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Why You Should Visit Hereford: Sights, Art, & History

Why You Should Visit Hereford: Sights, Art, & History

the-black-and-white-house-museum

Hereford is an idyllic little city that’s very much off the beaten path as English towns go. Having been born there, it’s amazing how many people – even people from neighbouring Bristol and Cardiff – ask me the question: where is Herefordshire? Its out-of-the-way nature is just one reason to visit Hereford. There’s plenty more to see and do when you visit Hereford.

While it is perhaps best known for the Herefordshire cattle and the Hereford bull, trust us that there’s plenty more to see and do when you visit Hereford than just admire the Hereford bull. There are some stunning hotels in Hereford, as well as historic homes, a cider museum, and some fantastic little day trips to neighbouring towns and historic sites. Let us be your Hereford tourist information guide as we take you around all the most charming and beautiful parts of Herefordshire – from Hereford town centre to nearby Hay-on-Wye and Ross-on-Wye.

Hereford Town Centre

Let’s start in the centre and work our wat out. Hereford is a city, but those who ask the infamous question ‘where is Herefordshire?’ will be the same to call it a town rather than a city, given its size. But with size comes charm, and you’ll find that aplenty in Hereford town centre when you visit Herefordshire.

Hereford Cathedral

hereford-cathedral

Hereford Cathedral is a stunning structure. One of my favourites, and one of the most underrated cathedrals in England. It sits easily on par with Exeter Cathedral and York Cathedral for its epic scale and gothic stature. Reminiscent of the old laws of England which stated that no building in a city could be taller than the cathedral, Hereford Cathedral still stands head-and-shoulders above everything else in the city, and can be seen like a beacon plainly as you enter Hereford.

The bishop’s chapel inside Hereford Cathedral dates all the way back to the 11th century, though history of the grounds as a place of worship can be traced all the way back to the 7th century!

One of the very coolest things about Hereford Cathedral, and about Hereford city itself, is the cathedral’s housing of the Mappa Mundi. A legendary piece of medieval treasure, the Mappa Mundi is a sort of spiritual of the entire world as the church saw it when the map was drawn – in around 1300. Jerusalem lies at the centre of the map, and the entire Mappa Mundi charts a Christian interpretation of the medieval world on a single sheet of calfskin. What brings the map to life are the drawings etches across it which detail spiritial cities of power, as well as biblical and religious events throughout history until 1300. The Mappa Mundi is considered to be the single most important medieval map in existence, and too few people know that it is permanently housed in Hereford Cathedral for anyone to see.

chained-library
©Hereford Cathedral

The other incredible unique thing about Hereford Cathedral is its chained library. All the way through medieval England, for a thousand years until the 18th century, libraries would chain their books as a security measure. If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, you will have seen these chained books in The Citadel, where Sam trains as a maester. The chained library in Hereford cathedral is the largest remaining chained library in Britain, and every book, shelf, chain, and lock inside dates back to the 17th century. It is an incredible placed of living history with a terrifying gothic atmosphere and a wealth of knowledge inside – with some books dating back as far as the 8th century!

Read More: 5 Literary Cities to Visit in the UK

The Black and White House Museum

the-black-and-white-house-museum

While most towns would probably choose a name like ‘The Tudor House’, Hereford went for a more direct and literal approach with ‘The Black and White House’ because, well, it’s black and white. What has stood in the very heart of Hereford town centre since 1621 has existed as a museum since 1929. Inside the Black and White House Museum, you’ll find a recreation of Jacobean life, complete with original furnishings, tools and utensils, clothes, and toys common of life in the 17th century. The most beautiful aspects of the museum are its paintings and its four-poster bed.

Admission is just £2.50 for adults and £1.50 for children.

The Black and White House Museum makes for one of the most romantic and historic sites in Hereford Town Centre, and its photographability is doubles by the recent inclusion of a grand black statue of the famous Hereford bull standing proud just in front of the Black and White House. The city is proud of the Hereford bull – in fact, you’ll find Hereford steakhouses all across Scandinavia – and so it’s no surprise that a statue of the Hereford bull can finally be seen in the very heart of Hereford town centre.

