While I LOVE my Welsh history, living so close to the border means that I often pop over to visit historic places in Herefordshire.
Situated in the historic Welsh Marches, Herefordshire is one of the most rural counties in England, famous for its fruit and cider production. Time seems to have stood still in some of the more hidden corners of the county. You can uncover some true historical gems if you know where to look.
So if you find yourself in this ancient county, which places should you visit? Here’s my pick of the top historic places to visit in Herefordshire.
Berrington Hall near Leominster is a neoclassical mansion by Henry Holland set in ‘Capability’ Brown’s final landscape and gardens. It is simply dripping with Georgian grandeur. When I visit I truly feel like Daphne Bridgerton promenading along the candyfloss coloured rooms and corridors. It’s also a great historic property to visit if you like fashion history. There’s a superb exhibition about 18th C clothing on the upper floors.
The Black and White Villages Trail of northern Herefordshire is simply one of my favourite historical places in Hereforshire. Its a 40 mile trail passing through the most delightful medieval villages full of pretty half-timbered buildings and historic churches. There are also lots of characterful pubs and charming tea rooms to keep you suitably refreshed along the way.
My personal highlights of the trail include Pembridge, with its market hall and unusual detached church bell tower; Eardisland, with its distinctive dovescote in a picturesque riverside setting; and St Marys Church at Eardisley with one of the most impressive Romanesque fonts in the entire country.
The National Trust’s Brockhampton is an ancient estate and medieval manor house nestled in the Herefordshire hills. It has been in use since the early Middle Ages and features a wealth of interesting features such as a ruined Norman chapel and a picture-perfect timber framed manor house dating from the late 14th Century surrounded by a moat.
After visiting the buildings there is some 1700 acres of estate to explore – perfect if you have indulged yourself in the tea room!
Hidden away in rural Herefordshire, Croft Castle is an ancient place steeped in British history. Its occupants have served royalty for over 1000 years and the site itself it just as old. At its core, Croft Castle is a late medieval castle. In about 1765 it was extensively remodelled both internally and externally in the fashionable Strawberry Hill Gothick style (you REALLY have to check out the staircase). There’s still some original Jacobean interior to be found in places too – its a very unusual mix!
Croft Castle is only 15 minutes drive away from Berrington Hall, so the two sites can be easily combined for an historical day out.
Things are not as they first seem at Eastnor Castle – this is a 19th Century mock castle parading as a Norman fortification. Confused? You’ll be even more so when you enter. Its lavish Gothic revivial interiors just SCREAM Victorian, with medieval armour, fine art and a Gothic Drawing Room designed by A.W.Pugin himself. There’s plenty to do outside as well, including a beautiful deer park, lake and arboretum. And the whole place is doggy friendly – you can even take your four legged friends INSIDE the house!
Eastnor Castle is near the historic town of Ledbury, and you can easily combine the two for an historic day trip.
If I had to recommend one area of Herefordshire to my fellow church crawlers, it would be the glorious Golden Valley. It’s home to some of the most interesting historic churches in Herefordshire, all tucked away in a very rural part of the county.
Dore Abbey is really something special. Its a former Cistercian monastery turned parish church on a truly spectacular scale, It has a fine Renaissance screen by 17th C master craftsman John Abel.
Equally special is the perfectly Norman church at Kilpeck, complete with well-reserved carvings and a jaw-dropping Romanesque door. And finally, visit St Faith’s Church in Bacton. Home to the Bacton Altar Cloth and the FIRST EVER depiction of Elizabeth I as Gloriana, this church a must see for Tudor history lovers.
Hereford is an historic city, but the jewel in the crown is most definitely the historic, medieval Hereford Cathedral. Its free to enter (but donations are encouraged). You have to pay a bit extra to visit the Mappa Mundi & Chained Library Exhibition, but trust me it is well worth it! The Hereford Mappa Mundi is the largest medieval world map to survive and the library is the largest library of chained books in the entire world!
Ledbury is one of those historic places in Herefordshire where history is around every corner. It has a plethora of historic buildings, including the medieval market hall and the famous timber-framed Feathers Inn, and great independent shops to explore too.
Eastnor Castle is just outside the town, and the two sites can be easily combined for an historic day out.
The second historic town on the list, Leominster is often overlooked. But amongst the timber framed buildings and the many antique shops (over 120!) there are hidden gems waiting to be found.
For me, there are are two key historic places to visit here. Firstly, the medieval Leominster Priory, complete with the last ducking stool to be used in England. And secondly, the iconic Grange Court. It was built by John Abel, a local craftsman who went on to become Carpenter to Charles I. It is known for its superbly carved decoration, some of the best in the UK.
Leominster is also a great starting point for the Black and White Trail.
Another unique church that should be on every self respecting church crawler’s list! St John’s Church in Shobdon is sometimes known as The Wedding Church – and its easy to see why!
Its an extraordinary historic church built in the Strawberry Hill Gothick style (also seen at Croft Castle). It has direct connections to Horace Walpole’s famous Strawberry Hill, and the local Bateman family were good friends with Walpole himself. Its a masterpiece of English Rococo, and there is a great Norman font to see too.
I hope this post inspires you to visit one of these historic places in Herefordshire. Let us know in the comments below which historic site you want to visit first!