Quaint as it sounds, the Herefordshire countryside is the sort of place where locals will give you a nod and a “hello” (and often a chinwag) rather than a cursory ‘what’s that city-slicker doing here’ type of look.
One of the best ways to explore is by bike. Twenty minutes of not-too-robust pedalling from the main town Hereford will transport you to farms, small villages and country pubs, where you’re more likely to find a person on a horse than a person in a hurry.
Jumping in the saddle yourself is also a great way to explore the county. Take a day ride or go on a section, or all, of the new Three Rivers Ride, which runs from Worcestershire, through Herefordshire and into Wales. Although you will see more by car than in the saddle, being on a bike or horse allows you to soak up the sights and smells at a leisurely pace.
In the west of the county are the Black Mountains (part of the Brecon Beacons range), which are great for walking, mountain biking and horse riding. The towns of Craswell and Longtown are good departure points.
The River Wye, meanwhile, offers plenty of scope for canoeing, from half- or one-day trips to longer expeditions.
Alternatively, get into the buzz of go-karting at the Herefordshire Raceway, where you can fly around a 350m outdoor track (which will be extended to 600m by May) at 80km/h. Given you’re sitting only a few inches off the ground this feels way faster than it is. You can race your friends and there’s a two-seater kart for anyone not wanting to drive themselves.
If you’re unsure what outdoor activity might suit you, or there’s something you’ve always wanted to give a go, check out the University of the Great Outdoors.
Fortunately there are no exams and no lectures – instead it’s a two-day event on the Bank Holiday weekend of May 3-4 in the grounds of the medieval Hampton Court Estate (about 12km from Hereford), where visitors can try their hand at 30 or so activities – from grass-sledging to orienteering, and from abseiling to archery.
Black and white villages
Herefordshire has some of the most picturesque villages in England. Follow the Black and White Village trail for a tour of handsome timber-framed buildings.
Hereford Cathedral is worth checking out, especially the Mappa Mundi (a fascinating 13th-century map painted on cow hide) and the bizarre, fetish-looking medieval Chained Library. From August 8-15 the cathedral is the focus of the Three Choirs Festival, which has been a classical music tradition in western England for centuries.
» Daniel Landon travelled with First Great Western and Visit Herefordshire.