EXPLORING THE GOLDEN VALLEY
C S Lewis was so inspired by the majestic rural beauty of The Golden Valley in Herefordshire that when you visit, you will be transported directly to the Chronicles of Narnia. Arthur’s Stone a Neolithic Burial chamber, the oldest ‘building’ in Herefordshire now 5500 years old is, in C S Lewis’s head, the table upon which Aslan is sacrificed and you will recognise the inspiration in the movie The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe!
The Golden Valley is the name given to the valley of the River Dore in western Herefordshire. The valley is more green than golden! And it is thought that the name derives from confusion of the name of the River Dore with the French d’or, meaning ‘of gold’. The Normans might have confused the Welsh word dŵr, meaning ‘water’, with ‘d’or’
Nestled between the Wye Valley and the Black Mountains, bordering Wales, it stretches from Hay on Wye (the famous book town) on the one side to Ewyas Harold on the other. The main villages are Dorstone, Peterchurch, Abbey Dore and Ewyas Harold.
Imagine an idyllic countryside made up of windy lanes, rural villages with fantastic churches and pubs that only the locals know about, old farms with gorgeous stone buildings, ancient wild flower meadows and ramshackle barns teaming with creativity.
Where clever independent entrepreneurs are turning their hand to making some of the best food and drink products in the country, from artisanal gins from Wildknapp and Black Mountain Botanicals to cider where you are spoilt for choice from Gatwkins, Pips Cider, Ty Gwyn, Artiststraw Cider and even a horse drawn crush from the traditional makers at Fair Oak.Ice-cream from Rowelstone and sheep’s milk ice-cream from Shepherds, handmade chocolates By Eva and the fabulous cheeses from Neals Yard Creamery right here on our doorstep. There are also amazing experiences from wild outdoor adventures to animal encounters and culinary delights. As Holly Tuppen from Condenaste Traveller put it when she stayed with us a few months ago. “This is a county is defined by its overgrown lanes, forgotten farms and wistful sense of rural nostalgia, and it doesn’t get much more remote than the bottom of Watery Lane. The Black Mountains loom a few miles away and fields roll alongside a common thick with bracken.” You can read her article on us here: Rewilding: Places to Stay. The UK Initiatives Helping Save our countryside
I’m often asked by my guests for ideas of what to do in this “off the beaten track” neck of the woods. So here’s an itinerary to explore the best places in the Golden Valley that only a local would know about. If you have a shorter time you can mix and match as distance will not be an issue.
PS: I have written this as most of our guests love hands on outdoor activities. Herefordshire has plenty of historical and cultural activities too and a very lively art scene. To see more check out Visit Herefordshire
AM: Enjoy an educational farm tour on our organic farm. Come and meet the animals and learn first hand how to take care of them. See how we farm organically using regenerative and permaculture methods. Make liquid fertiliser compost, nettle and comfrey teas for the garden. Check out our wormery and learn about our bees that help pollinate our gardens. Help build a part of our ever growing bug hotel. And hopefully you will be able to join in one of our craft workshops but make sure to Book Early. From Basket Weaving with local crafters to Foraging for Mushrooms etc
PM: Have lunch at the Old Electric Shop or the Granary while visiting Hay on wye, the famous book-town. It has more bookshops per square meter than any other town in the world! Hay hosts its annual Literary Festival during the May Half term when about 200 000 people come to our neck of the woods. Expect winding streets, quaint shops, wonderful eateries and antique stores with a mix of eclectic goodies to buy
Enjoy one of our Feasts cooked on fires, at Drovers Rest for Dinner. Outside guests can dine too. From 3 course field to fork feasts to street food night served in crates, eaten on straw-bales around camp fires. Farm inspired cocktails too served Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat & Sun
AM: Explore the River Wye on Canoe. You can Hire a Canoe from our friends at Want to Canoe or Celtic Canoes. Either take a picnic so you can stop on one of the hidden coves and enjoy a secluded lunch or ask the Canoe company for their recommended Pub stop for lunch as it depends where they set up off
PM: Enjoy a private experience with Wye Valley Falconry where you can fly, handle or view a variety of Birds of Prey. They can even bring the birds to you on the Farm if you like. Have Dinner at Castlefields. Spend the Evening Laying on your Back with a Stargazing App to enjoy the Dark Skies of the Golden Valley. Or if you are lucky your visit may co-incide with a dark sky photography course or dark skies talk.
