It’s also the halfway point of Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail, an epic 177-mile route that traces Offa’s handiwork and crosses the border between England and Wales 27 times.
So when people were wondering where to place Offa’s Dyke Centre, an interactive exhibition and fount of all knowledge about the dyke and trail, there was no argument. It had to be in Knighton.
That’s why you’ll see lots of people with walking boots and rucksacks tramping the streets of Knighton. Or it’s one of the reasons. Because Knighton doesn’t just have one National Trail passing through – it has two. And that makes it unique in Wales.
Glyndwr’s Way, named after the early 15th century Welsh folk hero Owain Glyndwr, begins inKnighton and curves in a giant horseshoe across to Machynlleth near the Dyfi estuary andall the way back across Wales to Welshpool. It’s a National Trail that we in Mid Wales have all to ourselves.
And it’s a bit shorter than Offa’s Dyke Path. Only 135 miles. A comparative stroll in the park.
Walking either of these magnificent trails could be one of the best experiences of your life. Butdon’t despair if you’re not quite that keen. Knighton does offer lots of shorter walks too – and some of them even go into England.
These days the neighbours get on famously. People on both sides of the border simply think of where they live as “Offa’s Country”. After all, Knighton’s railway station is actually in England and the town is on the edge of the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Take the early train on the Heart of Wales line to Church Stretton to explore the ancient Long Mynd – 500 acres of heather-covered moorland criss-crossed with more than 30 miles of footpaths and nearly 20 miles of cycle routes and bridleways.
Or content yourself with following Knighton’s town trail past half-timbered houses and down sloping, winding streets known as “The Narrows”. Among many other things you’ll see an 11th century church, a section of Offa’s Dyke, the remains of a Norman castle – and a clock tower. At this very spot it was once possible to obtain a divorce by “selling the wife” at the end of a rope.
Thankfully this sort of reprehensible behavior hasn’t gone on since the mid-1800s. Dressing up, bellowing and bell-ringing is still encouraged, however, with the annual Knighton Town Crier Festival in August.
This is still very much a market town. There’s a sheep market every Thursday and a cattle market every second Friday. When they’re not buying livestock – or at least on the second and fourth Saturdays of every month – the local farmers join about 35 organic and artisan pro- ducers at the popular Knighton Community Market.
They really do have a Mr Bun the Baker. Along with Scrummy Bites cakes, Adam and Eve spic- es, Precious Earth eco-products and the self-explanatory Fish in a Box.
Knighton doesn’t only have strong claims to be the walking capital of Mid Wales. It’s one ofthree official Cycle Break Centres as well. That means some of the region’s loveliest day cy- cling is right on the doorstep.
Three circular rides ranging from 9 to 33 miles all start in the town. And Knighton is on the 84-mile Radnor Ring that joins Rhayader, Llandrindod Wells and Presteigne via quiet country lanes with spectacular views.
Some towns might have been happy with all this – but Knighton has even bigger fish to fry.Knighton wants to save the world.
The observatory at the Spaceguard Centre is the only place in the UK dedicated to address- ing the danger of Near Earth Objects. That’s comets and asteroids to you and me. And it could make a terrible mess if a big one smashed into the earth.
So the Spaceguard Centre is constantly watching the skies for signs of a threat to human civilisation. Which is a lot more fun that it sounds. They have a planetarium dome, a moving model of the solar system and a collection of meteorites. Plus lots of telescopes, which one day may be just as well.
Outside Knighton is the medieval hunting ground of Radnor Forest. Legend says four church- es were built in a circle around the forest to contain the last dragon in Wales, who was asleep. Perhaps that’s why all the churches were dedicated to St Michael.
Some believe that one day the dragon will awaken. Relax. He seems a pretty sound sleeper. The roaring motors of the Wales GB Rally never wake him – and he snoozes right through the Phil Price Rally School burning up the forest tracks at nearby Llangunllo.