It can be safely assumed that Offa, an eighth century king of Mercia, didn’t think much of his Welsh neighbours.
In fact he spent a lot of time and trouble building a dyke all the way from one end of Wales to the other to keep us out of his back yard.
It’s now Britain’s longest ancient monument – and the inspiration for one of its most popular long-distance walking routes. King Offa, one suspects, would not have approved.
Because 177-mile-long Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail from Chepstow to Prestatyn certainly doesn’t keep Wales and England apart. It brings them together in shared enjoyment of a spectacular landscape we call Offa’s Country.
A network of bridleways, drover’s path and quiet lanes radiates out from the main trail into the surrounding countryside – from the dramatic Black Mountains to the riverside meadows of the Wye and Severn.
All this means that many walkers on Offa’s Dyke Path never quite manage to leave Mid Wales. Not with places like Powis Castle to explore and events such as the Hay Festival of Literature to distract them.
It can’t be easy to tug on your boots again after a sumptuous meal in a country pub and a night in a farmhouse bed. And it’s virtually impossible to tear yourself away from market towns such as Montgomery, Presteigne and Welshpool with their array of all too tempting independent shops.
The Offa’s Dyke Centre in Knighton, the only town on the dyke itself, will tell you all you need to know about Offa’s Country. And right outside the town is a forest where the last dragon in Wales lies sleeping. Wouldn’t harm to have a little look.
Hay-on-Wye lies to the east of Dulas Brook – which makes it officially Welsh by about a hundred metres. But it doesn't really belong to either Wales or England. It belongs to the world.
Hay is famous from here to Timbuktu (literally) as the very first "Town of Books" and host of the Hay Festival of Literature. But it's not all about books. Think of Hay as the Town of Big Ideas.
It's always been a free-thinking sort of place. Maybe that's what comes of being squabbled over for a thousand years. It breeds a certain independence.
Hay-on-Wye is halfway between Brecon and Hereford, just off the A438 on the B4350. The nearest train stations are 19 miles away at Builth Road – on the Heart of Wales line linking Shrewsbury and Swansea – and Hereford 22 miles to the east. Both the X43 Cardiff-Abergavenny bus and number 39 Brecon-Hereford bus go via Hay.
Tourist Information Centre
Hay-on-Wye Tourist Information Bureau, Craft Centre, Oxford Road, Hay-on-Wye, Powys HR3 5DG
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