I am pleased to present the long awaited follow-up to our Symonds Yat Circular; our second ramble in the Wye Valley in which we completed a route devised by us which has become known since, and shall be known hereafter, as the Tintern Circular. On the evening of the 19th June 2016 I sat restlessly on our sofa wondering how I would really like to spend my birthday the next day which I had booked off of work especially – this is what I came up with.
Harriet very kindly agreed to drive us to Tintern, a must-visit location in the Wye Valley, so we could enjoy a full day’s walking. For our circular in Symonds Yat we enjoyed excellent weather and predominantly firm and flat terrain. The Tintern Circular, however, would not be so easy and would prove muddier, steeper and more arduous than perhaps any walk we had undertaken thus far, but no less beautiful. About 90 minutes into the walk I realised how soaked I was but something about this magical place meant that I really didn’t care. We aren’t fair weather walkers after all.
We parked in Tintern next to the Archor Inn and it’s famous abbey. After taking a few shots of the majestic ruin, we joined the Wye Valley Walk along the road through Tintern village and then down to the river to begin following the curves of the Wye.
A narrow path took us off the road and down in between cottages, through the grounds of St Michael’s Church and down to the riverside.
After the first couple of miles, the trail took us away from the river which we would not meet again for a while. We crossed the fields next to the river and were lead through a tunnel of trees before emerging in Tintern Old Station. Formerly part of the Wye Valley Railway line, Tintern Station was closed to passengers and freight by 1964 and is now a busy tea room, exhibition and visitor centre.
After a quick look around, we left the station with the rain still lashing down. After a short distance the footpath bought us to Brockwier Bridge with the village of Brockweir situated invitingly on the other side of the river. The bridge itself, formerly a railway bridge, is Grade II listed and has been criticised a lot in the past for being unsightly and not in-keeping with the area’s aesthetic. We had to resist the temptation to cross at this point and enjoy the warmth of the pub there; we continued through the rain clinging to the knowledge that the walk would lead us back here on the opposite bank.
Just after the bridge, the Wye Valley Walk took us off the road and began our first major incline of the walk. We followed the slippery track up the woody slopes to an elevation of approximately 220 meters. It was wet but also warm, the trees and plants dripping with rain; at times we felt like we were in a rainforest.
At the top the terrain levelled out, the path widened and the canopies opened up. Mercifully, at this point the weather began to turn, affording us the occasional sun beam or pocket of blue sky. We continued along the trail through the woodland toward Cleddon and Llandogo with the sun pushing through the trees and streams trickling around our feet.
As we followed the Wye Valley Walk along the top of the ridge, the route lead us past three viewpoints in quick succession that offered stunning view of the Wye and the surrounding valley.
We continued through the woods along the path a short while before reaching a spectacular feature of this walk.
Cleddon Falls is a series of waterfalls and streams that clatter down the woody hillside, through the village of Llandogo and down to the river. At this point we left the Wye Valley Walk to meet up with the river again and ultimately reach our crossing point back over to the the English side of the Wye – Bigsweir Bridge. We began our descent on a steep and narrow footpath that zig-zagged down the hillside alongside the stream, crossing it many times on the way down.
At the bottom of the winding hill path we reached the beautiful hillside village of Llandogo. The Sloop Inn is the villages only pub which can be found on the main road through the village. There is a family run general store in Llandogo which has been the only one in the village since 1921; The Browne family have lived here and run the shop for generations.
We picked up a footpath back down to the river bank and followed the Wye toward Bigsweir Bridge.
After a beautiful stretch next to the river we met up with the road (which fortunately had a pavement) and followed it up to our crossing point back into England, Bigsweir Bridge, which offered stunning views of the Wye and its valley in both directions. The bridge consists of a single 50m cast-iron arch that was fabricated in Merthyr Tydfil before being installed in 1827. It is a grade II* listed structure. Historically a toll house operated on the Welsh side.
Continue our walk back to Tintern on the next page…