Ewyas, Olchon & Monnow Valleys Way – 16 miles, 2 days. This pilgrimage meets three very remote valleys that straddle the Welsh-Herefordshire Border. You start at St Issui’s well, sacred from at least Celtic times, and very nearby is Partrishow Church positioned on highground overlooking a beautiful valley. From here you walk a wiggly path past the Tabernacle Baptist Church and over the ridge of Ty Mawr to a view of the wonderfully wonky church of Cwmyoy perched on a Shire-like hillside. Then you descend into the Vale of Ewyas following the River Honddu to the majestic ruins of Llanthony Priory, nestled amidst elegiac mountains. You can see why monks sought solace in this seclusion. Perhaps you should stay the night here too.
From Llanthony you can either ascend straight up to the Hay Bluff ridge with panoramic views (which shaves off a couple of miles too), or continue along the valley floor towards Capel-y-ffin, a magical Mary church in a circular churchyard (denoting often bronze age burial sites) surrounded by several ancient yew trees. From Capel-y-ffin, you retrace your steps to the bottom of the ascent up Hay Bluff at Nant Vision, where a vision of the Virgin Mary was recorded. The way is steep but rewardingly breathtaking. When you reach the top of Hay Bluff, you quickly start descending towards the mysteriously enchanting Olchon Valley, to Cae Mabon well, where pilgrims encounter an oasis of angelic waters. Spend good time here before skirting round the bottom of Black Hill, and walking along the low ridgeline overlooking the Monnow Valley, you approach the Bull’s Head pub of Craswall, perhaps visiting Chapel House Farm to buy some local cider and food, and St Mary’s Church. After a moment of silence in this working church, it just leaves the final approach up to Craswall Priory, the oldest and remotetest Grandmontine Priory in England, nestled within a delta of springs that form the source of the River Monnow.
Travel: Travel is not simple without a car, and even with a car there are only two spaces by Cae Mabon well or parking at top of hill, if you turn left at the church and locals use them from time to time. There is an official car park at Pont Cadwgan, but 2.2 miles (1hr) walking away. If you are not travelling by car, you can get a train to Abergavenny and then a taxi from there. Whichever way you do it, it’s all worth it to be in this incredibly remote region, because the logistical downsides are vastly outweighed by the secluded peace you will experience over the two days.
Accommodation: We recommend you lodge at one of the various accommodation sites around Llanthony Priory (Hotel & B&Bs) at the end of the first day, and perhaps at Craswall (pub ‘pods’ and Chapel House camping site) at the end of the second day if you don’t want to travel back that evening.