If you are visiting Gloucestershire and Herefordshire, put aside a time to visit one of the England’s most popular areas of outstanding natural beauty.
The village of Symonds Yat and its surrounding countryside is a very popular destination for walkers, climbers, canoeists and bird-watchers. It straddles the lovely River Wye as it flows through a deep gorge, and offers wooded expanses and high vantage points where you can see the river meander its way into a large horseshoe bend five miles long. Symond’s Yat itself is a limestone outcrop that rises to around 500 feet about the river, where there is a special viewing point with barriers to prevent anyone falling.
Symonds Yat is in Two Counties
Symond’s Yat West is on the Herefordshire side of the river while Symond’s Yat East is on the Gloucestshire side. You can pay a ferryman to take you from one side to the other on an unusual man-powered rope ferry (don’t worry, he’s nothing like Charon, the ferryman in the Underworld of Greek mythology), which is a useful service for hikers doing long circular walks. To get from one side to the other by car you’ll need to drive over the Huntsham bridge.
Symonds Yat West has a range of visitor attractions, including a maze, a visitor centre and a heritage centre. Wye Valley butterfly zoo is also here.
Over millions of years, the river has cut a deep gorge into the limestone, exposing some mighty and impressive cliff faces. It’s proved a great spot for archeologists. At the so-called King Arthur’s cave in woods at Great Doward, on the Herefordshire side of the river, the remains of hyenas and even sabre-toothed tiger bones are reputed to have been discovered.
Symonds Yat, which is close to the Welsh border, is lovely at any time of year but it’s especially beautiful in spring and autumn. The main and highest viewpoint is on the Gloucestershire side of the Wye, and between April and August, you may well be lucky enough to see a pair of peregrine falcons nesting on the cliff sides around Yat Rock. Adders also live in the woodlands but it’s rare for people to see them.
As well as being a great place to walk through woodlands, the Symond’s Yat rock itself is popular with climbers. However, novices are warned not to start their climbing careers here because the cliff faces can be sheer and unstable in places and there have been fatalities in recent years.
For those who prefer water sports to walking, then why not canoe down the Wye rapids? Bring your own canoe or there are plenty of places to hire them for a few hours. It’s not white water rafting territory but care needs to be taken. There are also boat trips down the river. The area has lots of charming country pubs, many which have gardens with playgrounds for children.
There is no shortage of B&Bs, small hotels and campsites for those wanting to spend a few days exploring the area. Contact the visitor centre at Symond’s Yat West for a list of places to stay or do an Internet search.