Beside the River Wye and around Coppet Hill


Coppet Hill


8 miles (12.9kms)

755ft (230m)
3hrs 30mins

About the walk

The well-preserved remains of Goodrich Castle date from the 12th and 13th centuries, replacing an early 12th-century structure. Some gory traps and ruses kept would-be intruders away, among them a tunnel beneath the gate tower that could be blocked by a portcullis; doomed attackers would then be scalded with hot water from above or burned to death with molten lead.

Ghost story

The castle succumbed to Parliamentarians in 1646 during the Civil War, led by Colonel John Birch, who had successfully attacked the city of Hereford the previous December. The story goes that the colonel's niece, Alice, and Charles Clifford, her lover, fled from the battle, only to meet their deaths trying to cross the River Wye. So watch out for their ghosts on a phantom horse. Goodrich Castle is open daily from spring until autumn, but during winter may be closed midweek.

Why Welsh?

After the death of his mother, the future Henry V lived for a while at the manor house, which subsequently became known as Courtfield. During the 17th century, the manor was held by the Vaughans, a staunch Catholic family who refused to follow the Anglican faith. In 1651, their recusancy led to the confiscation of their estates, which were given to Phillip Nicholas of Llansoy, in Monmouthshire. The manor became a detached parish of Monmouthshire and thus acquired its title of Welsh Bicknor, although since 1844 it is now firmly back in England.

The rectory, constructed when St Margaret's Church was rebuilt in 1859, is now run as a hostel by the YHA, an organisation founded in 1931 to provide simple, affordable accommodation for young people, encouraging them to travel and gain new experiences. It now operates some 200 hostels and bunk houses and camping barns throughout England and Wales, and caters for the young, the old and families.

On location

The area around Symonds Yat attracts film buffs wanting to see the locations used for Richard Attenborough's film, Shadowlands, the stars of which were Debra Winger, Anthony Hopkins and Symonds Yat. The film was based on the life of C S Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia. Coppet Hill Nature Reserve is managed by a trust. It earned Local Nature Reserve status in 2000 after 14 years of conservation management.

Walk directions

Walk back down Castle Lane to the village and turn left towards Courtfield and Welsh Bicknor. Follow the lane to a bridge across the B4229.

Keep going along the lane, taking the left branch at a fork. Occasional views open to Goodrich Castle and Kerne Bridge before you break from the trees onto the Courtfield estate. Keep ahead where the lane later splits, shortly reaching another fork (Youth Hostel signed off right). Continue ahead here on a track towards Home Farm and Glenwye. After 0.5 miles (800m), by the high walls of the estate garden, the track divides again.

A footpath diversion is prominently signed along the left branch. After 70yds (64m), before a second fork, take a gate on the right. Follow the edge of pasture to the right, passing through an opening to carry on in a second field. Leave through a gate just left of the top corner and head downfield to the river.

Turn right and follow the river downstream for 0.5 miles (800m) to Welsh Bicknor, where St Margaret’s Church and its former rectory, now a youth hostel, overlook the Wye. Keeping to the riverside path, another 0.25-mile (400m) walk brings you to a bridge that once carried the Ross and Monmouth Railway through the valley. Over to the right, past a wartime pill-box, is the southern portal of the Coppet Hill tunnel, in use until the line closed in 1965.

Return to the river, and carry on through Park Wood, emerging beyond into meadows. Drop down once more to the riverside path. Further on the way, the route enters Coldwell Wood, where on the right a railed enclosure contains a memorial to 16-year-old John Warre, who drowned here in 1804. Beyond the trees, walk on at the edge of another meadow to a redundant stile beside a fallen willow opposite the striking Coldwell Rocks.

Continue on beside the river, which sweeps to the right below the dramatic viewpoint of Symonds Yat Rock. Becoming a field track, the way shortly enters woodland again. At the far side, stick with the track towards Mainoaks Farm. Just before the entrance, climb a stile on the right into the Coppet Hill Common Local Nature Reserve. A path slants up across the wooded hillside, breaking from the trees above Rockland Cottage. A stony track leads past more cottages to meet the lane by which you first climbed out of Goodrich.

Additional information

Quiet lanes, riverside meadows, woodland paths, several stiles

Much-photographed river valley

Dogs are welcome in the castle grounds and elsewhere but should be kept on a lead

AA Walker's Map 14 Wye Valley & The Forest of Dean

Goodrich Castle pay-and-display car park open daily, times vary with the season

At start

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About the area

Discover Herefordshire

Herefordshire is split in two by the River Wye which meanders through the county on its way to the Severn and the sea. Largely rural, with Hereford, Leominster, and Ross-on-Wye the major towns and cities, its countryside and ancient villages are the county’s major asset.

Visitors can take advantage of a number of the trails which will guide them through areas of interest. Those especially interested in historic village life should try the Black and White Village Trail, which takes motorists on a 40-mile drive around timber-framed villages from Leominster to Weobley (established in the 17th century and known as a centre of witchcraft in the 18th), Eardisley (where the church boasts a 12th-century carved font), Kington, Pembridge and others. Other trails include the Mortimer Trail, the Hop Trail and the Hidden Highway, which goes from Ross-on-Wye to Chester. Hereford has a small Norman cathedral, which has a great forest of pink sandstone columns lining the nave. Inside is a chained library, a 13th-century Mappa Mundi (map of the world) and one of only four copies of the 1217 version of the Magna Carta.

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