AM: Explore Arthur’s Stone near Bredwardine, a Neolithic burial chamber 5500 years old and inspiration for Stone Slab that Aslan is sacrificed on in the Narnia Chronicals. Legend has it that King Arthur slew a Giant and the imprint on the stone is the Giants elbow as he went down! The Parish Festivals always ended up at Arthurs Stone where it is said people pelted each other with crab apples!! Ouch! Take a walk from Arthurs Stone to Merbach and enjoy the incredible views across the valley. 2 hour round trip based on route. Can make shorter or longer. PM: Then take a picnic and head over to the Local’s Wild Swimming Spot on the Wye next to Bredwardine Bridge for a refreshing dip. Have Dinner at the Pandy Inn, Herefordshire’s oldest pub where Oliver Cromwell once slept!
AM: Become a true warrior by heading over toward Ewyas Harold, to Battlelands for some Viking games. Take part in one or all of their six traditional nordic games. Try your hand at Axe Throwing, Archery, Bullrings, Kubb, Molkky or Stige. Test your ability and agility to see whether you have what it takes to become a true Viking warrior!
PM: Enjoy lunch at Temple Bar Inn and stop over at Rowelstone for one of their lush ice-creams. Visit gorgeous Dore Abbey a former Cistercian abbey in the village of Abbey Dore. A large part of the original medieval building has been used since the 16th century as the parish church, with remaining parts either now ruined or no longer extant. Learn about some of the Pilgrimage Walks Herefordshire will be running in June during the Walking Festival and even decide to follow in their footsteps. Grab some Fish & Chips from the famous Old Street Stables for Dinner.
Explore Kentchurch Court.Nestled under Garway Hill with views of the Monnow valley. Whilst still a private estate, the gardens and house are now open to the public. Considered to be one of the most important historic houses in England. It’s secret garden is a must visit with deer park with over 250 deer and Rhododendron Woods
PM: Have lunch at The Bridge in Kentchurch Followed by a Drinks tour in the Golden valley. Choose a Fun Cider Tour at Gatwkins, Ty Gwyn, Artiststraw Cider or Fair Oak. If Gin is more your thing Visit Wildknapp (they are located next to Arthurs Stone so you may want to combine) or Black Mountain Botanicals (next to The Bridge Inn at Michael Church) or if you are much more of a wine lover, then a tour of the bijou vineyard at Blackmountain Wines will be more up your street. Or you could choose to go on all of them! Herefordshire is known for their Ciders do if you would like to spend a day check out the Cider Trails Have Dinner at the Kilpeck Inn
AM: Head over to Cefn Hill for a walk, see the wild ponies. And unparalleled views of Hay Bluff and the Black Mountains. Return via Vaygar Hill. 2-3 hours round trip. Based on the route you take.
PM: Enjoy a leisurely lunch at the Bridge Inn Michael Church Escley. Then head over to Golden Valley Llammas. An enjoyable experience walking and leading these wonderful animals. Have dinner at the The Tapas Bar in Hay
AM: Enjoy an Epic Horse-ride through this picturesque landscape with BrywnGwyn Riding Stables or if you want to ride on your own with a map try Freerein (they also have pack ponies that you can walk and camp with at Hoof Trek or if you are really experienced and want to go all out try our friends at Transwales
PM: Followed by a private visit to Moccas Deer Park, the oldest wooded pasture in the UK. Gaze at ancient trees with huge gnarly trunks. Take a picnic with you so you can enjoy your time at leisure. Spot the deer lurking amongst the wooded areas. You will need to email before you visit to book. Have dinner at the Nags Head in Peterchurch or Food for Thought in Peterchurch
BONUS DAY 8
AM: Enjoy a lively guided Historical tour of Dorstone. Followed by a walk up the Cats Back. Have lunch at White Haywood Restaurant
PM: Visit Brobury House and Gardens. If you take a walk across Bredwardine Bridge next to Brobury you will come across an old Motte and Bailey. Treat yourself to Dinner at The Stagg in Titley, a Michelin star pub in the sticks.