Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail – The Backpacker’s Guide
Offa’s Dyke Path – go straight to the contents
This is your ultimate guide to planning a backpacking trip on the Offa’s Dyke Path, with everything you need to know!
It’s based on my own experience of hiking the trail and covers my costs, transport, wild camping and so much more! Let’s dive in.
How Many Miles Is The Offa’s Dyke Path?
Offa’s Dyke Path is a stunning national trail that runs for 177 miles along the English-Welsh border
Anglo-Saxon history is often quite literally under your feet when you walk Offa’s Dyke Path. The Dyke is an impressive earthwork built by Offa, King of Mercia in the 8th century. It follows a line that marked and defended the border of Mercia (now England) and Wales and there are still miles intact. Offa’s Dyke was about 2.5 metres high and 20 metres wide, with the ditch on the Welsh side of the border.
Researchers believe that Offa may have connected much older defenses to create the continuous Dyke that’s named after him. And I could hardly believe it, but in many places, you actually walk along the top of the Dyke itself.
The Path isn’t just about Offa’s Dyke though. There are some impressive sections of trail that wend their way through the Brecon Beacons National Park, the Shropshire Hills, and the Clwydian Range. These sections offer spectacular views out across the landscape from ridges and hilltops alike. And there’s plenty of challenging walking along the way too.
Offa’s Dyke Path is not to be missed – I absolutely loved it!
Offa’s Dyke Path – Ultimate Guide For Hikers
- Where Does Offa’s Dyke Start And End?
- How Long Does It Take To Hike Offa’s Dyke? My Daily Miles
- Getting To And From The Trail Public Transport
- Budget For Offa’s Dyke (My Costs)
- Wild Camping And Campsites Along The Trail
- My Gear List
- Places To Eat And Drink Cafes, Pubs, Groceries and Water
- Is Offa’s Dykle Well-Signposted? (Signs, Maps And Guides)
- Anything Else?
Where Does Offa’s Dyke Path Start And End?
The trail starts and finishes in Wales, from Chepstow in the south to Prestatyn in the north
About 2/3 of the trail is in Wales, but it winds its way across the border without any ceremony. In fact, the only way you know whether you’re in England or Wales is that the trail signs suddenly change language. They might be English one minute and bi-lingual the next – Llwybr Clawdd Offa, being the Welsh but sadly no one I asked knew how to pronounce it. I’d walked 100 miles before I heard any Welsh speakers and I was too shy to ask by then. Instead, I decided I’d rather ask my Welsh friend when I got back home to Cornwall! (And I haven’t seen him yet so I can’t enlighten you.)
Which Is The Best Way To Hike Offa’s Dyke Path?
The best way to hike Offa’s Dyke Path is south to north because that’s the way I did it haha! Seriously though, it makes no difference along the way. Most of the ‘wow factors’ are at either end of the trail, with the Brecon Beacons in the south and the Clwydian Range in the north. Even so, there are a couple of things that might sway your decision, especially if you want to save the best till last.
But what’s best for you?
Love the sea and a big horizon? Then you need to walk south to north. But if you love deep dark woods with the meandering rivers beneath your feet then north to south is for you. On the other hand, and this is what would sway it for me, most of us want a bit of a celebratory atmosphere at the end of a long hike. And, frankly, Sedbury (at the southern end of the trail) is seriously lacking.
That lump of concrete in the photo above? That’s it. True, the lump of concrete is on the Dyke itself, but that’s the only remarkable thing about it. If you’re heading south you’d end your hike winding through alleyways alongside housing estates to a very disappointing finish. There’s no view whatsoever here, just a meeting of paths – and only the odd dog walker or cow to share your exhilaration with. There wasn’t even a decent-looking pub around (there might be something more appealing in Chepstow though, just a few miles away).
Compare that to what you get if you hike Offa’s Dyke Path the other way round…
Need I say more? No. But I’ll just add that there are loads of cafes, pubs, restaurants, B&Bs, hotels, and places to buy clean socks before you hop on the train right in the bustling town centre. What more could you want?
