Nestling up to Wales with lush green rolling countryside and the cathedral city of Hereford at its heart, the west Midlands county of Herefordshire is a real and relatively undiscovered gem. Stay six miles outside Hereford in Dewsall, a Grade II listed, 10 room country house in Herefordshire. Take it over exclusively with friends (serviced or unserviced) and you can organise to have an in-house chef cook for you using local produce and a range of activities from guided walks and shooting to spa treatments. Dewsall comes with a vast kitchen, a billiards room, a dining room in the conservatory, a grand hall with an open fire, a television room and a studio that can be used for yoga. If you don’t want to take it over exclusively you can still stay here: at certain times of the year it turns into a pop-up boutique hotel in Herefordshire when it’s possible to book by room.
Step out of the door at Dewsall and you’re surrounded by 1000 acres of Duchy of Cornwall land. It’s dotted with open bridleways so you walk from Hereford to south of Ross-on-Wye. Serious walkers should also consider the Herefordshire Trail, a circular route which stretches 150-miles around the county and goes through the Malvern Hills, the Black Mountains, apple orchards, wildflower covered woodlands and river valleys. It also links five market towns - Leominster, Bromyard, Ledbury, Ross-on-Wye and Kington - so there are plenty of points where you can join the walk or stop off for long pub lunches and a look around.
Leominster has antique shops and a market every Friday in the Corn Square; in Ledbury, you should head for the much photographed, picturesque, cobbled Church Lane and you’ll see the pretty spire of St Mary’s Church in Ross-on-Wye long before you reach the town itself. One of the main attractions in Herefordshire is Hampton Court Castle and Gardens, which is situated between Leominster and Hereford. As well as the castle itself, it’s worth exploring the beautiful walled gardens (there is a maze of a 1000 yews in the centre: climb to the top for a panoramic view or take the tunnel to a waterfall in the sunken garden) and popping into The Orangery cafe for homemade soup or a baguette at lunchtime. No visit to the county would be complete without a visit to Hereford itself to see the impressive cathedral and perhaps Hereford Museum and Art Gallery set in a Victorian gothic building.
Just 3 miles outside Kington, don’t miss the Stagg Inn, a gorgeous, award-winning pub with three dining rooms (you can also eat in the bar itself) owned by head chef Steve Reynolds. Dishes could include anything from a ‘Vicarage breakfast’ of egg, soldiers, bacon and mushrooms, to Herefordshire beef or tomato and tarragon risotto. There are also regional cheese boards, homemade ice-cream and a children’s menu. Other pubs worth noting include The Sun at Northaw and, in the Black Mountains, The Carpenters Arms in Walterstone and The Bull’s Head in Craswell.