Cycling, cider and sunshine: three reasons to head to Herefordshire for apple season. Stylist’s Megan Glynn explores this lesser-known staycation spot and finds some hidden gems.
With demand for British staycations at an all-time high, this is not the time to bank on a last-minute booking. So why not focus your mind instead on the end of summer and the lazy, early autumn days that so often bring great weather and fewer crowds. Our recommendation? Herefordshire – an under-explored county that’s tucked against the Welsh border and whose wild landscapes and cute market towns offer city escapees just the freedom you might be craving. And if you plan your trip for late summer, you’ll be in sync with apple season, which can only mean one thing – cider. Stylist’s Megan Glynn took to two wheels to take a tour of the region’s best orchards, pit-stops and restaurants.
How to get around
“If you’ve got the time, cycling is the perfect way to navigate the pretty hamlets and villages of Herefordshire. Think swaying wheat fields, cobbled tracks and the distinctive smell of apples in the air – the moment the sun breaks through the clouds, you’ll feel like you’re in the south of France. There are more than 50 miles of trails through the rolling Malvern Hills, but I’d say you need more than a beginner’s level of fitness – some of the ascents are intense. There are three popular circular routes to try. I set off from Hereford and within a mile or so I was freewheeling through open countryside, looking forward to a pint of something thirst-quenching. Luckily, it didn’t take long to find it.
Best cider stop-offs
“My first pit-stop was at Broome Farm, home to the Johnson family and the Ross-on-Wye Cider & Perry Company. Here the process is kept pure and simple, with only natural ingredients, whole juice and traditional fermentation methods. Cider fanatics will love hearing about the farm’s history and with dozens of single variety ciders and perries, it’s quite the education. Their annual cider festival looks set to go ahead in September this year, with a line-up that includes live music, camping, gourmet food and 10 visiting cidermakers.
“Onwards along the banks of the River Wye and up several hefty hills, you’ll reach Westons Cider Mill, where a tour of the historic 17th century cider mill will tell you everything you never thought to ask about how cider is made – from first blossom through to pressing and fermenting. I’d recommend their Scrumpy House Restaurant as a good spot for a pick-me-up (try the cider-glazed ham, egg and chips) and don’t forget to say hello to the shire horses on your way out.
“A mile or so on through the village of Much Marcle, you’ll find Gregg’s Pit Cider & Perry, whose limited-edition, small-batch ciders line the shelves of Claridge’s and are definitely worth a try. Made using an ancient stone press, James takes a painstaking and scientific approach to his craft and you can taste it with every sip. October is the perfect time to visit as it coincides with Big Apple Harvestime – a huge celebration that includes orchard walks and talks.”
Where to eat
The Loughpool Inn, Sellack
You know you’ve found a gem when the pub is fully booked on a Thursday lunchtime and there are still people queuing outside. The Loughpool combines the cosiness of a traditional country pub with the finest British fare made with high-quality local produce.
Leonards at 39, Ross-on-Wye
With quirky interiors inside a Grade II listed building, Leonards is the spot for a classic pint or casual cocktail. If you haven’t had enough apples, pair their bestselling The Banks Of Wye cloudy apple cocktail with a table full of tapas.
The Nest, Ledbury
A glorious farm shop, café and deli only a short cycle from central Ledbury. It does brunch best, with eggs fresh from the coop, plus flaky jumbo sausage rolls for the road.
Where to stay
The Feathers, Ledbury
For a truly traditional stay, this historic resting place for travellers is the perfect end to a day in the saddle. Soak out the knots in a roll-top bath before climbing into one of The Feathers’ heavenly four-poster beds. (From £58 per night.)
Castle House Hotel, Hereford
A gorgeous boutique hotel a two-minute walk from Hereford Cathedral and the town’s tangle of quirky backstreets, Castle House hits the sweet spot between luxury and a relaxed atmosphere. Don’t miss the award-winning restaurant and bar that backs onto a serene garden and duck pond. (From £85 per night.)
The Bridge House, Ross-on-Wye
On the banks of the River Wye and a stone’s throw from the town centre, this cosy hotel has direct access to gorgeous waterside walks. The owners are there to welcome you with Bella the labrador at hand, and the honesty bar is well-loved by guests with a roaring fire and squashy arm chairs. (From £95 per night.)
For more information on Herefordshire’s cider circuits, go to visitherefordshire.co.uk.
Images: courtesy of Visit Herefordshire.