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Montgomery - Land of the Marcher Lords

See Iron-Age and medieval castles and look down on a wide landscape from Montgomery's town hill.

Distance 4.5 miles (7.2km)

Minimum time 2hrs 30min

Ascent/gradient 853ft (260m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Well-defined paths, farm tracks and country lanes, 3 stiles

Landscape Pastoral hills overlooking wide plains of the Severn

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 216 Welshpool & Montgomery

Start/finish SJ 224963

Dog friendliness Farming country - dogs should be on leads. Not allowed in castle grounds

Parking Car park on Bishops Castle Street on B4385 at south end of town

Public toilets Behind town hall

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1 From the car park head north, then left along Broad Street, where you'll see the Dragon Hotel and the town hall. A signpost points to the lane up to the castle - a must to see and it's free. Return to this point. Head north up Arthur Street, past the Old Bell Museum, and join the main road, Princes Street.

2 Continue north, ignoring the turn for Chirbury, then turn left out of town along Station Road, the B4385. Ignore the first footpath on the left side of the road, but go over the stile and cross the field at the second stile. This path climbs through woodland, then swings left (south west) to reach the old hilltop fort above Ffridd Faldwyn.

3 Go over the stile at the far side of the fort and descend across more fields to the roadside gate. Turn left down the road, which takes you back towards Montgomery.

4 As the road turn sharp right just above the town, leave it for a footpath on the right signposted for the Montgomeryshire War Memorial and beginning beyond a kissing gate. The footpath climbs steadily up the hill to join a farm track, which runs parallel to the Town Ditch at first.

5 As it enters high pastures, the track begins to level out and traverse the eastern hillside. Here you can make a detour to the war memorial that lies clearly ahead at the top of the hill. Return to the track and follow it through a gate and past some pens with gorse and hawthorn lining the way on the left.

6 In a field above Castell-y-gwynt farm, on the left-hand side, the footpath turns right to follow a hedge. Go over the stile at the far side of the field and turn left along a farm lane that descends to join a narrow tarmac country lane south west of Little Mount farm. Turn left along this.

7 Turn left at the first T-junction and left at the second. Follow the lane back into Montgomery.

Montgomery is a fine country town with its origins in medieval times. Tucked beneath a castle-topped crag, many of the houses have Georgian façades, but these were additions to much older dwellings. The centrepieces of the town are the elegant red-brick town hall with a clock tower on top and the half-timbered Dragon Hotel, a 16th-century coaching house. Plaques on the walls of the old houses tell you of Montgomery's proud history, but you can learn more by calling into the Old Bell Inn, which has been converted into a museum.

After William I conquered England in 1066 he gave the task of controlling the Welsh Marches to his friend and staunch supporter, Roger de Montgomery. Montgomery set up a motte and bailey timber castle at Hendomen a mile (1.6km) north of the present town.

There were continuous skirmishes with the Welsh, especially with the coming to power of Llewelyn the Great, Prince of Wales. As a result, Henry III had the current castle built in 1223 on a huge rock overlooking the plains of the River Severn. In 1541 the new English monarch, Henry VII, a Welshman descended from Llewelyn, handed the castle to the Herberts, a powerful Welsh dynasty, who were later to acquire the neighbouring Powis Castle. The castle saw it's last action during the Civil War. The Herberts were Royalists and at first held the castle, but in a great battle in which their 5,000 troops were attacked by 3,000 Parliamentarians, it was the Parliamentarians who were finally victorious. In 1649 they demolished the castle. When you view it today though, it's still an impressive place and you get this feeling of impregnability as you look down those tremendous cliffs.

The next castle you see on the walk though is much earlier. When emerging from the woods, the sight of the giant earthworks of Ffridd Faldwyn makes it obvious that this hilltop Iron-Age fort was of great importance. It was built in four stages, all completed before the Roman conquest. Artefacts, including neolithic tools are now held in the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff.

After making a brief return to the outskirts of Montgomery the route undertakes one of the locals' favourite Sunday strolls - to the top of Town Hill, where the War Memorial stands tall to commemorate the soldiers of the county. The Automobile Association erected a toposcope to help scan the horizon for the well-known hills of Pumlumon Fawr, Stiperstones, the Clun Hills and the Long Mynd. The Severn can be seen in plan, weaving through forest and field in a landscape as green as any in Ireland.

Where to eat and drink

The Dragon Hotel is an impressive and friendly old coaching inn. Here you can choose from an extensive menu with specials on a blackboard. Expect to find good local produce including Welsh lamb and beef, a wide choice for vegetarians, tasty pasta and game dishes. The beers include those from the local Wood brewery and Boddingtons.

What to look for

In 1279 Montgomery built new town walls of stone to protect itself from the attacks of Llewelyn the Great and, later, Dafydd ap Llewelyn. Not much remains of the walls themselves, but in places you'll see the Town Ditch that accompanied them. You can see the ditch alongside the track climbing to the war memorial and to the east of town behind the church.

While you're there

The Old Bell Museum gives a fascinating insight into the history of the town, its castles, workhouses and archaeological excavations. There is a room devoted to the Cambrian Railway.

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