Guides that will send you packing.
Planning your walk
Your budget will depend largely on the type of accommodation you use and your eating habits as well as your travel costs to and from the start/end of your walk.
If you camp and cook your own meals you will be able to keep costs to a minimum. These escalate as you go up the accommodation and dining scales and will also be affected by the extent to which you use the services offered to guests, such as transportation of luggage, packed lunches and other refinements.
You can get by on as little as £12-15 per person (pp) per day, pitching your tent at official sites and where B&Bs allow camping in their garden or land and cooking your own food. Typically, camping costs £4-10pp per night, sometimes plus an extra 20p (and sometimes £3!) for the use of a shower.
Most walkers will find it hard to live that frugally and will indulge in the occasional cooked breakfast when it’s offered (from around £5), the odd pint of beer (upwards of £2.50) and a pub meal after a long hard day (£8-12). It’s probably more realistic to budget on around £20pp per day.
Rates for YHA hostels vary according to the season and the type of room and can start at £16pp but be as high as £21pp. Typically rates in the summer season are about £2 higher than the base rate. Where YHA hostels offer catering, you can expect to pay around £10 for an evening meal; £5 for breakfast and £5 for a packed lunch.
Independent hostels charge a similar rate to YHA hostels while the more basic bunkhouses can be as cheap as £15pp.
You should allow £25-35 per person (pp) for an overnight stay and breakfast plus a further £12-16 for an evening meal. If you include a packed lunch (about £5) as well you won’t be far wrong on £42-56pp per day; these figures assume two people sharing a room.
If you're travelling alone, unless the B&B has single rooms, you will probably be charged a supplement of £5-15 for single occupancy. Guesthouses are likely to be a bit more expensive so budget for about £55-60pp per day.
The tariff for hotels is likely to be £40 and upwards per person with some saving for two people sharing a room. Some hotels have adopted the continental system of charging for the room only rather than per person, which for a couple doing the walk together may prove an economical proposition when you consider that two people paying £60 for the room will be the same as £30 each, not much more than the rate of an average B&B.
However, the room rate may not include breakfast. If the hotel charges a room rate lone walkers may have a discount. Watch out for the extras though, such as service charge and VAT, which can add to the bottom line when the bill is presented.
Don’t forget to set some money aside for the inevitable extras, such as batteries, postcards, buses, taxis, drinks, snacks, phone calls and entrance fees – or, rather more crucially, any changes of plan. Around £100 should be about right.
When to go
The months when the weather is less likely to be inclement are May to September, although April and October often bring days that are bright and breezy when the walking and the surroundings are at their best. Typically, the seasons are likely to present the following conditions:
The weather in spring is as unpredictable as the rest of the year. In April it can be warm and sunny on odd days, but seldom for sustained periods. Conditions are more likely to be changeable, with blustery showers and cold spells reminding you that winter has only just passed.
On the other hand, less rain falls on average in spring than at any other time of the year. This, coupled with the milder weather of May and June, and the proliferation of wild flowers early in the year, makes it one of the best times to tackle the trail.
July and August are the traditional holiday months and the conditions are usually good for walking with a greater likelihood of long periods of warm settled weather and many hours of daylight.
Unlike many parts of Britain the Border Country is not afflicted by mass tourism. Thankfully there’s no need to worry about crowds apart from when passing through the tourist hotspots of Prestatyn, Hay-on-Wye and Llangollen.
You can lord it over the daytrippers with your rucksack and big boots: let them look and wonder. Once you’re back out among the fields and hills you can leave the hordes behind.
Late September and October are a good time to get out on the trail to appreciate the full benefit of the autumn colours in the woodland and the leaves underfoot.
Although the air temperature should remain relatively mild, October can see the first frosts, and rain is an ever-present threat, intensifying as the year draws to its close.
Nevertheless, many connoisseurs consider autumn, especially early autumn, the best time of year for walking.
Only the hardiest of souls will attempt the walk in winter. Once the days have shortened you will want to be at your day’s end by 4-5pm.
Colder days, wind and driving rain are not the best accompaniment for a good day on the path although you can hit lulls when the sun comes out and you imagine things are improving.
Some winters see continuous rain for several months with severe flooding when parts of the path become impassable and others can be cold with plenty of snow.
The following events may need to be considered when planning your walk especially as accommodation in the area is often booked up months in advance.
• Hay Festival of Literature, Hay-on-Wye The famous book and literary festival (www.hayfestival.com) held in the last week in May, with talks and readings all week from top names in the world of writing. It is one of the few opportunities for readers to meet their favourite authors and the town’s streets are thronged with visitors – although the events themselves are held in a series of marquees set up outside the town.
• International Musical Eisteddfod, Llangollen This major festival of music and the performing arts to which groups and individuals come from all over the world is held in the first or second week in July. For further information see www.international-eisteddfod.co.uk.
• Royal Welsh Show, Builth Wells The last week in July is a big date in the farming calendar for the whole of mid and south Wales, as this show (www.rwas.co.uk) attracts visitors and competitors from a huge area. Kington and Hay-on-Wye are the two centres on the path most likely to be affected.
• Knighton Show The last Saturday in August is an important day for the local community. See www.visitknighton.co.uk for details.
• Presteigne Festival A festival (www.presteignefestival.com), held over six days in late August, which specialises in promoting contemporary classical music.
All walkers are individuals. Some like to cover large distances as quickly as possible. Others are happy to amble along, stopping whenever the whim takes them.
You may want to walk the Offa’s Dyke Path in one go, tackle it in a series of days or weekends, or use the trail for a series of linear day walks; the choice is yours.
To accommodate these different options, this guide has not been divid- ed up into strict daily sections, which could impose too rigid a structure on how you should walk. Instead it has been devised for you to plan an itinerary that suits you.
The planning map opposite the inside back cover and table of facilities on pp32-5 summarise the essential information for you to make a plan.
Alternatively, to make it even easier, have a look at the suggested itineraries (see box p36) and simply choose your preferred speed of walking.
There are also suggestions on pp35-8 for those who want to experience the best of the trail over a day or a weekend. The public transport map and table (pp48-52) may also help.
Having made a rough plan, turn to Part 4 where you will find summaries of the route, full descriptions of accommodation options, places to eat and other services in each town and village, with detailed trail maps.
- About the Offa's Dyke Path
- Planning your walk
- Using this guide
- Sample route guide: Bodfari to Clwyd Gate
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