24 Hours In: Herefordshire
Old inns, that ancient map, and everywhere the cider culture. And, just over the border, the second-hand bookshop capital opens a whole new chapter...
Sunday 06 November 2005
1 A new day, and old oak
08:00: No apologies for the early start, for there's a long day ahead and attractions close early in winter. Wake up in an old oak four-poster double bed in Olchon Court in Llanveynoe, Longtown (01873 860356; golden-valley.co.uk/olchoncourt). This characterful 14th-century b&b is in the secluded Olchon valley, 20 miles south-west of Hereford. Bruce Chatwin stayed here while researching On the Black Hill and, with its inglenook fireplaces and antique surroundings, this is one of the most atmospheric b&bs you could hope to come across. Run by Jean and Tony Carter, this ancient house is reputed once to have been the lookout for Longtown castle, which lies at the centre of the superb view down the valley. Breakfast is served on an ancient oak table. Then there is just time for a quick stroll outside, perhaps along one of the many footpaths that start from the door - Offa's Dyke is close by. B&B costs £32 per person, per night, which drops to £30 for two nights.
2 Border town. Now read on
09.30: Hop in the car and trundle the 12 miles north to Britain's book capital, Hay-on-Wye, tucked just over the border in Wales but boasting a Herefordshire postal address. The views of the Black Mountains along the route are magnificent. Hay, as any fule kno, is a fantasy town for book-lovers. Importantly, it meets all expectations and has avoided becoming too popular for its own good. If there's a book you've been searching for, chances are it'll be here among the 40 or so bookshops. For more visit hay-on-wye.co.uk.
3 Michelin star in the Marches
12.00: You've made an early appointment for lunch at the Stagg Inn at Titley (01544 230221; thestagg.co.uk), 16 miles up the road from Hay in the heart of the Welsh Marches. The Stagg Inn was the first pub in the United Kingdom to be awarded a Michelin Star and is the only restaurant with the award in the county. Head chef is Steve Reynolds, who trained at Le Gavroche under Michel Roux before returning home to Herefordshire. Typical dishes include a starter of pigeon breast with herb risotto and thyme juice and main course of Herefordshire beef with red wine sauce. Expect to pay around £35 per person for three courses and wine.
4 Learning held in chains
14.00: Hereford is a 30-minute drive away and it's a bustling, attractive city. Head straight for the cathedral, which has two outstanding attractions. The Mappa Mundi, a 13th-century calfskin map, is thought to be the oldest map of the world in existence. The Chained Library - featuring a 17th-century anti-theft system comprising chains and rods - is home to 229 medieval manuscripts, the most important of which is the eighth-century Hereford Gospels. Admission to both the Mappa Mundi and the library costs £4.50. Last admission 3.30pm, closed Sundays (01432 374202; herefordcathedral.org).
5 Add fizz at the Cider Museum
15.00: About 63 million gallons of cider - well over half that is produced in the UK - comes from Herefordshire each year. You can learn more about traditional cider-making, visit a reconstructed farm ciderhouse and sample some cider brandy at the Hereford Cider Museum (01432 354207; cidermuseum.co.uk) at 21 Ryelands Street. Last admission 3pm. Closed Sunday and Mondays. Entrance £3.
6 Yield to temptation
18.00: There are some wonderful inns hidden away outside Hereford, but you've had enough driving for the day, and you're probably fed up that you had to watch your partner enjoying the fine wines at the Stagg Inn. So, instead check into the Castle House at Castle Street (01432 356321; castlehse.co.uk), a Georgian townhouse renovated at the turn of the century. There are 10 suites and each room is stylishly furnished with antiques. Double rooms from £200 per night, though for special occasions book the opulent Nell Gwynne Suite (she was born in Hereford) at £245 per night.
7 Keep Left for cocktails
20.00: For dinner, head for the Left Bank restaurant complex on Bridge Street (01432 349000; leftbank.co.uk.) overlooking the River Wye. Enjoy a cocktail at the riverside terrace before sitting down at the Floodgates Brasserie. Reckon on £35 per person for three courses, with drinks. Afterwards, head upstairs to Charles' Bar, which serves cocktails and tapas until 1am.
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