Itinerary:

The Watkins Way for Garden Lovers

A scenic driving tour with gorgeous gardens along the way

Drive through beautiful countryside, calling at heritage gems and delightful English gardens en route.

The Watkins Way winds along quiet country lanes to uncover secluded churches, crumbling castles and sacred stones which tell the story of Herefordshire's ancient past. This special itinerary also visits a series of inspirational gardens which dot the route, from riverside beauties to woodland delights. 

 

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Day 1: From Jacobean manor to picturesque country estate

After breakfast at The Feathers Hotel in Ledbury, drive a few miles to Much Marcle to make an early stop at Hellens Manor. Wander around the grounds of the fine Jacobean family home, looking out for the labyrinth, rare octagonal dovecote, physic garden and wildflower meadow. Pop into the cosy tearoom for a morning coffee, before departing for Woolhope and the official start of the Watkins Way

Take in the views from Dinedor Hill and the intricate carvings of Kilpeck Church and then pause for lunch at the Kilpeck Inn which serves up excellent seasonal dishes.

Take a short detour from the route to visit the gardens at Kentchurch Court which were influenced by the picturesque landscape style. Roses adorn the 14th century arch, whilst the rhododendron wood is particularly lovely in spring. The walled garden always offers an amazing display, from geraniums and digitalis to nepeta and rudbekia.

Travelling onwards, take in the tranquility of Dore Abbey and Clodock Church, as well as the remains of Longtown Castle.

Your final stop for the day is the pretty riverside village of Michaelchurch Escley. Peek into the ancient church before making your way to The Bridge Inn for a fantastic dinner. We recommend you sample the gin made in the tiny distillery next door. A few steps away The Bridge Farmhouse offers comfortable accommodation.

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Poppies lining a path along the road to Hellens Manor
Hellens Manor
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Kilpeck Inn
Roast dinner at the Kilpeck Inn
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Romanesque carvings at Kilpeck Church
The marvellous romanesque carvings of Kilpeck Church
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Sun setting over Dore Abbey
The sun sets over Dore Abbey, an ancient Golden Valley monument from the 12th Century
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Inside small church
Clodock Church
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Longtown Castle
The ruins of Longtown Castle, an 11th century motte-and-bailey built over the earthworks of a Roman fort
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Large black and white historic hotel with hanging baskets of flowers
The Feathers Hotel

Day 2: From water gardens to champion trees

Start with day journeying onward through the untouched Golden Valley. You'll find the lost castle of Snodhill and the atmospheric Neolithic Arthur's Stone which predates Stonehenge by a millennium. Bredwardine is your next port of call. The peaceful church was once the parish of Reverend Francis Kilvert, the Victorian clergyman known for his country diaries. 

The hamlet is also home to Brobury House Gardens. Sitting on the banks of the River Wye, water is a recurring theme, from the Lutyens-inspired pool with double steps and parterre to the bog garden at the end of the specimen tree walk. Informal paths follow a stream through woodland with architectural planting, leading to the two-acre watermeadow beyond. Enjoy a bite to eat at their seasonal pop up cafe or try the nearby Red Lion Hotel

Meander on through the picture-perfect Black and White villages, calling at the 70-acre Hergest Croft Gardens on the drive between Eardisley and the show-stopping Pembridge. Enjoy the National Collections of maples and birches, the Kitchen Garden with its herbaceous borders and old-fashioned scented roses and Park Wood, which has a Himalayan feel thanks to its giant rhododendrons and exotic trees.Tea and cake in the gardens' Maples Tearoom is a must. 

Later, wind your way  to Weobley for dinner at the cosy Jules Restaurant or Ye Olde Salutation InnStay the night in the half-timbered pub or cross the road to Mellington House B&B.

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Garden walkway surrounded by flowers on a sunny day
Hergest Croft Gardens in the town of Kington
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Victorian house and gardens
Brobury House and Gardens, Bredwardine
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Outdoor view of small restaurant with pot plants and canopy
Jules Restaurant in the beautiful village of Weobley
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Arthur's Stone
Neolithic monument Arthur's Stone
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Outdoor view of the ruins of a castle on a mound with sheep and trees

Day 3: From formal landscapes to relaxed garden gems

The next morning, make for Shobdon to see the enchanting wedding cake church and travel on to  uncover Wigmore Castle, once the stronghold of the powerful Mortimer family.  Head west to Richards Castle, wandering through the wildflower filled churchyard to the serene castle remains.

Take your pick from National Trust Croft Castle with its walled garden and ancient trees, and National Trust Berrington which is Capability Brown's final landscape. Both make perfect coffee stops too. 

Onwards to Stockton Bury Gardens, a relaxed spot, praised for its unusual plants and inspiring design. Discover the kitchen garden, water garden, medieval pigeon house and secret garden. Make time for a home-cooked lunch in the Tithe Barn cafe and a mooch around the plant sales area.

A few miles away is Hampton Court Castle with its highly acclaimed gardens, featuring herbaceous borders, pleached avenues, island pavilions, canals and a 150-year old wisteria tunnel. Look out over the lawns with a cup of tea in the Orangery.

Finish the day in Hereford, staying near the Cathedral at Castle House or Green Dragon HotelBoth have excellent in-house restaurants, alternatively try The BookshopPonte Vecchio or Cotto

Before departing, squeeze in one last garden with a trip to National Trust Weir Garden, a natural riverside delight.

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Shobdon Church
Shobdon Church
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The ruins of an entrance to a castle with grass walkway and winter trees
Entrance to Wigmore Castle
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Stockton Bury House
Stockton Bury Gardens
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The Weir Garden
The Weir Garden, photo by David Sellman