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Having spent hours planning our Offa’s Dyke walk, we decided that it would be better to pay a walking company to book our accommodation and provide luggage transfers. With those two vital elements taken care of, we could then get on with getting some decent walks under our belts and making final preparations ahead of our departure next week.

But how do you choose the right walking company?

Our go-to provider, Inntravel, with whom we work on a consultancy basis, doesn’t do Offa’s Dyke, so we’re in the strange situation of having to book with one of their competitors.

At first it seemed like Macs Adventures were the obvious choice as they offer three itineraries for Offa’s Dyke. But there were issues for us. Firstly, they walk north to south, from Prestatyn to Chepstow. Although we had initially thought this would make most sense for us so that we finished nearer to home, research showed the consensus to be that walking from south to north takes less time and is the better route. Secondly, Macs only offer three choices: 20 days, 16 days or 14 days. We want to walk it in 12 days to allow room for an extra day in Hay-on-Wye and a rest day in Llangollen.

On the plus side, Mac’s prices were the most competitive and their accommodation was largely pubs and country inns which was exactly what we were looking for.

We have no interest in walking with a group, so Ramblers was a non-starter for us, but we thought we’d take a look out of interest. It took quite a lot of time to figure out if they actually walked Offa’s Dyke or not before finally realising they do the whole route in individual walks, returning to the same base each night.

Many years ago, my brother, who worked Glastonbury every year, persuaded Jack and me to stay in Glastonbury and travel to and from the festival site each day. He maintained that gangs were roaming the tent sites stealing anything they could get their hands on and making life miserable for everyone. We reluctantly agreed, but to this day, I don’t feel we did Glastonbury at all because we never got the whole experience.

The Ramblers option feels exactly the same.

Booking Offa's Dyke National Trail

Walk Offa’s Dyke with Contours Holidays

I had never heard of Contours Holidays but I leaned towards them because they reminded me of Inntravel; they’re a small company offering a more personalised service. On their Offa’s Dyke holiday, you can choose how many days you want to take between 12 and 16 days: you can walk in either direction; you can specify a preference for the type of accommodation you would prefer, and they taxi you to and from any accommodation that’s more than a mile from the trail. Their prices are slightly higher than Macs but not high enough to be prohibitive.

Having agreed a slight variation to their standard holiday (we’ll be staying with a friend for our 2 nights in Hay-on-Wye) and requested pubs or country inns as a first preference, we booked.

When the documentation came through, we were amazed to find that there were no actual walking directions, just a copy of the Cicerone guide to Walking Offa’s Dyke Path… which we already owned. Working with Inntravel to compile itinerant walking holidays, a big part of the job is producing a personalised guide tailored to each holiday and including detailed walking directions. But then Inntravel don’t tend to have National Trails in their portfolio.

When we thought about it, it did seem pointless to write alternative notes when the Cicerone guide appears to give all the direction that’s needed but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit we felt a bit short-changed.

Final preparations

Our checklist of ‘things to do’ is nearing completion as our start date looms:

  • Get to grips with the itinerary and accommodation arrangements – check.
  • Book train journeys to start and from end – check.
  • Buy a couple of base layers in case of adverse weather conditions – check.
  • Buy OS maps for the trickier sections – check.
  • Dig out our Camino de Santiago rain capes – check.
  • Get in training by going on longer local walks that include ascents and descents – ongoing.

We head to Chepstow on 5th September to begin walking on the 6th.

Wish us luck.


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