Originally conceived on the theme of the famous eighth century earthwork, the path follows the line dictated by the ruthless King Offa himself.
This ensures high ground and commanding views into the mountains and valleys of Wales. Where for practical reasons the Dyke can not be followed, as in the Black Mountains and the Clwydian Hills, the route has been chosen for scenic quality alone. The result is a walk packed with interest, through patchwork fields, over windswept ridges and across infant rivers flowing from the Welsh hills to the lush plains of England.
In dispute over centuries, the Welsh Marches bear the scars of countless battles and incursions. All along the Offa's Dyke Path the ruined castles fortifications of bygone ages stand sentinel over strategic valleys and boarder market towns.
Traditional farming techniques have survived well in the Marches, and the hedges, old oak woods and hay meadows provide a habitat for a wealth of wildlife. Look out for the majestic buzzard soaring overhead, and the pale yellow primrose underfoot.
The Ancient Earthwork
The origins of the great earthwork known as Offa's Dyke are still shrouded on mystery. It is believed that the Dyke was built in the eighth century AD on the orders of Offa, the powerful King of Merica (now in the English Midlands).
There are, however, no written records from the time of construction, so archaeologists have to interpret the design and purpose of the Dyke from what can be seen today. It is an earth bank up to 8 metres high, (25 feet) high, often with a ditch alongside, running from some 128 km (80 miles) north - south through the Welsh borderlands. Research suggests that the earthwork marked, and possibly defended, the western boundary of Offa's Kingdom, beyond which lay the lands of Welsh Princes.
Please remember that Offa's is not in public ownership, access may be restricted on some sections. Not all parts of the earthwork carry a right way. You should also note that there are only very short sections of bridleway so the National Trail is not suitable for mountain bikes or horses. Dog owners are warned that long sections of the path are through agricultural land with grazing sheep, and gardens, so walkers must keep their dogs in control.
Visitors to the path have an option other than using a car for getting about. A British Rail service runs from Shrewsbury via Kinighton to Llanelli. It is also possible to visit Chepstow in the South and Prestatyn in the north on a main line service train.
Bus services in the rural areas through which the path passes tend to be limited. However, it is possible by careful planning to return to the start of your walk by bus or train. Information on public transport is included in the Offa's Dyke Association's accommodation list.
Looking after the Path
The Offa's Dyke path was originally established and opened by the Countryside Commission, working closely with the authorities along the route, the Offa's Dyke Association, and other voluntary bodies.
Since the opening of the path in 1971 continuing improvements and maintenance have been carried out by the appropriate local authorities with funding from the Countryside Council for Wales and the Commission (now Countryside Agency). Works have now included way marking, signing, drainage, clearing overgrowth and making minor improvements to the route. Volunteers from Offa's Dyke Association have given active support. In all cases the aim is to use designs and materials that are functional but blend into the landscape, avoiding visual destruction. Accordingly, in open country the use of signposts is kept to a minimum, while in enclosed fields the route is marked with greater frequently to avoid damage to crops or accidental trespass.
Since 1982 the Offa's Dyke path Officer, based at the Offa's Dyke Centre in Kinghton, has been given responsibly for overseeing the general care and improvement of the path.
If you should encounter any problem on the route please contact the Offa's Dyke path Officer, or the relevant local authority. Always give as much information as possible, particularly about the precise location where the problem was found.
The new purpose - built Offa's Dyke Centre in Knighton has a comprehensive exhibition and Information Centre featuring computer interactive displays and audio - visual presentations.
There are two National Trails in Wales promoted and funded by the Countryside Council for Wales and maintained on our behalf by local authorities.
The Countryside Agency funds and promotes the nine English Trails in addition to co - operating on the funding of Offa's Dyke Path.
In the official guides to the National Trails, the routes are split into convenient whole - day sections accompanied by 1:25000 Ordnance Survey maps. For the weekend stroller the guides also contain circular walks.
Offa's Dyke Association
Offa's Dyke Centre,
West Street Knighton,
Powys LD7 - 1EN
The Association publishes an accommodation list, detailed route notes and strip maps. Please send sae for the publication list.
Countryside Council for Wales
Powys SY16 - 1RD.
Offa's Dyke North and Offa's Dyke South, Ernie and Kathy Kay and Mark Richards, Aurum Press, £10.99 each, available from the Offa's Dyke Association, see above.