I had not heard of the Clwydian Range before I walked Offa’s Dyke path last year. It came as a very pleasant surprise towards the end of Offa’s to find these gently rolling hills with magnificent views. So, when a walking companion offered to organise a tour walking half the Clwydian Way over four days, I was very keen to take up the offer. The group started by meeting up in Prestatyn last Sunday the 20th May. There were 8 of us and we were equipped for all conditions, bearing in mind the wet and cold weather in the UK in early May. It turned out to be hot and sunny throughout and much of the equipment, and weight, could have been left behind, but better safe than sorry.
Since I was last there Prestatyn has gained two glossy monuments placed near the newly refurbished railway station. Both appear to celebrate the seaside holiday spirit of the town with sand castles and ice cream cornets. They are made from stainless steel and give a more literal and fun – some might say vulgar – element to complement the abstract Offa’s Dyke monument (on the right below) down on the sea front.
Sunday evening in “The Clwydian” we experienced more of the “seaside holiday spirit” with a large group of shorts-quaffing, loud talking and singing holiday-makers. Our walking group, rather soberly, drank Doom Bar beers and ate our supper, somewhat agog at their antics.
The Clwydian Way is a trail of 195 kms established by the Ramblers in 2001. It is waymarked, but not as thoroughly as Offa’s Dyke, for example. It is a circular trail that is considered to start and end in Prestatyn. Our plan was to walk roughly half of the Trail and end in Llangollen. Our first day was Prestatyn to Bodfari, then next day onto Cilcain. Day 3 took us from Cilcain to Llandegla and on Day 4 we finished at Llangollen.
Day one started with a large cooked breakfast and a fairly early off with a climb out of Prestatyn. Most of the day was spent walking through farmland with notable sights being a sheep with its head stuck in a metal feeder, a herd of very frisky bullocks and a significant slurry pond right across our path. We met a man in a landrover who, when we said where we were walking to, just shook his head in disbelief. But it was not that far really. Nearer our destination of Bodfari we were offered a pot of Honeywort seeds “next time we passed” after we admired a colourful front garden adjoining the path. We arrived around 6pm to be greeted by tea and cakes by our landlady, Gwladys; a real character in a very large old house with staggering views but in need of some care and attention. We walked down to the Downing Arms for dinner but Gwladys very kindly drove down to pick us up, a lovely and welcome touch.
Next day we were shocked to walk past a “flashing gnome” at the start of our walk.
This was probably the cream day of the tour, taking us up and along the Clwydian range from under Moel Arthur, then to the top of the highest peak in the range, Moel Famau, and down to Cilcain.
Thanks to expert planning, we arrived just as the White Horse pub was opening for the evening. On the way, we heard and even saw several cuckoos and even passed a couple sitting in camping chairs on the footpath, well away from any civilisation, listening for them. We stopped briefly and spoke to them but the encounter seemed a bit surreal at the time, and still does. Our B&B was a few kms away from the pub and the landlord kindly drove to the pub to pick us up.
It was a very hot day and not completely clear but we still had magnificent views to Liverpool, on one side, and Snowdonia on the other. In that heat, the walk was quite tiring and I think we were all pleased to sit down at the pub, outside, with a long drink.
The next day was once again mostly low level farmland but we did pass through Loggerheads Country Park and Maeshafn. Both places had a strong mining or quarrying history and at Maeshafn the Miners Arms pub apparently has a window where lead miners would queue up weekly for their pay. Loggerheads seems to have benefitted from the visual appeal of old quarries and was, in Victorian times, a prime tourist destination for day trippers.
Our destination was Llandegla where the party was split, with one of us staying in a “pod” overnight. The rest stayed at “The Hand”, previously a pub, but now a B&B with a formidable landlady anxious to quiz all the guests on many aspects of their private lives. But only in a “nice way” if you get my meaning. She was also quite able to proffer advice telling one of our party to “shut up and listen” at one time while counselling about a relationship issue. She also had a pile of fluorescent jackets for guests to wear while returning from the pub, where she had already reserved a table for us. We tried, gracefully, to turn down the offer, but in the end we had to be very persistent, to the point of rudeness.
The pub that night was a few kms away but had a carvery so we were well fed. On the walk back it became very misty, perhaps we needed those jackets!
The final walking day took us to Llangollen past “The Ponderosa”! A little incongruous but very popular with motor bike riders and with magnificent views. The walk into Llangollen similarly had wonderful views of the Eglwyseg escarpment.
Our B&B was a few kms from the centre of the town and we had a delightful walk along the canal, past the International Eisteddfod site, to get to our dinner appointment at the Corn Mill. Getting back in the rapidly developing gloom involved some close encounters with bats and a little route confusion from some of the team but we all made it in one piece.
Next day we had our last cooked breakfast for some time and left by bus and various other transport to return to our homes. An excellent walk in glorious countryside and matchless weather, we were all very grateful to our tour organiser and guide.