The cathedral city of Hereford is on the River Wye not far from the border with Wales.
Hereford has a lovable old core, known as the High Town, with car-free streets and family businesses.
All of Herefordshire’s rural industries converge in this city: The renowned Hereford Cattle Market was in the middle of town before recently moving to a new home on the outskirts, while factories for cider brands like Bulmers were first set up in Hereford.
Top of the list for sightseeing has to be Hereford Cathedral, which still has a lot of its Norman stonework from the turn of the 12th century.
The New Library Building here contains the Mappa Mundi, an illustrated map of the world drawn in 1300.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Hereford:
1. Hereford Cathedral
Anyone with an eye for Medieval architecture will be completely enamored of Hereford Cathedral.
The first cathedral was raised in the 7th century and was reconstructed by in the Norman period between 1079 and the middle of the 12th century.
Lots of this Romanesque building shines through in the columns and semi-circular arches of the nave, the choir up to the clerestory, the south transept and the arch linking the north transept with the choir aisle.
In the choir stalls are 40 misericords (folding seats) from the 14th century, carved with bizarre grotesque faces, everyday scenes and mythological beasts.
Give yourself time to inspect the burial monuments for the Hereford’s 12th and 13th-century bishops, and the Norman baptismal font on the south side of the nave.
2. Mappa Mundi
In 1996 The New Library Building opened in the southeast corner of the Cathedral Close, to safeguard this Medieval treasure as well as provide the appropriate climatic conditions for the cathedral’s Chained Library.
The Mappa Mundi, from the start of the 14th century, is a Medieval map of the world.
It is both the largest surviving Medieval map in the world and possibly the most important illustrated Medieval manuscript in the country.
Measuring 158 x 133 cm and drawn on a sheet of vellum (calf skin), the document shows Jerusalem at its center, and you can also pick out the Garden of Eden.
There are around 500 drawings on the map, showing cities and towns, the people of the world, natural life and images from classical mythology.
The map can be a little arcane to modern eyes, but there are interpretation boards and you hear an explanation by one of the resident experts.
3. Chained Library
If you’ve seen the 5th and 6th seasons of Game of Thrones you may have seen that the library at the Citadel has chains on its shelves.
It was inspired by real historic security systems like the one you’ll encounter at Hereford Cathedral’s Chained Library.
In fact, this is the only library of its kind to survive with all of its chains, rods and locks in working order and in place.
The original building dates from the 17th century, while the New Library Building now houses 229 Medieval manuscripts, with shelves arranged as they were from 1611 to 1841. The book collection is far older, and its most valuable book is the Hereford Gospels, produced in the 8th century.
4. Black and White House Museum
After the cathedral, Hereford’s most prized landmark is this stunning Jacobean timber-framed house raised at the start of the 1620s.
Also known as the Old House, the Black and White House has leaded bay windows and masterful carvings on its doorway and eaves.
The building started out as a butcher’s shop and was a commercial building up to 1929 when the branch of Lloyds Bank closed down and it became a museum.
The interior has been frozen in time and has rare frescoes, a significant collection of English oak furniture and information panels on Jacobean life in Hereford.
Kids can be kept entertained solving interactive puzzles and dressing up in period costume.
5. Cider Museum
The countryside around Hereford is blanketed with orchards, and with industrialisation, the city became a global center for cider production.
One international brand born here is Bulmers, and the factory set up by Henry Percival Bulmer in 1887 has been turned into a museum.
This opened in the early 1980s after the company moved production to a modern facility outside the city.
The exhibition sheds light on the history of cider in Herefordshire, and you’ll find out how apples are milled and pressed, and how that juice is fermented to make one of the UK’s favorite alcoholic beverages.
Lots of this Victorian factory has been preserved, like the cooper’s workshop, vat house, and champagne cider cellars.
There are regular live pressing demonstrations in autumn, and a shop selling a selection of ciders, cider brandy, and cider vinegar.
6. Waterworks Museum
A picturesque walk along the Wye to the west of the High Town, this museum is housed in a Victorian water pumping station from 1856. The Waterworks Museum has the largest assortment of pumping engines in working condition in the UK. There are steam-powered beam engines from the Industrial Revolution, as well as petrol, diesel and gas engines, and modern submersible electric pumps.
The show-stopping attraction is the two-story triple expansion steam engine, the oldest machine of its kind still operating the country.
The building has been restored to its 19th-century appearance, and the exhibitions recall the history of drinking water in human civilization.
There are trails for kids where they can play with replicas of ancient water lifters and working models of Victorian steam pumping engines.
7. All Saints Church
This church on the High Street in the High Town is hard to miss for its twisted spire.
The monument dates from the early 1200s and looks largely as it did following a redesign in the 14th century.
Although All Saints is a working parish church, it has also become a community center after a restoration in the 1990s, while its name is used for a diversity of talks, theatre performances, and concerts.
