After 3 1/2 days walking on Offa's Dyke Path, I am walking the length of Glyndwr's Way from Knighton on the marches between England and Wales to Machynlleth near the Irish Sea back to Welshpool on the English border. The walk is a 135 mile loop through the hills and mountains of mid-Wales with elevation gains of 3000 to 3500 feet per day. The walk celebrates the rebellion against the English by Owain Glyndwr, proclaimed Prince of Wales in the early 15th century, and passes through much of the countryside where he fought the English.
For a guidebook, I used the National Trail Guide, Glyndwr's Way, by David Perrott. It had sections of OS Explorer 1:25000 maps, but I had OS getamaps for some sections and used copies of the OS Travelmaster 7 map as a macro locator. See the route below. The previous days on Offa's Dyke Path can be seen on this site.
Saturday 29 Sept 2007 Knighton to Felindre 17 miles
I was fueled by an excellent breakfast at the Horse & Jockey Inn, all fresh mushrooms, tomatoes, potatoes, good ham and quality sausage. As is my habit, I took the sausage with me for lunch. It had been misting, but quit when I left at 9. Stopped at a pharmacy for Compeed, my feet had a couple of hot spots so I knew I would need it soon for blisters. Leaving town along a picturesque stream with trees on one side and quaint cottages on the other, I climbed up and around Garth Hill, descended on a lane, then climbed again on a track past farms and pastures.
Horse And Jockey Inn
Leaving Knighton Along Stream
Descending again into a lovely valley and past several farms, I met a lane that carried me into Llangullo. No shop here, and the only pub, the Greyhound, was closed and for sale. Check it out, looks like a great opportunity. I see a little red phone booth and call my B&B in Felindre to let them know I'm on track.
Across Open Land Before Llangunllo
Llangunllo City Center
After leaving the village, I followed the wrong path (a wayward arrow) along a stream instead of straight ahead uphill. When I realized I was off path, I backtracked up higher on what looked to be an old railroad bed, probably the one built in 1820 for horse drawn carriages. The current RR was just a little higher up. Soon I met the GW path and followed it as it passed under a RR bridge. Interesting diversion! After passing through many gates, it was a long and very steep climb around Stansky Hill through muddy moorland, a beautiful valley below with sun shining through the rain clouds. Arrived at my B&B at 16:30. The village pub doesn't serve food so I suffered a mediocre dinner at the B&B. Mediocre room also, but my host was kind enough to let me use the house phone to call my wife using my PO phone card.
Sunlit Valley Past Stansky Hill
Over Moorland To Felindre
Sunday 30 Sept 2007 Felindre to Abbeycwmhir 17 miles
No hot water in my room but Miriam, knowing I like an early coffee, sets a pot of coffee outside my door. After breakfast, I leave by 9 again. Immediately, I climb a long hill onto a ridge. Following the ridge, this is wonderful walking, morning dew in the grass and partly cloudy sky. The path today is a mixture of open pastures, forests, tracks between hedges, country lanes, many ups and downs and nice views of valleys that are all beautifully alike. Less stiles than Offa's Dyke, but many, many gates.
Leaving Felindre Onto The Ridges
Church At Llanbadarn Fynydd
I reach Llanbadarn Fynydd by noon, check out its wonderful old stone church, cross the River Ithon, and begin a long ascent. There are boggy streams to cross, even a boardwalk, then along the side of an isolated valley. Descending to a road and steeply back uphill, I pass a trig point at about 1430 feet. Eventually I descended down a steep ravine through a dark dense wood and follow a lane for two km.
Another Ridge Above A Lonely Valley
Descent Into A Dark Conifer Forest
I crossed more pastures and a thin wood until I reached Abbeycwmhir, home of the grand abbey ruined by Owain Glyndwr while fighting Henry IV. Its stones live on in the 52 room manor house across the road and the incredibly beautiful church in the village. My B&B hosts were surprised to see me as they had not received my confirming email, but they quickly made me welcome and even washed my clothes. The pub was not open on Sunday, so I had dinner at the B&B. Whats in the freezer? Lasagna, vegetables and chocolate sponge cake. Not bad.
