The view of Hereford Cathedral from the River Wye
With pretty villages renowned for 14th Century black-and-white timbered homes, historic market towns and swathes of undulating, unspoilt countryside, Herefordshire is undoubtedly one of England’s best-looking counties.
Yet it is also one that has fallen under the radar of mass tourism, making it a draw for those seeking a slice of England away from the crowds. The allure, apart from top-notch places to stay, is the growing foodie scene. Herefordshire produces some of this country’s most delicious fayre, from succulent beef and juicy blackcurrants to phenomenal beer, gin and cider.
And as well as familiar big names such as Westons Cider, Chase gin and Tyrrells crisps, there are hundreds of smaller producers and restaurants serving up culinary feasts to tuck into any time of the year.
Apples are the most famous of the county’s many crops, and Herefordshire makes fabulous cider. Recently introduced ‘cider circuits’ are a great way to tour the area’s best producers.
Each self-guided circuit starts and ends at Hereford Cathedral, covers about 45 miles and can be done by bike or car.
The Market House on the main shopping street in Ledbury. It’s possible to go on a cider and perry ‘tour and tasting’ in the town
Glorious: A crop of apples heading to cider-makers. Recently introduced ‘cider circuits’ are a great way to tour Herefordshire’s best producers
Or call in on cider and perry producers such as Westons Cider Mill at Ledbury for a tour and a tasting (westons-cider.co.uk).
Settle in at the Green Dragon Hotel in the heart of Hereford and close to the cathedral, where its 83 rooms have been brilliantly refurbished in bold and bright jewel colours. B&B from £89 per room per night (greendragonhotel.com).
Another local drink to sip is White Heron’s British Cassis – blackcurrant liqueur. It featured on the BBC show Dragons’ Den and is now sold everywhere from Waitrose to Fortnum & Mason.
Take a fascinating tour of 700-acre Whittern Farms in Lyonshall to see how it’s produced. You’ll get to see behind the scenes, visit a blackcurrant plantation (the finest berries head to Ribena) and bottle up your own cassis to take home.
The two-hour tour, which includes a 200ml bottle of cassis and a cocktail, costs £50 arrangement fee plus £20pp.
The estate also has holiday cottages which sleep four to eight guests, some with access to an outdoor pool. Or there’s The Colloquy, a luxurious property with squash court, sauna and hot tub. Prices start at £2,500 for a two-night stay for 16 people (whiteheronproperties.com).
Another estate offers an even grander place to relax. The old pigsty and outbuildings of the Whitbourne Estate have been reborn as Crumplebury and will take your breath away.
Whittern Farms in Lyonshall has holiday cottages that sleep four to eight guests, some with access to an outdoor pool (pictured)
Heavenly attraction: Pictured above is Lyonshall’s St Michael and All Angels church
Fine dining at Pensons on the Netherwood Estate near Bromyard
The out-in-the-wilds property now includes the renowned Green Cow Kitchens fine dining restaurant plus an exclusive-use state-of-the-art wedding and events venue with uber-luxurious on-site accommodation. The restaurant makes the most of the meat produced on the estate and fresh herbs such as wild garlic which are foraged from the fields by the chefs.
B&B costs from £165 per night (crumplebury.co.uk).
STARRY STARRY NIGHT
What better way to celebrate a special anniversary or event than an unforgettable Michelin-starred meal at Pensons on the Netherwood Estate near Bromyard.
Showcasing the best local produce, the tasting menu features cured sea trout with carrot, orange and saffron, monkfish, venison, spiced red wine pear with vanilla panna cotta… need I say more?
The cost is £440 per night for two guests, including the five-course tasting menu, breakfast and a courtyard bedroom – that’s actually a bargain.
The estate also has several luxurious large houses to rent (pensons.co.uk).
Or check in to The Baiting House in Upper Sapey, a small village close to the Worcestershire border. The pub was stylishly refurbished by a local couple in 2015 and now offers beautifully simple rooms and self-catering lodges with private patios and hot tub. The locally sourced menu changes daily, but examples include dishes such as chicken liver parfait and beer-battered hake and chips. Rooms from £75 per room per night (baitinghouse.co.uk).
