The Wye Valley is reputed to be the birthplace of UK tourism and it’s easy to see why people have been attracted to the area since the 18th Century with its stunning landscape and serene atmosphere.
It is well deserving of its accolade as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and has inspired work from Coleridge, Wordsworth, Turner and more recently JK Rowling.
The River Wye flows from the south of Hereford to its mouth at Chepstow, winding its way through the counties of Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Monmouthshire. It covers 136 miles of spectacular and ever-changing scenery.
The Wye Valley itself is renowned for its limestone gorges, undulating fields and dense ancient woodlands which support rare and important bird and bat species, as well as unique flowers and insects.
The rich countryside offers even the most seasoned traveller something different. Take a hike up the Iron Age Hillfort at Symonds Yat Rock, famed as a viewpoint for the peregrine falcons nesting site. Stroll around the romantic gothic ruins of Tintern Abbey or take to the water in a canoe or kayak. Above ground is stunning, however you can even explore below ground in the ancient cave system at Clearwell or the numerous cave sites in the valley.
Things to Do in the Wye Valley
To risk a cliché there is literally something for everyone to enjoy within the Wye Valley – culture vultures, outdoor adventurers, foodies, day trippers and everyone in between.
Walks and Hikes In and Near the Wye Valley
The geography of the Wye Valley lends itself perfectly to scenic strolls and slightly harder hikes across the striking countryside.
For families with little ones try the Peregrine Path near Ross on Wye. It is just under 7 miles long however you don’t need to walk the whole path as it can easily be approached in sections and has traffic free sections too. You can also break away from the main path and stop over at Symonds Yat Rock Viewpoints.
Symonds Yat Rock Viewpoint
Symonds Yat Rock view point will alone make your day if you have the chance to see the peregrine falcons soaring above the dramatic heights of the valley and river below.
They nest between late March to July, so this is the best time to visit the viewpoint. The woodlands of the Forest of Dean, 120 metres high above the River Wye, is the perfect hunting ground for the world’s fastest animal, the Peregrine falcon. They can fly and hunt at upto 200 miles per hour!
You may be lucky enough to see the falcons hunt or train their young to hunt and fly at top speed by dropping food from a height for them to chase. Once at the summit of Yat Rock, you can walk around the paths where you’ll find ditches and banks belonging to the remains of an Iron Age hillfort dating to 2500 years ago.
If you end up parking your car at Symonds Yat East car park on the riverside, then the walk up to the Yat rock can be tiring at times.
However, it is completely worth it when you get to the top and look at the 360° panoramic views.
How to Get to Symonds Yat Rock Viewpoint
Getting to Symonds Yat Rock by Car
Symonds Yat Rock Viewpoint is located near Coleford, Gloucestershire. The SatNav postcode to use is GL16 7NZ.
There is parking here with prices from April to October being £3 for upto 2 hours, £5 for upto 4 hours and £7 all day. From November to March, it is £2 for upto 2 hours, £4 for upto 4 hours and £5 all day. There is a pay and display machine onsite or you can pay using the RingGo app.
Facilities at Symonds Yat Rock
There are easy access trails, accessible toilets, a cafe and a picnic area to make your visit more comfortable.
There is a visitor information centre by the Yat rock known as the The Log Cabin at Yat Rock.
Video of the Symonds Yat Panoramic Views and Nearby Walks
Other walks in Wye Valley
The Trellech Beacon walk is a circular route and is also family friendly and straightforward for those with mobility issues as there are no stiles to climb. It’s just over 3 miles in length and provides beautiful views of the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean.
For those seeking more of a hike, try Kymin Hill, a National Trust property which summits at 245 metres and provides spectacular vistas of the Brecon Beacons and across to the Malvern Hills.
For a more moderate walk there is the Credenhill Woods where you can climb the 180 metre hillfort defences and ramble around the enclosure to see wildlife, views across the surrounding countryside and relax with a picnic.
Waterfall Walks in the Wye Valley
There are also numerous waterfall walks throughout the Wye Valley where you can see freshwater tumbling down cliffs on its way to the River Wye. For the full drama of the cascading water it is best to visit the waterfalls after periods of heavier rain, generally in the winter months.
There is the Cleddon Waterfall near Llandogo which is an easy stroll of 3 miles, set amongst woodland. You’ll also come across viewpoints on the walk so you can take in the dramatic scenery of the area from the comfort of a bench.