Not Much Left Of The 12th Century Abbey
Manor House At Abbeycwmhir
Church At Abbeycwmhir
Monday 1 October 2007 Abbeycwmhir to Llanidloes 15 miles
I woke to a dark and misty morning with low hanging clouds. After again absorbing the beauty and simplicity of that unique church building, I left the village past an old petrol pump and walked along a stream with a dark, magical sheep fold barely sunlit across the valley.
Sunlit Sheepfold Across The Valley
Uphill through pastures and forests, then a diversion along a lane for one km, meeting up with GW just below Esgair Farm. Friendly wife feeding the sheep and friendly husband feeding the cows, but waymarks all through the farm have been messed with, painted over, ruined, or taken off. Luckily, I can still see the engraved acorns and the guidebook is sufficient, but its a big farm. One gate is locked, although I can see an acorn on the next gate. They have made it difficult! Leaving the farm is an incredibly muddy track to a crossroads, then across pastures, past a forest, descending to two large farms and ascending again on a lane.
Across Pastures To Llanidloes
Its raining steadily now, but eventually I stop in a dense grove for lunch. When I get up again, I somehow wrench my back. Ohh, its painful. I have about five more miles to Llanidloes so I take a pain pill. The rain slacked off and then stopped. Its hard climbing over stiles, my back is stiff and hurts bad, but the landscape is rewarding if tough going. A long mile of tarmac leads me into Llanidloes, arriving at 15:30. My accomodation for night, the Red Lion Inn, seems like a great place to lay back and recuperate.
Red Lion Inn At Llanidloes
This is an interesting town, full of shops, pubs and half-timber frame buildings circa 1600. I was hoping to get more trail information at the TIC, but its closed for good. That's not good! The Red Lion is like a sanctuary with a nice selection of real ales and an excellent menu. I have TT Landlords with chicken curry while watching an exciting rugby game. I'm worried about my back, so decide to lay over a day to let it recuperate. I'll then bus to Machynlleth to resume my planned itinerary. So I book an extra night here and cancel my booking at the Star Inn in Dylife. I hate to do it, but health comes first. A telephone is in my room, so I call wife Cathryn using my phone card. She is going to Victoria, BC on the morrow, so we talk for an hour. The TV weather tells me serious rain is coming in from Ireland, so perhaps my choice of rest days is opportune.
Tuesday 2 October 2007 Llanidloes layover
A very nice breakfast at the Red Lion, even Greek yoghurt. My back is still a little painful and stiff, but I walk several miles upstream and downstream along the Severn River trying to loosen it up. Its a bit rainy today but the big storm from Ireland is expected tomorrow. I am taking pain pills and rest most of the afternoon.
I do spend some time checking out the timber frame buildings so prevalent here, highlighted by the cupola-topped market hall and a bank building. There is a timber frame exhibit in the market hall but it closed for the year on Oct 1. One day late!
Llanidloes Timber Frame Market Hall C. 1600
Timber Frame Bank Building In Llanidloes
The oldest church here is the 16th century St. Idloes Church with five interior arches recycled from the ruined abbey in Abbeycwmhir. Pretty amazing! Dinner at the Red Lion was an incredible paella, fish, shrimp and mussles in a rice casserole with a surprisingly good real ale, Andads Broadside. I had never heard of it, but it was as good as any I've had anywhere. All the ales seem to come from England. Tomorrow night, the pub will have drop-in celtic music. Sorry to miss it.
