Anyone who read my series on the Offa’s Dyke Path will know that we certainly don’t lack quality trails with beautiful views here in North East Wales. In fact, we are blessed with an absolute wealth of them. However, as I’ve been picking up the trail-running miles again fairly recently after a long lay-off and slug-slow recovery process, I’ve been eager to step away from the comfort zone of my more familiar local trails in order to explore even more of this corner of Wales that I’m proud as punch to call home. As such, here’s an awesome North East Wales trail run that takes in some gorgeous sections of river bank and estuary as well as serving up two (yes two!) historic remains in the space of just 6 miles…
Beginning in Flint, where free parking is offered for those using the car park adjacent to the castle, I was first of all struck by how (very ashamedly) I’ve never explored Flint Castle. My wife’s grandparents who are, sadly, no longer with us, both originate from the town and Nat has lovely childhood memories of spending time with them in and around the castle grounds. I could immediately see why.
Sitting right on the banks of the River Dee where the estuary mouth begins to widen to epic proportions, it’s a gorgeous place to while away a few hours. My Garmin will testify to this as I’d managed to leave it clocking up the time while I was busy checking out the castle, only to wonder after why my mileage rate looked as slow as my recovery from injury. It just goes to show, however, how historic buildings in beautiful spots really do have the power to erase your mind of all preoccupations (even Garmin-related ones!) and stresses.
Flint Castle is pretty darn old and is believed to date all the way back to 1277. According to Cadw (the Welsh Government’s historic environment service), it was one of the first castles to be built in Wales by King Edward I with purpose of trying to subdue the unruly Welsh. You’ve only got to be married to a Welsh person to see how ultimately foolhardy this was!
As cool and genuinely interesting as this is, for a nerdy English Teacher, like me, this is easily gazumped by the fact that Flint Castle makes an appearance in none other than William Shakespeare’s famous play ‘Richard II’, which recreates the moment that Richard II was captured at the castle, leading to his abdication and eventual death. Basically, if you’re a runner or walker who likes their history and/or literature, then a North East Wales trail run ought to be on your radar.
Reluctantly leaving the castle behind (having definitely NOT recreated act 3 scene 3 from the play – like seriously, who would do that?!), I made my way along the well-marked coastal path in the direction of the lovely sandy beaches of Talacre and Prestatyn. This North East Wales trail run is flatand accessible, meaning that both cyclists and wheelchair users are also adequately catered for alongside runners and walkers and, as long as the river is on your right, even the most navigationally challenged among you will struggle to lose your way.
You don’t want to either because after taking in the ever-widening mouth of the Dee estuary, together with its RSPB flatlands, perfect for spotting wading birds, on the opposite shore, it won’t be long before you hit upon your second historic building of the day: Basingwerk Abbey.
For those who deemed Flint Castle old, you’ll be impressed to know that the abbey dates back even further. Part of the gorgeous Greenfield Valley, which is WELL worth even greater exploration, Basingwerk Abbey dates back to 1131 – that’s nearly 900 years old! Until its ruin it was home to a group of monks who lived, ate, prayed and dedicated their life to God and the community there. If you check out the Greenfield Valley website you’ll be able to look out for the information and activity events run by the adjacent visitor centre, which might just make your next visit there all the more immersive.
In terms of trails runs that offer a little bit of everything, this North East Wales trail run ticks all of the boxes. Furthermore, as you’ll see from the video, those of you after a slightly longer trail run or walk can simply continue along the coastal path by crossing over the main road, picking up the Coastal Path at Greenfield Docks, and heading in the direction of Talacre. Just stop when you’re tired. Whether its running through woodland or along river banks, to historical buildings of great value and importance our little corner of Wales really does pack an awesome punch. Hopefully I’ll see you out on the trails sometime soon.
As ever for more great ideas of things to do and places to see in North East Wales visit the official tourism guide and website.