Heard of Hereford?Dec 05, 2017 11:49PM ● By Susan Elenz
Hereford Cathedral is home to several cultural artifacts, including the Magna Carta and Mappa Mundi.
We were visiting family and meant to use Hereford as our home base while we traveled to Bath, Stonehenge, London, Oxford, Ireland and other popular tourist destinations nearby. We drove and rode trains and ferries to see those attractions, but we also found a surprising amount of things to do right in Hereford.
Here are some of the highlights:
The Stagg InnThe road to this fine tavern is one I’ll never forget. A one-lane country road winds between tall hedges on both sides. At night, in heavy fog, it feels like the Headless Horseman will come around the bend at any moment. But the spooky jaunt is worth it. This upscale pub has handcrafted beers and an eclectic wild game menu. We dined on gin-cured salmon, venison loin and duck leg, and ate crisps with balsamic foam, fresh garden salad, homemade focaccia bread and crème brûlée for dessert. We washed this delicious feast down with dark Butty Bach beer and HPA (a pale ale).
The Munstone HouseWe wound up staying at this bed and breakfast after our reservation at another B&B was canceled last minute due to the proprietor leaving on holiday. The Munstone House is a mansion on top of a hill with lush gardens and stately rooms. A full English breakfast is served every morning. We felt like royalty staying there, partly because it was so exquisitely appointed. During the sunny season it’s a busy wedding venue. In the winter, we were the only ones there.
Hereford City CentreThe oldest part of Hereford dates back to the 13th century. The city centre is an outdoor mall with cobblestone streets, old buildings and architecture, wonderful restaurants, alleyway shops, pubs and museums. The open area is the site of a weekly, year-round farmers market featuring local produce. The whole area looks like a scene from a Shakespeare play.
Beside The Old House, a butcher shop established in the 1400s, stands a life-sized sculpture of a Hereford bull. The old church in town still holds services and has a bakery and café inside. Visitors can sit upstairs in the loft to see the worship area and stained glass while enjoying tea and crumpets or an Americano.
The River WyeThis river runs through town with footpaths on each side. Occasional benches invite you to stop and watch swans or kayakers. The paths branch off into parks and playgrounds and other areas of town, and are used year-round by bikers and walkers, as Hereford winters are mild. But be warned—during winter’s rainy season, everyone wears Wellies (tall boots) because there’s mud everywhere.
Holmer Park Health Club & SpaIt’s common for English neighborhoods to have their own spa and health club, and Holmer Park is no ordinary club. With underground pools that look like Roman baths, surrounded by big columns and subdued lighting, it was the perfect place to get spa services, exercise and afternoon tea. We joined for the month we were in town so we could enjoy the amenities and watch our grandsons take swimming lessons.
The Hereford CathedralHereford is nicknamed “The Cathedral City” because of this historical location. Dedicated to a martyred king in Saxon times, the cathedral was built in the 1200s and is a massive architectural masterpiece, even by today’s standards. The beautiful arches, carvings, gold details, stained glass, tombs and shrines, pillars, altars, mosaics and gardens are all so grand.
In addition to being an active church, the cathedral also houses many ancient artifacts. The Chained Library at Hereford Cathedral contains an assortment of books and manuscripts dating back to the eighth century. The first books ever made were religious in nature, valuable, rare and difficult to make. To keep them safe, they were chained to the shelves and walls.
The cathedral is also home to the original Magna Carta, the first charter to limit the power of the king, and The Mappa Mundi, the oldest surviving medieval map of the world (as they knew it). It shows only three continents but also depicts the animals and geography of each area.
The Cider MuseumHereford is known for its apples, and when the town was deprived of gin, its people developed a way to make hard cider from their abundant produce. The Cider Museum walks you through the whole process and history of cider making, and rewards you with tasty cider at the end.
Hereford surprised us with all its hidden gems. Sometimes the best experiences on your travels happen when you’re on your way to something else.