I’d promised myself I wouldn’t be overly judgemental. I wouldn’t let our experience of working with a specialist walking company for over a decade get in the way of how I rated walking Offa’s Dyke using a different UK-based walking company.
I tried my best not to allow that to happen. But right from the off, when we received our travel documents, it proved impossible.
Companies do things differently. It’s horses for courses. I accepted that once we set off on the long, long trail from Chepstow to Prestatyn. So, I shackled the internal critic and settled down into simply enjoying the walking, once the weather cooled down from being unseasonably hot.
However, the route-finder in me emerged when, after 24km of hiking, we were faced with the imposing vision of Castell Dinas Bran perched atop its 1000-foot-high conical hillock between us and our objective – our accommodation a mile outside of Llangollen.
Castell Dinas Bran is a stunning sight, especially when silhouetted against a sun beginning its journey toward the horizon. However, the prospect of climbing up and over it on weary legs, and with time getting on, was not an enticing one.
‘Stuff that for a game of soldiers. I’m not going up there,’ I announced.
Thankfully, Andy was in accord.
A scan of our Ordnance Survey booklet revealed two alternatives, both skirting the base rather than going up and over, making them more attractive options. One path didn’t materialise, so we opted for the second, following a lane as it descended toward Llangollen before heading west on a permissive path to re-join the route we were supposed to have followed.
A kilometre and a half later, we arrived at our accommodation. Because of the lateness of the day, we virtually had to shower, change, and head off out again to get to Llangollen to find somewhere to eat.
Not being happy at having to walk another couple of kilometres after just completing twenty-seven, I grumbled about it being another ridiculously long day, and had a dig at the walking company about hidden ‘add-ons’ to the distances we’d originally been told. All credit to the owner of the B&B, he defended the company, especially when he heard we’d avoided Castell Dinas Bran by following our own route.
‘That’s why it was so long,’ he countered. ‘Coming over the top is the most direct route. That’s why they bring people that way. The way you came is far longer.’
I mumbled about our route not adding on that much, but Andy hit me a look that said, ‘You’ve made it clear enough you don’t want to be here, let it go.’
So, I did. But I was convinced our route wasn’t significantly longer. I was convinced of this because working out hiking routes and making decisions on which are more appropriate is part of what we do. We do it for the best self-guided walking company in the UK. Don’t take my word for it, that’s according to Which. We’ve been successfully plotting routes across Europe for years. I can glance at a map and instantly be able to roughly judge distances.
I didn’t mention any of this, instead I decided to work out the difference between the two routes once I got home and uploaded our GPX tracks to Google Earth.
It turned out I was wrong about our route only being a bit longer.
The original route was 1.6km. The alternative we’d opted for was 1.5km.
I was wrong because it was 100m shorter.
I chuffing knew there wasn’t much in it.