and we passed some more hills, mostly walking the shoulder. First there was Moel Gyw (467 m/1532 ft). The royal breakfast we had half an hour earlier doesn’t make the climb easier. Some of the hill tops disappear in the clouds. After Moel Gyw we have two more to walk past, Moel Llanfair (447 m/1565ft) and Moel Y Plâs (440 m/1444 ft). After that we have left all the moels behind us and descend towards Llandegla. At first the clouds had disappeared, but from the moment we entered the small village the rain came pouring down on us. Luckily we found shelter in the little church nearby and waited till it stopped. We left Llandegla at noon, so we reckoned we could walk another our befoure having our lunch, so we decided to walk through the forest first.

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Llandegla – Llangollen

Alas! With it being a 20km+ day and with quite a bit of ups and downs it would have been a rather long day of walking anyway. But this was prolonged by a gruesome and frustrating passage in Llandegla forest. The main culprit was a little bridge crossing a little stream and the absence of a sign post to lead the way. We became rather disoriented and got lost in the forest for about an hour. We tried every alternative route and became rather desperate, even contemplating walking back to Llandegla and taking the bus to Llangollen or going to the mountainbike centre in the forest and asking for a ride to the town. Luckily, in one final effort, I crossed the bridge once more and walked a bit further than I did before, finally finding the holy acorn sign, about three hundred metres from te bridge and onto the path that would take us through the wonderful heather. Meanwhile, we were very tired, rather unnecessarily, and hadn’t eaten enough. Rather stupid, since that is long distance walking 101.

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The path brought us about half an hour later to a paved road. Rather knackered we sat down, rested a bit and ate our crackers and cheddar cheese. At that point it was half past two. The road wasn’t an ideal surface for tired feet either. Luckily the view, is quite sublime, a preview of the Panorama Walk we would walk on later, looking over the Dee valley. And there are plenty of beautiful things to come. First there’s the impressive rock formation called World’s End. But the real sublime (in both its literal and Romantic meaning) experience is then yet to come. The Eglwyseg Crags and its screes aren’t that high, but the relatively small path and the steep slope does make for an exciting walk if you have a mild form of vertigo. Luckily, again, the view is stunning.

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Once past the crags the path descends and joins another road. This time it is the Panorama walk. Fun fact: our trailblazer guide mentioned “Peacocks live here” and yes, at the exact moment that we walked past the place we heard the heavenly sound of a couple of peacocks. In other news, we still had to walk another hour to Llangollen, without any food and just a bit of water. Lucky for us this wasn’t the desert and all we had to do was walk the road. Helping us was a reference point in the distance, the splendid ruins of Dinas Brân. Our agony was prolonged, even when walking towards Llangollen. We were promised a bench to rest, before doing the last twenty minutes. Unfortunately it was claimed by a woman who rode there by car to enjoy the view. We did rest a bit before descending into the pretty town and stumbled onwards, after a wonderful yet needlessly tiring day.

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The food

The Dee Corner Cafe Bistro is a good cafe bistro offering a large hamburger (with an extra portion of bacon) which was very welcome after our self-inflicted prolonged day of walking. Great portions, nice setting.

The accommodation

We chose to stay at the Llangollen Hostel for three nights, because of the fact my parents were visiting friends in Chirk at the time. We would use the next day to walk from Llangollen to Chirk and then have a rest day. So this good hostel with good facilities was an excellent and budget-friendly choice.

Trivia

– The “ll” is pronounced as a, well, a shlj. You can best try it by placing your tongue against your front teeth and blowing. Shlangoshlen.

– The “w” is pronounced as a “oo” (or oe in Dutch). Eglwyseg becomes Eglooyseg.

– Of all the places in the world (outside) Belgium I’ve been to Llangollen the most. This was my eighth time.

– Llangollen isn’t part of Offa’s Dyke Path, but worth the small detour. Apart from the cosy centre it also offers the already mention Dinas Brân and Plas Newydd, the house of the ladies of Llangollen who welcomed the Duke of Wellington, Lord Byron and Sir Walter Scott among others.

– Dinas Brân means “castle of Brân”. Brân the blessedwas a Welsh king and a giant from the Welsh myths, including the medieval story cycle the Mabinogion.