Tag: Wales

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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A pilgrimage in the footsteps of the ancient saints for St Davids Day

Today is St David’s Day, so Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus!

I made a pre-lockdown pilgrimage to Bardsey Island [pictured] in North Wales to follow in the footsteps of the ancient saints.

Here’s an extract from my latest travel-writing feature, published today.

When Pope Callixtus II decreed three pilgrimages to Bardsey to be equivalent to one to Rome, it sparked a pilgrim scramble to the remote Llyn Peninsula that lasted until The Reformation.

The medieval writer Gerald of Wales first noted the large number of pilgrims blazing a sandal-clad trail to Bardsey in 1188, many of them believing to die on the island idyll would guarantee them a place in heaven.

That’s why Bardsey is still known as the isle of 20,000 saints.

“Bardsey comes at you with all the senses: the sound of nature, the view west across the sea with the mountains behind, and the sense of ancient spirituality,” says Peter Hewlett, who arranges walking trips around the Llyn.

“It feels defiantly lost in time.”

Read the full feature via Telegraph Travel here.

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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How to celebrate St Dwynwen’s Day in Anglesey, North Wales

Today marks St Dwynwen’s Day, the Welsh equivalent of Valentine’s Day.

The love action is focused on Llanddwyn Island [pictured above], a remote headland off the tip of Anglesey, where Dwynwen founded her spiritual Shangri-La in the 5th century.

It’s a place to celebrate new-found love and soothe the soul after heartbreak.

I’ve done the walk to Llanddwyn Island several times, braving the elements and soaking up the ancient spirituality of the location.

I’ve trudged its Blue Flag beach for both contexts.

Llanddwyn is off limits to most this year under ongoing lockdown restrictions.

But my feature in the travel section of The Independent today celebrates its unique sense of spiritual calm at a time when, loved up or alone, we all need some saintly solace.

Here’s a flavour of my story:

Today that church may be ruined but it still swirls with the spirituality of the Wales’ age of the saints and has a presence that compels visitors to run their fingers along the ancient stone altar.

As the weather closes in, I find wave-smoothed pebbles [pictured below] tucked amongst the stones, messages of love lost and won scrawled upon them.

Read the full feature, A walk with ancient Celtic lovers for the Welsh Valentine’s Day via Independent Travel.