Explore the Wye Valley

Explore the Wye Valley
Weaving its way along the border of England and Wales, the Wye Valley has long been appreciated for its picturesque beauty. In fact, the area was revered by Reverend William Gilpin, the man who pioneered the very idea of the “picturesque” at the end of the 18th century. For him, the Wye Valley was “expressive of that peculiar beauty which is agreeable in a picture”.

But it’s not just pretty. It is also rich in history, from the Romans all the way through to the industrial age. In Chepstow, you’ll find a castle which dates back to 1067. In Monmouth, there are medieval bridges and traces of Lord Nelson and Henry V. In Tintern, you’ll find not only the striking ruins of an abbey founded in 1131 but also traces of industry that predate the Industrial Revolution itself. At Symonds Yat, there are the remnants of an Iron Age hillfort.

Then there’s the wildlife. From the waters of the Wye, wild salmon leap and there has even been the occasional seal sighting. At Symonds Yat, you may sight a peregrine falcon or other birds of prey. All around, there are rolling hills dotted with cows and sheep.

And foodies needn’t despair either. There is no shortage of quaint country pubs serving up hearty fare, best washed down with a pint of the local brew, or even a local wine – yes, there are vineyards here too. Tick, tick, tick.

Tintern Abbey, UK
Wye Valley
Goodrich Castle

Places to Visit in the Wye Valley

  • Tintern
  • Brockweir
  • Monmouth
  • Symonds Yat
  • Ross-on-Wye

Unique Things to See and Do in the Wye Valley

  • Wander the great monastic ruins of Tintern Abbey
  • Take a traditional hand-pull ferry across the water at Symonds Yat
  • Try a pint of the local brew at the historic Brockweir Inn
  • Watch the salmon fishers haul in their catch
  • Hike areas of ancient woodland

The Birthplace of British Tourism

The Wye Valley was first explored in 1745 by Dr John Egerton who started taking his friends on boat trips along the River Wye from the rectory at Ross-on-Wye. The popularity of these trips burgeoned, aided by the publication of Reverend William Gilpin’s illustrated guidebook entitled “Observations on the River Wye”. In fact, by 1808 there were eight boats carrying tourists through the valley – really the first organised tours the country had ever seen.

The area’s intense beauty was not its only drawcard for these pioneering tourists. Visitors to the area were also fascinated by its industrial activities which predated the Industrial Revolution, making them all the more fascinating.

Iron had been made in the area since Roman times, with the river originally providing transport for both the raw materials and the finished product. With the introduction of the blast furnace in the 1500s, the river’s tributaries became the source of waterpower. But more was to follow. Brass was first made in Britain in Tintern in 1566, which gave rise to wiremaking. For the following 400 years, the Lower Wye Valley was a hive of industrial activity.

In 1792, Gilpin wrote of the “life and bustle” and “thick smoke” to be found in the area, as well as the “great iron works, which introduce noise and bustle into these regions of tranquillity”.

While all of these elements formed essential parts of the popular Wye Tour, there is little trace of them now. For during the course of the 19th century, the valley’s industries slowly declined. But among the woodlands and beside the babbling waters of the Wye’s tributaries, some clues to its industrial past can still be found.

Getting Around the Wye Valley

What better way to explore this area of outstanding beauty than on the water itself? Drift along the River Wye by canoe, kayak or river cruise with Ross-on-Wye. Monmouth and Symonds Yat are good places to get on the water.

However, if you prefer to stay on dry land, then hiring a car is probably the easiest way to make your way from a to b, although the winding roads, shaded by an abundance of leaves are also popular with mountain bikers. The river banks also offer some lovely rambles. There are public bus services connecting with some of the towns in the valley too, but these are not really targeted at tourists.

Best Time of Year to Travel to the Wye Valley

Summertime is a wonderful time of year to visit the Wye Valley when you can take full advantage of all of the outdoor activities on offer; although you should be prepared for a drop of rain no matter the time of year.

Did you know…?

One of the major rivers of Britain, the 210 km long River Wye flows from the moorlands of central Wales down through England to the Severn Estuary where it meets the Irish Sea.

Did you ALSO know…?

The River Wye was the first British river to be designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest in recognition of its immense nature conservation importance while the Wye Valley has been named an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Beauty
Spring and autumn are also lovely times to visit with fewer crowds and mild temperatures. But even the chillier climes of winter can be just as enjoyable if huddling around a log fire with a pint of ale and a steaming meat pie and a top notch view is more your thing.

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