A riverside hike from lowlands to mountains — Wye Valley Walk

Hiking Collection by Dan
10-22 days
3-6 h / day
148 mi
14,125 ft
13,150 ft

The Wye Valley Walk follows the River Wye along the battle-scarred Anglo-Welsh border through woodlands, pastures, orchards, and lonely moors to its mountain source.

The 136-mile (218-kilometer) trail follows the Wye from Chepstow in Monmouthshire, through Herefordshire to the slopes of Plynlimon in Powys, Wales.

A wonderfully-contrasting hike, the trail takes you through deep limestone gorges, ancient woodlands, water meadows, cider orchards, farmsteads, sleepy villages, rugged moors, and wild mountain tops

There is plenty of history to observe along the way. From prehistoric standing stones to Iron Age hillforts, 10th century castles to 12th century churches, there is plenty to see. Chepstow Castle, Tintern Abbey, and Hereford Cathedral are some of the star attractions.

Wildlife is abundant along the way, too. The Wye is well-known for displays of wild salmon leaping upstream to breed. However, there is much more to see. Keep a look-out for buzzards, red kites, kestrels, tawny owls, otters, weasels, badgers, hares, foxes, hedgehogs, and more.

Whilst there are some steep and rocky sections, tough climbs, and challenging distances to contend with, the trail predominantly follows easy pathways through gently undulating countryside, making it a good choice for all levels of expertise.

In this Collection, we split the route into nine stages. Of course, you can split up each stage into as many days as you are comfortable with. You can also walk any single stage, or a couple of stages, in isolation.

Every stage finishes close to accommodation, even if there are only a few options nearby. However, places to stay are not always abundant so it is worth planning in advance and scheduling any rest days accordingly.

If you are planning to arrive by public transport, you can catch a train to Chepstow, which is served by direct trains from Cardiff and Gloucester, among others, and has connecting services around Britain.

Awkwardly, the Wye Valley Walk ends abruptly in a remote spot with no public transport. The easiest thing to do is arrange a pick-up or a taxi from the Rhyd-y-benwch car park, which is close to the finish.

Alternatively, you can continue for another eight miles (13 kilometers) on the Severn Way to Llanidloes, which is well served by buses. If you choose this, the mountain detour shown on Stage 09 will be way too much. If you stick to the official route and continue to Llanidloes, the total distance is just less than 20 miles (32 kilometers).

Due to how long this hike and how remote this finish is, arriving by car is more trouble than it is worth. Public transport from Llanidloes back to Chepstow is convoluted and time-consuming—expect a minimum five-hour journey with four-or-five bus and train transfers.

There are no well-positioned places that are within easy reach of the start and finish either. If arriving by car is essential, your best bet might be to arrange for long-stay parking in Hereford, which has reasonable links to the start and finish.

For more information about the Downs Link, visit: wyevalleywalk.org.
For train timetables and tickets, visit: thetrainline.com.

On The Map

Tours & Highlights

  • Difficult
    07:54
    17.4 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,875 ft
    1,900 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Atmospheric woodland, ancient ruins, waterfalls, and the beautiful lower Wye gorge await on this first stage.Following narrow paths through thick woodland, the trail climbs at points along the way; opening to reveal glorious views.From Chepstow Castle, the trail rises and falls gradually as it follows the Wye north. After crossing the A446, you climb steeply for expansive views from the ‘Eagle’s Nest’. You then descend towards the river where you find the impressive ruins of Tintern Abbey. Founded in 1131, it was the first Cistercian foundation in Wales, and only the second in Britain.The trail meanders past St Michael’s Church, which stands on a site that has been a place of worship since 765AD, to Brockweir Bridge.From here it is a long and gradual ascent through thick woodland to reach a highpoint soon after Cleddon Falls, a pretty cascade of crystal-clear water.A sharper descent follows and you return to the banks of the Wye and follow north to Monmouth, where this stage finishes. Monmouth has an excellent range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.

  • Difficult
    07:42
    17.0 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,800 ft
    1,675 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage meanders along the upper Wye gorge amid impressive limestone cliffs.Whilst the hike is chiefly a flat riverside walk, there are occasional climbs that afford lovely views over the valley below.From Monmouth, you follow the river through open countryside and woodland before climbing to cut-off a meander at Symonds Yat Rock Viewpoint.Not only does Symonds Yat Rock afford impressive views of the Wye Valley, it is one of the best places in the country to watch peregrine falcons. You can also observe sparrowhawk, osprey, buzzard, and owl.Once you cross Kerne Bridge, near Goodrich, there is a dramatic change of pace as the trail climbs steeply through wooded hills and narrow valleys before descending into Ross-on-Wye from Chase Hill.Ross has an excellent range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.

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  • Difficult
    07:48
    18.2 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,000 ft
    975 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    A mix of riverside walking and woodland scrambling brings you to the cathedral city of Hereford. Exploring a landscape of pastoral riverside, hilly woodland, open countryside, black and white villages, orchards, and sandstone architecture, this is a wonderfully-contrasting hike.From Ross-on-Wye, it is worth a brief detour to see the ruins of Wilton Castle, which date from the 12th century.You rejoin the trail and follow the river through open fields and small woodlands to How Caple. At this point, you rise over farmland to cut-off a large meander.The trail reaches a high point at Capler Camp, an Iron Age hill fort on Capler Hill that affords fine views of the Wye Valley.It is a long and undulating descent to the Wye floodplain and into the City of Hereford, which renowned for its 11th century cathedral.Hereford has an excellent range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.

