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.

 

 

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1. Prestatyn – Bodfari (21 km/13 m)

From north to south

As I said in the short introduction this blog about Offa’s Dyke Path will cover more or less half of the trail and we decided to start north in Prestatyn and head southwards to Knighton. This was mainly decided because of some very practical reasons. One can get to Prestatyn by train. First from Brussels-South to London St. Pancras and from Euston to Prestatyn to Chester. This domestic journey lasts around 2 hours and 40 minutes, which is good, since one can try and get some rest or read about the journey ahead. And to enjoy the ever changing landscape, that becomes more and more green and hilly.

Prestatyn is one of the Welsh towns that was once very popular as a seaside resort, especially in the Victorian era and the early twentieth century, just like Llandudno among others. Today it’s still able to draw a crowd. Because of the ever increasing visitors, the town got its own holiday camps. The closer you get to the beach, the less charming the houses become. Logically, the other way around you see that the further you get from the promenade the more exclusive the residences become and the influence of Victorian splendor becomes visible. We decided to stay in one of those pretty houses. B&B Plas Ifan offered a pretty room and a good breakfast, and we could start our second hiking adventure in good spirit.

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Prestatyn – Rhuallt (13 km/8m)

The path begins on the promenade, where you say goodbye to the Irish Sea (although there will be plenty of sea views left). Passing the city center you immediatly start to climb towards the Prestatyn Hillside. On the side of the path you can see gorse and ferns, which will both appear a lot more later on. Further ahead, you have a great view over the coastal town, the see and the windmills in the distance. It is worth the effort.

It immediatly becomes clear that this path is more challenging than Hadrian’s Wall, even after the first kilometre. A hasty conclusion? Well, time did tell our gut feeling was right. Once you pass the shrubs and plants, the rest of this part is characterised by green meadows and hills. Combined with the blue sky this forms a picture perfect landscape that just oozes that special Welsh wonderfulness.

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Rhuallt – Bodfari (8 km)

Rhuallt is a small village with a pub and consisting of a number of streets, but that is about it. It’s not enough to keep us lingering there too long, so we immediatly continue our journey. The fields are roamed by many different kinds of animals, and their numbers are ever increasing. We mostly meet cows and sheep, but now and then we do encounter something more exotic, something you wouldn’t perhaps expect to see roaming freely in Wales. After some grumbling and spitting (from the animals obviously), Sara and I were able to find a way through.

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After this strange encounter you mainly walk through the same kind of landscapes, rolling green hills, with kissing gates and stiles placed here and there to get through and over walls and hedges. Occassionally there are some architectural elements, like the little church of St. Bueno. After that you climb another hill, until you get on a path that is entirely made invisible by the ferns. With the hands up in the air we pushed and found ourselves a way through. You don’t climb that high on this very first day, but what characterises Offa’s Dyke Path is that it does go up and down a lot, without much a do. It’s often just straight forward, even if it makes for a really steep climb. Eventually we found ourselves a lovely hill and enjoyed the view.

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After a last climb, testing the knees once more, we reached our destionation of the day, Bodfari. This first day was definitely memorable. The sea now lies behind us. In front of us is the first real challenge, the Clwydian range.

The food

As often with these kind of villages you have a limited choice in Bodfari. We went to the Downing Arms, where we both took a hamburger and a good local beer. While going  there we took a short but dangerous busy road. Thanks to local we had a safe yet more tiring route back to our B&B.

The accommodation

Finding a place to stay in Bodfari was not easy. Two B&B’s mentioned in our guides were no longer  active and out of the other available ones one of the owner’s mother had just died and the other was fully booked because of a marriage. Luckily we could still book a room in Llety’r Eos Ucha. It was a clean and comfortably (and really big) room.

Trivia

 – The ll (double l) is pronounced like a slj in Wlesh, a bit like a llama blowing through his teeth. No coincidence that we met a couple of those along the way, I guess.

-Offa’s Dyke Path has it’s own sculpture symbolising both “the beginning” and “the end”, so it can be enjoyed by both the hikers that start and finish in Prestatyn.

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-Apparently it’s a tradition to dip your shoe in the sea and take a shell from Prestatyn, so you can throw it in the Severn at the end of the trail.