This article has been produced in partnership with Eat Sleep Live Herefordshire
It’s not hard to see why Herefordshire was once considered the county that time forgot. The land here is ancient, the population is sparse, the open spaces roll on unimpeded and the timber-framed buildings look as if they’ve exited stage left from Shakespeare’s Globe.
The county’s traditions and rituals also have their feet planted firmly in another age. Head to Herefordshire on or around Twelfth Night in January, for instance, and the Anglo-Saxon custom of ‘wassailing’ hullabaloos through the county’s fruit orchards. Both visitors and locals alike coming to sing, shout and bang drums to ward off bad spirits and ensure a bountiful crop of fruit in the year ahead.
This historic tomfoolery seems to work: Herefordshire remains the UK’s cider county. Its hills sparkle with apple orchards and its hedgerows bulge with fruit; it’s also home to two cider giants, Bulmers and Westons, as well as many other smaller craft producers.
In short, Herefordshire does seem to tick to a sleepier beat than other counties. It’s infinitely less crowded (at least 95% of its landscape is still technically rural), and has yet to be fully discovered by the likes of you and I. But it is no less alluring than honeypot destinations such as the Cotswolds, Pembrokeshire, Devon and Cornwall.
In fact, because it is one of the country’s least crowded spots, because it is awash with heritage and tradition, and because the land is sweet and fertile (with the mighty River Wye charting its contoured course right through its belly), Herefordshire’s appeal is timeless.
So, whether you’re looking for a cycling, canoeing or walking adventure, or you want to kick back with incredible food and a pint of cider under the shade of an apple tree, you can. Herefordshire won’t let you down. It has, after all, stood the test of time.
Where is Herefordshire?
Herefordshire is the last of England, laid up against the wall of Wales. It is a border county with a turbulent history, flanked by Worcestershire and Shropshire to the North, Gloucestershire and Monmouthshire to the south, and Powys to the west. It makes up part of the Three Counties of England (comprising Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire), traditionally known as the agricultural and landowning counties. And is also bordered by the Black Mountains, the Malvern Hills, and The Brecon Beacons.
How do you get to Herefordshire?
Despite its rural location Herefordshire is very easy to get to. It takes under two hours to drive to Herefordshire from Bristol, Birmingham and Cardiff and around 3 hours’ drive from London and Manchester. The M5 runs along the east of the county and the main road into Herefordshire is the M50. If you’re travelling by train, there are railway stations at Hereford, Leominster, Colwall and Ledbury. Direct trains run daily from Birmingham New Street Station and also regularly from Manchester, Cardiff and London Paddington.
(Map Credit: Eat Sleep Live Herefordshire)
Saturday in Herefordshire
Visit this: Hereford Cathedral, the Mappa Mundi and Chained Library
Start your weekend in Herefordshire by heading to its capital, Hereford – one of the UK’s earliest cities, which sits on a loop of the River Wye. Developed extensively by the Normans, Hereford is dripping in antiquity (enough to rival other historical cities like Oxford or Durham).
Its golden-stone Gothic cathedral is Saxon in origin, built in the 7th-century, and is worth investigating for its unique architecture, impressive stained-glass windows and artwork. Whatever you do, however, don’t miss out on two of the Cathedral’s record-breaking world treasures: The Mappa Mundi and the Chained Library.
The incredible Mappa Mundi, is the largest surviving medieval map of the world. Made on a single sheet of vellum over 700 years ago, the map reveals how history and geography were understood in Christian Europe in the late 13th and early 14th centuries.
The Chained Library dates from a time when books were so precious they had to be locked up. And this particular example is the biggest chained library in the world, boasting a unique collection of 1,500 books dating back to the 8th century (many with their original security chains).
Cost: Hereford Cathedral is free to enter with a charge for activities such as tours. The Mappa Mundi & Chained Library costs £6 per person to enter.
Do this: Take a walking tour of Hereford and visit the Black and White Museum
Hereford has much to offer the history lover. Sink into the tales, legends and lore with a 90-minute walking tour by the Hereford Guild of Guides. Meeting outside the cathedral every day at 11:30 (except on Sundays when it’s 2:30pm), the walks are led by a trained volunteer and are a good return for a £5 investment (kids are £1).
