British break: A road-trip guide to historic Herefordshire

It can often feel like time has stood still among the timber-framed villages scattering Herefordshire. But that’s the joy of it, writes Clare Gogerty, as she road-trips the historic countryside...

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As I bowled along the roads linking Herefordshire’s ‘Black and White Villages’ (named in honour of their two-tone buildings), I believed, for a second, in time travel. Here, in one of England’s least populated counties, little appeared to have changed for decades, centuries even.

The landscape of wooded hills, shot through with sparkling rivers, has not been scarred by industry or development. Farming is the thing here, and although mechanisation has changed the means of production, apple orchards still burst into blossom in spring, hops are still cut from their strings in autumn and Hereford cattle still munch the grass.

Time was further suspended in the Black and White Villages. Located in the north-west of the county, lying along the tree-lined Arrow and Lugg river valleys, these timbered and half-timbered settlements remain virtually unaltered since they were built in the 15th and 16th centuries. Until relatively recently, rural poverty meant that they were repaired rather than rebuilt or extended, leaving the integrity of the originals intact. The only difference is that the oak beams wouldn’t have been stained black: that became the fashion in Victorian times.


Leominster’s Grange Court was built in 1633 (Shutterstock)

Leominster’s Grange Court was built in 1633 (Shutterstock)

To help explore this heritage, Visit Herefordshire has devised several trails. I chose to drive the 68km motoring trail (with electric car charging points along the way), which is ideal for a weekend break, though there are also bus and cycling routes, too.

My drive started at the market town of Leominster, which has its fair share black-and-white buildings, then meandered along to Dilwyn, Weobley, Eardisley and Pembridge before ending up at what is regarded as the prettiest of the lot: Eardisland.

The roads between villages were quiet – it was tempting to toot the horn like Mr Toad and give tractor drivers a cheery wave. Road signs advertised grass seed, poultry and fodder. Although the villages are united by a shared architectural vernacular, they each have a particular character. Arriving at the next one on the trail was like discovering a different forgotten world, albeit one with contemporary benefits like gastropubs, art galleries and cosy lodgings. Time slipped past most agreeably; it really was possible to forget you were in the 21st century.

How to spend 48 hours in Herefordshire 

Day 1

School Lane in Leominster Shutterstock)

School Lane in Leominster Shutterstock)

Leominster’s timbered buildings, including the former market house Grange Court, are a taste of what’s to come. The town is also the place to pick up a vintage bargain – it teems with antique shops – or buy local art and crafts at the Oxenham Art Gallery. Make time to visit the Norman Leominster Priory, too – the ducking stool alone is worth a detour. With the city behind you, the road then spools out towards Dilwyn, a quiet backwater (its name is Anglo Saxon for “a hidden place”) with a parish-council-owned pub, the Crown Inn, and a clutch of timbered houses around the village green. Next, follow the A4112 to Weobley (pronounced “Webbly”) for lunch at Jules, which has a smokehouse, microbrewery and makes its own sausages. Replenished, saunter along Broad Street towards the church, admiring the 15th-century timber buildings and reading about them on heritage plaques. Finish with a pint of Dunkerton’s at Ye Olde Salutation Inn or tuck into some well-earned tea and cake at The Green Bean.

Day 2

Eardisland (Shutterstock)

Eardisland (Shutterstock)

This scenic road trip continues to Eardisley, which boasts, you guessed it, timber-framed houses and the ‘Great Oak’, a tree said to be 900 years old. Make sure you nip into St Mary Magdalene Church, with its Norman font carved by the Herefordshire School of stonemasons. Next stop is Kington, an artsy market town near the Welsh border. Buy bread and cheese at Number 25 deli and pick up some damn fine coffee at Border Bean café. Your penultimate stop is Pembridge which, alongside black-and-white buildings galore, an excellent café, a village store and an ancient market hall, has a church with a remarkable detached timber-framed bell tower, originally constructed in the 13th century. The banks of the River Arrow here have a pebble beach and conservation area, a good place to stroll and paddle. Arrive at pretty Eardisland by crossing a stone bridge spanning the River Arrow and its millrace, before parking near its Georgian dovecote (now a community shop). A good old-fashioned cream scone and cuppa at Rita’s Tearooms makes for a satisfying end to the trail. 


“Having lived in Herefordshire all my life, I have taken the wonder of our black-and-white architecture for granted. I have wandered on numerous occasions through Weobley, Dilwyn and Eardisley, and nearly every village and town in the county gives a big nod to the wonderful timber-framed Tudor architecture. In these buildings are living, breathing shops, cafés, churches and homes. We are so lucky to live in our own history.”

- Joanna Hilditch, High Sheriff of Herefordshire

Four things to do in Herefordshire

Join a walking festival in Kington (Shutterstock)

Join a walking festival in Kington (Shutterstock)

Visit a garden

The lush Westonbury Mill Water Gardens, near Pembridge, is worth a detour. Gigantic gunnera tower over lakes and streams, and eccentric follies, including an enormous water-powered cuckoo clock, await discovery. There is also a fine café.


Sup cider

There are around 100 artisan cider producers in Hereford, many of which offer orchard tours and cider tastings, including The Orgasmic Cider Company near Eardisley. Dunkerton’s sell its range of craft ciders at The Cider Barn, near Pembridge, which is also has an excellent restaurant.


Say cheese

A cheesemaking revival is gathering apace as increasing numbers of shops and markets here stock the delectable Herefordshire Hop. Monkland Cheese, handily located for the trail, produces several award-winning cheeses and holds regular guided tours


There are 3,380km of dedicated footpaths in Herefordshire. Kington holds walking festivals in April and September, or you could start with a modest 5km circular ‘Roasts and Rambles’ pub walk from Weobley. Download this and other routes at

Bedroom in the Manor House at The Lemore Estate (The Lemore Estate)

Bedroom in the Manor House at The Lemore Estate (The Lemore Estate)

Extra information

Getting there: Herefordshire has one motorway, the 35km M50. You can reach Leominster by either the A44 or the A49, both reasonable roads. There are hourly trains from Manchester and Carmarthen (Wales) to Leominster railway station and several car-hire companies in town. Alternatively, hop on a number 496 or 495 bus, stopping at Weobley, Pembridge and Eardisland. For more info, check out the Black and White Villages by Bus Trail at

Stay at: The five-star Arrowbank Country Holiday Park sits just outside Pembridge and has pitches for tents and touring caravans. The Lemore Estate, a country house set in parkland near Eardisley and a nice mid-point on the trail, has rooms in the Manor House and lodges in the grounds.

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