If you’re planning a visit to Ross-on-Wye, you’ll find plenty to do in the town centre – independent shops, the Vintage Trail, weekly markets not to mention the wonderful range of pubs, cafés and restaurants. You can combine all of the above by taking a walk around the town’s Heritage – or blue plaque – Trail which provides a great way to learn about the Ross’s rich history whilst enjoying the other aspects of our vibrant market town (you can download the map here).
Starting at the red sandstone Market House – paying the Made in Ross gallery upstairs a visit – cross over the road and head up the High Street. You’ll find King George’s Rest, previously an inn where King George IV stopped over on his 1821 visit and almost next door, about 10 yards further up, you’ll see a large three-storey stone building in a courtyard, formerly run as a wool warehouse in the late 1700s.
On the opposite side of the street, half way down Old Gloucester Road, the Walter Scott Blue Coat Charity School sits behind a pair of large gates and still functions as an educational trust, providing grants each year to local students.
Moving up the High Street, where it meets Copse Cross Street and en route to St Mary’s Church, you’ll pass the historic Toll Gate, constructed in 1748, before you reach the next plaque on the main church gates, recognising James Wallace Richard Hall, a key benefactor of the town who died in 1860.
Take some time to wander around the churchyard and view the innovative Museum Without Walls augmented reality (AR) exhibit on The Prospect – a representation of the fountain that used to stand not far from the War Memorial. From summer 2022, there will be an additional AR exhibit inside the church – use your smartphone to download the app here ahead of your visit.
As you leave the churchyard, passing St Mary’s Church Hall – identified on the Heritage Trail as The National School – now is a great time to take a break. Head to The Royal hotel, built on the foundations of a 13th century Bishop’s Palace, where you’ll be able to relax and enjoy the beautiful views and have a coffee or lunch. From the terrace, you’ll see the impressive mock gothic town walls and the Gazebo Tower standing proud, looking out over the River Wye.
When you’re ready, head towards the riverside, passing the British & Foreign School on Wye Street, and cross over the road to The Hope & Anchor with its recently renovated bars and beer garden. Another AR exhibit, the Wye Tour Boat, can be found on the adjacent river meadow – view the river traffic as it used to look, including tourist river boats which ran regularly between the Wye Valley and Chepstow.
Towards the end of the Rope Walk you’ll come to the former residence of Sir Frederick Burrows, the last Governor of Bengal in 1945 and a few minutes’ walk along Greytree Road, will bring you to the Quakers’ Friends’ Meeting House with its burial gardens dating back to 1675. Head up Brookend Street and onto Broad Street, passing four of the Vintage Trail antique and vintage shops including the beautiful wooden timbered Blank Canvas Antiques, Now & Then Antiques & Collectables, The Architectural Store and Lizzie Bunting – all worth a browse with their eclectic range of antiques, retro and vintage gifts.
The final part of the trail will take you up New Street, where the old gaol known as The Lock Up was built in 1838, to Merton House and then on to previous site of The Swan & Falcon Inn, where Lord Nelson visited in 1802 for a trip down the Wye to Monmouth. At the top of Wye Street where the Man of Ross Inn meets the High Street, from summer of 2022 as part of the Museum Without Walls, you will also be able to see how the High Street looked in 1821 before Wilton Road was built.
The final blue plaque can be found on the current Ross-on-Wye Town Council offices at The Corn Exchange, originally a butter and poultry market opened in 1862. The building burned down in 1939 and was then reconstructed as a theatre and cinema. If you’re ready for another sit-down at this point, head next door to The King’s Head Hotel and relax on the sofa by the fire in the Old Library with a glass of wine or a bite to eat. All venues mentioned are dog-friendly so why not take your furry friend with you as you explore the trail?
Historic information on the Ross-on-Wye Heritage Trail was provided by historian Heather Hurley.