Park at Castle Dell car park by Chepstow Castle. Here there are toilets, a Tourist Information Centre, pubs and a museum – so an excellent base for the walk. Turn left out of the car park. Heading north, cross over the magnificent Old Wye Bridge – it’s Victorian ironwork painted a handsome white. You have now left Wales. On the ‘English side’ head up the steep narrow lane signposted ‘Offa’s Dyke Path’ (look out the white acorn sign of a long distance footpath – this one runs 177 miles to Prestatyn on the north coast of Wales if you’re feeling athletic!). Head straight up the lane. Ignore the path halfway up that turns right (that leads to the end/ start of the Offa’s Dyke Path at Sedbury Cliffs). Continue up to the road (Castleford Hill), cross carefully, and continue up the green lane (Mopla Road). Take the gate on your left and head north up the hill, crossing the field. At the brow of the hill you’ll pass a house with the ancient Tutshill Tower in its back garden. ‘Tut’ is a local word for ‘watchtower’ and gave its name to the village. Keep following signs for the Offa’s Dyke, passing through a couple of metal gates and crossing a second field with views of a magnificent country house. At the far end of the field you come to a stone wall. Set back is a wooden footbridge – go under... Drop down into Lancaut Nature Reserve, passing some impressive crags and the quarry. Spend a moment at the love bench. Follow the footpath on its loop around the reserve – it snakes along the side of the Wye, dropping down – mind your step (this is wear walking poles and good boots will serve you well). The footpath seems to end at what looks like a landslide – do not be alarmed! Scramble across this boulder scree and very shortly the path continues. Continue on until you come to a bench by the river – sit and enjoy the views back along the Wye. If you’re lucky you may even see grey seals! You will eventually come to a ruined church – once dedicated to Saint Cewydd – all that
remains of a medieval village named after him (Llan Cewyddd became Lancaut). Ascend up the steep path (mercifully, another bench awaits before the next push...). Keep ascending through the forest. You’ll pass two limekilns. At the brow of the hill you emerge from the trees as you reach Lancaut Lane. Follow this right back towards Chepstow. You’ll pass a carpark with a peregrine falcon wooden carving. At the B4228 turn right. Follow it down – be careful of traffic. Cross at take the grass verge as it bends left. Continue to Woodcroft. Continue along the road until you come to Wintour’s Leap, set back from the road on the right. This affords fabulous views over the Wye – it is named after a Sir John Wintour, a Royalist, who, fleeing his Roundhead pursuers, made a daring escape down the steep gorge. The quarrying has made this more precipitous than it used to be in the time of the Civil War, nevertheless, a heroic feat, but not one to emulate! Follow the Offa’s Dyke Path as it runs along the back of the cottages and the top of the quarry – but don’t look down! The OFP comes out by an old ‘medieval times donkey path’. Go right – follow Coleford Road into Tutshill. Just before the charming church of St Mary and St Peter you’ll pass Church Cottage, the childhood home of JK Rowling. Be mindful this is a private residence if you take any photographs. Shortly after this you will reach the Church of England primary school – imagine a 9 year old JK Rowling attending here... Keep following the Coleford Road down towards Chepstow, passing a well-maintained WI shelter with bookstall and information. At the Live and Let Live Pub, leaving the Coleford Road, take Mopla Lane right down the hill. Note on your right an old sign on garden wall of a cottage informing us that ‘On this site, Sept, 5. 1758, nothing happened’ there! Continue downwards (passing the gate you went through up the hill to Tutshill Tower) back to the bridge ... Cross the Old Wye Bridge, enjoying splendid views of Chepstow Castle. Here you can turn left along the riverside to the lovely Boat Inn, where you can sit outside (in good weather) and enjoy the view back across to the English side. You can then rejoin the route – either by retracing your steps to the bridge or cutting through the park and turning right at St Anne Street. Passing The Bridge Inn, ‘the first and last pub in Wales’, continue up Bridge Street towards Chepstow Museum . Top marks! You’ve made it back to Castle Dell car park. Time for a game of quidditch or a ginger beer?
JK Rowling, by Kevan Manwaring
View of the Wye from Lancaut
View from Wintour’s Leap