A stunning walk from the tranquil Clun Valley into the surrounding hills.
Distance 5.5 miles (8.8km)
Minimum time 2hrs 30min
Ascent/gradient 1,066ft (325m)
Level of difficulty Medium
Paths Excellent, through mixed farmland (mainly pasture) and woodland, 3 stiles
Landscape Steep-sided, round-topped hills above valley of River Clun
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 201 Knighton & Presteigne
Start/finish SO 302811
Dog friendliness Keep under close control near sheep and cattle
Parking Car park at Clun community area, signed from High Street
Public toilets At short-stay car park by castle and off High Street
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1 Walk down Hospital Lane to High Street and turn right to The Square. Pass the Buffalo Inn, turn left on Buffalo Lane and cross Clun Bridge. Go up Church Street, turn right on the Knighton road, then left on Hand Causeway, signposted to Churchbank and Hobarris.
2 After ¾ mile (1.2km), take a bridleway on the right, which leaves the lane on a bend by Glebe Cottage and immediately goes left into a field. Walk up the field, through a gate at the top, then straight on through two more fields to meet a lane running across the top of Clun Hill (part of the prehistoric Clun-Clee Ridgeway).
3 The path continues opposite, along the right-hand edges of two fields. At the end of the second one, go through a gate on the right and diagonally to the far corner of another field, then in much the same direction down the next - towards a pool in the valley below.
4 Go through a gate and turn left on a byway, then right when you come to a T-junction. At Hobarris go left on to a track, just before the main farm buildings. Soon after crossing a brook, branch left along a hollow way. When this bends right, go straight on instead, over a stile into a field. Go straight uphill, joining a field-edge track. To your left, three Scots pines and a prehistoric cairn mark the summit of Pen-y-wern Hill. Turn left when you come to a lane.
5 At a crossroads, keep straight on, descending to the second of two bends in the lane. Ignore a signposted path on the right; instead take an unsignposted one a few paces further on. It leads into plantation and soon bends right. About 200yds (183m) after this, branch left on a descending path.
6 After a further 200yds (183m) branch left again, descending through a beautiful oakwood, with scattered rowans and a ground cover of whinberries. Keep going down to meet a path at the bottom of the wood.
7 Turn left on the path, which almost immediately swings left, plunges back into the wood and winds through the trees to meet the lane. Turn right towards Clun.
8 Turn left at a junction with two tracks. Keep going along the lane until a stile on the right gives access to a field. Go diagonally left towards Clun. Join a lane, then turn right and cross a footbridge by a ford. Turn right to High Street and Hospital Lane.
Clun is enfolded by enticing green hills on all sides. It may have been settled as early as the Bronze Age; certainly by the Iron Age there was some sort of community there. But it was the Saxons who first settled in any numbers. Later, the Norman Picot de Say built a castle here around 1099 and laid out a new town in a regular grid pattern, which still survives. Clun was granted its town charter in the 14th century and is still, strictly speaking, a town, but it looks and feels more like a village. There is lots to see, including the substantial castle ruins, 12th-century church, 15th-century packhorse bridge, 17th-century almshouses, 18th-century town hall and any number of charming cottages.
Equally interesting, but not so well known, are the literary connections that abound in Clun. E M Forster visited the town, which subsequently featured as Oniton in his novel Howard's Way, published in 1910. One of his key characters, Margaret Schlegel, is totally captivated by the romance and magic of this corner of the Marches, and it's not hard to see why. Clun is easily recognisable from Forster's descriptions and it's clear that he spent some time here.
The castle, with its great keep and commanding site, is said to have been the inspiration for Garde Doleureuse in Sir Walter Scott's novel The Betrothed, published jointly with The Talisman as Tales of the Crusaders in 1825. Scott is believed to have stayed at the Buffalo Inn while working on the book. More recently, playwright John Osborne lived near Clun and now lies buried in the churchyard. The best known literary link is with A E Housman, the author of a timeless collection of poems called A Shropshire Lad. Housman famously described Clunton and Clunbury, Clungunford and Clun as 'the quietest places under the sun', though it seems he was only appropriating a traditional rhyme, in which the adjective was infinitely variable.
Clun also featured in Valley With a Bright Cloud, a ghost story written by Gareth Lovatt Jones in 1980, while nearby Clunbury became the adopted home of Ida Gandy in 1930. A writer and the wife of a country doctor, Gandy set out in an old Baby Austin to see rural England. On arriving in Clunbury she was so captivated that she decided to stay. The family settled in the village and Ida continued to write, and to broadcast too, with most of her work inspired by Shropshire. Her most famous book is An Idler on the Shropshire Borders, written in 1970, around 25 years after the Gandys had left Shropshire for retirement in Dorset.
The 15th-century Sun Inn (also known as the Sun at Clun) is inviting, but so are the Buffalo Inn (where Sir Walter Scott stayed) and the White Horse. All three welcome children, are highly thought of by people who know about beer, and have gardens, so dogs should be no problem. There are tea shops too - Clun Bridge Tea Room is in several guide books, but The Maltings and Bridge Crafts and Coffee Shop are just as good.
Take a peek into the beautiful gardens of Trinity Hospital, in Hospital Lane, which are open to the public, but do respect the residents' privacy. The hospital comprises almshouses founded in 1614 by Henry Howard, Earl of Northampton, for 12 poor men, who were summoned to prayer by a bell and subject to a curfew. Today, the almshouses accommodate 15 residents of both sexes, under more liberal conditions.
The wood on Black Hill has a ground cover of whinberry, or bilberry as it is called elsewhere. It produces delicious summer fruits which used to be picked on a large scale by Shropshire people, who would sell them to traders for a few pennies a pound. Some pubs and restaurants in south west Shropshire still offer the local speciality, whinberry pie.