Day 3 – White Castle to Longtown Crossing
If I were to do this hike again, I would turn Day 2 into a longer day by continuing on past White Castle until I reached the spot where we stayed for the evening. In that way, Day 2 would be long but there would be no need for waiting for a pick-up from the hosts, no need to backtrack the next morning and a Day 3 could be nice short hike and essentially a rest day However, hindsight is wonderful and we had officially stopped at White Castle the night before so that’s where our hosts drove us the next morning.
Notice that the slits are designed for battles with bows rather than the musket openings more commonly seen on North American forts.Watch your step! One of the secret ingredients of the green, green hills of Wales and England :-).
I had heard about mole hills and I had read about mole hills, but this was the first time that I had actually seen mole hills up close and personal. Really interesting to see and now I can understand better why a farmer might not like moles in his fields.
After a good morning’s walk from White Castle, we arrived back in the church yard opposite The Old Rectory B&B where we had stayed the night before. As mentioned in the first paragraph of this day’s entry, combining this stretch of the path with the stretch from Redbrook would have been more tiring but likely the wiser thing to do.
“Keep to the Left” meaning keep Skirrid Mountain on our left all morning and we would at least be heading in the right direction. – at least, that is what our B&B hosts told us :-). Part of the Black Mountains which we would be reaching later in the day, Skirrid-Fawr at 488 metres does stick out above the rest of the countryside. Apparently there is a nice trail to the top but climbing it wasn’t on our agenda this time around.
In actuality, it is steeper and longer than the photo shows! Hattarrall Hill begins just north of Pandy at its south-eastern end and continues along a well defined ridge as far as Hay Bluff at its northern end. The border between Wales and England ran along the ridge top which provides for wonderful panoramic views of the English countryside (right side of photo). The ridge forms the eastern boundary of the Brecon Beacons National Park and provides entry points into the Black Mountains.
The Offa’s Dyke Path rises from the lower levels, follows the ridge along to Hay Bluff (elev. 676 metres) before dropping back down to the river valley floor at Hay-on-Wye. At the start of the Hattarrall Hill climb there were a series of rock circles. This was on one of the rocks. I have no idea what it is or says. I applied the “Photograph it first, worry about it later approach”, but still have no idea what it is or why it was there.
Since our pre-planned itinerary left us only half way along the ridge at the end of the day, we had the joy of descending down from the ridge to our accommodation in Longtown. My hiking partner had got ahead of me on the trail and unfortunately missed the Longtown arrow at the base of this tablet and continued to follow the acorn instead. Not knowing this, I arrived at the marker and headed downhill thinking that he was ahead of me. We both arrived safely at our B&B for the evening but at different times and by different routes. Lucky for me I managed to find the shorter way down from the ridge and was able to enjoy the scenery a bit more on the way down the rather steep path. Not sure of the vertical drop but the trail did a steep traverse starting in the lower left corner of the photo and the steep slopes were more fit for sheep than humans.
The trail down was a continuous traverse along the side of the ridge rather than a series of switchbacks. Some parts of the trail required care and caution while other parts were quite straight forward. The next trick after this point was to determine when to leave the traverse and head straight downhill before traversing right on past Longtown. Not an easy task since signage was minimal at best and mostly nonexistent at this point.
Once we finally got down from up on the ridge, we located “the Crown” which was our B&B accommodation in Longtown for the night. (Location) The rooms were fine, the meal and service were great and, with the addition of a costumed bachelor there for his bachelor party, the pub was lively and provided plenty of local flavour and colour. Only regret: It would have been nice if it had been located 200-300 meters higher up the slope :-).