St. Idloes Church
Recycled Abbey Arches In St. Idloes Church
Wednesday 3 October 2007 Llanidloes to Machynlleth (by bus)
The rain from Ireland is sweeping across Wales as I bus over to Aberystwyth on the Irish Sea, but then clears a little on the way up to Machynlleth. My back is feeling much better, I think due to that great paella last night. At Machynlleth, there is a street fair with booths selling everything imaginable, meats, fish, cheeses, household goods, clothing, electronics, snacks, lunches. I think they go to a different town each day. I roam around awhile, visit the TIC for Center for Alternative Technology (CAT) information, then check into the White Lion Inn. Its a mediocre room but the pub looks interesting and lively.
White Lion Inn
Machynlleth Clock Tower
For the afternoon, I catch a bus out to CAT for the grand tour. Its still raining, so I jump from building to overhang to covered walkway, very interesting displays on how the UK is gearing up for going green. The employees and volunteers here seem very dedicated. A huge research building is under construction. Later, in town, I see several manufacturing buildings for solar panels and other "green" construction materials. These companies are spinoffs from the research being conducted at CAT.
Green Things Being Done
At the White Lion for dinner I have a very nice grilled trout and Black Sheep Bitters. Most of the people staying here seem to be businessmen, although the bar is full of locals. The rain has cleared and my back is feeling strong again, so tomorrow I'll be on the Way once more. So far, I haven't seen a soul walking Glyndwr's Way, only several Welsh out for a stroll. Surely there is someone else out there!
Thursday October 4 2007 Machynlleth to Llanbrynmair 16 miles
Two perfect eggs for breakfast with really good bacon. Off by 8:45. Passed the clock tower and stopped at a bakery for a Chelsea roll to go with my sausage for lunch, then passed the Owain Glyndwr Center on my way out of town. Its a beautiful day, well worth waiting for. I'm on tarmac for two miles to Forge, then across fields to Penegoes. Aftter Penegoes, I gently climb beside a beautiful hill covered with sheep, then abruptly climb steeply to the summit. Suddenly, two steel black fighter jets (Eurojets?) streak below me through the valley (cwm), only ten feet from each other and about 30 feet off the ground, probably flying at .99 mach.
Owain Glyndwr Center In Machynlleth
Historic House Near Glyndwr Center
Overlooking Cwm (Valley) Outside Penegoes
I descend on the other side of the hill with a fine view of Dyfi Valley, then traverse around a hill, cross four muddy ravines and gain a wonderful birds-eye view of Abercegir. What a cute little village! After passing through it, I climb steeply again, passing through numerous gates and pastures, eventually winding around Cefn Coch (hill) on broad greenway that looks like an abandoned railbed. I passed some ruined stone walls, more stiles and gates, then a steep descent to Cemmaes Road.
Looking Down On Abercegir
Stone Wall And Gate
I take lunch along the Afon Twymyn (river), then climb up and up into the hills again with more great views. As I approach Gwern-y-Bwlch Forest, six black cows lie across the path in front of a gate. I make a lot of noise and they get up looking at me but still blocking the way. I cautiously walk closer and they amble off like little lambs. Its a nice walk through the dark forest. As I exit the forest, I see the Cemmaes Wind Farm looming on my left. I pass through several fields to a scenic overlook over Llanbrynmair, then a steep descent to the village. The railroad has closed off the direct approach into Llanbrynmair, so the path is rerouted along roads to the east, then back west into town. All day today, I've seen the same footprints on the path, probably from a day or two before. Looks like someone IS out there!
Cows Blocking The Path And Gate
Cemmaes Wind Farm
Overlook To Llanbrynmair
Tunnel Under Railroad At Llanbrynmair
I reach Wynnstay Arms at 16:30. The pub doesn't open until 18:30, so a sign directs me to my room. Its been a long day and I'm glad to have tea, coffee and a shower. The room is fine but dinner is mediocre lamb and a mediocre ale. Everyone praises Welsh lamb but I haven't been impressed. Maybe its just the cooking, the lamb is too fatty and the sauce is uninspired. Pauline has her hands full with the cooking, waiting on tables and tending bar, although a girl comes in later to work the bar.
