The Wye valley is a golden place for a road trip. Easy to reach from any part of England’s backbone, there’s masses to do, whether you’re after a fun family trip or a chilled romantic escape. If your soul has been craving a slower pace of life, chances are you’ll be contemplating whether you, too, could keep chickens and ducks, and host dinners with an Aga before you’ve even left the main road. 

Where to stay 

First thing, there are loads of places to stay in the Wye region. We particularly like the Saracens Head, which is a great high-end gastro pub and restaurant complete with separate accommodation right on the stunning Wye river. Rooms range from affordable and cosy to airy and balconied, and you can walk directly from here up to the top of Symonds Yat Rock – a must for anyone staying here. 

Pack sturdy footwear and a brave face, as it’s no light climb, but it is a proper path all the way up, so you can do it with kids if you want. Just give them time and snacks – and think slings or baby carriers for younger ones, as a buggy or pram will be a challenge. The extraordinary view from the top, looking all the way down the valley, is worth the climb and then some.

Things to do

Back down on the riverside at the Saracens Head, you can also hire canoes or kayaks to go up the wide, sweeping Wye. It’s great fun, absolutely breath-taking in the right weather, and the boat hire guys will come and collect the boat when you get to the dock at Monmouth, so you can have an adventurous trip on the river followed by pubs and shopping in this pretty and bustling town. Perfect. 

Talking of bustling, be a little wary of the Symonds Yat area in peak periods, especially if you’re taking a motorhome down to the campsite there. It can be absolutely heaving with people and cars, and the road is tight and narrow getting down to this wonderful and popular riverside playground. 

For other things to do, check out Ross-on-Wye for another pretty little town full antique shops from the dusty and dim to the bright and hipster. Once you’ve bought that quirky wrought-iron fire-poker you desperately need for your centrally-heated semi-detached house, go and get something to eat at No3.

This restaurant has a great menu of high-class European dishes. It feels intimate and posh, and everything is outstandingly delicious, yet it won’t break the bank. It’s the best of all worlds, really. They even do great cocktails and wines, too, so maybe allocate some taxi money for this outing. 

For a bit of culture and to get rid of the hangover, Goodrich Castle is a splendid, slightly fallen-down castle only a few minutes from Ross. Enough of this English Heritage site it is standing that you can climb the tower and look out over the views, and get a clear grasp of just how stoically resplendent it would have been before bits of it got blown-up in the mid-17th century. It’s got just the right balance of historic interest, spectacular views, and wide-open spaces leading into creepy dark corridors. Kids will have a ball, and hopefully learn something as well. 

Another good thing about all of this, is that it’s all within about 30 minutes or less of each other, mostly along windy, hedge-lined roads with more of those heart-warming cottages to admire along the way.

It’s certainly an area that requires a car if you want to enjoy the full extent of what it can offer, so if you fancy a bit more wilderness or some great driving roads, head west. You’ll soon be spearing into Wales towards Abergavenny, and then aim for Crickhowell The Bear is a good pub for a comfy room and a hearty meal if you want to stay here) and the looming mountain above it. 

Here, you’ll find windswept solitude and distant horizons. Perfect dog-walking territory if you’ve got a four-legged friend along, and there are loads of dog-friendly self-catering places in Wye and into the Welsh borders for that, too. 

For anyone holidaying in the car, with or without kids and pets, the Wye valley and surrounding area is one of convenience that can hand you wilderness, luxury and culture or anything in between. Convenient it may be, but compromised it’s not.

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