Herefordshire, a county in the West Midlands of England, is often missed on the tourist ramble about England. It is among the most rural and bucolic of all the English counties, providing breathtaking, arcadian views for miles. The county is also the home to the Hereford cattle breed, which you can see happily munching on the rolling grassy hills alongside the roads. Herefordshire's historic treasures and sights are arguably among the most well-kept secrets in the UK, and the relative anonymity of the county will insure you a relaxed pace comfortably free of throngs of crowds.
Start your exploration of Herefordshire in the cathedral city and county seat of Hereford, which is situated on the banks of the River Wye; it's the largest city in Hereforshire. An Anglo-Saxon ancient city, founded around 688, Hereford is steeped in both a Anglo-Saxon and later Norman Conquest history. Hereford Cathedral is an important stop within the city.
Remnants of the original Norman cathedral remain in the choir, but most of the building dates to the 13th century. One of the most important medieval maps - the Hereford Mappa Mundi - can be seen in the cathedral library. It is the largest known medieval map of the world and dates to the late 13th century. This significant historical artifact blends a medieval understanding of the world within a Christian understanding of the Old Testament. Look for depictions of Noah's Ark, as well as figures of the "Monstrous Races" - races of fantastical humans that were believed by medieval peoples to live on the edges of the world.
Hereford also has much to offer those interested in Jacobean history of England. The Old House - a distinctive black and white timber framed house - dates from 1621 and is a museum dedicated to life in Jacobean England; it is the only Jacobean townhouse on its block to survive demolition in 1816. It has a rich collection of furniture and decorative items from the period, giving the rare opportunity to explore Jacobean domestic life within a period house.
Other historic houses dot the countryside and are certainly worth a trip outside of Hereford. Croft House (an 11th century Norman castle) and Berrington Hall (a neoclassical building based on designs by Capability Brown) offer easy day trips, history, as well as lush grounds. The gardens at Hampton Court (a Tudor Castle in Hope under Dinmore) are of particular note, and offer a kitchen garden, maze, and century-old wisteria arch. For those with an interest in ecclesiastical history, Dore Abbey and Kilpeck church will not disappoint for their preserved sculptural motifs dating back to the Norman period. Be sure to examine the Norman relief carvings for sightings of Green Men; be sure to see the utterly charming "hound and hare" relief at Kilpeck for a dose of medieval whimsy.
Ramble walks and country strolls abound in this county. If you are after a countryside stroll, the views and vistas of the Wye River Valley in Herefordshire are not to me missed. It has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is one of the most stunning sceneries in all of England. The Wye River Walk (in total 136 miles) can be walked on for short day rambles, and provides an easy going, leisurely way of seeing the landscape. Here, amongst the hills and basins, history and nature converge and provide a dramatic backdrop for all Herefordshire offers.