The Wye Valley Walk is a 136 mile (218km) walk from Chepstow to Plynlimon. It follows the entire length of the River Wye, through woodland, meadows, rugged and remote uplands. It’s a mixture of hill and river side walking. The walk passes through Ross-on-Wye, Bredwardine, Merbach Hill, Hay-on-Wye, Builth Wells, Newbridge on Wye and Rhayader.
I walked this as part of my LEJOG+ 3 peaks challenge. My original route plan took me along the Cambrian Way through Wales but the weather was too rough. So I changed my route to the Wye Valley Walk instead and I was glad I did.
Day 1: Tuesday 5th March 2019
It was late afternoon and raining, when I set off from Chepstow. The Wye Valley Way path begins near the castle and leaves the town beside the school. I enjoyed the walk straight away, as the path zig-zagged through the woods.
Some stretches are high above the river on the hillside, passing some good viewing areas.
The path is well sign posted and there are a number of useful information boards.
I passed a stream in the woods and filtered some water before camping in amongst the trees, away from the path.
Day 2: Wednesday 6th March 2019
It rained all night but I slept reasonably well, apart from being woken at about 2am by condensation dripping on my face. I used my towel to wipe the whole of the inner down and dry it as best I could. I made coffee at about 6am, packed up and got walking.
Stopping was difficult as it was very wet everywhere, and windy too.
At about 8.30am I descended to Tintern Abbey and was delighted to find a shop and cafe open.
The veggie breakfast and hot chocolate went down very well, and the rain hammering down outside made it hard to leave!
It was nice to have road and a surfaced track beside the river, as it was still raining hard when I left the cafe.
The Wye Valley Walk path leaves the river and follows the hillside, while the Offa’s Dyke path joins the river here and follows it for a while.
After a few miles the Wye Valley Walk rejoins the river all the way to Monmouth.
The path did get a bit muddy in places the closer I got to Monmouth.
It’s a very good day when I find a cafe for breakfast and a pub for lunch.
Monmouth and Offa’s Dyke Path
I made it to Monmouth but everything was wet when I walked into the pub. I decided to change my route from Monmouth, and join the Offa’s Dyke path to cut the corner, to Hay on Wye. This will take me up and along a 9 mile ridge from Tre-wyn to Hay Bluff.
Monmouth itself was quite nice in the centre, and I found a good supermarket to resupply.
I camped a mile or so out of the town in fields, next to the Offa’s Dyke path. My decision to pitch early (about 5.30pm) was so my tent could dry a little before I had to get in it, but as soon as my tent was up and I was filtering water, it started chucking it down. I had to unpack and sort everything out inside the tent, which is always a bit tricky.
Day 3: Thursday 7th March 2019
My route took me mostly through farmers’ fields today, with a fair bit of up and down. I was surprised at the lack of stiles, as the Offa’s Dyke Path has a reputation for them! There were lots of gates though.
The path was very well walked and easy to follow, but extremely muddy in places. I needed my gaiters to stop the mud getting into the top of my boots
I made it to Pandy at about 2pm and received a lovely welcome at the Old Pandy Inn. My meal was great and I was very glad to be inside, as the drizzle had deteriorated into proper rain.
I left the inn at 3pm and followed the road to rejoin the Offa’s Dyke Path up onto the ridge that runs all the way to Hay on Wye. When I reached the trig point I could hardly stand in the wind, however, so this perhaps wasn’t my best route decision. Luckily I found a hollow with a sort of flat spot near the trig point for my tent.
It was good to get cleaned up after all that mud, and get into my snug warm sleeping bag and down jacket. I enjoyed listening to the wind and rain lashing the tent whilst I was comfy and warm! I’d stopped at 4.45pm which was a bit early really, but it was good to give my body a rest and save the energy battling along the ridge in this weather. This is the best part of having no accommodation booked and carrying a tent – I have choices. If it had been a lovely evening, I would happily have continued further along the ridge.
Day 4: Friday 8th March 2019
It rained all night last night, and the wind picked up even more this morning.
There was a high wind chill and ice on the puddles this morning, but it was a nice walk along the top. A good path with reasonable level walking and good views all around.
I just caught a dry spell until about 11am, and I reached the 4th and last cairn, before I descended from the ridge. The wind had now, really picked up and the drizzle returned.
I was very glad to be heading down off the ridge. And to get out of the wind, it was getting got very strong and cold.
As I came off the ridge, I found a coach-load of school children getting ready to head up. I suggested that they might not enjoy it up there.
It looked like they changed their plans, because a little while later they came past in the coach as I was walking down the road. Very sensible.
Hay on Wye – rejoining the Wye Valley Walk
The path to Hay on Wye was open and grassy. There were some muddy, slippery bits but it was mostly easy going. I was very glad to have walking poles today, as they saved me from sliding over many times. They give me a lot more reassurance on slippy wet grass, too, which I am walking on a great deal. I have used them a lot more than I expected to on this walk.
I reached Hay on Wye at about 12.30pm, ready for a cooked breakfast.
