Unexpected things to do in Herefordshire

written by Aimee White
updated 7/7/2021
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Sightseeing doesn’t have to focus solely on the top museums, art galleries and esteemed restaurants. If you steer off the beaten path you’ll stumble across a more eclectic range of things to do, such as cable waterskiing in Yorkshire or paddling through whisky country in Scotland. There’s plenty of quirky things to do in Herefordshire, too. You may surprise yourself at just how many sights, attractions and experiences there are that fit the bill. From llamas to Neolithic sat navs, this green county in the West Midlands has more than meets the eye. Continue reading to find out more:

Golden Valley Llamas

Start off your visit to Herefordshire with a llama trek through the foothills of the Black Mountains. These curious creatures will be just as intrigued to meet you as you are them; first, you groom the llamas, which gives you that all-important bonding time. Then you’ll set off at a gentle pace with the llama set on a loose lead rope; be sure to make stops along the way to take photographs of the mesmerising scenes over the Monnow Valley, Herefordshire Plain and over the hills of Wales. Upon return, you can reward your well-behaved llama with a feed of cereal.

Children are just as welcome to join in with this unusual activity; those under 12 years old will need to accompany an adult. This is a great group activity, and can either be treated as a day attraction or choose to stay overnight at Old King Street Farm – where the llamas live – in one of two cottages (larger groups can hire both cottages).

Golden Valley Llamas Source: visitherefordshire.co.uk

Black Mountains Botanicals Gin Making Experience

Enjoy a gin-making experience with Black Mountains Botanicals, an award-winning distillery on Bridge Farm in Michaelchurch Escley. If you’re looking for unusual things to do in Herefordshire for couples, this is a great option – and for solo visitors, too. You’ll gain a fascinating insight into gin-making, learning all about its history, process and ingredients. After lunch, the on-site experts will show you how to distil your own bottle of gin, where you can choose from a range of botanicals to perfect your chosen tipple. You can even take a 50cl bottle home with you!

A visit here means you’re helping support local business and produce; their apple juice comes from nearby Gwatkin Cider, botanicals from Abergavenny and mineral water from a spring in the Black Mountains.

Black Mountains Botanicals Source: visitherefordshire.co.uk

Wye Valley Falconry

Get up close and personal with birds of prey at Wye Valley Falconry. Rather than operating as a traditional public visitor centre, they offer private handling experiences so that you can tailor this unusual activity to your own preferences. It’s one of the best outdoor attractions in Herefordshire, with fun for all ages guaranteed.

You’ll learn about some of these hunters and predators by observing their unique techniques as well as experts on hand to give you all the information you need to know. Watch them soar through the countryside; you can book onto a one-hour bird of prey, owl or hawk experience, or a two-hour mixed-bird experience. You can also book onto flying displays, photography experiences and educational visits.

Wye Valley Falconry Source: visitherefordshire.co.uk

Oldfield Forge Blacksmithing Experience

For a taste of traditional Herefordshire, book onto an experience day at Oldfield Forge. Here you’ll learn all about traditional blacksmithing techniques and craftship combined with modern technology, a process which produces high-quality ironmongery items.

The team here are dedicated to preserving this ancient craft – but it’s not your standard, guided tour-style visit. You’ll have the opportunity to get hands-on and become a blacksmith for the day. You’ll hold the tongs as you watch the red hot metal form on the anvil, and even get to wield the hammer. Among the iron items you can forge are knives, barbecue tools, hammers and sausage sizzlers – or you can simply have fun with it and see what happens!

If you really fancy going the full length, you can make swords and pattern-welded knives and rings. In fact, there’s a great range of experiences suitable for couples, friends, families, stag and hen do parties and more – check out their website for the latest details.

Oldfield Forge Experience Source: visitherefordshire.co.uk

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Choccotastic

For a tasty afternoon, head to Ledbury where you can pay a visit to Choccotastic, the town’s only handmade chocolate shop. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, this one is for you – the handmade Belgian chocolates are created on site and come in a variety of shapes, patterns and decorations. There’s also a vegan range to choose from.