Once you’ve got your direction sorted, the next question you might want to consider is how long you’ll need to be away.
How Long Does It Take To Hike Offa’s Dyke Path?
This obviously depends on how many miles you’d like to walk each day and where you plan to stay. Your daily miles are restricted if you plan to stay at B&Bs or campsites and you’ll end up walking a fair way off-trail in many circumstances. By far the most flexible approach is wild camping (and you can definitely do this the entire route), but there are a few campsites right on the trail which makes a mix of the two possible.
I decided on an average of 17.5 miles a day from days 2 to 10 (which is exactly how it worked out), with just a few miles on my travel days. I thought (but didn’t specify) that I might stay at 1 or 2 campsites along the way – especially towards the end so I could clean up before the long journey home!
Here’s how my itinerary actually worked out:
My Daily Miles
My itinerary ended up like this (distances are approximate) :
- Day 1: (Travel to Chepstow, walk 1.5 miles to trail start) 6.5 miles to Devil’s Pulpit area
- Day 2: 17.5 miles to Llanvihangel-Ystern-Llewern area
- Day 3: 25 miles to Hatterrall Ridge area
- Day 4: 19 miles to Gladestry (campsite – see below)
- Day 5: 15 miles to Hawthorne Hill area
- Day 6: 11 miles to Graig Hill area
- Day 7: 20 miles to Buttington area
- Day 8: 15.5 miles to Trefonen (campsite – see below) – includes walking off-trail into Montgomery village
- Day 9: 16 miles above Llangollen – includes walking off-trail into Llangollen
- Day 10: 14 miles to Moel Y Gelli area
- Day 11: 22 miles to Marian Ffrith area
- Day 12: 4.5 miles to Prestatyn (Travel home)
Getting To And From The Trail
Where Is The Nearest Train Station To Offa’s Dyke Path?
- Train: Chepstow Railway Station is the nearest train station to Offa’s Dyke Path in the south (about 2 miles from the start/end of the trail). It’s operated by Transport For Wales but serves various rail companies. Use websites like Split Ticketing or National Rail Enquires to buy tickets, or call in to your local station.
- Coach: National Express operate a service from London to Chepstow and may also operate services to Chepstow from other areas of the country.
- You could also consider services like Megabus which run to Bristol where there’s a rail connection to Chepstow
- Finally, you could try Check My Bus to see what’s available from your area.
- Train: Prestatyn Railway Station is the nearest train station to Offa’s Dyke Path in the north. It’s right on the trail in the town centre and is also operated by Transport For Wales. Use websites like Split Ticketing or National Rail Enquires to buy tickets, or call in to your local station.
- Coach: once again Check My Bus is a good way to find out what’s available to and from your local area.
How Much It Cost To Hike Offa’s Dyke Path
Travel – Train
I used Split Ticketing to find the best price train tickets and then took the details to my local station to buy them. I prefer to do this because I like to speak to an actual person! (Buying train tickets can be complicated because it’s possible lots of train operators are involved.)
- Truro to Chepstow (outward journey): £41.10
- Prestatyn to Truro (return journey): £81.20
- TOTAL: £122.30
Maps And Guides
Bought for planning before I left home and on trail
- Cicerone Map Booklet: £9.95
- Trailblazer Guide Offa’s Dyke Path: £12.99 (was a gift, but included to give a clear picture)
- TOTAL: £22.94
- 2 at £10 each
- TOTAL: £20.00
Cafes And Groceries
Includes 7 sit-down lunches/breakfasts, water, soft drinks (I spent a fortune on cold drinks during the 26-degree heat), groceries, and meals for train travel (7 hours out and 10 hours home)
- TOTAL: £148.66
Average of £12.37 per day over 12 days. (I was pleased with this as I usually aim for an average of £12.00 a day.)
