The beautiful scenery of Herefordshire county is the reason why this wonderful corner of the country became Britain’s first tourist destination. That legacy still lives on today, with all kinds of wonderful ways to explore the Wye Valley, and the Forest of Dean for you to delve into. On top of that, you can make your way underground to explore an awe-inspiring network of caves which have been mined for thousands of years, or visit some of the finest castle ruins in the county.
Activities in Ross-on-Wye
With the Wye Valley Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty on the doorstep of Ross-on-Wye, we can’t really begin anywhere else. As long as it’s not raining, it is surely the number one day out for you delve into during your stay at our Ross-on-Wye hotel. It’s a vastly picturesque landscape straddling the border of England and Wales with some of the most jaw-dropping scenery south of the Scottish highlands.
The Wye Valley covers more than 120 square miles and sprawls across the counties of Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Monmouthshire. However, Ross-on-Wye is the only town to be found within the Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty. It makes for the perfect base to explore the birthplace of British tourism, the Wye Valley.
In the 18th century, John Edgerton, who went on to become the Bishop of Durham, began to take friends on boat trips down the Wye Valley, to soak up its natural beauty. These friends included famous writers and poets of the day, such as Thomas Gray, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and William Wordsworth. After the Wye Valley featured in their works, the area became Britain’s first must-visit tourist destination.
So whether you want to go old-school and take a cruise along the River Wye, or you’d rather go rambling through the woodland, with an area so vast and ravishing, you’re free to explore it at your leisure.
Our top tip, if you like a little adventure, is to visit one of the local Ross-on-Wye canoeing companies based near Whitchurch to get as close to the water as possible, and to truly immerse yourself in this picturesque valley landscape.
For a history trip, you can pay a visit to Goodrich Castle, which is situated between Ross-on-Wye and the historic Welsh town of Monmouth. The castle itself dates back to the medieval Norman Era when it began life as a wooden fortress before being transformed into the stone monolith that still stands today.
The strategic importance of the castle is clear to see; from the battlements, your view stretches on for miles, perfect for keeping watch over the border of England and Wales. And when you’ve had your fill of the surrounding scenery, you can make your way into the much of the castle, which is open to the public. English Heritage manages Goodrich Castle today and does a fantastic job of bringing its rich history to life, especially if you choose to take the audio tour.
It’s easy to get lost in the natural beauty of the Wye Valley, but what about the maze of caves that run beneath? The Clearwell Caves is a subterranean network of natural caves that have been mined for more than 4,500 years beneath the Forest of Dean. While they are no longer mined today, the caves have just been opened to the public, allowing you to discover their fascinating history and explore this never before seen underground world. The shallow levels can be wandered around at your leisure, but if you want to get properly stuck into the caves then you can join a guided tour around the deeper labyrinth.
Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail
The Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail, just like the Clearwell Caves beneath it, requires nearly half an hour’s drive from our Ross-on-Wye hotel, but it’s worth making the journey for a truly beautiful day out with art and nature.
The sculpture trail weaves its way between a grand total of 16 pieces that were specially commissioned for the Forest of Dean. There are a further dozen pieces that have been reclaimed by the forest and are no longer visible. Kevin Atherton’s suspended stained glass window, Cathedral, is the forest’s most famous piece. However, all enjoy international acclaim and are absolutely worth hunting down on a dry day.
A word to the wise, the entire trail is just shy of 5 miles long. However, there are shorter routes if you’d rather save your legs, or you only want to see a selection of the sculptures. The Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail is free of charge. You will have to pay for parking, but it’s reasonably priced. If you want a map then you can purchase one for the measly price of a pound at both the ranger hatch and the Beechenhurst Cafe, which also acts as the visitor centre.