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We’re planning to walk Offa’s Dyke at the beginning of September… this September. Gulp.

The idea began with the final episode of Race Across The World, Series 3.
“It really makes me want to have another BIG travel adventure.” Jack was sitting watching the final credits roll with a wistful expression on his face. I felt exactly the same. We both sighed and started watching something else.

A week or so later, we were out walking not far from home when Jack said: “I’ve had an idea. You’ll probably think it’s stupid.”
“Try me.”
“I thought we could walk Offa’s Dyke. I know it’s not exactly Race Across The World, but it would give us that experience of lacing up the hiking boots every morning and setting out on the trail to somewhere different. What do you think?”

My heart leapt. An exciting new project, a proper walking journey; I was immediately sold. “That’s a brilliant idea, let’s book it!”

Then I realised that, other than being ‘in Wales’, I didn’t actually know anything about the Offa’s Dyke Trail. It was time to do some research…

Offa's Dyke

What & where is Offa’s Dyke?

Offa’s Dyke is a ditch and rampart constructed in around 780AD by Offa, the Anglo-Saxon King of Mercia. During this time, there was bitter conflict between Welsh and English tribes and Offa wanted to quell the unruly Welsh and lay down a demarcation line behind which, they should remain – a sort of earthen Hadrian’s Wall. Offa intended that the dyke would run from sea to sea, but he died in battle in 796 before the task was finished. After Offa’s death, the Kingdom of Mercia gradually declined and was eventually crushed by the Vikings. Running for some 82 miles (132km), parts of the original ramparts still stand 12 feet (3.5 metres) high and up to 60ft (18 metres) wide.

Much of Offa’s Dyke National Trail follows the dyke, criss-crossing the Wales/England border multiple times, passing through 8 counties and three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The full trail runs for 177 miles (285km) between Prestatyn in North Wales and Sedbury, south of Chepstow on the banks of the River Severn. Highlights include the Brecon Beacons, the Wye Valley, the Shropshire Hills and the Dee Valley.

How long does it take to walk Offa’s Dyke National Trail?

That was the question that first presented itself as we thought about the practicality of undertaking a long-distance walk. Initial research showed that we could effectively chose to walk it as quickly or as slowly as we wish, but when it came to the practical issue of where to stay along the route, it got complicated.

Much of the trail runs through remote rural areas where there is little in the way of accommodation. That made planning quite tricky. If we chose the route according to where we could find a pub, a guesthouse or an inn in easy distance of the path, we could end up with some days being prohibitively long and others being too short.

We bought a copy of the Cicerone guide to Walking Offa’s Dyke Path and using that, along with the National Trails website, I tried to construct an itinerary. But I kept running into the same issue – most of the available accommodation is just guesthouses with only one or two rooms and no facilities for evening meals. Then there are one or two stops where the only accommodation in feasible walking distance of the path, is campsites.

Do we really want to walk an average of 16 miles (26km) a day carrying all our luggage plus tent, sleeping bags and cooking essentials?

What happens if I start ringing around places and booking consecutive nights, then find one place can’t accommodate us? That will throw the whole plan out. And how much of my time is this going to take up?

Then there’s the question of how much weight we’ll be carrying as we climb the Black Mountains and the Clwydian Range. We’re no strangers to walking long distances, it’s what we do for a living, and just before we relocated back to the UK in 2021, we walked a good chunk of the Camino de Santiago, but we weren’t carrying our luggage on our backs. These will be long days, day after day so we need to go as early in September as we possibly can to make the most of diminishing daylight hours. Even building in rest days, I think about the strain on my back and wonder if I’ve got enough time to get properly fit before we go.  

Plus, if we’re carrying all our gear, we’ll have to buy new rucksacks big enough to take 2 weeks’ worth of hiking gear, some casual clothes, a change of footwear for evenings, toiletries etc.

After more research and much mind-churning, we decide to hand the accommodation booking over to someone else and to include luggage transfers, so we only have to carry our existing rucksacks with day packs of food, water and waterproofs.

So that’s what we did.

Next blog – choosing the right company to go with and final preparations.


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