Friday 5 October 2007 Llanbrynmair to Llanwddyn 18 miles
After breakfast, I realize I'm running low on cash so I use the Wynnstay Arms cash machine. I'm off by 9. This will be the last long day of the walk and said to be the toughest. Taking a lane out of Llanbrynmair, I pass through the railroad tunnel and then over a stile and across fields although I missed the stile and had to backtrack. The waymarks all seem to be opposite of where I expect them and half hidden among the brush. I climb steeply to gain the heights. Views are spectacular. Like yesterday, I follow an old green trackway (like a railbed) around the flank of a higher hill, Banc y Gorlan, then over Cerrig y Tan.
Wonderful Walking Country
Greenway Around Banc y Gorlan
I pass through a forest plantation for two miles, then an incredibly muddy pasture. My pole sinks two feet in the bog and my boot is filled with stinky muck. The guidebook calls it a handsome uncultivated moorland. I wish! A waymarked gate has been fenced off, so I have to climb over while avoiding a herd of cows. This was not my finest hour.
I descend to a road, two miles of tarmac then off through a farmyard and up onto tussocky moorland. Its very muddy and hard to follow the path, sighting on waymark posts far ahead but not enough of them. I've been warned about this section, very easy to lose the way. I kept on path until a rocky outcrop, then never saw another waymark. Guidebook directions say veer right downhill, but later, I realized the path where it left the moorland was actually slightly left. I came to a house and knew I was off track, so I backtracked to find a waymark but no luck. I followed a lane which I could see on the map would lead me into Llangadfan, about 1 1/2 miles. Here I called my B&B in Llanwddy to say I would be a little late, maybe 18:00.
Glyndwr's Way left Llangadfan on a lane next to the post office and soon came to a diversion. Instead of going through a farm and across pasture, I am diverted up the road for another mile. I missed a turnoff, no waymark, so had to backtrack again. Up and down over pastures, a long forest track and a bloody, muddy path that seems part of a stream. Another mile of tarmac leads to a caravan park next to a river. It looks so strange here in all this beauty. Then the BIG climb, straight up forever. I'm afraid if I stop, I'll tumble over backwards. This is not what I wanted at the end of a long, tiring day, especially after getting lost in the tussocks. Finally there is Lake Vyrnwy below and its beautiful, many arched viaduct. What a sight! But its after 6 pm and light is fading. Its a short distance down to the Llanwddy post office. The Oaks B&B is only two houses further.
Path Is Through The Streambed
Viaduct And Dam At Lake Vyrnwy
As Michael said when he opened the door, I looked "knackered". What a great place, a beautiful room, and five packages of cookies with tea. After showering, Michael offered to drive me to the pub which was across the viaduct. This is the only place to eat in Llanwddy and is quite nice with a large dining room. I had a satisfying Ceasar's salad with grilled chicken, a pint of Station Bitters (an excellent real ale) and 1/2 pint of Guinness for dessert. Everyone else was having steamed pudding cake with custard for dessert. The crowd were all staying at nearby B&Bs, one couple from The Oaks.
I'm ready for a good night's sleep but first, a couple of blisters are trying to form so I put Compeed on them. My boots and socks are stinking from that bog muck. The boots are left down in the foyer, but my socks are stinking up the room so I seal them in plastic until I can wash them. I followed the same footprints all day today. I'm starting to feel like I know the fellow.
I still haven't seen anyone else on the trail.
Saturday October 6 2007 Llanwddy to Pontrobert 13 miles
An absolutely wonderful breakfast with porriage, melon and yoghurt, poached egg and good sausages. The coffee, as usual, needs help even though it's french press. One of the guests chose nettle tea. This will be an easy day, so I didn't leave until 9:30 but had to backtrack after 1/2 mile because I left my walking poles. I had to wait for Michael, he had gone for the paper and took my poles hoping to meet up with me.
