A Taste of Offa’s Dyke Path
Here’s a walk that offers an excellent insight to the surrounding Hay-on-Wye area and really showcases what is on the famous book town’s doorstep. The walk goes past numerous historic spots including the famous Offa’s Dyke path.
DISTANCE – 8kms (5 miles)
START POINT – Hay on Wye Public Car Park
GRID REFERENCE – SO229422
MAPS – OS Explorer OL13. OS Landranger 161
DESCRIPTION: Hay on Wye is well known for its bookshops but is also a wonderful base for walking. This circular 5-mile walk takes you into the foothills of the Black Mountains and offers lovely views of the town and surrounding countryside – to the Central Brecon Beacons and beyond on a clear day. The walk takes around two hours – three if you take it easy – and is just strenuous enough to work up a good appetite!
PARKING: Plentiful parking at the main pay and display car park in Hay on Wye. Hay on Wye is also served by a regular Hereford to Brecon bus service.
From the top of the main car park on Oxford Road turn right and walk along the road passing two tall semi-detached houses. Turn right onto a lane, you’re now following the Offa’s Dyke Path, a long-distance path which runs for nearly 180 miles along the English-Welsh border. It follows, roughly, the line of a defensive earthwork built by King Offa in the 8th century AD. This is a National Trail and marked by the acorn symbol which you will see regularly as you follow the footpath.
At the end of the lane, go through a kissing gate and follow a broad path across a large field, the hedge to your left. Continue through two more gates. The path starts to ascend more steeply. Cross a footbridge over a stream which runs down into the Dulas Brook which, despite it’s small size, forms the border between England and Wales. Continue straight ahead at the next two gates, following a finger post pointing to Cusop. Go over a stile and cross a track, now bear slightly left across the field. At the fence line, bear right and follow the field boundary with the stream below in the valley on your left. These gardens belong to Lower House B&B, a beautiful property in a secluded spot. Their eco-friendly cabin is visible from the path and blends modern and old technologies and materials perfectly – sheep’s wool insulation and triple-glazing combine to keep it cosy in winter!
Cross a stile to reach a road. Turn left and walk up the road for 150 metres, then turn right across a stile. Ascend steeply bearing to the right of the dwelling to cross the stream via a footbridge and kissing gate. Turn sharp left and continue uphill following the field boundary closely. Cross a stile to reach the road. Turn right and walk between the buildings of Upper Dan y Fforest. Follow the road which now climbs steeply through mixed woodland. At the cattle grid, turn sharp right across a stile and descend through the wood. Bear left to reach a stile. Cross this and continue downhill through a broad, steeply sloping field. 50 metres beyond the stile, turn left across a stile and cross a steam. Ascend to another stile and cross this to reach a large field, farm buildings are visible on the far side of the field. Bear right acrross the field diagonally, cross the small stream (no footbridge) then cross a stile to reach the lane. Turn left and follow the lane past Pant y F farm.
250 metres on from the farm, leave the road via a stile on your right. A fingerpost points towards Llanigon. Cross the field, keep to the left to avoid losing height and aim for the metal gate on the skyline. Go through the gate onto a track. Take a moment to enjoy the fantastic view of the Central Brecon Beacons and the Radnorshire Hills to the North.
Do not follow the main track but turn right from the gate onto a footpath heading north. Cross a stile and descend through Wern Wood on a very pleasant path which winds down through the trees to emerge into field beside The Werns, an isolated stone-built house. Pass to the right of the house, cross the access track to the dwelling, and go over a stile into a field of rough pasture – usually full of inquisitive sheep. Bear left to reach the left-hand field boundary and follow the path which keeps to this side of the field as you descend through scrubby vegetation and trees.
The field tapers to a point as you reach the bottom corner. In fact, many of the fields are small and oddly shaped in these foothills of the Black Mountains! This pattern is a relic of medieval and early post-medieval enclosure which was characterised by small irregular fields. The mixed woodland and, where they survive, hedges of hawthorn, hazel and ash are also centuries-old features of the landscape.
Continuing the walk – from the bottom of the field bear right here and follow the field boundary for 400m – there are some distinctive metal railings which run almost the length of one field and make a good landmark. At the end of this level path, the path forks. Bear left and begin your descent into Hay following the beautiful Login Brook. Wooden bridges and steps have been installed to make the descent less slippery and this mossy, green corridor is especially welcome on a summer’s day when the shade and cool water are welcome! At the bottom of the path you emerge onto a perfectly mowed lawn, the brook disappears into a culvert, and the churchyard appears on your right. Go straight ahead to reach Brecon Road – and civilisation!
Turn right here and follow the road into town, passing The Swan Hotel and continuing uphill to the junction with Oxford Road. Turn right and you’re back at your starting point.
To extend your walk and visit St Mary’s Church, turn right upon reaching Brecon Road and then turn left into St Mary’s Road at the end of which you will find the church. From the entrance gate, a path leads straight down to the River Wye, passing underneath the old trackbed of the railway which once served Hay on Wye. Now turn right and follow the pleasant riverside walk for 500m to reach the main road bridge. Ascend to the road and turn left for the town centre – the chippy and The Granary Cafe are just around the corner if you’ve worked up an appetite!