What also puts the church at the center of daily life in Hereford is the popular Café @ All Saints, frequented for its vegetarian options, and with an outdoor terrace in front.
8. St Francis Xavier’s Church
On Broad Street, your eye may be drawn to this temple-like Neoclassical Church.
St Francis Xavier’s was completed in 1839 and has an entrance flanked by two weighty Doric columns.
The church was founded by the Roman Catholic Society of Jesus following the Catholic relief act of 1829, which permitted Catholics to sit in Parliament once more, after centuries on the margins of British society.
The anti-catholic sentiment was still strong in the country at this time and might explain why this church has no windows, for fear of them being broken.
The sumptuous interior is illuminated by a lightwell and has beautiful stuccowork, and an altar framed by two Ionic columns.
9. Bull Statue
For many people around the world, the name “Hereford” will always be associated with a breed of cattle that originated in the county of Herefordshire.
There are five million purebred Hereford cattle in some 50 nations around the world.
The local football team, Hereford F.C., is nicknamed “The Bulls” and parades a real Hereford bull around the pitch at Edgar Street before every home game.
And to recognize it’s bovine the city commissioned a life-sized bronze statue of a Hereford Bull, which was unveiled outside the Black and White House Museum in 2012.
10. Berrington Hall
The pick of the excursions around Hereford is this National Trust Neoclassical country house, 15 miles to the north.
Berrington Hall, completed in the early-1780s, has an almost severe appearance for its red sandstone and imperious portico.
The interiors are a lot softer, in keeping with architect Henry Holland’s Louis XVI-style sensibilities.
Berrington Hall is considered the most complete of Holland’s mansions and has graceful reception rooms, ornamented with plasterwork and graceful chimneypieces.
Most remarkable is the Staircase Hall, lit from above by the house’s dome and hemmed by scagliola Corinthian columns and pilasters.
Holland’s partner and father-in-law, the great Capability Brown, designed the park’s 14-acre grounds and its unusual walled garden, in the final project of his career.
11. Weir Garden
Also, a treat is this National Trust garden on the Wye five miles west of Hereford.
The 10-acre Weir Garden faces south and is split between a free-flowing riverside garden and a walled garden growing seasonal fruits, vegetables and salads.
The latter was adapted from former farm buildings at the start of the 19th century, and has a glasshouse from the 1920s, with a custom heating system to support exotic plants.
This bend in Wye has been inhabited since Roman times, and in the riverside garden, you find a cistern from the town of Magnae Dobunnorum.
This part of Weir Garden, descending to the water, is much looser and has been designed to encourage wildlife to thrive.
More than 60 bird species have been recorded in the garden, and the boathouse on the river is a haven for otters.
12. The Courtyard
Herefordshire’s main center for the arts, the Courtyard on Edgar Street is mainly a “receiving venue” hosting touring musicians, comedians, and dance companies, and putting on a program of film screenings.
There are also some in-house productions, like the annual pantomime and regular youth theatre performances.
The Courtyard has 436-seat main auditorium, as well as a smaller studio theatre, exhibition space, rehearsal studios, and a cafe bar.
In February and March, the Courtyard is an anchor for the Borderlines Film Festival, which was attended by more than 20,000 people in 2018 and is regarded as rural England’s top film event.
13. Hereford Museum
The city museum opened in a lovely neo-Gothic building on Broad Street in 1874. Perhaps the unmissable exhibit here is a mosaic which you can find on the stairs and was recovered from the Romano-British town of Magnae Dobunnorum, five miles from Hereford.
You can browse textiles and costumes spanning hundreds of years, as well as a substantial collection of swords of all descriptions.
The museum also has some peculiar zoological exhibits, like a two-headed calf and a giant mounted pike, weighing almost 17kg.
The art gallery is devoted mainly to Brian Hatton, a Post-Impressionist painter born in Herefordshire but killed early in his career in the First World War.
14. Brobury House Gardens
Almost in Wales, about ten miles up the Wye is a Victorian mansion from the 1880s, draped in wisteria and hired out for weddings and other functions.
The terraced gardens on the banks of the river, looking down to the striking Bredwardine Bridge, were landscaped at the same time the house was built, and in the last 20 years have come through a thorough restoration.
The terraces have boxwood hedges, topiaries, a long pergola, a water garden, bog garden, towering mature trees and water meadow.
You can come to visit seven days a week, even in midwinter.
15. Rotherwas Chapel
Down the River Wye on the southeastern edge of Hereford is a historic family chapel, belonging to the Bodenhams, and now in the hands of English Heritage.
What began as a humble Medieval building was enlarged and refined down the centuries with a fine Tudor timber roof, a Georgian tower and a Victorian interior.
The Gothic Revival furnishings were produced by Pugin & Pugin a family architecture firm, descended from a Frenchman who fled the French Revolution and best known for their work at the Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament). You can visit by appointment during the week, picking up a key from the Herefordshire Archive and Records Centre.