Hereford Cider Museum

Found a short walk beyond Hereford town centre, near to where Hereford Cattle Market once stood, is the Hereford Cider Museum. Herefordshire has a deep history of cider brewing, and as a result cider is beloved in the county of Herefordshire. In fact, the world famous Bulmers cider brewery hails from Hereford – specifically from a family orchard in the Herefordshire village of Credenhill. The Hereford Cider Museum invites visitors to learn about the both the deep history and the fascinating method and process of cider brewing. It also proudly houses a collection of cider-related artefacts such as old mills, vintage bottles, cider presses, and vintage advertising used decades ago. This quaint and delightful museum is a must-visit for anyone who loves their cider and anyone who decides to visit Herefordshire.

The Courtyard Centre for the Arts

This modern theatre can be found on Edgar Street, Hereford, directly opposite the football grounds. It’s an excellent local theatre that puts on a number of great shows. At the time of writing this, The Courtyard Centre is showing a stage adaptation of Dickens’ Great Expectations. If you’re looking for a cheap, high-quality night at the theatre in a quiet English town, The Courtyard in Hereford is a fantastic option. From pantomimes to touring stand-up comics and classic theatre productions, you’ll find almost anything at The Courtyard. Just check their website before you go to see what’s on when you visit Hereford.

Hereford Old Bridge

As you can probably tell from the city’s name, Hereford was built on a river. The Hereford river is, in fact, the River Wye – Britain’s fifth longest river. The Wye spends most of its time in Wales, which probably explains why so many people think Hereford is in Wales (it does, to be fair, sit just on the English side of the border to mid-Wales). The River Wye cuts straight through Hereford, bridged by the Old Bridge – officially named the Wye Bridge. The bridge has been rebuilt and reinforced countless times over the century, but records date it back at least as far as the 12th century. It’s one of the most picturesque spots in the city. If you stand on the south side of the river, you can take a perfect photo of the stonework, the river below, and the cathedral rising from the greenery in the background.

Cross the Old Bridge into town and you’ll find immediately to your left The Black Lion. This medieval 16th century inn is considered the most haunted by in Hereford and, by some, to be the most haunted pub in Britain! With a charming and somehow eldritch Tudor façade of black and white, it’s the most traditional old pub you’ll find and a great place to relax with a pint – if you don’t mind the ghosts, that is.

Read More: Explore Harry Potter’s London

Day Trips from Hereford

There are a lot of wonderful towns and cities close to Hereford that are worth exploring when you visit Hereford. The Hereford location, while invisible to some, makes for a surprisingly good hub. The three cities of Birmingham, Bristol, and Cardiff are all only a one-hour driver from Hereford, making the Hereford location, as I said, a great location indeed! But, if you don’t fancy going that far out of your way to a big city, and you’re looking to stay within the bounds of this rural county, let’s take a look at some of the best nearby places that make for a perfect day trip from Hereford.

Hay-on-Wye

Hay On Wye Travel Booktown

Hay-on-Wye is the ultimate day trip from Hereford. We’ve already written extensively about Hay-on-Wye here (and even made a video) but to summarise: Hay-on-Wye is Britain’s book town. It’s a town in Herefordshire, straddling the Welsh border, and is chock full of various kinds of bookshops. Being a books and travel blog, you could safely call this our version of heaven. (The sad thing is, I grew up not being a big reader – as I’ve talked about here – and so although I grew up a 20-minute drive from Britain’s book town, I didn’t actually visit until becoming a bookish adult!)

Hay-on-Wye is small. It’s a condensed little town with a huge car park. Park your car there for a good few hours and then take an afternoon to stroll through this gorgeous old town, complete with a central castle! Hay-on-Wye has been known as the book town of Britain for fifty years, and is still home to a range of amazing booksellers, from Murder and Mayhem (who sell only thrillers, mystery books, detective novels, and horror novels) to the Poetry Bookshop and the crown jewel of Richard Booth’s Bookshop. Richard Booth (who sadly passed away in 2019) was the man who transformed his hometown of Hay into a book-lover’s paradise. His bookshop is a stunning three-storey wooden structure and is everything a booklover could ever want in a bookshop.

To learn more about what to do in Hay-on-Wye, where to eat, where to stay, and the best bookshops, check out our article and video here!

