I recently wrote about Calakmul, Mexico, as the first in a series of posts about my favorite hiking spots around the world. A vastly different, but equally exceptional hike is The Wye Valley Walk, across the pond in Chepstow, Wales — a dewey, ancient outpost with an incredible castle we’ve written about before.
The River Wye wends through a poetic patchwork of sheep-filled pastures, forested hills, and the occasional medieval ruin. And it doesn’t even matter that portions of the trail are unshaded because the typical cloudy and cool UK temperatures make for perfect hiking weather regardless.
We even experienced a short summer downpour that initiated with a booming thunderclap, but quickly dried again while we explored the ruins of Tintern Abbey.
The picturesque beauty of this area is the stuff of poetry, literally. Aristocrats first began walking these trails in the 1700s as part of the Grand Tour. English Romantic poets like William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, among others, found creative inspiration from their tranquil beauty.
Jim originally hiked portions of this trail as he made a documentary film in college. He loved it so much, we couldn’t wait to include it in our itinerary years later on a trip to the UK with his sister. Although the complete trail is 136 miles long, we just did a short portion of it in a single day backpacking from our bed and breakfast in Chepstow, Wales to St. Briavels, England, which is just off the trail.\
The extra effort paid off in getting to stay in St. Briavels’ incredible Norman castle-fortress that was turned into a hostel in the 1940s.
If you go: Make sure to stop by the tiny tourist information office in Chepstow. They are very informed, helpful and kind. I also recommend purchasing their inexpensive hiking pamphlet. It describes that area of the Wye Valley River Walk trails. It came in very handy as some of the trails cut through sheep pastureland, and can be difficult to pick up again on the other side unless you know exactly where to look.
Cover photo courtesy of Ben Salter.