- £2.50 artist’s card
- 4.99 suncream
- 2.99 can of gas
- TOTAL: £10.48
TOTAL COST: £324.38
Incidentals (not included above):
- x 3 prs dry socks (Llangollen): £7.99 to save foot rot (You can easily avoid this cost by packing enough before you go!)
- Trainers (Prestatyn): £10.09*
- T-shirt (Prestatyn): £6.60*
*For the journey home. By the time I got to Prestatyn everything I was wearing (or had worn) was absolutely soaked through. Also, my feet stank to high heaven and I didn’t fancy sitting on a train in this state for 10 hours!
- Total £24.68
How much it costs to hike Offa’s Dyke Path is mostly dependent on the cost of travel, I think, especially if you plan to wild camp. The cost of groceries and cafes seemed pretty similar to back home in Cornwall. I took £100 cash with me to try and restrain my spending in cafes…which wasn’t too bad, but could have been a bit better! (I found I spent a lot more on cold, sugary drinks in the heat.)
Can You Wild Camp On Offa’s Dyke Path?
It’s very easy to wild camp on Offa’s Dyke Path, and as a solo female hiker I felt completely safe all the way.
It’s not actually legal to wild camp without the land owner’s permission – and it’s not always easy to find them. That said, I got permission to camp on a lady’s ‘verge with a view’ (that sounds so wrong!), for example. So if you can, ask.
Wild camping on Offa’s Dyke Path doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll find a pitch with magnificent views though. (There are some of course.) Even so, you’ll find plenty of field edges where you can pitch up out of sight ready to catch a starry sky or a sublime sunset.
If you decide to wild camp on Offa’s Dyke Path there are principles that you should adhere to. They ensure you protect the environment as well as people’s livelihoods and they’re called Leave No Trace. This article discusses the general principles and suggests 12 practical ways you can put them into practice. Whether you’re completely new to wild camping in the UK or need a refresher, give it a read before you go.
If you want to know what kit you’ll need, or things like going to the loo outside, how to find a pitch, or stay safe then you need my Ultimate Guide To Wild Camping:
Campsites On Offa’s Dyke Path
I stayed at 2 campsites on Offa’s Dyke Path and both of them were right on the trail. They’re ideal for backpackers and I had them both to myself so it felt like wild camping with extras!
Here’s what I thought:
Camping At Gladestry
It was late in the day when I arrived in Gladestry and I could see a massive hill ahead (above) and guessed it would take a while to find somewhere level to pitch. As I was walking through the village though I noticed a sign for a b&b and camping. I called in on the off-chance and I’m glad I did.
The ‘campsite’ is basically an immaculate back garden with a grand view over the hill. Designed solely for backpackers it was incredibly peaceful. The owner, Viv, runs a b&b business, and the campers’ bathroom is fit for the most discerning of them! There’s an outdoor tap and you can order breakfast or a packed lunch too.
Camping At Nantmawr/Trefonen
Offa’s Dyke Camping – £10.00
This was much more basic and rough-and-ready, but a very peaceful experience and no wild camper would feel out of place. Again, I didn’t phone ahead and just turned up at the gate. (I didn’t even realise it was a camping field – I’d just stuck my head over the gate to ask the time because my phone and watch had died.)
What made this really special was the owner Rachel and her teenage sons’ kindness and willingness to make you feel welcome. As soon as I arrived I was offered a flask of hot water and shown the composting toilet, an outdoor sink, and a shower being fitted and almost ready.
I couldn’t be arsed with a shower, but what I really, really wanted was to wash my stinking, soaking wet feet and to rinse out my socks. I asked for a bucket of water but Rachel and her sons brought over a bucket of hot water, a towel and soap…and a chair! Pure luxury haha!
Also, without asking, Rachel offered to charge my phone and even charged my battery overnight.
Just lovely, thank you Rachel!
NB There’s also a bell tent for hire on Airbnb
My Gear List
Base Weight: 13.4 kg
(Gross weight added over 500g of food and up to 4.5 L of water/drink in extreme heat.)