For a moderate ramble there is the Talybont walk, near Hay on Wye which is just over 4 miles long. The wonderful thing about this route is that there are actually a few other smaller waterfalls as well as the wreckage of a Wellington Bomber making it a varied and interesting walk.
Kayaking and Canoeing on the River Wye
If you are looking for a different perspective of the striking Wye Valley countryside try kayaking or canoeing the River Wye. It is the fifth longest river in the UK so there are a multitude of spots to launch from.
For a gentler paddle try Glasbury to Hay on Wye and then onto Hereford and Ross on Wye. These are picturesque and serene sections with a few slightly faster parts to add a splash of excitement.
For the more intrepid canoeist there is the Symonds Yat Rapids. As a grade two stretch it is not a beginner’s section, however for those who have had more time on the water it will provide a bit of a thrill. After the Yat Rapids there are some interesting sights including the Seven Sisters Rocks and the palaeolithic archaeology site, King Arthur’s Cave.
There are plenty of options for canoeists and kayakists of all levels and abilities. There is equipment for hire so you don’t need to take your own as well as short courses available for a quicker splash around and full tours for those who want to head to a destination but prefer the comfort of a guide.
You can hire canoes and kayaks from the Wyedean Canoe and Adventure Centre at Symonds Yat east. Here are the details below:
Website – wyedean.co.uk
Address – Symonds Yat, East, Ross-on-Wy, HR9 6JL
Phone – 0160 089 1376
There are also water sport friendly camping sites, B&Bs, pubs and shops along the river where they are well used to waterlogged travellers needing food, rest and recuperation.
Archaeology Sites of the Wye Valley
King Arthur’s Cave in the Wye Valley
There are a wealth of archaeological sites to explore throughout the valley, perfect for anyone with a keen interest in this area. For a trip into prehistory add the intriguing King Arthur’s cave to your list.
It is thought to be in human use from about 40,000 years ago. Archaeologists have found bones from lions and mammoths that used to roam the area as well as evidence of neolithic people having used the caves for shelter.
How to get to King Arthur’s Cave in Wye Valley
Address – King Arthur’s Cave, Great Doward, Herefordshire
If you are driving, then you can use this post code on your satnav – HR9 6DZ
This postcode will take you near the Doward Park Campsite. Continue driving past the campsite, and then turn slight left on to the country road where you can usually park your car in the pull-in area.
You can also copy the exact co ordinates and search for King Arthur’s cave on your phone as below:
Clearwell Caves in Wye Valley
Another subterranean site to check out are the Clearwell Caves. This popular attraction boasts a visitor centre giving you a guided insight into the changing use of the mine from the Iron Age.
How to get to Clearwell Caves
Getting to Clearwell Caves by Car
Clearwell Caves are a mile and a half away from Coleford town centre. You can follow the brown signs to the caves from here. The SatNav postcode is GL16 8JR. Parking is free of charge.
Getting to Clearwell Caves by Train
Lydney train station is 5 miles away from the caves. From here, you can get the bus to Coleford, getting off at Milkwall and then it’s a ¾ mile walk to Clearwell Caves.
Gloucester train station is a bit further at 21 miles away. You can get the Stagecoach bus number 31, get off at Milkwall and then walk the ¾ miles to the Caves.
Ticket Prices of Clearwell Caves
Child (4-16): £6.50
Concessions: (Student, OAP) £7.00
Family (2+2): £26.00
Family (2+3): £30.00
Facilities at Clearwell Caves
There is a cafe and a gift shop onsite for you to enjoy. Please note that as these are mining caves, there may be uneven surfaces inaccessible for those with walking difficulties.
Hillforts and Roman camps in Wye Valley
To explore archaeology above ground there are the ambiguous standing stones at Huntsham, Staunton and Trellech dating from the Bronze Age. And if that isn’t enough, there are also thought to be at least nine hillforts overlooking the River Wye in the lower Wye Valley.
These include the Symonds Yat Hillfort, Little Doward, Piercefield and Lancaut to name a few. Plus, at Lydney Gardens you can visit the site of a Roman camp including a Temple set amongst the delightful gardens of the park.
Historical Monuments in Wye Valley
Tintern Abbey in Wye Valley
An absolute must for the Wye Valley bucket list is Tintern Abbey in Monmouthshire. The striking structure originally dates from 1131, although it is an amalgamation of another building from the 16th Century.
The roofless and previously abandoned gothic landmark has inspired generations of writers and artists as an icon of the Romantics. It’s as charming now as it was 200 years ago when it was first widely publicised by William Gilpin in his book ‘Observations on the River Wye’.
