From Prestatyn on the north coast of Wales to Chepstow in the south, this four-day ride traverses more than 200 miles (370 kilometers) of beautiful, ever-changing Welsh countryside, meandering along the ancient earthworks known as Offa’s Dyke, built in the 8th Century by the King of Mercia to divide the English and Welsh. Whereas the waymarked Offa’s Dyke Path is predominantly footpath, this ride comprises bridle paths, byways, tracks and lanes that mirror the original route as much as possible, beginning and ending at the same waymarked points.
As the landscape unfurls beneath your wheels, you will traverse the rugged Clwydian Range and rolling Berwyn Hills before some welcome respite from the undulation comes in the form of the flat Montgomery Canal. From here, the lush Welsh Marches and verdant Shropshire Hills beckon before you once more hit hilly terrain in the challenging Black Mountains—the last ‘obstacle’ before a gradual, winding descent to the sea at Chepstow. Along the way, the route visits the handsome towns of Llangollen, Clun and Glasbury, where a youth hostel, inn and lodge respectively offer some comfort after long days in the saddle.
Should you wish to extend your ride, there are two linking routes: the first one starts at the half-way point at Clun northeast back over the Shropshire Hills to the mountain bike mecca of Long Mynd at Church Stretton. The second is three-quarters of the way along, offering a detour from Glasbury to discover a wonderful Welsh mountain hut or ‘bothy’ high up in the barren Black Mountains, before taking the waymarked Beacons Way to rejoin the original route. While these two extensions on their own would be ideal introductions to first-time bikepackers, the demanding nature of the extensions combined with the remaining route (the four main legs include over 28,000 feet (8,500 meters) of climbing) is something more suited to those with good fitness and bike handling skills. Rarely is the Welsh landscape flat, and at times it can feel wild and isolated, but this journey from along the entire length of the country is all the more rewarding for it.
On Stage 1, you’ll ride the Clwydian Way as you gradually climb from the north coast to the low hills of the Clwydian Range. From there, you head towards the Llangegla Forest and bike park (for more info, visit oneplanetadventure.com) before dropping down to the Llangollen canal, the River Dee, and finally your destination: the Llangollen youth hostel.
Climbing from the Dee valley, stage 2 winds its way up beyond Glyn Ceiriog on the North Berwyn Way before turning south to meet up with the River Afon Tanat and the Shropshire Way. Eventually, you will descend to join the Montgomery Canal, which follows the Severn Way beyond Welshpool, before crossing the border into England. Soon thereafter, the ruins of Clun Castle will come into view, meaning your bed for the night at the White Horse Inn isn’t too far away. For more information about the White Horse Inn, visit whi-clun.co.uk.
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Leaving the Shropshire Hills behind, stage 3 continues southwest on the Welsh side of the border, briefly joining the Jack Mytton Way, the Offa’s Dyke Path and Glyndwr’s Way. After the shelter of Radnor Forest, the path circumnavigates the 2.5 mile-long (4 kilometer-long) crevice of Harley Dingle before dropping into Glasbury. Nestled in the Wye Valley, you’ll begin to see the signs of the Brecon Beacons and the Black Mountains hazily in the distance. The Black Mountain Lodge is the perfect overnight stop to recuperate before the final mountain range.
Twmpa and Hay Bluff loom large on this stage, but the route kindly skirts around the foothills. You’ll run through the Olchon Valley and cross the River Monnow, all the while skirting alongside the Beacons Way and Offa’s Dyke, as well as constantly crossing the border. Once you reach Monmouth, the mountains are behind you. The picturesque Wye Valley leads you towards the end of the Offa’s Dyke Path at Chepstow on the Severn estuary.
Following the Shropshire Way northeast out of Clun, you’ll then cross the River Kemp at Lydbury North, passing Eyton and Plowden before reaching the southernmost foothills of the Long Mynd. Follow the Pole Bank Walk and Cross Britain Way before heading north to Picklescott then southeast to the bunkhouse at All Stretton. The next morning, the Jack Mytton Way will take you through the valley at Carding Mill to rejoin your route near Boiling Well.
As the Glasbury to Chepstow route winds beneath Gospel Pass, this deviation takes you up to the pass, then further still to the ridge of Twmpa. Riding southeast along the crest, the track drops at Chwarel Y Fan to the Grwyne Fawr valley. Riding back up this trail takes you to the reservoir and a tiny bothy alongside it. For more information visit mountainbothies.org.uk. The next day, continue up the valley before turning south to climb to Waun Fach at 2,654 feet (809 meters). Continuing along the ridge will bring you back onto the Beacons Way before you rejoin the original Chepstow route near Pandy.