The Wysis Way is a stunning long-distance hike, covering 55 miles (88 km) of marvellously varied countryside. Starting at Monmouth in the Wye Valley, it winds through the Forest of Dean, visits the historic city of Gloucester and ventures over the Cotswold Hills, to end in Kemble, near the source of the Thames.
It forms an important link in the chain of Britain’s long-distance trails, joining the Offa’s Dyke Path at one end to the Thames Path at the other. However, if this is a mere link in a grander chain, then it is surely one of the most golden, adorned and embellished with many scenic gems. The ancient Forest of Dean, the picturesque Wye Valley, the River Severn’s verdant realm and the achingly pretty Cotswolds provide the backdrop to a spellbinding journey.
The hike is inextricably linked to three of Britain’s great rivers: the Wye, the Severn and the Thames. It is the Wye and the Isis (the ancient name for the Thames) that together forge the hike’s name, while the Severn provides its middle ground.
However, don’t let this association with rivers trick you into expecting gentle, flat waterside trails for the duration. The Wysis Way is an adventurous ramble on trails that undulate across and over the hills that lie in its path, rather than winding around them.
Among the many highlights you discover are: the Kymin, an 18th-century roundhouse boasting splendid Wye Valley views; the Forest of Dean, a vast woodland bristling with wildlife; May Hill, a distinctive, tree-crowned summit with a superb panorama; Gloucester, a historic cathedral city; Painswick Beacon, an ancient hillfort that rises majestically above the Cotswolds; and Sapperton, an archetypal Cotswold Arts & Crafts style village.
Small detours to accommodation take my Collection to a total of 60 miles (97 km), which I have split into five stages of between 7 and 16 miles (11 and 26 km) in length. The itinerary is suitable for all reasonably fit hikers, as it follows well established trails and never are the ascents and descents particularly sustained. You can find accommodation options scattered across the Way, though where it is sparser, I name specifics in the stage descriptions.
The first two stages explore the Forest of Dean region and involve a fair amount of elevation gain on what is an undulating journey. However, you may be too busy enjoying the scenery to mind the occasional uphill. After all, ‘blessed is the eye, between the Severn and the Wye,’ so the saying goes. This part of the trek is full of interesting wildlife, vestiges of the forest’s industrial heritage and can be boggy underfoot in winter or after rainfall. Sturdy boots are recommended.
The third stage is a much easier ramble across the pastures leading up to the River Severn and Gloucester, before a much more strenuous hike across the Cotswold Hills in the fourth.
Spring and summer bring the famously beautiful Cotswolds to life in a dazzling display of colour. This is probably the best time of year to consider tackling the Way. Regardless of forecast, be prepared for all eventualities and pack both waterproofs and sun cream.
The final stage is an easy ramble to Thames Head and on to the village of Kemble. Kemble is superbly accessible thanks to its pretty station, with direct services to London Paddington, Swindon, Gloucester and Cheltenham. Motorists can make use of the nearby M4.
The start of the Way at Monmouth is not as easily accessed, as it does not have a train station. The nearest rail links are Chepstow and Abergavenny, both over 15 miles (24 km) away. However, you can catch a bus to Monmouth from both or a bus from Hereford is also an option. If travelling by car, the town is on the A40 between Abergavenny and Ross-on-Wye.
For a Collection following the Offa’s Dyke Path, see: komoot.com/collection/894399
For a Collection following the Thames Path, see: komoot.com/collection/888071
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Last updated: November 29, 2021
Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.
The first stage explores the wondrous Forest of Dean and crosses the width of the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) from Monmouth to Lydbrook. After a visit to the Kymin, an impressive 18th-century round house and naval temple, you join forest trails that wind and undulate across this…
This stage continues through the beautiful Forest of Dean, rubbing shoulders with its excellent mountain biking trails and beguiling sculpture trail. It then heads north west, through the town of Mitcheldean and ascends sharply to the summit of May Hill. At almost 16 miles (26 km), this is a long stage…
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In this stage you leave the undulating forest trails behind and venture across flat, green countryside to the city of Gloucester on the River Severn.
Much of the walk is delightfully rural, characterised by verdant pastures and small pockets of woodland. The highlights of the day come towards the end…
The penultimate stage is an absolute cracker. It takes you across the rolling Cotswold hills on a journey that visits a number of magnificent viewpoints, vibrant nature reserves and achingly picturesque villages.
With 2,425 feet (739 m) of elevation to gain, this is a strenuous stage. Though the hike…
The final stage is a gentle journey from the lee of the Cotswold Hills to the source of the River Thames, finishing at the lovely village of Kemble. At just less than 8 miles (13 km), this is a shorter stage with little by way of elevation change to contend with.
From Frampton Mansell, you rejoin the…
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