Special Stays: Take Night Sanctuary in Remote Churches
Designed to be cycled or hiked, The Golden Valley Pilgrim Way offers night sanctuary at seven medieval churches, with a further two churches offering accommodation in a church hall and bell tent.
You can now even stay overnight in the Cloisters of the iconic Hereford Cathedral, thought to be the first time that pilgrims have been able to stay in Anglican cathedral precincts since Medieval times.
Advance booking for all stays is required, for further details email email@example.com. A donation of £20 per person is requested for an overnight at each location which can be paid at the time of booking. Reduced fees are offered to larger parties.
A beautifully illustrated pilgrim credential ('passport'), which can be stamped in each church, is also available via the email above.
The churches are all - bar one - sited in villages with excellent country pubs, with nearby local stores for stocking up on packed lunch provisions.
Day 1: Hereford Cathedral to Ewyas Harold, 16 miles
Arrive the day before to make time to visit the incredible Mappa Mundi, the largest surviving medieval map of the world, as well as the biggest chained library on the planet. Pretty cafes line the nearby Church Street and you can also pick up tasty goodies for your journey at Fodder, The Mousetrap Cheese Shop and The Little Deli.
A unique experience awaits - the opportunity to spend the night in the Cloisters of Hereford Cathedral. Then in the morning set off from the city, via Portway and on to Kilpeck. The village is home to a stunning church, famed for its 12th-century carvings in the Romanesque style. Stop for refreshment at the Kilpeck Inn before pedalling on to Ewyas Harold.
Your bed for the night is at St Michael's and All Angels Church, with all facilities in the Parish Hall. For supper, pick from the welcoming Temple Bar Inn (which also offers B&B) or The Old Stables Fish & Chips. There's also a brilliant village stores for buying bits and pieces for the next day's biking.
Day 2: Ewyas Harold to Michaelchurch Escley, 20 miles
Setting off the next day, stock up on a couple of bottles of local cider at nearby Ty Gwyn Cider (short detour) before pedalling on to Rowlestone Farm for an energy-boosting coffee and farm-fresh ice cream. Then it's on to Walterstone where you can call in at the pretty little church and perhaps grab a bite to eat at the cosy Carpenter's Arms.
Cycling along the quiet lanes, you'll arrive in magical Clodock. Here the church stands beside the River Monnow. Sit awhile on the large flat stones before hunting down St Clydawg's Well, on the eastern bank of the river, and grabbing at drink at The Cornewall Arms which is charmingly lost in time.
The imposing Black Mountains are within easy view here and whilst, night sanctuary is available in the church, cyclists may prefer to push on through Longtown with its fantastic castle ruins (plus the Crown Inn and superb shop, Hopes of Longtown), heading steadily uphill before the rapid descent into Michaelchurch Escley.
St Michaels and All Angels Church offers night sanctuary and has facilities for making hot drinks, whilst the Bridge Inn next door offers its toilets and showers to pilgrims (as well as a campsite). In the evening, dine at this same establishment, which sits in a splendid spot by the river and focuses on seasonal produce.
Day 3: Michaelchurch to Dorstone, 16 miles
The onward route skirts the foothills of the Black Mountains, heading for Hay-on-Wye, the towns of books. Allow time for a meander around the pretty streets which are alive with art galleries, homeware stores, antiques emporia, and, of course countless bookshops. Relax in boho cafes or, if you time your visit for a Thursday morning, make for the market with stalls piled high with gorgeous edible goodies and much more.
Head east for Dorstone and before reaching the village, put in some powerful pedalling to climb the hill to Arthur's Stone, a Neolithic burial chamber which pre-dates Stonehenge by a Millennium.
On to Dorstone village, where cyclists can advance book a tasting at the award-winning Pips Cider. Tonight's stay is at the beautiful St Faith's Church, which has a portaloo as well as basic washing and cooking facilities. Round off the day at The Pandy Inn with a pint and a well-deserved pub meal.
Day 4: Dorstone to Tyberton or Madley, 16 miles/ 19.5 miles
In the morning, take a short detour to Snodhill Castle, one of the UK's earliest Norman castles. Ongoing excavations reveal new finds, but the views from the keep are always superb.
The route then takes you to Bredwardine, where you can peek into St Andrew's Church with its Sheela na gig before wandering along to see the remains of the ancient motte and fish pools. This tranquil spot by the River Wye was made for a picnic lunch or try the Red Lion Hotel. Alternatively take a short detour to Brobury House Gardens & Cafe.
Bike on towards Moccas Wood - where distraction lies in the form of further bike trails, time permitting. There's two options for the evening. You could eat at the Yew Tree in Preston-on-Wye and then cycle 3.5 miles to Tyberton where accommodation is offered in St Mary's Church, complete with portaloo, washing up and hot drink-making facilities.
Alternatively, carry on cycling to Madley (3.5 miles on from Tyberton) where you can take supper at the Comet Inn or the Red Lion (also has rooms available). Night sanctuary is also offered at Madley Church or Stables, with all facilities in the Stables. The Madley Crypt recently featured in a guide to Britain's best 500 sacred spaces, highlights include the stained glass and the triptych and further contemporary paintings by artist Ed Kelly.
Day 5: Tyberton/ Madley to Hereford, 10 miles/7.5 miles
On the final day, grab some snacks at the Village Store in Madley before travelling via Eaton Bishop to see the famed stained glass of St Michael and All Angels Church.
Then, it's time to make your return to Hereford. At the Cathedral, celebrate your journey by paying homage to the pilgrims' scallop shell symbol, engraved in the paving at the entrance to the North Porch, as well as the small medieval carving of a pilgrim figure on the left-hand side as you enter the porch.
Finish off your trip with a delicious meal at The Bookshop.