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The Birmingham Post (England), July 18, 2001 | Go to article overview

Travel Style


The dramatic borderlands of England and Wales, covering the fascinating corners of Shropshire, Herefordshire, Powys and Chester, offer a rare blend of historical interest, fine scenery and rural life

There's nothing quite like heading off into the hills, wind blowing through your hair as you chill to the cool sounds on the car stereo. In the dream, it's always heading through the Nevada Desert with the Eagles' Hotel California blasting out.

But that may be a little over-budget for most of us, so why not look closer to home?

The Hidden Highway is a carefully planned road route that threads its way through the folds of the borderland country between Ross-on-Wye in the south and Chester in the north.

The dramatic borderlands of England and Wales, covering the fascinating corners of Shropshire, Herefordshire, Powys and Chester, offer a rare blend of historical interest, fine scenery and rural life.

The main Hidden Highway route is 173 miles (280km) long, but diversions have been built in to allow for further explorations into the romantic countryside.

The route starts at the attractive town of Ross-on-Wye, in the heart of the Wye Valley. Set high on a sandstone cliff, timbered houses cluster around a 17th century market whose first charter was granted by King Stephen in 1138.

Head on towards the historic Cathedral City of Hereford. The city is a market centre for an agricultural district famous for its white-faced cattle, cider and hops. Wild salmon from the Wye are also much prized.

The cathedral dates from the 11th century and houses the Mappa Mundi. This map of the world, drawn around 1290, gives a fascinating insight into the medieval view of the order of things.

Attractions abound - take time for a relaxing river cruise or trace the story of traditional cider-making at the Cider Museum and King Offa's Distillery.

Rolling hills stretch as far as the eye can see, broken into patterns by the trees and hedgerows. Cross the border into a different land - Wales.

Make Hay-on-Wye, second hand book capital of the world, the first port of call. Bookworms from all corners visit the town each year to browse through the millions of books.

The castle stands above the town, often seen as a romantic silhouette on the skyline. It dates from the 13th century and is said to be haunted by the wife of its founder, William de Breos.

Travel across the border towards Kington, which lies on the Offa's Dyke and Mortimer Trail long-distance footpaths.

Stop off at Leominster to wander down medieval lanes and Georgian avenues. The town has a wealth of timber-framed buildings dating from Tudor and Jacobean times - when the more lavishly carved the timber framing, the wealthier the occupants. …

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