My gear is not the lightest and needs a serious overhaul:
Your hiking gear should weigh approximately 20% of your body weight
Mine’s way too heavy then. I’m gradually trying to lighten the load though, but it’s an expensive undertaking. (You can find out how I’ve afforded it this year in Hiking Shit That Scares Me Every Day.)
Osprey Renn 65 Women’s Specific rucksack (read my review)
- Wild Country Zephyros 1 tent
- Wild Country tent footprint
- MSR Pocket Rocket Deluxe Stove
- Part used Coleman C300 gas canister (This ran out and I bought a 100 canister on trail)
- Trangia cooking pot with lid and handle
- Titanium spork
- Titanium mug with lid
- Victorinox Swiss army knife
- 1/2 a small scourer
- Thermarest Neoair Xlite sleeping mat
- 18-year-old sleeping bag (packed in an Osprey dry bag)
- 2l bladder and a 750ml Camelback bottle
- 8 blister plasters; 4 ordinary plasters; a strip of wound closures; 1 large self-adhesive dressing; 1 medium self-adhesive dressing; 1 safety pin; emergency foil blanket; 1 strip of Ibuprofen; 1 strip of antihistamine; tick remover
Check out more ideas for your first aid kit here: What’s In Your Outdoor First Aid Kit?
- Personal medication; toilet paper, 4 dog poo bags and a plastic trowel; microfibre towel (doubled as a blanket) and a 4″ square ‘flannel’ cut from an old microfibre towel; sun cream and bug spray; 1/2 travel toothbrush and toothpaste; small tin Vaseline and tube of foot cream; travel Shampoo and conditioner; matchbox size piece of soap and 8 wet wipes; hairbrush and hair ties; face mask and hand sanitiser
- Salomon Outbound Hiking Shoes
- Bridgedale socks
- Sports bra
- Mountain Equipment shorts
- Mountain Equipment long sleeve t-shirt
- Alpine Lowe cap
Clothes (Packed in a Sea-To-Summit Dry Bag)
- Ayacucho waterproof jacket
- Berghaus Paclite Gore-Tex trousers
- Pair of M&S merino tights (sleep)
- Mountain Equipment short-sleeve t-shirt
- Rab padded gilet (doubled as a pillow)
- Hagloffs thin zip-up fleece
- 1 pair Bridgedale socks
- 3 pairs underwear
Electronics/Camera (Packed in an Osprey Dry Bag)
- 20,000 MaH Anker battery bank (metal casing) with cable and fast charger
- Sony Experia phone/camera and fast charger
- Bluetooth remote
- Selfie stick (also used as a tripod)
- Fitness watch and cable
- Anker solar panel
- Petzl headtorch in case (the case adds 63g, but it turns the headtorch into the perfect tent light)
- Webbing strap (for tent/spare)
- Personal alarm
- Waist belt
- Debit cards, train tickets and small amount of cash (around £15)
- Reading glasses in a soft case
- Cicerone map and map case
- Compass and magnifying glass
- Trailblazer guidebook
- Plastic peg
- Plastic food bag clip
- Binbag for tent
- Various food bags for packing
- Journal/sketchbook and pencils
- Sun umbrella (for the extreme heat/rain)
- Pair of MSR walking poles
Check out my gear reviews here – all kit I’ve used over time.
Gear I Should Have Left Behind
(And Gear I Wish I’d Had)
Packed but not used:
- Anker solar panel (My son wanted me to take it because I kept running out of battery on a previous hike. The weather was perfect for it…but I forgot the cable!)
- Spares/some first aid items (I’d never hike without them)
- Compass and magnifying glass (again, I’d never hike without them)
NB The Trailblazer guidebook I mentioned above was heavy. However, on other hikes, I’ve photocopied the relevant bits and stuck them in my notebook. (You could even photograph them to save more weight.) I’d do this again in future (I was too disorganised this time round), but I was pleased I had it with me.
