I’ve wanted to visit Shropshire ever since I saw some photos of the hills along the border between England and Wales. However it’s unreasonably difficult to get there from where I live at the moment: either a four hour train journey or a long drive up the M40 and around Birmingham. So as it was a little stressful at work when I got back from Taipei and the weather was nice I decided to take a few days off and make an expedition of it starting from Newport in Wales.
Originally I intended to walk the whole way but that proved to be a bit impractical given the time available and the difficulty of finding cheap places to stay vaguely on-route. So instead I did a couple of sections by bus, green on the map below, which turned out to be a good way to see some interesting places.
The first night I stayed in a very cheap hotel in Newport: I guess it’s not a popular holiday destination despite this excellent promotional music video. Moving swiftly onwards I caught the train to Abergavenny and walked over the eastern part of the Brecon Beacons through the ominously named Black Mountains to Hay-on-Wye.
Hay-on-Wye is a bit twee and more than a little bit posh. The most striking feature is the number of second hand book shops: the town hosted its world-famous book festival just a week before. Leaving there I followed the river Wye for a bit to the hamlet of Erwood where I caught a bus to Llandrindod. I had intended to walk as far as Builth Wells but I was still somewhat tired from the previous days trekking so I decided to have a rest day of sorts. Good job too as it gave me time to explore the town.
Llandrindod Wells was once a popular Victorian spa town but now there’s little except a large number of hotels and some beautiful buildings. The architecture has the wonderful uniformity of a town thrown together in less than a decade. This hotel is one of the more imposing examples:
The spa itself is in a small wooded park near the centre of town. The iron-rich water is said to cure anaemia. I tried some: it was foul.
The next day I travelled by bus to Knighton via Kington (easily confused) on the border with England. In Kington they were having a 60s themed summer fête. While the traders were setting out their stalls a charming geriatric MC rambled enthusiastically over the tannoy. My favourite quote was
They say if you remember the 60s you weren’t there. I remember it. But then I had a job: I was a weekend hippie.
Delightfully English (or perhaps Welsh?). From Knighton I was actually in the original goal of the Shropshire hills. I walked north through Clun to the small village of Wentnor where I stayed the night. The terrain is very Cotswold-ish: rolling hills and quaint villages. Quite a contrast to the mountains in nearby Wales.
On the last day I walked the length of a huge hill called the Long Mynd. Lovely views all around but it was bordering on unpleasantly hot. From there I wandered to Craven Arms, where there isn’t much to see, and caught an over-priced train back home.