Llanthony Priory to Capel y Ffin

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  • Location: Llanthony to Capel y Ffin
  • Distance: 6 miles
  • Description of this walk: A hill walk taking in romantic ruins, stunning scenery and a village full of religious history.
  • BBC Disclaimer: The Weatherman Walking maps are intended as a guide to the TV programme only. Routes and conditions may have changed since the programme was made. The BBC takes no responsibility for any accident or injury that may occur while following the route. Always wear appropriate clothing and footwear and check weather conditions before heading out.
  • Download the map of this walk: Print off and follow in Derek's footsteps (PDF 1.4MB)

A hill walk through one of the most beautiful and least known areas of Wales, taking in romantic ruins, stunning scenery and a village that seems to have more places of worship than people.

Llanthony Priory in the Ewyas Valley is in a remote corner of South East Wales, right on the border with England.

Thankfully, Derek's guide is a proper local - Colin Passmore, a farmer whose land lies right alongside the Priory.

After visiting the beautiful medieval ruins we climbed climb high above the valley onto Hatterall Ridge and followed Offa's Dyke path for a few miles. We then descended to the tiny hamlet of Capel y Ffin - with its chapel, church and ruined monastery and walked back down the valley to Llanthony.

Llanthony Priory

Llanthony is a shortened and anglicised form of the Welsh name, Llanddewi Nant Honddu - David's Church by the little river Honddu. But however you say it, it's a magical place. In fact, the starting point for this walk is so good you may be tempted to go no further.

The Priory was founded by a war-sick knight, William de Lacey, back in the 12th century, and the ruins are majestic.

It's not hard to understand why artists and photographers love this place. Wherever you look there are fantastic views of the Ewyas Valley and the Black Mountains towering above, all framed by ancient windows and arches.

And as if that wasn't enough to keep you here, right in the middle of it all is a classic British pub - a great incentive to get back here at journey's end!

The Landor House

After leaving the Priory there's a gentle walk across the fields and through some woods to another set of ruins - nothing like as grand, but quite romantic all the same.

These are the remains of a house built by the poet Walter Savage Landor back in the early part of the 19th century.

Despite planting hundreds of thousands of trees here, Landor's attempts to build a successful estate here seemed to have been doomed from the start.

He was constantly in dispute with the locals about his plans. He came back from one extended trip away to find that the workers he'd contracted to build his house had used stone scavenged from the Priory.

Having wanted to conserve and improve a place he loved he was forced to recognise that more damage had been done to the Priory because of him than in all the years since the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII.

He abandoned his project after only a few years, allowing it to fall into rack and ruin.

Hatterall Hill

And now the serious business of the walk begins. "It's get your head down and stop complaining time", as the path climbs sharply.

It's not particularly dangerous, but it is steep and a real challenge for those knees, hips and lungs.

But all that effort is worth it as the magnificent views of the area gradually unfold.

You now get a real sense of the powerful natural forces that shaped this landscape.

The distinctive 'U' shaped Ewyas valley is a reminder that it was gouged out by glaciation during the Ice Age.

Further down the valley at Llanfihangel Crucorney you can see the terminal morrain where the glacier stopped - a huge bank that was created by the wall of ice as it pushed rock and earth in front of it.

At the top of the Hill the path levels out, and joins the Offa's Dyke path.

Along Offa's Dyke Path

The Dyke itself was built by Offa, King of Mercia from 757 to 796 AD to defend his land against the marauding Welsh.

But Offa didn't bother with any kind of ditch or wall up here. The mountain itself provided all the protection that he was looking for. The next few miles is a gentle ramble along the border with great views of the bleak Welsh moorlands to the West and rich English farmlands to the east.

The path down to the valley

About 2 miles north along the ridge, a pile of stones marks the route to Capel y Ffin. It's time to test those joints and muscles again for the steep descent back down to the valley.

The path passes the Vision Farm, said to be the inspiration for Bruce Chatwin's novel, On the Black Hill, an atmospheric story about twin brothers living in this remote upland area.

There's plenty of evidence all along the route that this is still a tough place to make a living.

Capel y Ffin

Capel y Ffin means 'chapel on the boundary or border', but don't be fooled into thinking there's only one religious place of interest here.

As the path winds down into this tiny hamlet it passes first a non-conformist chapel, then a parish church before arriving at a solitary house and a lovely red phone box.

And that's not the end of it. Further on down the lane there are ruins of a 19th century monastery and a striking statue of the Virgin Mary who appeared to monks and local children in a series of visions in 1880. The event is commemorated with an annual pilgrimage.

Back to Llanthony

There's no public transport, so, short of parking a car in Capel y Ffin before beginning the walk, it's back down the lane by foot to Llanthony. The pub in the ruins awaits.

Julian Carey - Producer on Weatherman Walking


Derek Brockway dressed as a monk

Llanthony photos

Take a look at the photo gallery which accompanies this walk.

Weatherman walking map

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