The Wye Valley is a beautiful area in the UK, covering the border region of England and Wales. With its rolling hills, ancient forests, and meandering river, the Wye Valley is the perfect destination for those seeking adventure, relaxation, and a glimpse into the past.
Whether you’re a fan of outdoor activities, culture, or simply enjoy taking in the beauty of nature, the Wye Valley has something to offer everyone. Living in Chepstow throughout 2023 and working in the Forest of Dean, this is an area I’ve come to know and love in recent times.
So in this guide, we’ll explore the best things to do in the Wye Valley and discover how to make the most of your visit.
Disclaimer: Some links in this article are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase through them I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. This helps cover the cost of running this blog. Thanks for your support!
Exploring The Wye Valley
The Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is a region covering 126 square miles from Hereford to Chepstow, following 58 miles along the banks of the river Wye. It was designated as an AONB in 1971 and is considered one of the finest lowland landscapes in Britain.
It’s an area that knows no boundaries as it criss-crosses the borders of England and Wales, which is broadly marked by the River Wye (Afon Gwy). It has 27 special qualities including woodlands, gorges, castles, hill forts and wildlife. In Welsh, the Wye Valley is known as Dyffryn Gwy.
18 Top Things To Do In The Wye Valley
1. Watch Sunset at Wintour’s Leap
A great spot for an easy to access sunset view over the Wye Valley is Wintour’s Leap. This viewpoint is located near the village of Woodcroft on the English side of the Wye Valley, just north of Chepstow. Local legend has it that Royalist Sir John Wintour escaped pursuit by Parliamentary forces through leaping off the cliff on his horse into the Wye River below.
The area around Wintour’s Leap is very popular for rock climbing and there is a lovely walking route of Lancaut and Ban-y-Gor Nature Reserve, which meanders along the riverside and culminates at Wintour’s Leap viewpoint.
2. Explore the Atmospheric Tintern Abbey
One of the most popular historic sites in the Wye Valley is Tintern Abbey, which was founded in 1131 by Cistercian monks but was abandoned during the dissolution of the monasteries. Today, Tintern Abbey stands as one of the best-preserved monastic ruins in Wales.
This iconic landmark has provided inspiration for many poets, writers and painters over the centuries. Visitors can explore the remains of the abbey and admire stunning views of the surrounding countryside from various vantage points in the area (see Devil’s Pulpit below).
The site is managed by Cadw and there is a large pay and display car park next to the Abbey. The neighbouring Anchor Inn offers good food and drinks after your visit or alternatively take a short walk to the village of Tintern for more options.
3. Enjoy Sunrise From the Eagle’s Nest
If you like peaceful views as the world wakes up, then a prime location for a Wye Valley sunrise is the Eagle’s Nest Viewpoint. The Eagle’s Nest offers panoramic views over the lower Wye Valley and beyond to the Severn Estuary. The viewpoint is accessed via the Eagle’s Nest Trail and takes around 20 minutes one way.
The Eagle’s Nest Trail starts from either Upper Wyndcliff car park (2.1m height barrier) or from Lower Wyndcliff car park. The trail forms a loop which is 2km in length and involves 365 steps through an atmospheric forest.
4. Walk Offa’s Dyke Path to the Devil’s Pulpit
Offa’s Dyke Path is a long distance trail that follows the ancient Offa’s dyke earthwork. The path runs along the length of Wales, roughly marking the border between England and Wales. At its most southerly end, the path offers spectacular views of the valley and at a viewpoint known as the Devil’s Pulpit there is perhaps the best view of the majestic Tintern Abbey.
This section of the path can be accessed by crossing the foot bridge from Tintern village before climbing up through the woods to access the ridge. The trees part at the Devil’s Pulpit to reveal a magical view of Tintern Abbey in the lower Wye Valley.
On another beautiful section further to the northwest, the Offa’s Dyke Path leaves the Wye Valley and enters Bannau Brycheiniog National Park (the Brecon Beacons). Here the trail provides spectacular views over the Ewyas Valley and the equally impressive Llanthony Priory. See this guide for more information on walks around Llanthony Priory.
5. Discover the Stunning Symonds Yat Rock
Symonds Yat is a village that sits in the valley and straddles the Wye river. However, for a unique perspective on the Wye Valley, make your way to Symonds Yat Rock. This towering viewpoint provides an unparalleled vantage point to soak in the awe-inspiring beauty of the valley.
Marvel at the dramatic cliffs, meandering river, and verdant woodlands that stretch as far as the eye can see. If you’re lucky, you may even spot peregrine falcons or buzzards soaring overhead.
There is a car park (pay and display) nestled in the woodland right next to Symonds Yat Rock which provides convenient access to these fabulous views. There is also the possibility to stretch your legs and enjoy several forestry walks or a walk down to the riverside.
If you’re a fan of Sex Education you may recognise the red chalet on your way down to the river, if not keep an eye out for the coin-filled money tree where you can make a wish with the addition of your own coin.
