A9: The Lower Wye Gorge- Western Circuit: a Grotto, a Cave, an Eagle’s nest and 365 steps

This is an exciting circular walk, which begins in the woods of the old Piercefield estate where Valentine Morris created fantasy walks complete with a grotto, a giant’s cave and spectacular viewpoints. It continues up to the well named Eagle’s nest, and returns past the Lovers’ Leap, Chepstow Racecourse and the ruins of Piercefield House.


  • Grade: Moderate. Although some of the route is easy, there are some steep drops where you walk along the edge, woodland paths with tangled tree roots, stones to navigate, and two steepish climbs. There is also a dangerous bit of road to cross over, so small children and people who don’t move as easily as they used to, would be better returning from the Eagle’s nest the same way they came. There is also a metal open rung staircase – which our dog didn’t like the first time she went up it.
  • Length: 6.5 miles
  • Key Features: A fantasy grotto and cave; the ruins of Piercefield House.Wonderful far reaching views up the Wye valley, particularly of the Bristol channel and Severn Bridges.
  • Refreshments: Chepstow

For an interactive version of this map click the image above or here


This walk begins at the leisure centre in Chepstow. If you walk away from the Leisure Centre building through the car park you’ll find the Wye valley walk is signposted on your left. Follow the path, through a wall and right down some steps. You will eventually reach ‘The Platform’ (you will know it when you get there!). About 150 yards after ‘The Platform’ where the trail branches, you should bear right.

Continue to follow the Wye valley path markers, past the grotto, and looking to your right for glimpses of the cliffs on the opposite side of the gorge.

When you come to a point where a path indicated by yellow arrow goes off to the left, you follow the permitted path indicated by a white arrow, on the right. Continue to follow the permitted path, signed with white arrows.

Just after you emerge from the Giants cave ( the tunnel), there is a small path to the left – ignore this and keep right, continuing until you come to a car park.

Here you cross over the A466, following the signs to ‘365 steps’. Continue to follow these signs, wending your way between intertwined yew trees and rocks. Most of the stretch is stone steps, but towards the top a metal staircase has been installed to help people get up a rock scramble.

When you get to the track at the top (where a seat is kindly provided ) turn right. After a few 100 yards you’ll come across another broad track to your right, which uses timber retainers to form steps. This takes you down to the Eagle’s nest viewing point.

When you finish looking at the views, retrace your steps, but instead of going down the 365 steps, continue straight on. This route takes you to a small car park – as you approach this turn leftwards at a tangent to the car park, along a downhill path.

Once at the car park you have a choice. You can go back the way you came, to avoid negotiating a short but treacherous piece of road, or you can go back a different way.

If you want to retrace your steps continue along the path and it will take you back to the point where you crossed over the A466 originally.

If you want to go back a different way, go along the path for a few hundred yards, until a really quite small path goes off on your right. Follow this, until you get to a lane where you turn left (at the point you turn if you look straight ahead of you there is an amazing old sweet chestnut tree).

The lane takes you on to the A466. You want to get to a stone gateway about 200 yards to your left and on the other side of the road. At this point on the A466 there is a double bend in the road, it is relatively narrow, and vehicles drive fast. We waited until we could not hear any cars coming, and began by walking along the verge on the left hand side, and then crossed over to the right. You should make sure at all times that you have some space you can jump into if necessary.

Go through the stone gateway, and turn left along the woodland path. Keep the racecourse on your right. A few hundred yards down the path and on your left there is a small track to a viewpoint called Lover’s leap. From this viewpoint, if you look across and to your left you will see some cliffs – that’s the Eagle’s nest which you’ve just come from.

The path comes to a point where there is a stile on your right and steep steps downhill to your left – and here you go left.

This takes you down to the path which you walked on earlier, and you turn right. Continue along the path for some distance, going past some newly exposed structures on your right ( they look like lime kilns to me when I saw them New Year’s Day 2013 – any more information welcome). In about a couple of hundred yards keep your eyes open for a post, situated very near to a tree. If you reach the grotto – you’ve gone too far! The post has a white arrow on indicating the path you are on, but as you pass the post you will see a yellow sign higher up on it indicating a barely discernible path which goes off to the right. Follow this tenuous trail, taking a diagonal route through the trees to a stile. Go over the stile, and straight on to the ruins of Piercefield house.

Continue along the path which goes in front of the ruins, and begins to bear left onto a track, going round the field. You will find yourself going towards a view of the old Severn Bridge framed by two trees. The track then heads towards the racecourse buildings, and you’ll find yourself near the southwest corner of the racecourse. Go through a gate, and continue along the track.

You eventually walk through an arched stone gateway, then turn left on the pavement and back to the Leisure centre

The walk

The first part of this walk, through the Piercefield estate, invokes the walk as it was 200 years ago – and the people who walked it. Some of the features which were created are still there, but some of the viewpoints, ‘The Platform’ for example, have been reclaimed by trees – particularly young yews. You can find more about the Piercefield estate here. There’s some interesting correspondence about the grotto here. Piercefield formed part of the tours of the Wye valley which were part of the ‘Picturesque’ movement of the late 18th and 19th centuries, and you can find our more through the AONB website.

People sometimes think that nature is quiet – well all I can say is that on the day we did this walk the birds must have been having their own equivalent of a rave. Just outside Chepstow, there were masses of swirling small birds (I couldn’t really see them properly) with a very high pitched shrieking call. When we left them behind the seagulls replaced them with their own party, which was trying to compete with the cawing of hordes of crows.

To continue with the birds theme, we finished this walk in darkness (the clocks had just changed and we misjudged the time the walk would take!). For the very last part of the walk through woods, we had to gauge where the path was, and not worry too much about being up to our ankles in mud. It had been raining earlier in the day, and the only thing visible through the darkness were white wisps of mist – and the soundtrack was an owl duet. Very fitting.

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