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Border castles bikepacking — Welsh Marches Way

Martin Donat

Border castles bikepacking — Welsh Marches Way

Mountain Biking Collection by Katherine Moore

4

Tours

24:46 h

171 mi

16,675 ft

This long distance 169 mile (272 km) bikepacking route will take you on a journey through the Welsh Marches, taking in plenty of off-road routing including the Shropshire Way, Jack Mytton Way, Mortimer Trail, Offa’s Dyke, and The Brecon to Monmouth canal. Enjoy the following castles and ruins along the way; Newport, Usk, Abergavenny, Hay, Clifford, Croft, Richard’s, Ludlow, Stokesay and Shrewsbury.

The Welsh Marches is not an officially recognised term, yet is often used to describe the counties that lie on the border of England and Wales, particularly Shropshire, Herefordshire, Powys, Monmouthshire and Wrexham.

These border counties are rich with history, owing to the centuries of conflict. Today we are left with relics of these times gone by, from the majestic castles to crumbling ruins, which serve as a reminder that these now united countries were once anything but.

You might have heard of the Welsh Marches Line; a railway line from Newport in South Wales to Shrewsbury, via Abergavenny, Hereford, and Craven Arms. Don't expect this route to be flat or of gentle gradient like many converted railway lines that we see in the UK today, but bear in mind that as this railway follows close to the route, there’s often great access or bail-out points if (hopefully not) needed.

Besides the castles, ruins and long distance trails, expect to ride through some of the prettiest towns and villages that the region has to offer, from the Brecon Beacons’ gatewy town of Abergavenny to historic Ludlow. These thriving market towns are contrasted by the bleak remoteness of the Shropshire Hills, the Begwyns and Brecon Beacons, all of which will challenge you, yet reward you with spectacular views over the valleys.

The many accommodation opportunities and resupply points make this route very accessible to beginner and inexperienced bikepackers, although it should be stressed that the terrain is very steep in places and sometimes technical. It is suitable for gravel bikes and mountain bikes (hardtail or rigid ideally). Why not select a single section to ride as a day tour and make the most of the many train stations along the route?

At either end of the route you’ll find a train station, both in Newport and Shrewsbury, making travel by train the most practical way to get to this route. You’ll find that the summer months are the best time of year to ride the Welsh Marches Way, as rainfall tends to be high in these parts leading to rather soggy and hard to pass trails in the winter.

On The Map

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors
    Difficult
    03:57
    30.5 mi
    7.7 mph
    2,000 ft
    1,875 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Ease into the Welsh Marches Way with the shortest stage first. While it may not be easy, this 30.5 mile (49.1 km) stage from the train station in Newport to the busy town of Abergavenny is almost half as long as the following stage, allowing for travel to the start.

    You’ll immediately pass Newport Castle as you leave town from …

  • Difficult
    09:34
    59.0 mi
    6.2 mph
    7,500 ft
    7,200 ft
    Expert gravel ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    Prepare yourself for a big one; the longest of the four stages by distance. This leg from bustling Abergavenny to the smaller Herefordshire market town of Kington covers no less than 56.6 miles (91.1 km). Not only that, but you’ll almost always be climbing or descending, with 7,776 feet (2,370 m) of climbing over the stage!

    The start is about …

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  • Difficult
    05:40
    37.6 mi
    6.6 mph
    3,800 ft
    4,025 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    Stage 3 totals 37.6 miles (60.5 km) linking the two market towns of Kington in Herefordshire to Ludlow in Shropshire. Although the climbs rarely exceed 1,000 feet (305 m), there are no less than six climbs today, which means some corking views too!

    Head east out of Kington to start the stage, into Lyonshall Park Wood to follow the River …

  • Difficult
    05:35
    44.2 mi
    7.9 mph
    3,375 ft
    3,475 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    The final stage is 44.2 miles (71.2 km) from Ludlow to Shrewsbury, taking in the wonderful Shropshire Hills which are a real treat, whether on foot or bike.

    Leave Ludlow the same way you entered to the west, up past Whitcliffe Common then head straight to Bringewood along Middle Wood Road, then turning north along lanes to Bromfield and Whittytree. …

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    4
  • Distance
    171 mi
  • Duration
    24:46 h
  • Elevation
    16,675 ft

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Border castles bikepacking — Welsh Marches Way