Ross-on-Wye

ross-on-wye
©Visit Ross-on-Wye

From one town on the River Wye to another. Ross-on-Wye is a town a few miles south of Hereford – easily accessible by car or bus (fun fact: the village where I grew up sits just between Hereford and Ross-on-Wye, nestled against a gorgeous forest). Ross is a darling little market town that’s easy to explore in a leisurely stroll.

You’ll find all the great quintessential small English market town qualities in Ross: tailors, thrift stores, butchers, bakers, antique stores, and a lovely little independent bookseller called Rossiter Books. This little bookshop sells a wide selection of popular releases, all the newest bestsellers, and even some darling literary tote bags (you know, the lovely Penguin ones).

At the top of Ross town centre is a lovely medieval stone market hall, all pillars and a high ceiling, sitting atop a podium and looking like a miniature acropolis. Known as The Market House, it was built around 1650 and is still in use today!

Gloucester

Although Herefordshire and Gloucester are neighbouring counties, it’s very easy to get from Hereford to Gloucester for a day trip, or even just an afternoon away. The bus from Hereford to Gloucester (no. 33) leaves from Hereford town centre, passes through Ross-on-Wye, and gets from Hereford to Gloucester within an hour. But what is there to see when you arrive?

Well, Gloucester has arguably far better shopping opportunities than Hereford. So, going from Hereford to Gloucester for a quick day of shopping is pretty normal. Gloucester Quays is where you want to go for just that. It’s a shopping area with plenty of variety – from cheap clothing stores to more upmarket options.

For sightseeing, you can’t do better than Gloucester Cathedral. If you’re a Harry Potter film fan, you might already know that the cloisters in Gloucester Cathedral were used for the filming of Hogwarts’ interior in the first, second, and sixth Harry Potter films.

The House of the Tailor of Gloucester is the Beatrix Potter museum of Gloucester. You’ll find it in College Court, right beside Gloucester Cathedral. The Tailor of Gloucester was Beatrix Potter’s own favourite book she ever created, and so the House of the Tailor of Gloucester is a must-visit museum and shop for any Beatrix Potter fan, and the perfect way to memorialise her work and her legacy. It’s a charming little house and the giftshop features numerous Beatrix Potter books, toys, collectibles, and general gifts to make the heart of any Beatrix Potter fan soar.

Read More: 5 Bookish Holidays (UK & Ireland)

Hotels in Hereford

If you plan on seeing all the sights, exploring Hereford town centre, and taking a few day trips to Ross-on-Wye, Hay-on-Wye, and heading from Hereford to Gloucester for the day, then you’ll want to get some Hereford accommodation. Here are a few great hotels in Hereford to choose from when you visit Hereford.

The Green Dragon

Aye, the hotel with the same name as the one in Hobbiton, and one almost as charming! Situated just up the road from Hereford Cathedral, The Green Dragon is a very ostentatious Hereford hotel, and a famous building that’s as much part of the city as the Black and White House Museum. Despite how ostentatious it is, The Green Dragon is surprisingly and delightfully affordable! A stunning drawing-room style bar with a fireplace, spacious rooms with wingback chairs, and the option of enjoying a full English breakfast make this one of the best hotels in Hereford, especially given its central location.

Book a room here!

Holly House Bed and Breakfast Apartments

Arguably even more fancy than the Green Dragon, Hotel is Holly House Bed and Breakfast Apartments. A stylish townhouse with a Georgian aesthetic that feels like the kind of place Jane Austen might have lived or stayed in. It’s found at Aylestone Hill, just half a mile from Hereford Cathedral, and offers peace and tranquillity while still being very much central. For a vintage, historic stay in Hereford, Holly House makes for one of the very best hotels in Hereford.

Book a room here!

Castle House Hotel

Since we’re on an upward trajectory, Castle House Hotel is perhaps the most luxurious of hotels in Hereford. Another Georgian house with an exquisite offering of high class meals near to the site where Hereford Castle once stood. Four poster beds, en suite bathrooms, antique writing desks, tall windows, fireplaces, and artistic wallpaper are all features of this fantastic favourite of the hotels in Hereford. Certainly, the best Hereford accommodation money can buy.

Book a room here!

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