Herefordshire is a county full of many charms: breathtaking countryside, scrumptious local produce and enough art, history and literature to satisfy even the greatest of culture vultures! From the literary towns of Hay-on-Wye and Ledbury to the vibrant county town of Hereford, here are Herefordshire’s most picturesque market towns and what you need to see and do in each of them.
Hereford is (to no one’s surprise) the county town of Herefordshire and as it’s right in the middle of the county, it’s the perfect base for your trip to Herefordshire. There’s plenty to see and do in this historic city, including strolling down the River Wye, visiting the famous Hereford Cathedral, enjoying one of the city’s many traditional pubs, bars and cafes or catching a show at The Courtyard Theatre. A fan of cider? You’ll love Hereford’s Cider Museum! Here you can learn all about how Hereford’s famous ciders are made, from how the apples are milled and pressed to how the resulting juice is fermented to produce cider.
The Wye Valley is one of my favourite places in the entire world: imagine rolling hills, vast forests, winding rivers, and some of the most beautiful views around! In the heart of the Wye Valley lies Ross-on-Wye, a quirky little market town filled with independent shops galore. Whether you’re after clothing, gifts, furniture or food, Ross-on-Wye has it all – it’s a thriving place for those who prefer their high street a little less corporate. My personal favourite shop in Ross is Ross Old Book & Print Shop, which offers exactly what it says on the tin! Get lost amongst the maze of old bookcases, which look like they were lifted straight out of Harry Potter, offering a fantastic range of second hand and antiquarian books, prints, maps and more.
I have lived in Ledbury for well over ten years now so I may be a little biased, but Ledbury is my favourite market town in Herefordshire! But don’t just take my word for it: Ledbury was recently hailed as one of the Top Ten Places to Live in Britain and the Best Place To Live In The Midlands, an award us locals won’t be forgetting about anytime soon.
Ledbury’s iconic black and white grade 1 listed market hall is at the centre of the town and surrounding it, you will find plenty of independent fashion boutiques tucked down a myriad of mews and side streets. Plus, if you’re a lover of all things literary, the town puts on the largest poetry festival in the UK for ten days every July. Top tip: when visiting Ledbury, don’t forget to drive ten minutes out of town to visit Eastnor Castle and the Malvern Hills, two of Herefordshire’s most beautiful sights!
Hay-on-Wye is probably the most famous market town on this list and while it straddles the border of Wales and Herefordshire, we Herefordians like to claim it as our own! Hay-on-Wye is most famous for being “the town of books” and as soon as you arrive in the town, it’s not hard to see why. With over 30 antique, specialist and secondhand bookshops, Hay is a treasure-trove for bookworms.
Hay Festival is one of the most highly regarded events in the international literary calendar and takes place every May or June, bringing together writers, poets, musicians, politicians, philosophers, comedians, television and radio presenters, and book lovers alike! P.s. If you want a break from the books, Hay-on-Wye is surrounded by some of the country’s most gorgeous walks so pack your wellies or hiking boots and get walking
Yet another market town filled with independent shops and quirky cafes… We really are spoilt for choice here in Herefordshire! This quintessentially British town is best known for its medieval black and white buildings and antique shops. Not only is the town itself filled with plenty to do but there’s also loads of attractions in the surrounding area, including Croft Castle and Hampton Court Gardens. If you’re visiting Leominster by car, or (for the more adventurous of you) have access to a bike, don’t forget to take the Black and White Village Trail, a 40-mile circular tour of the surrounding villages, where you will see hundreds of original 16th and 17th Century timber-framed buildings.
Near to Leominster, you will find Kington, a town bordering Wales well known for being ‘a centre for walking’ as it is surrounded by lots of picturesque walks. The Black and White Village Trail starts in Kington and ends up in Leominster, so you can easily tick these two market towns off your Herefordshire bucket list!
Last, but by no means least, we have Bromyard, a town which has righteously earned its nickname as ‘the town of festivals’. The town hosts a variety of festivals throughout the year, from food festivals to music festivals. However, Bromyard is arguably most well known for its hop production! With half of the hops grown in England coming from Herefordshire, you’ll find a plethora of delicious real ales that you won’t be able to stop drinking. Head to the black and white Falcon Hotel pictured above, or to one of the town’s many other traditional pubs to grab a pint. Or if these establishments don’t satisfy your thirst, why not visit the nearby Wye Valley Brewery where you can find even more beautiful beers! Oh and don’t forget to visit the nearby Brockhampton Estate, a black and white, timber-framed manor surrounded by a moat, woodland and plenty of wildlife. It’s one of my personal favourite attractions in the whole county because it’s just oh so romantic.