The rolling green hills of Herefordshire

Will Harris


The county of Herefordshire is home to some of the most picturesque walks and hidden historic towns. A stroll through the Wye River Valley — recently used for the filming of hit Netflix series Sex Education — offers nature-lovers the chance to cleanse their minds. Exploring the market towns of Hay and Ross-on-Wye takes visitors back to medieval England, not to mention Hay’s legendary name as the booktown of Britain.

Discover Hay-on-Wye: Britain's booktown

Sitting on the border between Wales and the medieval English county of Herefordshire is the little town of Hay-on-Wye. While historic in its own right, thanks to a central castle which remains to this day, Hay has made a new name for itself over the past fifty years by being the booktown of Britain. In its heyday (pardon the pun), Hay was home to more than fifty independent booksellers. Today, that number is slightly smaller but you still can’t walk more than ten metres without catching sight of a quaint and curious bookshop.

Hay is a sweet and darling place to roam around; there are plenty of opportunities to grab a coffee, get some lunch, or have a drink at the local pub. There are even inns and b&bs to stay at. But the bookshops are why people come from far and wide, every single day, to visit Hay-on-Wye.

The town’s most iconic bookshop is named after the man who transformed the town in the first place: Richard Booth’s Bookshop. This enormous wooden building stands out amongst its old stone neighbours and offers a captivating atmosphere for bookworms to browse for hours on end. Then there are the themed bookshops like Murder and Mayhem, a place which specialises in crime, horror, and mystery novels.

Hay-on-Wye is a place where the magic of books can literally be felt in the air. Come for the books, stay for the warm food, friendly company, and great country pubs.

Walks Along the Wye River Valley

The Wye River Valley is an officially designated Area of Outstanding Beauty in Herefordshire. The area, while peaceful and tranquil, is perhaps best known for its usage in TV and film. The nearby Forest of Dean is frequently used by Hollywood studios for the filming of such big-name franchises as Star Wars. And the Wye Valley itself is the setting and filming location for the breakout Netflix hit show Sex Education, starring Gillian Anderson.

Walks along the Wye Valley take you through areas of dense forest, along the river itself, and through small, picturesque villages. But the area’s most iconic landmark is, without a doubt, Tintern Abbey. This incredible structure, made famous by William Wordsworth’s poetry, attracts tourists from all around the world.

Located in the village of Tintern, the abbey was founded in 1131 and, though it fell to ruin back in the 16th century due to the Dissolution of the Monasteries, its shell remains almost perfectly intact today; more remains than ruins as it still stands upright and proud. Tickets must be purchased outside for entry, but there is plenty of parking nearby, as well as pubs where food and drink can be enjoyed.

The Historic Market Town of Ross-on-Wye

While the central hub of Herefordshire is the city after which the county is named, Hereford, the smaller market town of Ross-on-Wye offers a far more pleasurable and interesting day of exploration and discovery. Unlike the city of Hereford, Ross-on-Wye actually sits within the Area of Outstanding Beauty that is the Wye River Valley.

While much of the town has been modernised over the past decades, Ross is a unique town that still has so much of its medieval roots intact. The most famous and prominent landmark to represent this is The Market House, a building which stands atop the sloping hill that is the town centre. The original medieval building was likely made of wood and is now gone, but the stone building which still stands in its place was built back in 1650. On the ground floor, market stalls are still put out, and the upstairs area houses an arts and crafts centre.

The town itself also boasts hidden gems such as the local but flourishing Rossiter Books: a charming independent bookshop in the heart of Ross, right beside the iconic Market House building.

Forest Hikes in Aconbury Wood

The UK has no shortage of charming, captivating, often magical woodland areas to explore. But the lesser-known Aconbury Wood, which sits between Ross-on-Wye and the city of Hereford, is a wonderful place to escape everything and get lost amongst the bluebells for a few hours.

The woodland reaches up slowly, offering views of the city of Hereford once at the top. It’s an area that’s large enough to roam for hours but not so large as to get lost or tired easily. In the spring, especially in April, the forest floor becomes an ocean of bluebells and snowdrops. It is one of the most intoxicating, almost hypnotising sights that the British countryside has to offer.

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