Category: Hit the North

Walking Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail as it marks its 50-year anniversary

This year marks 50 years of the Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail.

There are local walking festivals to look out for and a revamped visitor centre in the Welsh border town of Knighton to open later this summer.

An ITV series about the Path, Wonders of the Border, will be shown over summer.

The 177-mile national trail, which runs from near Chepstow on the River Severn to Prestatyn on the North Wales coast, divides into 12 day sections.

As lockdown restrictions eased, I walked the trail for a day from Castle Mill [pictured above] near Chirk Castle in North Wales into the Shropshire Hills to get a taste of the path.

The earliest reference to Offa’s Dyke is attributed to Asser, King Alfred’s biographer, who wrote:

“A certain vigorous king called Offa … had a great dyke built between Wales and Mercia.”

Offa was the king of Mercia (the modern-day Midlands) and ordered the construction of the dyke around 785AD to mark a de-facto border between England and the rebellious Welsh tribes to the west.

National Trail Officer Rob Dingle says: “King Offa is something of a shadowy figure from history, but we do know that he was keen to expand his kingdom, and the design of the Dyke was quite deliberate, acting as a warning shot to the west.”

National Trails is encouraging walkers to share their memories of 50 years of Offa’s Dyke. Read more.

Read my feature coming soon to the i newspaper.

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Download my new Haunted Chester audio tour — now available via VoiceMap

My lockdown project is complete.

I used quieter time over the last few months to tinker away at a creative project, creating a new audio tour to my home city of Chester.

The result is Haunted Chester, a 60-minute circular walking trail based on the tours I lead for Chester Ghost Tours.

Those tours have been in hibernation during lockdown, returning hopefully in May.

But, meanwhile, you can download this self-guided tour to your smartphone and explore with just my voice and a detailed map to accompany you.

It’s the ultimate in social distancing.

VoiceMap uses local writers and guides to create quirky walking tours that offer local-knowledge insights and insider tips.

Here’s what my new tour promises:

If you like ghostly goings-on and spooky stories, then this walking tour around the centre of the historic city of Chester offers tantalising tales of the supernatural.

We’ll visit some familiar landmarks — but don’t expect a dry history lecture.

I know my home city well and will be highlighting some of the hidden corners that you don’t find on typical tours. After all, I’m a local boy and I’ll be sharing my insider knowledge.

On this tour, you’ll hear about:

• Roman soldiers still guarding their historic garrison
• The grisly tale of Chester’s last public execution
• The ghostly monk that haunts the city’s spookiest passageway
• Chester’s only official exorcism

Allow one hour for this walk. There are plenty of cafes and bars along the route for a quick coffee stop.

Whether it’s your first time in the city, or you’re a local keen to learn more about your home, Haunted Chester is the perfect way to see it in a different light.


Download the VoiceMap app to your phone and search for Haunted Chester, or use this link:

https://voicemap.me/tour/chester/haunted-chester-a-spooky-stroll-around-the-roman-walled-city

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Ten wonderful Welsh break to book as travel opens up from mid April

Travel is starting to open up.

The post-Covid road map put forward by the Westminster Government earlier this week provisionally allows for self-catering breaks in England from April 12.

The Welsh Government has previously stated its hopes for staycation breaks in Wales around Easter.

Cue the scramble of tourism operators to get their projects and properties ready for the influx of holiday-hungry punters.

I wrote a round-up feature for Telegraph Travel this week, highlighting some of the new projects around Wales for a spring staycation.

Look out, in particular for Hilton Garden Inn Snowdonia, located as part of an expanded Adventure Parc Snowdonia in the Conwy Valley with its artificial surf reef [pictured above]. There’s a soft opening from end March; room only from £89.

The hotel has rooms overlooking the inland surf lagoon while the accompanying Wave Garden Spa offers treatments and a wellness space.

Also worth booking is Plas Weunydd, the new boutique hotel as part of the Llechwedd quarry site near Blaenau Ffestiniog; bookings from Easter weekend with doubles from £105 B&B.

The hotel, the former 19th-century residence of the quarry founder, sits alongside Zip World Titan and Slate Mountain Adventure attractions.

Finally, Plas Dinas Country House near Caernarfon has three cosy, self-catering cottages for multi-generational escapes, plus royal connections. Bookings from Easter weekend with Gatekeeper’s Cottage (sleeps four) starting from £700/week.

It’s the family home of Lord Snowdon, who married HRH Princess Margaret in 1961.

Read my full selection of Welsh break to book right now via Telegraph Travel here.

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