Leaving the village, the viaduct on my left, I passed through a wood scattering pheasants, then by an idyllic farmhouse. After more road walking, I turned off road into a plantation and climbed straight up a beautiful fern covered hill. I followed a very complex path, including a diversion, across lovely terrain then down into Port Llogel. The old stone church was interesting, but the abandoned house across the road was more so with its unique architecture. How I would love to restore it.
Typical Stile On The Fells
Stone House Needing Restoration At Port Llogel
After Port Llogel, I followed the River Vrynwy, the path is part of Anne Griffth's Bible Walk (circa 1800), then crossed a rambunctous feeder stream. I strike out over pastures, through a farm and around a hill bordered by trees and blackberries. Many were still ripe, so I ate my fill. More lane walking, over several hills, then steeply down a lane into Dolanog, a pleasant village on the Afon Efyrnwy.
Fine Green Countryside
Start Of The Descent To Dolanog
The river has a dramatic weir once used for generating electricity, I should have taken a photo of it. Its a fabulous walk along the river, on rocky cliffs high above rapids. Rafts below are having a hard time negotiating the current. I leave the river, pass a farm and its tarmac time again, eventually descending into Pontrobert. I'm still following those footprints!
Rapids On The Afon Efyrnwy Near Dolanog
Raft On The Swiftly Flowing Efyrnwy
The Royal Oak is easy to find, very comfortable, about 500 years old, run by husband and wife. Joyce shows me my room, no sign-in, and brings me a pot of tea. Its 16:00. After shower and rest, I go down to the bar for a pint of real ale, Wadsworth Bitters, with several locals. Dinner is sliced beef, potatoes and vegetables. The vegies were fabulous, carrots, green beans, cauliflower, broccoli and turnips, all perfectly cooked. I have a pint of Ansell's Mild for dessert. This could get to be a habit.
Sunday 7 October 2007 Pontrobert to Welshpool/Guildfield 13 miles
A nice breakfast with American style bacon. They call it "streaky" bacon. The other guests at the Inn are three Polish fellows working on a water engineering project, nice guys. They are staying for a couple of weeks and are going sightseeing today. I talk with the owners, good people. They will soon leave on their annual vacation to Tenerife and wish they knew more Spanish.
Country Lane Outside Pontrobert
I am off down a narrow lane, across pastures and through woods climbing higher and higher. A huge mean looking cow with swollen udders is by a fence standing resolutely in my path. I tread gingerly around her.
Path Through Woods Outside Pontrobert
Proprietary Cow Guarding The Path
At Meiford, I get a banana, a custard and a roll in the Post office shop to eat later for lunch. I don't have any faith in the sausage I saved from breakfast. I leave town across the Afon Vyrnwy with Bronairth Hill looming ahead. Passing a manor house, I follow a forest track up and around the hill with the river far below. The summit of the hill above me looks close enough to touch. Then tarmac, another mile of road walking and I stop for lunch. I was right, the sausage was garbage.
Afon Vyrnwy At Meifod
Manor House Outside Meifod
Path Skirting Flank Of Bronairth Hill
Across a complex series of pastures and woods to the last climb on the walk to the trig point on Y Golfa summit at 1120 feet. Welshpool is a close two miles further. I save the last 1/2 mile to the Glyndwr's Way commemoration stone for tomorrow and take a local bus to my B&B for the night in Guildsford three miles north. Tomorrow, I want to see Powys Castle and the Montgomeryshire Canal before catching the train. As I get off the bus, a funeral procession passes out of the cemetary. I walk over to Vine House B&B. Its about 16:00. Steve is very welcoming and chatty, a veritable storehouse of information about the area, history and culture. This is a very historical village.
After tea, a shower and a phone call with Cathryn, I walk over to The Oak pub to check out dinner prospects. A lively party is out front, remnants from the funeral and they chatted it up with me. The pub has Black Sheep and a good menu, so I'll be back later.
