Caldicot to Chepstow
Huge bridges and small villages with big histories.
From a meeting place for kings, through a medieval monastery to an ancient healing well
Start at one of the free car parks by Flint castle and finish at St Winefride’s Well in Holywell.
Total distance is 7 miles / 12 kilometres
3 miles / 5 kilometres to Bagillt
6 miles / 10 kilometres to Greenfield
7 miles / 12 kilometres to Holywell. A very flat walk until the incline at the end up to St Winefride’s.
This walk starts in a spectacular location on the banks of the Dee estuary at the most unusual of Edward I’s castles in Wales, Flint Castle.
The first to be founded as part of his campaign against Llywelyn ap Gruffydd (Llywelyn the Last) in North Wales, Flint castle boasts a sophisticated design.
Built with exceptionally thick walls and everything needed to withstand a siege, it is also famous as the location of a fateful meeting in 1399 between Richard II and his rival to the crown, Henry Bolingbroke (later Henry IV) - an event immortalised in Shakespeare’s Richard II.
On leaving the castle, we follow the signs for the Wales Coast Path to an attractive wooded shoreline. Beyond here the flat path along the banks and salt marshes of the Dee estuary is easy to follow.
Four centuries ago the estuary was one of the busiest waterways in the world with countless ships sailing in from across the globe carrying cargoes of wine, spices and silk. But today it is a great place for wildlife and is one of Europe’s most important sites for wading birds and wildfowl
If it’s only a short walk we’re after, we can use the railway crossing at Bagillt to catch a bus back to Flint.
Soon after, the route splits slightly. We can go straight ahead, or fork right up a small hill to a large steel dragon which occupies a great viewpoint looking over the Dee estuary’s broad basin. It’s hard to imagine today, but the hill is actually a spoil heap from the long-closed Bettisfield colliery which once employed more than 600 men who mined seams of coal beneath the waters of the estuary.
Moving on, we eventually emerge at the picturesque Greenfield dock. Refurbished in 2010 this is a base for local fishermen and cocklers who gather their harvest sustainably on the estuary’s sandbanks in summer and autumn.
Here the Wales Cast Path continues along the shore, but our route turns inland towards Greenfield Valley. We can catch a bus back to Flint from here (although the need to change buses at Holywell will make it a longer journey) but it would be a shame to miss out on some of the significant attractions in Greenfield. To do so, we cross the main road at the pedestrian crossing and head left - shortly afterwards turn right into Greenfield Valley Heritage Park
The first landmark we see in the park are the remains of Basingwerk Abbey Part of a network of Cistercian settlements that once dotted Wales, the abbey was founded in 1131 and extensively remodelled in the thirteenth century. Although now in ruins, it still gives us an insight into the lives of the monks who called the place home.
We can pop in to the visitor centre nearby to get orientated with the park’s layout. There is also a museum (fee payable) charting the valley’s rich industrial and agricultural heritage. The Bakehouse Café & Restaurant and The Hatch here are good spots to rest our feet and get something to eat or drink before the final leg of our journey.
Continue on the tarmac path up the park, an eclectic mile-long mix of woodlands, streams, reservoirs, and the remains of a rich industrial heritage which made the area so important during the industrial revolution. After a mile or so turn right, following the signs to St Winefride’s Chapel and Holy Well.
A place of pilgrimage since at least 1115, the well is said to spring from the spot where 7th-century abbot St Beuno brought his niece Winefride back to life.
Reputedly the oldest continually visited pilgrimage site in Britain, people still come to bathe in its waters with their claimed healing properties.
The evocative chapel dates from the late fifteenth century, spring water bubbling up in a star-shaped basin beneath an elaborate ceiling before flowing out into a more recent outdoor pool.
Gruff Owen, Wales Coast Path officer for the North Wales coast, said: “This is a fabulously varied day on the Dee estuary taking in important historical military, religious and industrial sites - and much of the walk is alongside one of Europe’s top sites for birds.”
There are car parks at Flint castle, Greenfield Valley Heritage Park and Holywell. Regular bus services between Rhyl and Chester will get you back to Flint. However, ending the journey at Greenfield may require a change of buses at Holywell to get back to Flint. Parking at the end of the route and getting a bus to the start may save time waiting for buses after completing the walk.
Accessible toilets are available at Greenfield Valley Heritage Park and at St Winefride’s in Holywell. Public toilets in Flint and Holywell.
There are plenty of food and drink options at both Flint and Holywell. The Bakehouse Café & Restaurant and The Hatch in Greenfield Valley Heritage Park are good resting spots.
Download the Flint to Holywell route map (JPEG, 2.5MB)