Since I moved to Gloucestershire, I’ve discovered a myriad of lovely hiking routes in my local area that I’ve been meaning to share with you. It’s easy to search the internet for great routes but I know when I’m looking sometimes I just want a person to say “I did this walk and it was lovely, you should definitely do it”. Today I’m sharing one such hike I did much earlier in the year over in Herefordshire.
I had a couple of days off work and it seemed only right and proper that I used them for hiking (note this was well before lock down). On this particular day, I walked an nine-ish-mile circular centred around the River Wye between Goodrich Castle and Symonds Yat. There are so many footpaths in this area it’s difficult to know which are the best to walk, and if you don’t have the option to try them all out you can do much worse than the route I took as a guide for your own exploration.
I donned my not-quite-new but still very clean hiking Meindl hiking boots and shoved my also new Edmund Hilary beanie hat on my head (both kindly gifted but not sponsored, read the full disclaimer at the bottom of this post), and drove the hour-or-so over to Goodrich Castle to explore the area. It was a walk I thoroughly enjoyed; a day well spent.
I found two or three routes that looked interesting on OS Maps and decided to combine them, drawing my own route to follow on the day. This is the feature of OS Maps I use the most, I do also plan on paper maps, but the ability to plan and plot routes on my large monitor at home makes things very easy. As always, I printed my route out on paper so I had it with me, and made sure I had downloaded the relevant area onto my phone so I didn’t use up any data should I need to look at it.
After a bit of research, I parked up at the Goodrich Castle car park, an English Heritage site not far from Monmouth or Ross-on-Wye. Standing in open countryside above the River Wye, Goodrich Castle is said to be one of the finest and best preserved of all English medieval castles. We’re yet to go inside, but will be back to visit properly now we’re English Heritage members – I’m told the history is fascinating and there are spectacular views from the battlements. Oh, and there’s a tearoom, which is always a bonus. As I wasn’t visiting the Castle and I wasn’t yet a member (we’ve done that since then, not that we’ve been able to use it much…), it cost me £3 to park all day, which is perfectly acceptable in my opinion. It also meant I started and finished where there were toilets, which is always important for a day hike.
Christening New Hiking Boots
I left Goodrich Castle and headed down towards Kerne Bridge, where I picked up the path along the River Wye (I didn’t cross the river) towards Coppet Hill.
It wasn’t long before I heard what sounded like a combination of hilarity and pain… I’d come across a lady and her friend who had slipped down a steep and particularly muddy section of the footpath and were struggling to get each other up. I did my good deed for the day and got them both back on their feet, wiped one lady’s glasses and found the other lady’s hat, and left them giggling there way along the path in the opposite direction. Neither were hurt – just a couple of muddy bums, and it made for an interesting memory for me on this particular walk.
The slippery slidey mud the two ladies encountered was definitely the order of the day, though, and my nice clean tan coloured boots were coated very quickly indeed. Getting new clean boots muddy for the first time is a strange thing, it’s fun and sad in equal measure. Of course, a few months down the line now I couldn’t care less about how muddy my boots are, but you always have to go through that first muddy puddle.
Once well within the trees, the footpath takes a sharp turn and heads diagonally up the hill. These are the kind of footpaths I love the most, the single track, winding, rooty and rocky paths that take you through the trees and into the unknown.
Beanie Hat Selfie on Coppet Hill
If you’re looking North from Symonds Yat Rock in the photo at the top of this post, Coppet Hill covers the right-hand side of the famous view. I decided to head up this hill first because, well, I wanted a trig pillar on my route, there isn’t one at Symonds Yat, and the internet had told me the views from up there were beautiful. From the top of the wooded footpath up from Kerne Bridge I picked up a path that took me alongside the iron-smelting ruins and up onto the hill. I’m told that “Coppet Hill” suggests that this hill had trees on top for a long time, as it likely means “topped with a crest of trees”.
I headed up to the trig pillar, taking a few snaps to prove I made it, I even managed a selfie. I should give my beanie hat a proper mention, it really is a lovely one, hand knitted over in Equador for the new Edmund Hilary collection (find it here on Edmund Hillary’s website). The design uses a traditional local pattern, inspired by the Everest vista, and no two beanie hats are the same, which I think is very cool indeed. I mean, this wasn’t a mountain climb by any stretch of the imagination, but I think it’s a really lovely hat that works as well on the hills of Herefordshire as it does anywhere else in the world! It’s is made from 100% wool, and so keeps my head particularly cosy, and I would say is the perfect fit. An excellent beanie hat, I have to say.