Our guide, Linda, fizzed with local knowledge, sharing stories of Hereford’s notable buildings, bloody history and famous people. From the city’s Bishop’s Palace (one of the oldest continually housed residence in the UK) to its Coningsby Hospital, which may have inspired the Royal Hospital in Chelsea. From Nell Gwynne (English actress and mistress of Charles II who is thought to have been born in the city) to one of Hereford’s other most prominent residents, composer Edward Elgar, who was frequently seen on its streets.
The tour peeled back Hereford’s historical layers one-by-one. It also introduced us to the more modern side of Hereford: the city’s Independent Quarter, for instance, tucked away near the cathedral with many artisan shops, eateries and galleries.
Afterwards, detour to the city’s incredible Black and White House Museum. This magnificent Jacobean half-timbered building sits in the heart of Hereford City, furnished in period style. Built in 1621 and home in the past to butchers, saddlers and bankers, it’s a veritable time machine. Step inside, and modern Hereford pops like a bubble, leaving you spellbound in 17th-century life.
Cost: Black and White Museum (Adults £3, Children £2 (under 5s free), Family ticket £9.50 (2 adults and up to 3 children
Drink here: Soak up modern Hereford with cocktails at Saxtys
Saxtys in Widemarsh Street has bounced back into business after lying dormant for a couple of years. This Hereford social stalwart has an Instagrammable new look with neon signs, smart booths, a steel, glass and wood interior, and a cocktail menu that’s easy to get lost in.
During the day, it’s a great pitstop for food, serving sizzling hot rock steaks as well as a very good Sunday lunch. At night, the inventive cocktails flow fast and fresh so swing by to grab one if you’re out to paint the town red.
Cost: Cocktails from £8; Mains start from £12
Eat here: The Riverside at Aymestrey
Finish your Saturday night in Herefordshire at The Riverside at Aymestrey, one of the most picturesque pubs in Herefordshire. Sitting snugly by the clear waters of the River Lugg at the heart of the county, this 16th-century black and white timbered pub is a lovely mix of thick beams, low-slung ceilings, wooden floors, log burners, leather sofas and countryside art. If you have a four-legged pal in tow, no problem. It’s a dog-friendly pub offering a special table with mat and dog bowl for patrons with a wagging tale.
Eating here is a real treat. Whether you choose the cosy restaurant inside or the delightful riverside garden, the menus are superbly local and wonderfully inventive (try the battered Herefordshire snails just because you can).
Pigeon with parsnip, black pudding and fennel; Salt baked celeriac; truffle chips and Chase Gin and plum savarin are just some of the delights that’ll satiate taste buds. The service is as exquisite as the food. Despite complicated dietary needs, the head chef – Andrew Link – and his team went over and above to accommodate us, preparing separate dishes to ensure we ate without missing out.
Cost: Mains start from £13.50
Sunday in Herefordshire
Visit this: Herefordshire’s Stunning Necklace of Black and White Villages
Start Sunday north of Hereford on the county’s famous Black and White Village Trail. This self-guided 40-mile trail strings together 10 of the county’s prettiest old English villages, each studded with striking timbered and half-timber houses – many of which date from medieval times.
As well as the achingly-sweet houses and picture-book views, you’ll find superb tearooms, pubs, restaurants, and galleries in many of the villages. Drive, walk or cycle your way around the trail, starting at the market town of Leominster. Don’t miss our favourite villages on the trail: Weobley (pronounced Webbly), Sarnesfield, Kinnersely, Eardisley and Eardisland (both with a silent i).
Cost: Free (but you’ll need pennies on you to stop for hot buttered crumpets at one of the local tearooms).
Download: Map of Black and White Village Trail
Do this: Sip local cider on a Weston’s Cider Tour and Tasting
You can’t come to Hereforshire without sampling its biggest export (alongside its famous Hereford Cattle), cider. Yes, cider is the sparkling lifeblood of this county, thanks to Herefordshire’s rich, fertile soil and micro-climate that ensures the county’s orchards hang heavy with the juiciest apples.
As you get closer to Westons Cider Mill – one of the oldest cider-producing companies in the region and still independently owned by the same family – the sweet scent of apples scents in the air. A testament to Westons’ founder father, Henry Weston, who settled in this lush Herefordshire corner in 1878 and began producing ciders and perries. The rest, as they say, is history.
