In Herefordshire, you’re never far from a good view – mostly because this most rural county is a beautiful bucolic picture framed by dramatic highlands. It’s flanked to the west by the Black Mountains demarcating the Welsh border, and to the east by the Malvern Hills shared with Worcestershire. The north – Mortimer Country – is dominated by a range running from Ludlow to Kington and beyond to Hergest Ridge, while in the south the meanders of the Wye are flanked by forested hills.
And there’s no shortage of undulations in between. Between Hereford and the county’s densest cluster of famed Black and White Villages rise a series of wooded hills, their flanks patchworked with cider apple and perry pear orchards. northeast of the county town, Bromyard Downs and Brinstey Common offer wonderfully wild but gentle walks. Between Ledbury and the Malverns, Eastnor Castle and its historic deer park nestle into verdant folds.
All in all, it’s a dream for walkers, painters, photographers and nature-lovers – yet largely free from the crowds that flock to more widely vaunted honeypots. Chances are you’ll find its trails blissfully empty, whether you’re tracing dramatic ridges in the Black Mountains, hopping between castle views along the Mortimer Trail, or tackling the ‘easy peaks’ of Hergest Ridge and wild-pony-grazed Garway Hill – the county’s highest prominence.
Regions to Roam
The Black Mountains
Offa’s Dyke Path, the long-distance trail tracing the ancient earthwork raised by the eighth-century Mercian king along the Welsh border, follows the high line of Hay Bluff, providing magical views over the Vale of Ewyas and east across Herefordshire. From Hay-on-Wye, it’s a rewarding ramble south onto the bluff, along the Black Hill and onto spectacular Crib y Garth, known locally as the Cat’s Back, to drink in a panoramic vista across the Olchon Valley. Farther north, the trail traverses Hergest Ridge to Kington.
The 30-mile Mortimer Trail is a waymarked route snaking along the cohort of hills stretching from Ludlow to Kington, taking in the steep summit of High Vinnalls in Mortimer Forest, the Iron Age hillfort atop Croft Ambrey, wooded Shobdon Hill and the ancient pillow mounds on Wapley Hill. But there are countless footpaths to wander in these hills. End an exploration of forested Wigmore Rolls with a visit to its namesake castle below, for example, or veer off along the Herefordshire Trail to discover the remains of the Norman motte and bailey at Richard’s Castle.
The ridge running between the Wye Valley and River Dore is an alluring series of prominences providing – as you’ve come to expect in Herefordshire – gorgeous vistas. There’s Moccas Hill, site of a Norman deer park and now the site of a charming nature reserve, with views over both valleys. Sheer-sided Merbach Hill is crossed by both the Wye Valley Way and the Herefordshire Trail – the latter continuing south to one of the county’s most atmospheric ancient sites, the Neolithic burial chamber known as Arthur’s Stone. And south of Abbey Dore, the action switches to the other flank of the Golden Valley, among the wildflowers and ponies of Ewyas Harold Common.
Days Out in The Hills
Highlights Among the Hills
Combine a stroll on Bromyard Downs or Brinstey Common with a visit to this well-preserved medieval manor, amidst glorious apple orchards, woodlands and hills. Today, visitors are welcome to explore the rooms reflecting a range of different eras, from the medieval Great Hall to the nostalgic 1950s-style parlour. It’s a spectacular treat in spring, when damson trees are festooned with beautiful blossoms.
Meet the mammalian residents of the deer park on an amble into the foothills of the Malverns – and spare time to discover this magnificent Georgian Castle near Ledbury, with its glorious grounds, lake and arboretum. The castle’s lavish interiors are graced with medieval armour, fine art and a Gothic-style drawing room designed by Pugin.
Climb the southern slopes of the Great Doward, the hill rising above the northern banks of the Wye west of Symonds Yat, to explore beautiful broadleaf woodland bustling with birds including lesser spotted woodpeckers and hawfinches. Look out for the namesake caves amid the limestone quarries that sculpted this distinctive historic landscape.