Hereford and Worcester
The graceful town of Ross-on-Wye claims the only museum in England devoted entirely to buttons! It also houses the Lost Street Museum (which reconstructs a street from the time of Edward VII) as well as a candlemakers’ workshop.
Hereford is a comfortably-sized city with a host of medieval buildings and a series of fascinating museums, including a cider museum and another devoted to steam engines. Hereford Cathedral, mainly Norman, houses the Mappa Mundi, one of the oldest maps in the world; in its Chained Library, many manuscripts and books from the 8th-15th centuries (more than 1,400 volumes) are chained to the shelves.
Ledbury is a pretty town with rows of half-timbered buildings, including the Market House and the Old Grammar School in a picturesque cobblestone lane.
Nearby, on the A438, is Eastnor Castle, which looks like a medieval fortress but was actually built around 1812. Its vast hall, splendid state rooms and beautiful grounds have served as a setting for many television and film productions, including The Canterville Ghost and Sherlock Holmes.
The Malvern Hills lie like a sleeping giant across the Midland plain. Footpaths criss-cross some of the most ancient hills in England; an Iron Age fort crowns their highest point. In the genteel Victorian spa of Great Malvern, you’ll find, somewhat unexpectedly, the best kite shop in England. More in keeping with the mood is Little Malvern Court, set in acres of former monastic gardens. A few miles north is Worcester beside the river Severn, famous for its sauce and porcelain. The city boasts attractive Tudor houses, art galleries, museums and a cathedral that is a glorious mix of building styles from the 11th to the 16th centuries. John Lackland, the king who signed the Magna Carta and fought Robin Hood, is buried here.
The A44 leads westward to Lower Broadheath, where music-lovers can visit Edward Elgar’s birthplace and the museum commemorating England’s great composer. Porcelain enthusiasts can take a fascinating tour of the Royal Worcester factory.
The M5 motorway is a fast route into the center of Birmingham. Stop at Bromsgrove to see the Avoncroft Museum of Buildings with its working windmill, Georgian ice-house and earth closet – everything, in fact, from a 16thcentury half-timbered house to a 1946 prefab.