You can find Choccotastic at the top of the alleyway in the Homend Mews, between Sweet Memories Sweet Shop and Juice Boutique, giving it an unusual way to find it. While you can buy their sweet treats to take away, if you have time then it’s well worth sitting out in their pretty tearoom, where you can treat yourself to a spectacular Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich, a Cro-Cream (a croissant filled with ice cream, coulis and fresh fruit) or a signature waffle stick. The brave of heart can also take the Chocoholic Challenge!

Choccotastic Source: visitherefordshire.co.uk

Pottery classes

Herefordshire is a creative county, making it a great place to visit if you’re an arts-and-crafts type. There are plenty of workshops and rural crafts to try out, whether you’re a beginner or more experienced sculptor. Start off at Eastnor Pottery, for example, whose potter’s wheel courses are suitable for all ages. Based just outside Ledbury, this is a great starting place to get creative with clay.

If you’re after more of an intensive course, then visit Hereford’s CUP Ceramics Community, whose 2.5hr introduction to ceramics will see you throwing on the wheel, hand-building and experimenting with surface decoration. You’ll have plenty of time to practice and the courses are overseen by experienced tutors. Not sure if you can handle the class? No worries. Relax at their coffeehouse with a pastry before browsing the studio members’ ceramic creations on display.

It’s not all about pottery; among Herefordshire’s other crafty concoctions that you can get involved with include the likes of Japanese woodblock printmaking, bakeries and more unexpected activities.

Eastnor pottery class Source: visitherefordshire.co.uk

Hereford Mappa Mundi

Hereford Cathedral is one of the top places to visit in Herefordshire, where you can admire its variety of architectural styles, relax in the Chapter House garden and listen to the Choir’s daily Evensong.

One of the more unusual things to do at the cathedral, though, is its Mappa Mundi & Chained Library Exhibition. It’s revered all over the world because it’s home to the Hereford Mappa Mundi, which is the largest medieval world map in existence. It’s believed to have been made in 1300 and proves a fascinating insight into how Christian Europe saw the world in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. It was created on a sheet of calf skin (called vellum) and measures 1.59 x 1.34 metres.

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Meanwhile, the Chained Library holds 1500 rare books, such as medieval manuscripts, which are read by scholars all around the world who come to visit. Although they may not be on display when you come to visit, simply knowing that you’re visiting the largest surviving chained library in the world makes for a unique, memorable experience regardless.

Hereford Cathedral Source: visitherefordshire.co.uk

The Cider Barn

Enjoy the best of the Herefordshire countryside at The Cider Barn. Located in north Herefordshire in Pembridge, the barn prides itself on its locally sourced produce, whether it’s from Herefordshire itself or neighbouring counties. Choose from local beer, cider, gin, spirits and food – there are also vegetarian and vegan menus available.

With its rural setting, the site is also of historical interest – the barn itself is 450 years old and is a Grade II-listed building. Whether you want to stop off for Sunday lunch, a weekday meal or an afternoon tipple, The Cider Barn focuses on the simple things in life steeped in beautiful surroundings. It’s ideal for those looking for peace and quiet away from the busier town centres.

To really make the most of your visit here, there are numerous accommodation types in the nearby area. Choose from B&Bs, self-catering and caravan parks – think glampsites and cosy cottages – and embrace a calming detox for a day or night.

The Cider Barn Source: visitherefordshire.co.uk

16th-Century Painted Room, Ledbury

Another unexpected thing to do in Herefordshire is in Ledbury. At number 1 Church Street – one of the oldest timber-framed buildings in town – an interesting discovery was uncovered in the upstairs room. In the 1980s, workmen started peeling back layers of paint, plaster and wallpaper on the fireplace wall when they realised they had stumbled across a very intriguing painting. Knowing that it was going to be something significant, they stopped immediately and art restoration experts stepped in.

What was discovered was an Elizabethan-era painting in a style that was very popular of the period. Dating to the 1560s, this is one of the best surviving examples of its kind. The aristocracy usually had leather wall hangings and tapestries in their homes, and so the merchant gentry wanted to recreate them as paintings on a much more affordable scale for their own homes. But it’s just as unique and fascinating a sight as any!

Entry to this intriguing site is free, but donations are welcomed. Guides will tell you all you need to know and questions are encouraged.

