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The wonderful woodland ridges of the Marches — Mortimer Trail

Ian Thomas

The wonderful woodland ridges of the Marches — Mortimer Trail

Hiking Collection by Alex Foxfield



3-4 h

/ day

31.1 mi

4,150 ft

3,900 ft

The sparsely populated border country of the Welsh Marches is a sublime place to hike. Lofty tree-cloaked ridges rise from steep sided valleys; red kites patrol the sky, while otters swim the rivers; timber-framed inns offer a warm welcome in villages that time seems to have forgotten; and castles and Neolithic forts hint at a tumultuous past.

Into this landscape steps the Mortimer Trail, a 30-mile (48 km) long-distance footpath that takes an adventurous and undulating line across the regions’ broad, wooded hills. The Trail is named after the Mortimer family, who were the ruling Marcher Lords of the region’s frontier in medieval times. In turn, their name has been bestowed to the ancient Mortimer Forest, the sprawling venue of the Trail’s opening gambits.

You begin from the grand seat of Mortimer power: Ludlow Castle, the historic centrepiece of this thriving Shropshire market town. After crossing the Teme, you venture onto the forested hills, tackle Marilyn-listed summits and explore a landscape of superb natural beauty.

The scenery is often spellbinding, with views to the Malvern and Shropshire Hills, the vast, mysterious uplands of Mid Wales and down onto the Teme, Arrow and Lugg Valleys. These sights vie for your attention against wonders closer at hand, such as the enchanting, warbling song of skylarks and the familiar mew of buzzards riding the thermals. Often, all is peaceful; the crunch of leaves beneath your boots is accompanied only by the whisper of wind in the trees and the tumbling of nearby streams or distant rivers.

The Trail is full of highlights: Ludlow Castle, the impressive, 1,000-year-old headquarters of the Council of the Marches; High Vinnalls, the highest point in Mortimer Forest and a Marilyn summit; Croft Ambrey, an Iron Age hillfort that was once home to hundreds of folk; Aymestrey, a pretty Herefordshire village with beguiling woodland folklore; Shobdon Hill, a wood-cloaked whaleback boasting gorgeous views; Titley, a picturesque village that’s home to a multi-award winning inn; and Kington, a market town nestled in the Arrow Valley.

In this Collection, I’ve split the Trail into three stages of between 7 and 13 miles (11 and 21 km) in length. The whole thing easily fits into a long weekend and strong walkers will have no problem squeezing it into two days by combining the second and third stages. The long days of summer make this an enticing prospect, when the forests are alive with bluebells, dog violet and fluttering butterflies. There’s also nothing to stop you enjoying the Trail in reverse, should you wish.

Whilst utterly delightful, this is not an easy hike. The Trail aims for the hills rather than skirting around them, so there are a number of ascents and descents to contend with. Sturdy boots and waterproofs are essential, as is sun cream in the warmer months. A certain degree of self-sufficiency is required as — while by no means a wilderness hike — this is a rural ramble that visits only a few small villages between the start and finish. You will need to carry food and water for the day, though there are many scenic picnic opportunities.

When you do descend from the broad ridges and emerge from the trees at the end of a great day, the accommodation and food options are of high quality. Both Aymestrey and Titley have excellent inns, though those on a budget might want to stray from the Trail to find alternatives.

In contrast, there are plenty of amenities at the start and end points. Transport-wise, Ludlow is on the Welsh Marches railway line, with connections to Hereford, Shrewsbury, Newport and Manchester. It is also a relatively short drive from the Midlands.

Kington was once blessed with a railway but today the best public transport option is the regular number 461 bus service to Hereford. From Hereford you can return to Ludlow or connect to the Midlands, Newport, Manchester and beyond. For motorists, Kington is handily placed on the A44 between Worcester and Aberystwyth.

On The Map


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Mortimer Trail

30.0 mi

4,125 ft

3,950 ft

Last updated: November 30, 2021

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Stage 1: Ludlow to Aymestrey — Mortimer Trail

    13.0 mi
    2.1 mph
    1,900 ft
    1,900 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The first stage takes you from the bustling Shropshire market town of Ludlow into the hilly Mortimer Forest, where you enter Herefordshire on a strenuous, undulating journey across glorious wooded ridges. The Trail reaches an early high point on the Marilyn summit of High Vinnalls and later on you discover

    by Alex Foxfield

  • Expert
    11.0 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,450 ft
    1,225 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The second stage is only slightly less strenuous than the first and continues in the same vein: an undulating journey across magnificent, wooded hills. After following serene trails alongside the meandering River Lugg, you ascend two significant hills, before arriving at the delightful village of Titley

    by Alex Foxfield

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  • Intermediate
    7.10 mi
    2.2 mph
    825 ft
    775 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The final stage is a short but fairly strenuous ramble between the gorgeous village of Titley and the picturesque market town of Kington. You ascend once again onto tree-skirted uplands and traverse along a steep, wooded escarpment with glorious views north west to the border with Wales. To end your

    by Alex Foxfield


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Collection Stats

  • Tours
  • Distance
    31.1 mi
  • Duration
    14:25 h
  • Elevation
    4,150 ft3,900 ft

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