After some resupply shopping (including a new USB charger that had broken), I left Hay on Wye, rejoining the Wye Valley Walk, aiming for the Llowes Public House on the map.
The rivers were running high after all this rain. I was worried that the Wye Valley Way path would be flooded.
I soon discovered that the Llowes Public House is not there, so I carried on disappointed along fields and roads to Glasbury where I found the Foyles Hotel.
It looked very posh but I was made extremely welcome, despite being so wet and muddy. They didn’t start serving food for a couple of hours but I didn’t mind the wait, as it gave me a chance to charge everything up. I need my iPod! It also gave me time to sort out the route options on my phone mapping, too.
I was a bit late leaving the dry warm pub, and it was getting dark, so I only walked a mile or so further to camp in a field near the river. I didn’t get too close to it as it was running quite high due to all the rain and I was worried it might burst its banks.
While I laid in the tent listening to music on my iPod, there was a lot of light flashing around the fields near by. I considered if I had been the cause of this. Was the farmer worried about people steeling his sheep? I had broken one of my 11 wild camping rules tonight, walking through farmland with my head torch on. Had I worried the farmer?
Day 5: Saturday 9th March 2019
I packed up camp and left at about 4.30am this morning for two reasons: 1. rain was forecast between 6am and 8am, and for once my tent was dry (probably due to the wind in the night). 2. I hadn’t slept well, as the last thing I want to do is upset landowners.
There was a slight moon when I left, enough not to need my head torch. I walked on the roads for most of the morning, mainly to try and keep my feet dry.
They were undulating, reasonably interesting and very quiet, which was very welcome.
My route was starting to get more remote and higher, as I was heading upriver towards the source of the River Wye. I made it to Builth Wells at 11am for breakfast, coffee and charging my Flip 10 power pack.
Later in the day, I reached Newbridge on Wye and entered the pub during a Wales vs Scotland rugby match. Consequently it was pretty busy, but I was made very welcome. I mentioned that years ago, my dad used to run the post office here, and he remembered him and we had a good chat. Later having a long conversation with another local couple, who were waiting for a taxi after a day’s walking in the area.
I struggled to find a flat spot to camp tonight, as any suitable spot was too overlooked by properties. I had to walk quite a few miles on from the pub, eventually taking a flat-ish bit of grass next to the track, hidden by trees. The rain started again just as I had finished making my evening coffee, which was lucky!
Day 6: Sunday 10th March 2019
This morning I woke to rain, so I laid back down and seriously considered staying there in my secluded spot for the whole day! I was tucked out of the wind that I could hear whistling through the trees around me.
It got light and the rain stopped, so I thought I had better get up. At 7.30am, it was my latest start yet. I walked some paths but mostly quiet lanes to arrive in Rhayader at about 9.45am, in time for breakfast.
Whilst I was walking across a play area to photograph a waterfall, I stopped concentrating and slipped over on a stone slab in the grass. Luckily I didn’t damage anything, just bruises, but I could have smashed my phone as I was checking my GPS at the time. Thank goodness it’s a tough phone as I dropped it straight on the screen on the stone slab.
I spent nearly 2 hours in a lovely cafe, eating a large cooked breakfast and drinking numerous pots of tea, while my clothes dried.
Retreat to the road
I didn’t fancy slipping and sliding around on the Wye Valley Walk path, so I left Rhayader by road and headed north towards Pant-y-dwr. It was so wet and windy it was difficult to walk straight, so I was glad I’d stuck to the road.
The pub at Pant-y-dwr was extremely welcome, and I stopped for a pint (but no food because the chef was then off to hospital). A chap in the pub asked me what I was doing and offered me a place to camp in his field at the next place I was heading to.
I continued on quiet roads all the way to Llanidloes, just making it to the Co-op before it closed. It was also time for a rest and a pint, planning to camp as soon as possible afterwards. I really was feeling I had walked far enough.
My camp spot was a mile or so outside town. I was just out of sight of the road, in what looked like an old quarry. There were no worries about finding water as there was a small stream a metre away from my camping spot.
Day 7: Monday 11th March 2019
It was a nice walk on quiet forest roads and a path, to the source of the River Wye.
The sauce off the River Severn and River Wye
My main aim was to walk to John O’Groats so I didn’t stay on the Wye Valley Walk path all the time. I was disappointed that I hadn’t been able to follow the path all the way, but it was just too wet and slippery.
In better weather it would be a great walk as I really enjoyed the bits of the Wye Valley Walk that I did do. I intend to come back with my family and walk it in its entirety. Perhaps at a different time of year and hopefully without so much rain next time!
I found Wales to be friendly and very good value. The food and beer was fairly cheap compared with many parts of the UK and I received very good service everywhere I went.
Even though it wasn’t always easy to find somewhere, I was able to wild camp every night.
I enjoyed the Wye Valley Walk, but if I did the walk again, I would walk it the other way around and start from the source of the river. This would mean more down hill and it would be a lot easier to get transport home from Chepstow. There’s no public transport to and from the source of the Wye, so you’ll need a taxi or friend to drop you off.
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