Ledbury, Church Street © Mark G Williams/Shutterstock

Offa’s Dyke Retreat

For somewhere totally unusual and unexpected to stay, opt for a night’s kip in a former railway carriage. That’s right; Offa’s Dyke Retreat, located in Longtown, is a family run glamping site situated at the foot of the Black Mountains and alongside the popular Offa’s Dyke Path.

The site is made up of six converted railway carriages – called country shepherds huts – and two luxury log pods, all of which make for ideal places to stay for couples, groups of friends and families. The country shepherd’s huts have ultimate glamping vibes; think en-suite shower rooms, kitchenettes and electric hot tubs.

Otherwise the log pods are an unexpectedly luxurious experience; there are electric hot tub, outside barbecue space and on-site parking available, with a shared toilet/shower facility.

If you can bear to tear yourself away from this quirky little campsite, head out on a hike through the Black Mountains or walk a section of the Offa’s Dyke Path for an invigorating experience with unbeatable views.

Offa’s Dyke Retreat Source: visitherefordshire.co.uk

Neolithic sat navs

When you go hiking in Herefordshire, you expect to breathe in the fresh air of the countryside, marvel at the verdant views of the rolling hills and listen to the wind rustle through the trees and long grass. You might not think you’re following a route of ancient and spiritual sites as well – but that’s exactly what you can do across various points of land in Herefordshire.

Head out on the new driving and cycling route called the Watkins Way. It's named after Arthur Watkins, a local man who discovered ley lines in 1921 – where straight lines of sight criss-crossed the landscape, connecting ancient and spiritual sites. He believed they helped our ancestors to navigate, acting as a Neolithic sat nav.

The unusual route gives you the chance to ‘uncover’ lost castles, sacred stones and early hillforts, as well as finding out more about Warkin’s life, legacy and Neolithic sat nav.

The route takes you through principal ley line locations, such as Weobley Castle, Dinedor Hill and Arthur’s Stone, all of which have their own fascinating histories behind them. Make your way from the Golden Valley, through the famed black and white villages and beyond, to make the most of this ancient ‘sat nav’ tour.

On the Watkins Way Source: visitherefordshire.co.uk

Horse-riding

Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, heading out on a horse ride through the beautiful Herefordshire countryside is one of the most exhilarating experiences you can expect in this green county.

Individuals, groups and families of all ages (4 years+) and sizes (maximum 13.5 stone) can book a lesson with Tipton Hall Riding School, where you’ll head off the beaten track to discover your own Herefordshire experience. If you’d rather stay local, there are also a set of jumps at their outdoor and indoor arenas, too. After a morning hack, you can reward yourself with a pub lunch in the nearby area, before continuing the rest of your day checking out the top sights to see in Bromyard.

The riding school offers free parking and you can also bring a picnic along, so you can really revel in the countryside surroundings!

Tipton Hall Riding School Source: visitherefordshire.co.uk

Hereford Racecourse

From October to April, you can spend a day at the races at Hereford Racecourse. Its ideal location – just outside Hereford city centre – means that this unexpected delight needn’t be far from the rest of the top sightseeing spots. While you’re here, take a look across to the Welsh Mountains that form part of its backdrop, before enjoying a day betting on the horses.

It’s not all about racing, though; this venue is also where the Hereford Food Festival takes place, where you can enjoy street food, the farmers’ market, live music and the gift hall. There’s also a ‘kids village’ so no-one will be bored!

No matter your budget, group size or age, there’s more than enough unusual things to do in Herefordshire that will make for a memorable experience. If you’re looking to really make the most of this theme, make sure you read our article on the most unusual places to stay in Herefordshire – where you can stay at a llama farm or vintage train station, as well as plenty more.

Hereford Racecourse Source: visitherefordshire.co.uk

This article was written in partnership with Visit Herefordshire.

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written by Aimee White
updated 7/7/2021
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Aimee is an in-house Senior Travel Editor at Rough Guides and is the podcast host of The Rough Guide to Everywhere. She is also a freelance travel writer and has written for various online and print publications, including a guidebook to the Isle of Wight. Follow her on Twitter at @aimeefw.

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