Anyway, back to the walk. Rather than following my planned route back down the same way and into Goodrich before crossing the Wye, I decided to keep going along the top of the hill (once I’m up on a hilltop I generally want to stay up…) a bit further before taking a lovely bouncy and easy going grassy path down through the gorse and fern (when you look at the route on OS Maps I have edited it to show the path I actually took here).
River Wye in Flood
I hiked this area during a period of persistent heavy rain which meant the River Wye was particularly full and overflowing in a lot of places. I had come prepared to alter my walking route if I needed to avoid footpaths along the River, and it was once at the bottom of Coppet Hill as I headed through Rocklands Farm this became necessary. Normally, the footpath goes through the farm, but the fields to the north of the river were most certainly not passable, and I stayed on the quite country road a bit longer than I would have normally. (For this section I have left my route on OS Maps as planned, as I could see that in normal conditions this footpath would be the best route to take.)
Once over the River Wye I started by following the footpath that hugs the riverbank all the way around to where the hill starts rising from the valley, but found myself needing to venture further and further into the field to keep my feet dry, and even then had to look where I was going as the puddles were vast and the field was more lake than ground a lot of the time. It wasn’t impossible, but it wasn’t the most pleasant part of the walk on this occasion – in nicer conditions I imagine it’s utterly beautiful as you head along there towards the woodland. Once in the shelter of the trees, before the path climbed up the hill, the path raised up just a little from the height of the river and it was much easier walking. Soon the path zigzagged up the hill, and it is quite the hill, there was even a set of steps to help with one section – more of a ladder than stairs, but it did the trick.
River Views from Symonds Yat
The main reason for my day hike, and the highlight without question, were the views from Symonds Yat itself. Symonds Yat is a very popular tourist destination which straddles the River Wye in England. It is hugely famous for its natural river scenery and wooded expanses, for every good reason – it is utterly beautiful. Yat Rock, which is where you will find the viewpoint, is a limestone outcrop rising some 120 metres from the banks of the River Wye.
I could easily have driven to the car park at the top of the hill and wandered the five minutes to the viewpoint, but the fact that I’d walked from Goodrich Castle made it all the more satisfying. I could see Goodrich and Coppet Hill from here; I do like being able to see where I’ve come from on a hike, I find it immensely satisfying to be able to trace my steps in the view in front of me (yes, even when I know I have to get back there because that’s where my car is parked…). I spent a bit of time enjoying the view, had lunch at the café, and wandered around the top of the hill for a bit, before deciding it was probably time to get myself back to Goodrich Castle and head home.
Back to Goodrich
I decided to take the lane back down off the hill to avoid those waterlogged fields, which did mean I had to be careful of cars heading up to the car park but it wasn’t busy and is certainly not a fast moving road so it was fine on this occasion. (Again, I’ve left the route as I’d planned it, there’s no need to take the lane if the river isn’t flooded.) Once I was back over the bridge I picked up a lovely footpath into the the village of Goodrich itself, and followed a track from there up to the Castle where I completed my sort-of-circle.
In all I walked the nine-ish miles in something under four hours, which included plenty of stops for photographs and lunch at the outdoor café on Symonds Yat. It was a lovely route through a beautiful area of the Wye Valley, and I would very much recommend it.
If you’re interested in the route I took, you can use this as a guide. If you are not already subscribed to OS Maps, start here to find out more about the service – and don’t forget to message me for my discount code as I can give you 15% off (worth having…).
I’ll admit it’s been a very long time since I did hill walks on consecutive days (I’d walked up another similar-sized hill the previous day), and my legs ached a lot the day after, but this hike was well worth the time and effort and I could very happily walk the same route again another time.
There are a couple of gifted products featured in this post. My new Meindl hiking boots were a gift from Cotswold Outdoor to say thanks for reviewing their boot fitting service (read about that here) and the fabulous Edmund Hilary handmade beanie hat was also a gift (you can find the hat here). Thanks to both companies for providing this kit.