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Britain > West Midlands > Hereford

A cathedral city in the west of England, not far from the Welsh border

This cathedral city lies in the west of England, just 26 kilometres from the Welsh border. Herefordshire is a rural county, and its capital is a relatively small city. Transport links are much less frequent than in other UK cities, with a couple of rail lines, and a few slow buses. This, though, is part of Hereford's atmosphere. If you make the journey into the city, and wind down to its more relaxed pace, you'll discover one of England's most charming settlements.
Hereford's major landmark is its cathedral, which was constructed during the 12th and 13th centuries. The building has a wealth of interesting architectural details, but it's the imposing stone columns that are the most immediately arresting. Within the cathedral is an ancient treasure called the Mappa Mundi. This is a hand-drawn world map that dates all the way back to the 1300s. It measures just under 1.5 metres square, making it the largest medieval map still in existence. Using detailed black ink, it represents all of the world's major countries, as they were known at the time.
Close by, there is a statue of the composer Edward Elgar. In the early 20th century, he lived in Hereford, where he wrote some of his most famous and most enduring pieces. Today, Elgar's music is used and performed frequently, at such events as the Last Night of the Proms. Even if people don't know his name, Elgar's work would be instantly recognised by almost anyone in the country.
As well as the cathedral, Hereford was once home to a castle. It was reputedly one of the biggest and strongest in the country, said to rival even Windsor Castle in size. Unfortunately, it was dismantled in the 18th century. The site is now a grassy area called Castle Green, which provides Hereford's residents with a quiet place to relax in the centre of the city.
Along with Gloucester and Worcester, Hereford is one of the three hosts of the Three Choirs festival. This is one of the oldest music festivals in Europe, with a history that dates back several hundred years.
The county is also famous for its cider. There are dozens of orchards, varying wildly in size and scope. These are used by both small, local farmers, and bigger companies like Bulmer's and Weston's. You can explore the history and techniques of cider making at a museum in the west of the city, which is housed within an old factory. The building still includes old drinks cellars, and vintage fermentation equipment.
Of course, there is plenty of space for orchards in Herefordshire. The county is made up of open fields and meadows, dotted with tiny villages and gentle streams. The city makes a perfect base for exploring this, one of England's most beautiful landscapes.
Visitor Information
Hereford Cathedral is open daily from 9:15am to evensong. Entry is FREE (£5 suggested donation). Cathedral Close, Hereford, HR1 2NG. Tel: 01432 374 200
Cider Museum is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm (reduced hours in winter). Entry costs around £4 for adults, £2.50 for children. 21 Ryelands Street, Hereford HR4 0LW, Tel: 01432 354207

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