Wander through the soaring archways, examine the intricate workmanship of the stonemasonry and lunch al fresco in the nearby fields with an idyllic view across the 500 year old ruins.
How to Get to Tintern Abbey
Tintern Abbey’s address is Tintern, Chepstow, Monmouthshire, NP16 6SE.
Opening Times for Tintern Abbey
Tintern Abbey is open all year round.
1 March 2020 – 30 June, 9:30am – 5:00pm.
1 July – 31 August, 9.30am – 6.00pm
1 September – 31 October, 9.30am – 5.00pm
1 November – 28 February 2021, Monday to Saturday 10.00am – 4.00pm, Sunday 11.00am – 4.00pm.
Ticket Prices for Tintern Abbey
Family (2 adults and upto 3 children): £21.60
Children (aged 5–17)/concessions/students: £4.60
Children under 5: Free
Facilities at Tintern Abbey
There is a gift shop onsite selling a variety of products and Tintern Abbey is accessible for those with limited mobility.
Chepstow Castle in Wye Valley
For a touch more culture, Chepstow Castle is also well worth a visit. Perched high above the banks of the River Wye, the medieval structure was constructed more than 800 years ago and is famed for being the oldest post Roman surviving stone structure in Britain.
It’s the perfect place for the kids to run wild or for history enthusiasts to learn about the convoluted past of this fascinating building.
How to get to Chepstow Castle
Getting to Chepstow Castle by Car
The address for Chepstow Castle is Chepstow Castle, Bridge St, Chepstow, NP16 5EY. You can use this postcode for SatNavs and there is a pay and display car park at the site.
Getting to Chepstow Castle by Train
Chepstow train station is 0.6 miles away from the castle. You could either walk from there or grab a taxi.
Facilities at Chepstow Castle
There is a gift shop with a variety of products and guide books. Areas of the castle are also accessible for those with limited mobility.
The Forest of Dean near Wye Valley
As if the Wye Valley wasn’t stunning enough, it also boasts The Forest of Dean on its borders. This ancient wood has had a long and varied past as royal hunting grounds, a Tudor navy timber site and home to prehistoric industrial works. It is now famed for its teeming wildlife and mystical atmosphere inspiring literature and attracting glamorous big budget films including Star Wars, Harry Potter, and more recently the new version of The Secret Garden.
Visit Puzzlewood near Coleford within the Forest of Dean is one of the many highlights of the area. Take in its other-worldly feel with knurled ancient trees, caves and an absolute maze of fanciful pathways and bridges. Explore the open cast mining site from the Roman period, try and spot foxes, badgers, deer and even the protected lesser horseshoe bats, or simply amble through this timeless magical landscape.
Eating Out in the Wye Valley
A visit to the Wye Valley definitely creates an appetite and luckily there are so many amazing places to refuel. There are some gastronomic delights to sample as well as jolly good English food and fine ales.
Sample ale fermented with care and attention in Kingston Brewery microbrewery in the woods near the Tintern Abbey. There is even an ale based on a recipe from 1503! If you fancy some posh nosh make a reservation at Michelin star restaurant, The Whitebrook where they take pride in bringing the flavours of the valley to the plate, from wild herbs to local veggies and even boar.
If you are a fan of a classic cream tea or simple fair, then head to the Rose Cottage Tea Garden at Ross on Wye. Kick back and watch the river flowing by with moist, crumbly scones or homemade cake. For the quintessential pub experience check out the Boat Inn in Penallt, Monmouth. This place has it all – terraced pub gardens, its own waterfall, river views and excellent hot and cold pub food.
There is so much to do in the Wye Valley making it the perfect place to return to again and again.
Wye Valley Hotels and Accommodation
The Wye Valley has a huge variety of accommodation available for every type of traveller and budget. From luxury hotels, bed & breakfasts and log cabins to self-catering cottages, campsites, hostels and caravan parks.
You can enjoy both short and long breaks according to your comfort needs, whether that’s dog friendly, child friendly, accessible etc.
A good place to start searching for your next holiday in Wye Valley holiday is on the Forest of Dean District Council supported website: https://www.visitdeanwye.co.uk/
We hope you found this detailed post useful in demonstrating all that the Wye Valley has to offer. Whether you’re coming for a day trip or a holiday, you can do everything here from countryside and waterfall walks to canoeing and kayaking to surveying historical sites. The Wye Valley really is a beautiful landscape to explore.