I wish I’d Had:
- More Compeed blister plasters
- At least 2 more pairs of socks
Amendments To The Gross Weight:
I’ve gradually been replacing my old gear with new and much lighter gear, and it’s making a difference – but not as quickly as I’d like!
In 2021 I’ve upgraded my sleeping mat, walking poles, mug, stove and dry bags. I’ve also bought extra things though, like a trekking umbrella, which weighs less than 90g. (I used it on the Cotswold Way as well as this trail, in heatwaves and heavy rain – and it was awesome!)
By The Way…
If you want a laugh, read this and compare the 13.4kg for Offa’s Dyke Path to the 15.6kg I took on the South Downs Way national trail earlier this year! (I’m obviously improving!!):
Places To Eat And Drink Along Offa’s Dyke Path
Cafes, Pubs and Groceries
Tried, Tested, and enjoyed (except for one!):
Cafes, Pubs, Groceries, And Essentials
- Truro: train station cafe
- Newport: train station Costa (on the journey each way)
- Redbrook: Redbrook Village Stores (excellent for basics)
- Monmouth: Caffe Nero (lunch and charging); M&S (soft drinks)
- Hay-on-Wye: Cafe Hay, (breakfast and charging); Shepherds Parlour (lunch)
- Kington: Border Bean Cafe (lunch and charging); Spar (groceries)
- Knighton: Clock Tower Tea Rooms (breakfast) I wouldn’t recommend this cafe at all; Spar (groceries plus takeaway coffee and a bakery)
- Montgomery: Spar (lunch, suncream, groceries – there are tables outside to sit and eat at) (I noticed 2 cafes in the village centre and 2 pubs too)
- Llangollen: Fouzis (breakfast, charging and Costa coffee – excellent!), ProAdventure (gas – excellent service), Spar (groceries) (+ socks from Trespass)
- Trevor: Telford Inn (tea/coffee + cakes to take away)
- Llanymynech: groceries
- Prestatyn: Costa (lunch and charging); M&S food for the journey home (Next and Newlook for clothes for the journey home)
There are a few longish sections where you may find it difficult to get water (eg Hatteral Ridge in the Brecon Beacons). Don’t panic though because there are often farms around where you can ask at the farmhouse or fill up from taps above water troughs, etc. I even found some stables where I picked up a few litres too – just keep an eye out.
Is Offa’s Dyke Well Signposted?
(Signs, Maps, And Guides)
Yes! It certainly is. There are a few places where signs are confusing though, or there ought to be one but there isn’t. Also, you might miss some due to overgrowth or they’re hidden behind parked cars, for example. Not to worry (you’ll soon realise you haven’t seen an acorn for a while), it’s easy to backtrack and you won’t go too far off-trail. However, I recommend taking a map. You’re unlikely to need a compass, but it’s worth having one just in case.
Phone signal is often good but also non-existent or patchy at times, so don’t rely on your phone.
Maps And Guide Books
- I absolutely love Trailblazer guidebooks and I bought the 5th edition (2019) guide for Offa’s Dyke by Keith Carter and Joel Newton. It’s packed with all sorts of information from accommodation, maps and itineraries, to wildlife and history.
- I have a premium subscription to the OS Maps App, which includes 1:25,000 maps. It includes downloadable maps so you can save battery and use them offline. I also use the OS Locate App (completely free), which gives you your grid reference using gps (so you don’t need a phone signal)
- Silva compass
Are you ready to plan your hike? If I’ve missed anything you’d like to know just leave a comment below. Also, if you’ve already hiked Offa’s Dyke and you’ve got something to add, we’d love to hear from you too!
Finally, if you have any feedback about this page (was it what you were looking for? Too long or too short? Any suggestions to make it better?) – I’d absolutely love to hear from you! You can email me direct at [email protected] – your thoughts and ideas are really important to me.
Pssst! Found this guide helpful? Please share!
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