  • Difficult
    06:40
    15.9 mi
    2.4 mph
    625 ft
    525 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This leisurely riverside amble takes you past orchards, meadows, sleepy villages, and pretty gardens.With almost no ascent and descent, this stage is one of the easiest on the itinerary and is well-placed after some tough hikes.Before you leave Hereford, it is worth a visit to see the city’s iconic cathedral, which dates from the 11th century but has been a site of worship since at least the 8th century.From Hereford, you cross the Wye via The Old Bridge and follow the river east through patchwork farmland to Lower Breinton.A short time later you reach The Weir Garden which is nestled within picturesque countryside and is full of life and beauty at every time of year.You continue through Byford, Monnington on Wye, and Brobury and finally cross the River Wye to finish in Bredwardine.There is not much in the hamlet of Bredwardine. However, you will find a couple of accommodation options, as well as a pub which serves food.

  • Difficult
    06:54
    15.5 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,425 ft
    1,450 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This stage takes you from England to Wales via castle ruins and lofty hilltop views.After a leisurely previous stage, you begin this hike with a tough slog over Bredwardine Hill and Merbach Hill. The reward for your efforts are lovely views over the stunning borderland scenery.You drop down to the river again and continue over a few less demanding hills and open countryside into Hay-on-Wye, where the trail levels out once again.A few miles before you reach Hay, it is worth a brief detour to see Clifford Castle. Built in 1070, the castle fell into disrepair during the 15th century and was demolished for building stone. However, there are still considerable ruins to observe today.When you reach Hay, another castle awaits. Hay Castle was built in the late 12th century and is considered to be one of the greatest medieval defense structures on the border of England and Wales still standing.It is then level walking through farmland to Glasbury, where this stage finishes. Glasbury has a good range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.

  • Difficult
    07:06
    16.1 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,375 ft
    1,225 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This hike-of-two-halves begins on level riverside and finishes in the rugged upland terrain of Powys.From Glasbury, you follow the tree-lined banks of the River Wye through patchwork farmland and open countryside.You cross the river via Erwood Bridge and then begin a long and gradual ascent into wilder upland scenery.The trail continues over Pant-y-llyn Hill before dropping into the market town of Builth Wells, where there is plenty to see. As you enter the town you soon arrive at one of its best kept secrets, Builth Castle. Whilst nothing survives of the castle other than the earthworks, you get good views over Builth Wells and are afforded a delightful sense of solitude.A short time later you pass St Mary's, a pretty church in the heart of the town which dates from the 14th century. Builth Wells has an excellent range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.

  • Difficult
    07:25
    16.6 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,650 ft
    1,375 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The character of the trail takes on a lonelier and wilder character on this stage, as you continue climbing towards the source.This stage begins as a leisurely riverside stroll through patchwork countryside and small woodlands. At Llanwrthwl, it is worth a visit to St Gwrthwl's Church. Whilst the church is an 1875 rebuild of a medieval church, the spot has been a site of worship for many thousands of years, as evidenced by the prehistoric standing stone in the churchyard. At this point you climb steeply onto the moors before descending into the valley once again. You cross the Afon Elan via a rope bridge and continue to the market town of Rhayader, where this stage finishes.Rhayader has an excellent range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.

  • Difficult
    05:39
    12.2 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,625 ft
    1,425 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The penultimate stage takes you into a higher and wilder landscape at the foot of the mountains.From Rhayader, the trail rises through farmland and small woodlands to reach a high point just before Gilfach Nature Reserve. Gilfach is home to much flora and fauna. Keep a look-out for buzzard, red kite, kestrel, and tawny owl, as well as salmon, otter, weasel, badger, brown hare, hedgehogs, and lots more.You descend to Afon Marter, cross the river, and follow it until you reach the Wye once again.The trail then follows the Wye through fields and woodland before rising away from the river in search of the moors.You wind around Esgar Dernol and skirt around Esgair Ymryson descending into a more pastoral landscape once again.This stage ends outside St Curig's Church, in Llangurig. Built in the 12th century, St Curig's is a pretty church with stained glass windows from 1878.There is not much to Llangurig but you will find a couple of accommodation options and a village store.

  • Difficult
    08:59
    19.0 mi
    2.1 mph
    2,750 ft
    2,575 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The final stage takes you into the most exposed and mountainous section of the entire trail.To make for an epic finish, this stage breaks away from the official route to take in some awesome peaks and landscapes that are a mere stone’s throw away. From Llangurig, the trail follows the fledgling River Wye through rough farmland, forest, and moorland to Pen Pumlumon Arwystli, the second highest summit on the Plynlimon massif.A short while later you reach Plynlimon, the highest point of the Cambrian Mountains and the highest point in Mid Wales. You then make a sharp descent and loop around Llyn Llygad Rheidol, a picturesque lake nestled deep in the mountains.The trail climbs steeply to the summit of Pen Pumlumon Llygad-Bychan and heads northwest to pick up the Severn Way, just below the source of the River Severn.As the trail descends through Hafren Forest, you soon arrive at Blaenhafren Falls, a small but pretty waterfall along the infant Severn.You follow the Severn Way through Hafren and eventually finish at Rhyd-y-benwch. The end of the route is in a very remote spot with nothing close by. Arranging for somebody to pick you up is essential. NOTE: The mountain detour shown here adds roughly seven miles (11 kilometers) and increases the overall hike time by at least three hours.

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    9
  • Distance
    148 mi
  • Duration
    66:07 h
  • Elevation
    14,125 ft13,150 ft