Where the Coast to Coast is popular and appeals to people with little or no long-distance experience, the ODP is less well-known and more of a hard-core walkers’ trail. But the main difference is that it’s an official Long Distance Path (LDP). Waymarking is excellent throughout. I used the map mainly to keep track of progress and only missed a couple of waymarks, which were easily recovered.
The trail is also well maintained. Budgets are being squeezed but you will come across places where improvements are being made. These are less for the benefit of through-hikers than for the many day-hikers; any day’s walk makes a good day out and I met several people doing just that.
The ODP can also be walked in two stages. Knighton is the halfway point. If you’re through-hiking though, you’ll probably arrive after the tourist office has shut and be gone before it opens!
Rain or sun, keeping the weather at your back is sound policy, so going from Chepstow to Prestatyn is the easier direction.
The total height gain on the ODP is about the same as Everest base camp – yes I did measure it – so I strongly recommend that you carry the minimum weight possible on this trek. I opted to B&B all the way, so no tent, sleeping bag etc, and ruthlessly cut my pack weight down to the bare minimum.
It’s best to avoid Hay during the Book Festival (first week of June, usually) as all available accommodation will have been booked up.
Some people use baggage transfer services and just carry a day pack. But however you travel, pack plenty of water.
There is a wider choice of stopover points than on the C2C, so you have more flexibility in planning the walk. This is how I did it. The purist will head back down to the Severn to start from the official start of the trail; me, I just got off the train and set off.
|Chepstow||Bigsweir||9||Stock up with provisions at the Tesco by the railway station. Be sure to feast at the outstanding Beaufort Fish & Chip Restaurant in the town centre before you set off!|
|Bigsweir||Llangattock||21||Shops, pubs, food in Monmouth.|
|Llangattock||Hay on Wye||20||Along Hatterall Ridge and down Hay Bluff. High ground, no cover, no water.|
|Hay||Kington||15||Stock up with any provisions in Hay. Don’t spend all day in the book shops!|
|Kington||Knighton||14||Knighton is halfway. Tourist office, pubs, shops. Check your provisions for next two days.|
|Cwm||Four Crosses||20||Pub (Golden Lion) at Four Crosses. Not much else.|
|Four Crosses||Carreg y Big||12||Along canal towpath and via Llanymynech quarry|
|Carreg y Big||Llandegla||18||Via the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Cafe|
|Llandegla||Bodfari||18||Over the Clwyds. High ground. No cover, NO WATER!|
|Bodfari||Prestatyn||11||Food & drink at Prestatyn|
|Return home||Rail from Prestatyn|
The official ODP website – Excellent information resource
Offa’s Dyke Association – ditto
What you need to know
The ODP certainly shouldn’t be your first long-distance walk, so you should already know how to plan and prepare for it.
While the waymarking is excellent, there are legs – in particular Hatterall Ridge and the Clwyds – where bad weather could make it necessary to navigate. I recommend the excellent Harveys strip maps; these are detailed, tough and waterproof. The ONLY guidebook you should use is the Trailblazer one, but use this in conjunction with the maps, not as a substitute. Be sure to check online sources for up-to-date information about diversions, accommodation etc.
You need waterproofs at any time of year and should have a plan for either tackling or bypassing the high ground in bad weather. I found a cheap GPS a reassuring backup – low cloud over high ground hides all landmarks – but fortunately I didn’t need to use it.
Especially in warm weather, on this trail you must carry and drink plenty of water. There are only two drinking water taps on the entire trail and don’t count on finding any pub or shop open outside of the large towns. A hydration bladder in your pack will save a lot of stopping and starting, but almost certainly won’t be sufficient without some reserves. I reuse plastic Coke bottles and stow them in the side pockets. Refill at every opportunity. There is NO water en route over the Clwyds – I set off with nearly a gallon and drank almost all of it.
The hardened walker won’t be put off travelling alone but, unlike the C2C, you probably won’t meet many through-hikers. The less experienced may prefer the mutual support of going as a group.
You can glean much from the various ODP forums but, as with the C2C forums, don’t be put off by some of the more colourful accounts. Most of these are self-inflicted problems from people who failed to plan or prepare. If you plan the walk and walk the plan you’ll have an enjoyable trek.
Take your time. It’s not a race. There is much to enjoy along every leg of the journey.
What you need to take
Waterproofs! Read the advice on the C2C page.
Water! This can be critical. Be sure to be able to carry plenty.
Food. Even if you’re not camping, you should check where you can pick up trail food en route; some places don’t have shops. Most B&Bs will do you a packed lunch.
The Offa’s Dyke Path in pictures
Disclaimer: This is based on one person’s experience. No warranty is expressed or implied. If you attempt the ODP it is your responsibility to plan your trek on up-to-date information, prepare properly, and conduct your journey appropriately.