Ross-on-Wye’s new walking app

Ross-on-Wye and the surrounding areas offer some of the best walking routes in the UK – whether you’re venturing down to the Forest of Dean, across the Wye Valley, over the borders to Wales or to surrounding counties of Gloucestershire and Worcestershire. Wildlife is abundant and the viewing points on some of the more elevated routes are spectacular!

Avid walkers will know that there are many interesting walking routes around the town centre with maps available from the town’s Tourist Information Centres, but with many of us using our smart phones to glean information online, we were really excited to see the development of Ross-on-Wye town’s first walking app – Ross-on-Wye Trails – created by the town council, which hit our inbox this week!

This self-guided tour of Ross – which anyone can do – is available to download online and takes you through a gentle sight-seeing tour of the town centre and riverside, taking in popular points of interest with historical references. You’ll find lots of information about significant buildings and landmarks by following the eight steps on the trail through the app.

1. Market House

The trail starts at the the 16th century Market House, one of the oldest buildings in the centre of Ross-on-Wye built between 1650 and 1654. It is thought that the sandstone building replaced an older wooden ‘Booth Hall’, originating from the 12th century when King Stephen granted the town the right to hold a market in the area. Weekly markets are now held on Thursdays and Saturdays, continuing this tradition.

2. Old Gaol

The trail takes you from the centre of town onto New Street where you can view the Old Gaol, a lock up which contained at least two cells and which was used by Watchmen between 1838 and 1844. The exterior was updated in around 1838 with a mock Gothic front installed, aimed at attracting tourism to the town.

3. Ross Free Library

The third point on the trail will take you to the Ross Free Library around the corner from the Old Gaol on Broad Street. The original library was gifted in 1873 to the town by philanthropist and benefactor, Thomas Blake, and included a reading room and recreation grounds plus spaces for people to read the news or even play chess. The building now comprises local businesses and residential flats on the upper floors.

4. The Railway Gardens

Heading down Broad Street, you’ll come to the fourth stop on the walking trail – The Railway Gardens – just over the road from the Fiveways roundabout at the bottom of Brampton Road. Ross-on-Wye’s railway station was opened in June 1855 by Hereford, Ross & Gloucester Railway company and amalgamated with Great Western Railway in 1862. A Ross to Monmouth line was opened in 1873 and ran via Lydbrook for many years, finally closing in 1964. Today, three piers remain of the twin railway bridges at The Railway Gardens, which now hosts a series of signage boards in the themed area, with plenty of information on the history of the Ross-on-Wye railway.

5. Rope Walk

The fifth point on the walking trail will take you down to the riverside path, known as the Rope Walk, taking its name from the rope making industry that prevailed during the 19th century. Traders needed a very long path to dry out the rope, hence the name and location. This is now a very popular spot for tourists to enjoy, with benches overlooking the River Wye, a large grassy area and a children’s play park.

6. Thomas Blake Memorial Garden

The Rope Walk leads towards The Hope and Anchor riverside pub, which sits at the foot of the Thomas Blake Memorial Gardens, the sixth stop on the walking app trail. These pretty tiered gardens were built to commemorate Blake and all the work he did for the town in his lifetime (1825-1901) – you’ll also find the addition of a new Sensory Garden there, created by a group of local volunteers in 2023, where you can sit and reflect amongst the pretty plants and herbs.

7. Gazebo Tower

The penultimate stop on the trail takes you back up to town to The Gazebo Tower, a Grade II listed building located directly opposite The Royal Hotel. Constructed in around 1833, this iconic sandstone structure, with its original arched windows and spiral staircase, is set over three floors with a viewing platform at the top. Known as the Bishop’s Tower in earlier tourist guides, the building was used for arts and crafts exhibitions until the early 1980s and then remained vacant until major repairs were undertaken during the 1990s. More recently The Gazebo Tower was fully renovated by a private investor and it is now a luxury private residence on the market for around £400k.

8. Prospect Gardens

The final stop on the trail takes you to the Prospect Gardens, adjacent to St Mary’s Church, where you can get the best views over the horseshoe bend in the River Wye and beyond, towards the Welsh mountains. The gardens were created by another Ross-on-Wye benefactor, John Kyrle, also known as The Man of Ross. Originally the location of the town’s source of fresh water, pumped up from the river to a fountain on the side of the current War Memorial, the gardens have entrances on three sides and a large metal beacon overlooking Wilton Road.

For more information on the Ross-on-Wye Trail, visit the town council’s website here.