Take the fascinating 90-min tour of the Cider Mill to hear all about Henry Weston and go behind-the-scenes of this 5th-generation business. See the moment the apples roll in from the fields to the pulping and pressing. You’ll even get up-close with the hulking oak cider vats, the largest collection in the county.
Afterwards, enjoy a fabulous and generous tasting of Westons’ most-loved ciders followed by a wonderful 2-course lunch at onsite restaurant, Scrumpy House. Like the cider, the food is sparkling fresh and delicious – and the service upbeat. We loved the whole experience and can’t rate it highly enough.
Cost: Cider Mill Tour & Tasting with Two-Course Lunch, £26.50pp.
When: Tours run daily at 11am, 12.30pm, 2pm and 3.30pm and can be tailored to suit any party size.
Finish here: A la Carte at the wonderful New Inn, St Owen’s Cross
The food at The New Inn at St Owen’s Cross is amongst the best you’ll taste in Herefordshire – so finish your 48hours in Herefordshire here. The restaurant is headed up by award-winning chef, Michael Fowler, whose most recent partnership was with Chris Oakley, one of the first British Chefs to be awarded Michelin-star status at his restaurant. Michael’s menu is rooted in the Herefordshire landscape and its seasonality, using producers who also call this sweet land home.
We had the 7-course tasting menu (with wine) comprising, amongst other things: diver scallop with xo sauce (quite possibly the tastiest we’ve ever had), Creedy Carver Duck with croquette potato, carrot, cherry and port sauce (so succulent and rich we scraped the plate clean) and an ingenious milk, honey and whisky panna cotta (which was like tasting innocence from a bygone age). In a word, the entire experience was perfect – with the warm, friendly and attentive service to match.
Cost: £70pp without wine; £97.50pp with wine flight.
Where to stay in Herefordshire?
With its bounty of rural beauty, plus its many historical villages, market towns and hamlets, Herefordshire offers the weekend visitor a plethora of great places to stay. From dog-friendly cottages, historic hotels to romantic escapes, luxury treehouses and wonderful glamping, Herefordshire has it all. The difficulty is deciding whether to stay in town or hidden away in the countryside. Here are our top places to stay in Herefordshire.
Coaching Inn: New Inn, St Owens Cross
Wonky walls, exposed timbers, beautiful rooms, a head-turning black and white timber facade, and some of the best food in Herefordshire. Yup, The New Inn at St Owen’s Cross is more than just a spruced-up gastropub.
Historic Hotel: Green Dragon Hotel, Hereford
With roots dating back more than 900 years, The Green Dragon Hotel in Hereford is one of the oldest hotels in Britain. Traditional, historic and casting a striking presence in the centre of Hereford, this is a hotel with royal pedigree and a whole lot more besides. More places to stay in Hereford >
Waterfront Inn: Riverside Aymestery, Near Leominster
Sat next to the sparkling River Lugg in Herefordshire, the Riverside at Aymestery has cracked the code when it comes to superb food, exceptional service and a warm Herefordshire welcome. More places to stay in Leominster >
Romantic Manor House: Lemore Manor, Eardisley
A 17th-century manor house built from silver stone and one-time hunting lodge of the Bishop of Hereford. Lemore Manor sits within an 11-acred oasis with picture formal and informal gardens, wild flower meadows, Giant Redwoods, and hidden coppices.
Safari Tent Glamping: By the Wye
Roost in the trees, with the River Wye at your feet, and let the modern world melt away. By The Wye is the perfect Herefordshire glamping experience, just outside Hay on Wye.
Retro Glamping: Mad Dogs and Vintage Vans
Mad Dogs and Vintage Vans is an eco-friendly, off-grid boutique luxury Herefordshire glampsite in the Forest of Dean, featuring retro vintage vans dating from the 1930s! A short walk from Ross-on-Wye.
Self-catering Barn: The Hayloft
Bursting with rustic charm, The Hayloft is a luxury self-catering barn near Ross-on-Wye is perfect for the whole family. Sleeps up to 6 – plus one dog. More places to stay near Ross on Wye >
All the places feature here have been independently tried and tested by us. If you book something through the links on this page, we may earn an affiliate commission.