The Baiting House in Upper Sapey, pictured, offers beautifully simple rooms and self-catering lodges
The locally sourced menu at The Baiting House changes daily. The pub, pictured, was stylishly refurbished by a local couple in 2015
Tasty: A Beefy Boys burger, made with super-succulent, 21-day-aged Hereford beef
Want to taste probably the juiciest beefburger in the world?
Head for The Beefy Boys in Hereford – but you may need to book ahead.
Set up in the Old Market in 2016, the restaurant serves burgers made with super succulent, 21-day-aged Hereford beef, freshly ground each day and available in all shapes and flavours.
Go for the original Beefy Boy with its secret sauce or tackle the Dirty Boy with bacon, cheese and beef dripping onions.
Milkshakes come in hard or soft varieties (with or without alcohol) and are to die for (thebeefyboys.com).
GIN THAT’S A TONIC
The town of Ross-on-Wye, pictured, is home to The Bridge House B&B. It boasts ‘spacious gardens and river views’
Chase produces vodka that’s so good it is exported to Russia!
You’ll learn more fascinating facts on a tour of the Chase Distillery in Preston Wynne, just 20 minutes outside Hereford, including how owner and entrepreneur William Chase switched from growing potatoes for supermarkets to making high-end Tyrrells crisps to producing outstanding vodka and gin.
You’ll be invited to taste classic GB Gin, made with ten botanicals including ginger and liquorice root, and the zesty Pink Grapefruit & Pomelo Gin. Tickets cost from £20pp (chasedistillery.co.uk).
Alternatively, make your own gin at Black Mountains Botanicals, from £120pp using your own still with the help of a master distiller. Tastings included, naturally (blackmountainsbotanicals.co.uk).
Stay at The Bridge House, Ross-on-Wye, a lovely B&B with spacious gardens and river views, from £110 per room per night (bridgehouserossonwye.co.uk).
GET AROUND AND A BITE
Foraging for food turns out to be another great way to explore Herefordshire’s stunning countryside. The spoils change with the season, and include mushrooms, nuts, herbs, berries and other fruits.
Local foraging expert Liz Knight teaches guests how to recognise each one and where to find it. Private two-and-a-half-hour walks for a group of up to 12 people cost £250 (foragefinefoods.com). Stay at gourmands’ heaven The Riverside at Aymestrey, with Herefordshire snails, free-range chicken and juicy Hereford beef on the menu. B&B from £95 per room per night (riversideaymestrey.co.uk).
Rayeesa Asghar-Sandys teaches an Indian cookery class in the village of Mordiford (pictured), near Hereford
Tuck in: Afternoon tea at Castle House hotel can be spiced up with a glass of fizz
Learn how to spice up your life on an Indian cookery class in the farmhouse kitchen of Rayeesa Asghar-Sandys in Mordiford, near Hereford.
Rayeesa, a former Met police officer who appeared on Dragons’ Den with her range of curry sauces, Spiced by Rayeesa, will show you how to select the finest Herefordshire ingredients to create scrumptious main dishes and sides. Her next class, the Essential Indian on January 25, costs £175pp (spicedbyrayeesa.com).
Stay at the stylishly refurbished The Greenman in Fownhope. B&B from £70 per room per night (thegreenman.co).
TWICE AS NICE
The Nest near Ledbury isn’t just a gem of a cafe, it’s a delicatessen stuffed with a tempting smorgasbord of Hereford goodies for the larder, plus a local art gallery and plant centre (nestledbury.co.uk).
It is also home to the Handmade Scotch Egg Company, so lunch must include at least one – how about Braveheart, featuring pork with chilli and fresh lime? So tasty and it definitely represents a substantial meal.
Stay at The Feathers in Ledbury, a cosy black-and-white Tudor coaching inn. B&B from £110 per room per night (feathersledbury.co.uk).
Castle House is a perfect place for afternoon tea – a luxurious, elegant hotel tucked away in a quiet spot beside Hereford’s old moat in which you might spot otters playing.
Tea, from £16pp and served Wednesday to Saturday, includes finger sandwiches, savouries, scones and cakes washed down with locally blended teas and coffees – and you can add a glass of fizz for a tenner. Do treat yourself to an overnight stay – B&B from £155 per room per night (castlehse.co.uk).