Steve and Eve's daughter has a full schedule of after school activities. Monday is music lessons, Tuesday is dance class, Wednesday drama, Thursday art lessons. Friday and weekends are free. Sounds like a California girl, except in California Saturday would be for soccer.
The Oak Pub In Guildsfield With Mourners
I was back at the pub around 19:00 for a pasta bake of broccoli, leeks, cauliflower and stilton cheese with a nice salad on the side and, of course, Black Sheep Best Bitters. Before sleep, cookies in my room, my nightly journal writing and a little TV. The last two days have been a little cloudy, but now rain is forecast.
Monday 8 October 2007 Guildsfield/Welshpool - End of Walk
Eve fixed me a fine breakfast of sliced fruit, yoghurt, scrambled eggs, sausages, toast and the best coffee of the trip. The early morning rain has passed. Steve is going to a golf game and offers to drive me into Welshpool. He is full of local lore and shows me the oldest house in Guildsfield, a timber frame from about 1500. He also shows me several "dower" houses where a widow would go to live (with her servants) when her married son moves into the family manor house, an old custom up until about 100 years ago.
Today, I'll take the 15:00 train to Shrewsbury, then London and home to California, but first some short walks. Steve lets me off in Welshpool and I finish Glyndwr's Way by walking over to the Mongomeryshire Canal Gardens and hug the GW commemorative stone. I tour the canal museum across the street and ask if anyone walking Glyndwr's Way has come in recently. Yes, a man came in two days ago. I wonder if he's my footprint man.
Glyndwr's Way Commemorative Stone
Then I'm off on the one mile footpath to Powys Castle where I see a deer with a large rack on the castle grounds. As I reach the parking area, I strike up a conversation with a castle employee. The castle is closed today. I say how sorry I am to miss the exhibit of Clive of India and he starts telling me the castle history, of the past owners Sir Herbert, later Lord Clive, and the marriage between a Herbert and a Clive in the late 1800's. He took a huge key and opened the tall doors into the inner courtyard, a great view within the castle courtyard, then opened two side rooms. I think he loved being a guide, was very good at it, and felt lucky to have his job. I felt lucky that he was there.
Stag On Powys Castle Grounds
Front Of Powys Castle
Castle Gate To Inner Courtyard With Clive And Herbert Crests Overhead
Side Of Powys Castle
By his directions, I took a path across pastures to the Montgomeryshire Canal to the upper canal locks where I could walk the towpath back to town. It was very idyllic and peaceful until I got close to Welshpool, blue heron, white herons and many ducks.
Montgomeryshire Canal Locks
Montgomeryshire Canal West Of Welshpool
There was time to get a bite to eat before going over to the train station to start the journey home. Today was a satisfying way to end my walk. I will take many fine memories with me of the wonderful places I passed. If given the chance in a few years, it would be interesting to do this walk again.
My best impression was all the beautiful valley vistas. Worst impression was too much road/lane walking even though there was never any car traffic. In 2001, when they decided to make Glyndwr's Way into a national trail, one objective was to reduce the amount of tarmac which I guess they did but not enough. Lately, diversions added tarmac back into the mix, probably because of farmers complaints.
There are an awful lot of gates and many ascents and descents each day, but the waymarks (for the most part) are frequent and well done. I found the guidebook slightly misleading in places so I made quite a few corrective notes and explanations. I think it needs a new edition. The four major towns, Knighton, Llanidloes, Machynlleth and Welshpool are all very nice places to spend time, but in between, there are few facilities, shops and pubs, so you definately need to plan ahead. No one on the route seems to know much about walking GW, not even the tourist information people. I wonder if they even know how many people walk it.
All in all, it was a great experience that I would not have wanted to miss. It was quite different in geography from the Coast to Coast path or even the Pennine Way, more like the two days on Offa's Dyke Path from Hay to Knighton with lower lying hills.