On our way back from Snowdonia in April we decided to stop off at Chirk Castle close to the Wales/England border. As National Trust members we definitely prefer to use the facilities at one of their properties rather than going to a motorway services if we can help it! Although, that being said, we did stop at Chester services on our way down to Wales and as far as services go, they were a 10/10 and had a great range of food to have for lunch. On our way back however we decided to bypass motorway services altogether and stick to the National Trust. We’d previously stopped at Chirk on our way down to Powys in 2018 and therefore we knew it was a great place to stop off to stretch our legs on the drive.
Chirk Castle is one of the many Welsh Castles built during the reign of Edward I to help subdue the Welsh Princes. Built in the 13th century, the castle was purchased a few centuries later by a businessman/privateer, and was passed down through his family for many generations. Not all of the original fortress stands today, as part of the castle was destroyed and re-built during the English Civil war. Today, the castle is owned by the National Trust, with the castle, gardens and grounds open to visitors.
The castle has a selection of way marked trails you can follow of varying lengths and difficulties, as well as a cafe, toilets and shop where you can stop and re-fuel.
The walk we did on our first visit took us along a section of Offa’s Dyke. Offa’s Dyke is an ancient earthwork which covers around 150 miles of the England/Wales border, built in the eighth century by the Anglo-Saxon king of Mercia, Offa. The bank is up to 20m wide in places and is a popular long distance walking route – Offa’s Dyke Path runs from Chepstow to Prestatyn and takes in some of the loveliest countryside Wales has to offer. As well as following it for a way at Chirk, we also spent a short section of time on the Offa’s Dyke Path when we walked up Penycloddiau and Moel Arthur – another lovely part of Wales.
After investigating Offa’s Dyke on our first visit, on our second visit we decided to do the woodland walk. While you don’t get the same views of the castle that you do on some of the other trails, the woods were extremely quiet and a much more exciting walk for the dogs. You even have the possibility of running into Chirk’s herd of semi-wild ponies who are used for conservation grazing in the woods.
We didn’t stay for too long on our most recent visit – just a short stroll through the woods. We had planned to stay for longer but when we arrived, the lady at the front desk was so rude to us it spoiled our visit a little, and we didn’t want to linger! Essentially, I’d left our National Trust cards in the car as we had our pre-booked tickets, and when I said we didn’t have the cards she gave us a five minute lecture on why we should’ve brought them, before saying we actually didn’t need them when I offered to go and get them from the car! Pretty rubbish customer service but that’s not the National Trust’s fault I suppose.
Dog friendly rating – 3.5/5. Like most National Trust properties, Chirk is a great dog friendly day out. You are welcome to take your dog for a walk in the parkland and the courtyard is dog friendly with water bowls for dogs. Sadly, dogs aren’t allowed in the formal gardens (even on a lead), so if you want to have a look at the fancy plants you will need to take it in turns while someone waits with the dog.
If you choose to wander through the parkland with your dog, make sure you are considerate of livestock, as both sheep and cattle can be found grazing. Even in the woods you need to keep an eye out for signs asking you to keep dogs on a lead in some sections, as this is where you are liable to run into the ponies.
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