A walker’s paradise of a traditional market town that oozes history and character
Pic: Visit Herefordshire
Two miles from the Welsh Border, the Herefordshire market town of Kington sits on the River Arrow beneath the shadow of Hergest Ridge. It’s a picturesque spot, making it a popular destination with walkers, and also golfers.
Interestingly, the town is to the west of Offa’s Dyke and it’s presumed the area would once have been Welsh. However, tussles over the town and the destruction of its castle mean it’s now very much English.
The old town grew up around the castle, of which just a few fragments remain, with a Norman church at its centre, while the new town was created between 1175 and 1230 along the route used by drovers, boosting its importance as a wool-trading centre. And this is still the case today.
Among Kington’s claims to fame are that Mike Oldfield used to live nearby, and singer Ellie Goulding went to school here, while the 2004 novel The Mysteries of Glass by Sue Gee was set in and around this ramblers’ mecca. But here’s 10 more compelling reasons why you should make a day of it:
1. HISTORIC MARKETS
Kington still holds its well-supported markets. There’s the traditional livestock market at Love Lane (HR5 3BJ) on a Thursday, while in the town centre there’s a general Tuesday market, Friday’s food and local produce market and the craft, arts and books market on the third Saturday of every month.
2. GLORIOUS WALKS
There are numerous long-distance footpaths to be accessed from Kington, including the Mortimer Trail, the Herefordshire Trail, Offa’s Dyke Path and the Black and White Village Trail, which highlights Herefordshire’s half-timbered buildings. Those who want less of a stomp can wander around the town’s pretty streets at a more gentle pace. Or you could visit the Small Breeds Farm Park and Owl Centre (tel: 01544 231109, www.owlcentre.com).
Kington Tourist Information Centre, tel: 01544-230778. www.kingtontourist.info
3. AN ABUNDANCE OF CHARACTER
There are some fabulous historic buildings to be found here, such as the Grade II-listed pub Ye Olde Tavern (22 Victoria Road HR5 3BX. Tel: 07582 235765). Also worth a visit are the remains of Kington Castle; there’s a real sense of atmosphere at the spot where this fort once stood and visitors can still make out the layout of the former town.
4. ALL THAT HISTORY
To learn more about Kington’s development visit its friendly museum. It opens every summer and covers everything from the discovery of the first fossils, the town’s farming heritage, the war years and on to the present day.
Kington Museum, Mill Street, Kington HR5 3AL. Tel: 01544 231748. www.kingtonmuseum.org.uk
5. A GOLFER’S PARADISE
Boasting the highest golf course in England, this town is a favourite with golfers. Kington Golf Club is situated on Bradnor Hill just outside the town and enjoys fabulous views. The 18-hole course, founded in 1925, is considered one of the finest natural inland links courses in the country.
Kington Golf Club, Bradnor Hill, Kington HR5 3RE. Tel: 01544 230340. www.kingtongolf.co.uk
6. THE FESTIVITIES
One of the most popular annual events is the Kington Show, which takes place in September. A traditional agricultural show with livestock, dog and horticultural classes, there are also competitions, trade stands and more. Kington Walking Festival also runs for four days in September. Kington Show, tel: 01432 850444. www.kingtonshow.co.uk. Kington Walking Festival, tel: 07585 055984. www.kingtonwalks.org
7. GORGEOUS GARDENS
If the weather’s nice, make sure you visit Hergest Croft Gardens to enjoy beautiful floral borders, an old-fashioned kitchen garden, an azalea garden, a maple grove, a park wood, a gift shop and tearooms. You can even bring your dog.
Hergest Croft Gardens, Ridgebourne Road, Kington HR5 3EG. Tel: 01544 230160. www.hergest.co.uk
8. INDEPENDENT SHOPPING
The regular markets are the biggest draw for shoppers in Kington, of course, thanks to their strong history, the quality of produce on offer and the sense of community that they bring to the town. However, there are some other retail sites worth perusing here.
Peacehaven (43 High Street, www.peacehavenvf.org.uk) is the place to visit for cards and stationery, with new designs added on a regular basis. Literary fans, meanwhile, will love Castle Hill Books (12 Church Street, tel: 07794 222583. www.castlehillbooks.co.uk), where they specialise in secondhand and antiquarian publications, all housed in a 300-year-old, half-timbered building. Art aficionados shouldn’t miss the Leg of Mutton Art Gallery (17 Duke Street, tel: 01544 231563), which showcases the work of some of the area’s finest creatives. And when it comes to homeware and gifts, you can’t go wrong at Bee’s Knees Cook Shop (Church Street, tel: 01544 239115. www.beeskneescookshop.com), where there are hand-selected cook and kitchenware to choose from. Inside Bee’s Knees, you’ll also find Uncle G’s ice-cream parlour, which specialises in a fantastic range of ice creams, sorbets and traditional lemonades.
9. PLACES TO STAY
It’s important to have a comfy bed for the night, of course. In Kington, you could pick The Oxford Arms (Duke Street HR5 3DR. Tel: 01544 230322. www.the-oxford-arms.co.uk), a historic inn and bed and breakfast that dates back to the 17th century in parts, with all the period features and character to show for it. The Burton Hotel (Mill Street HR5 3BQ. Tel: 01544 230323. www.hotelherefordshire.co.uk) is another good bed-and-breakfast option that’s family-run and has its own swimming pool, gym and spa.
For a really friendly environment, take a room at the Victorian townhouse De Lacy House (5 Victoria Road HR5 3BX. Tel: 01544 231448. www.delacyhouse.co.uk), which is well located yet peaceful. Or if you’d prefer self-catered accommodation with a truly rural feel, Keepers Greenfield (Huntington, near Kington HR5 3PZ. Tel: 01544 370266. www.keepers-greenfield.co.uk) could be the place for you. Situated on a 20-acre smallholding and with comfortable accommodation, it makes a wonderful choice.
10. DINING OUT
The perfect accompaniment to a stay in this lovely market town, there are plenty of choices when it comes dining. The Swan On The Square (tel: 01544 230510, www.theswanonthesquare.co.uk) is a relaxed pub venue where the focus is on local, sustainable dishes.
Another popular spot is the award-winning Stagg Inn (Titley, Kington HR5 3RL. Tel: 01544 230221. www.thestagg.co.uk). Here you’ll find a rustic atmosphere in which quality local produce is served. Also be sure to check out brand new bistro Jakes @ The Lion (52 Bridge Street HR5 3DJ. Tel: 01544 231002. www.lionkington.com) which serves pizza, tapas and a super Sunday carvery.
If nothing perks you up quite the way coffee does, pop into Border Bean (22-24 High Street HR5 3AX, tel: 01544 231625) where the smell is almost as good as the taste.
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