Alex Langfield

Hike golden valleys and rolling, emerald pastures — Herefordshire Trail

Phil Gyford (CC BY-NC-SA/2.0)

Hike golden valleys and rolling, emerald pastures — Herefordshire Trail

Hiking Collection by Alex Langfield

12

Tours

74:11 h

168 mi

13,800 ft

You ascend from the Golden Valley onto the tranquil hillside, as mist shrouds the villages and castle ruins below and the first rays of the sun cast a molten glow on the Black Mountains. You wander happily across the plain, surrounded by apple orchards and emerald green fields, towards hamlets seemingly plucked from Tolkein’s Shire. You pick your way through the trees to a clearing; insects buzz around the wildflowers and the ridge of the Malverns rises from a patchwork of verdant pastures and woodland.

These are all snapshots of what you can expect on the Herefordshire Trail, a spellbinding 150-mile (241 km) journey that circumnavigates one of the most rural, sparsely populated and picturesque counties in England. It visits the wonderful market towns of Ledbury, Ross-on-Wye, Kington, Leominster and Bromyard, each with its own olde-worlde character and charm.

As well as this, the Trail has many highlights: the magnificent Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; the achingly scenic Golden Valley, where rolling pastures meet Wales’ distant Black Mountains; the wooded undulations of the Welsh Marches, a region with a tumultuous history and many ancient, crumbling fortresses; the rural far north of the county, with the limestone Downton Gorge and the region’s black and white timber-framed homesteads; and finally eastern Herefordshire, where apple orchards and hop fields bask in the sun, with the evocative backdrop of the Malvern Hills.

In terms of start and end point, direction and itinerary, there is no set way to do the Herefordshire Trail. I have planned this Collection as a long-distance trek, starting in Ledbury and travelling in a clockwise direction. I have split the route into 12 stages, each ending near accommodation. Where this is sparse, I have named individual establishments in my stage descriptions.

The itinerary is suitable for all reasonably fit walkers. Apart from the first, which eases you in gently, stages range from 10 to 19 miles (16 to 30.5 km) in length and most involve over 1,000 feet (305 m) of elevation gain across the largely gentle, undulating countryside.

In England, only Cumbria and Northumberland have a lower population density than Herefordshire. This is worth bearing in mind when you set out from the many amenities of the market towns. Plan your meals in advance, as many of the smaller villages and hamlets are not blessed with pubs or cafes. This is particularly true in the northern reaches of the county from stages 8 to 11. Where villages do have pubs serving food, book before setting out.

With this in mind, you will need to be fairly self-sufficient. Your pack should include food and water, as well waterproof layers. Despite only conquering minor summits, the Trail’s hilltops are often exposed to the elements, so in the colder seasons warm layers are recommended. The Trail is doable all year round, although it is probably at its best during the shoulder seasons of early spring and late autumn.

There are some wonderful places to stay along the Trail, from converted farmhouses and grand hotels, to glamping tents and youth hostels. Book in advance, as the last thing you want is to turn up and find there’s no room at the inn. It may be many miles to the next accommodation.

I’ve chosen Ledbury as the start and end point, as it is easy to access by train from major population centres, as well as from Hereford, the county town. From its position in the centre of the county, Hereford has bus routes to many of the towns and villages on the Trail. For more information, check herefordshire.gov.uk/public-transport-1/bus-travel. The town of Leominster is also connected to Hereford by train.

On The Map

Tours & Highlights

  • Intermediate
    03:04
    7.22 mi
    2.4 mph
    375 ft
    300 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    From Ledbury’s charming streets you head west into classic Herefordshire countryside, famed for its apple orchards. Ledbury’s narrow alleys and characterful timber-framed shops are well worth taking time to explore. …

  • Difficult
    05:47
    12.9 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,200 ft
    1,300 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Stage 2 turns south and continues its journey through pastoral Herefordshire countryside. The route traverses the flanks of the Woolhope Dome, before descending and gradually climbing again to Perrystone Hill …

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  • Difficult
    07:15
    16.6 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,250 ft
    1,100 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage is a marvellous walk that flirts with the River Wye and passes some of its most beautiful settlements, before ascending to higher ground, passing through village after village …

  • Difficult
    05:35
    12.2 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,475 ft
    1,525 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    In this stage you ascend to the summit of Garway Hill for spectacular views of the Wye Valley and Wales’ Black Mountains, before descending to Kentchurch and the River Monnow. …

  • Difficult
    05:25
    12.4 mi
    2.3 mph
    975 ft
    725 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This stage is a picturesque journey through the Golden Valley. A short ascent brings you to the simple but beautiful St Margaret’s Church, with excellent views of the surrounding countryside. …

  • Intermediate
    04:30
    10.1 mi
    2.3 mph
    800 ft
    1,100 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The patchwork fields and rolling hills of this part of Herefordshire are revealed in all their glory on this stage. An ascent of Merbach Hill rewards with sumptuous views, before …

  • Difficult
    08:13
    19.0 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,300 ft
    975 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    At 19 miles (30.6 km), stage 7 is the longest on the Herefordshire Trail, as it makes its way over hillsides from the Wye Valley to the valley of the …

  • Difficult
    08:31
    18.7 mi
    2.2 mph
    2,075 ft
    2,200 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This is a spectacular, fiercely rural stage, but you have to work for the rewards. There’s a strenuous 18.7 miles (30 km) to cover and 2,075 feet (632 m) of …

  • Difficult
    07:05
    15.7 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,575 ft
    1,700 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This stage explores the Herefordshire and Shropshire border on yet another gently undulating journey across magnificent, patchwork countryside. You visit the dramatic, limestone Downton Gorge, the historic village of Burrington …

  • Intermediate
    04:24
    10.5 mi
    2.4 mph
    300 ft
    375 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    In stark contrast to the previous stages, this is a completely flat walk across the Herefordshire Plain to the market town of Leominster. With only 10.5 miles (16.9 km) to …

  • Difficult
    06:32
    15.0 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,175 ft
    975 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The penultimate stage journeys between the market towns of Leominster and Bromyard over rolling pastureland. It is a remarkably rural and sparsely populated stretch. The tiny villages you chance upon …

  • Difficult
    07:50
    17.9 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,300 ft
    1,475 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This final stage from Bromyard to Ledbury is a beautifully varied hike. The first section follows the River Frome, through the village of Bishop Frome, before leaving the river and …

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    12
  • Distance
    168 mi
  • Duration
    74:11 h
  • Elevation
    13,800 ft

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Alex Langfield

Hike golden valleys and rolling, emerald pastures — Herefordshire Trail