6. St Briavels Castle and Walk
St Briavels (pronounced Brevels) is a moated Norman Castle found in the village of St Briavels. The castle was built in the early 12 century and was an important royal castle on the frontier with Wales. The exterior of the castle and moat can be explored for free during daylight hours with a YHA hostel located in the interior.
The village is home to a pub, deli, church and a delightful farmers’ market on the first Saturday morning of every month. St Briavels is a great location to enjoy a walk through the Wye Valley and explore the ancient woodland of the Forest of Dean. The Brockweir Bridge Loop is a great trail to see the Wye river and walk a section of Offa’s Dyke Trail.
7. Explore Chepstow and it’s Castle
Another must-visit site in the Wye Valley is Chepstow Castle, which dates back to the 11th century and offers a glimpse into the rich history of the region. With its impressive ramparts and stunning views of the River Wye, Chepstow Castle is a must-visit for anyone interested in history and architecture. The Castle is managed by Cadw and there is a pay and display car park located alongside the castle entrance.
Chepstow itself is another of the picturesque towns in the Wye Valley which deserves some exploring in its own right. Cas-Gwent, as it is known in Welsh, is the easternmost town in South Wales whose historical town centre is lined with colourful houses, independent shops, cafes and tearooms.
Wander down to the Old Wye Bridge and enjoy an ice cream from the Riverside Restaurant or perhaps a drink at the Boat Inns riverside garden. During the summer weekends these pubs will have live music for patrons to enjoy. For all the things to do in Chepstow, take a look at this guide.
8. Embark on a Wye Valley Boat Trip
Experience the beauty of the River Wye by embarking on a boat trip. Cruising along the river, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the surrounding countryside, including lush green hills and dramatic cliff faces. Sit back, relax, and let the gentle sway of the boat transport you to a place of tranquility enjoying the Wye Valley as travellers did in a bygone era.
Wye Valley Cruises based in Symonds Yat offer daily cruises for less than £10.
9. Walk the Wye Valley Walk
The Wye Valley Walk is a long distance walking route running from Llanidloes in mid Wales to Chepstow in the south. The route covers 136 miles through dense woodland, along a dramatic gorge and across tranquil river meadows. It takes around 10 days to complete the walk but there are plenty of options for day walks along shorter sections of the trail.
One great day walk option is from Chepstow to Tintern Abbey. Starting from Chepstow, this picturesque trail follows the course of the Wye River as it meanders through ancient woodlands and along cliffside edges. A highlight of this walk is the Eagle’s Nest viewpoint which offers a vista of the Wye Valley and Severn Estuary beyond.
Take a look at the Wye Valley Walking Map to discover more sections of the trail.
10. Wander Ross on Wye, the Town Where Tourism was Invented
The charming market town of Ross on Wye is known as the gateway to the Wye. It was here, in the 18th century, that tourism as we know it was invented. Boats would line up on the river to take willing travellers on sightseeing trips along the Wye.
There are many things to see and do in Ross on Wye but top things to include are visiting the 17th century Market House, exploring St Mary’s Church and wandering through the small park known as the Prospect.
11. Explore Goodrich Castle
Described as “the noblest ruin in Herefordshire” by William Wordsworth, Goodrich Castle is a popular Wye Valley attraction. Understandably, the border region of Wales and England is home to many castles and fortifications. Goodrich Castle is one fo the finest and best preserved of the medieval English Castles.
Built in the 11th century after the Norman conquest, Goodrich commanded a stronghold above the River Wye until the siege of 1646 where the castle was bombarded into submission. The audio guide provides a good narration of the castles history which ends with panoramic views from the battlements. Also don’t miss the canon known as Roaring Meg which was used in the Civil War and is on display in the castle courtyard.
12. Visit Monmouth
Explore the historic market town of Monmouth, located at the confluence of the Rivers Wye, Monnow and Trothy. Dating back to Roman times, Monmouth was the halfway point for 18th century travellers on their Wye Valley Tour.
Wander through its charming streets, visit the Monnow Bridge and discover the town’s rich heritage at the Monmouth Museum.
13. Get Lost at Puzzlewood Forest
Puzzlewood is a unique and enchanting woodland in the Forest of Dean that has captivated visitors for generations. With its twisted trees, moss-covered rocks, and winding pathways, it feels like stepping into a fairy tale. If you’re a Star Wars fan you will recognise Puzzelwood from the Force Awakens but the ancient forest has also been used for TV shows such as Doctor Who and Merlin.
Puzzlewood is a maze of pathways where you twist, turn, duck and climb between the gnarly trees. The forest is open to explore daily throughout the summer but has limited access in the winter months. Lose yourself in the magical atmosphere of Puzzlewood and let your imagination run wild!
14. Take a Bike Ride
If you prefer exploring by bike rather than on foot then renting a bike is certainly a great way to see the Wye Valley. With hundreds of miles of country lanes, bridleways and woodland tracks there are lots of options for all levels of bike riders.
Mountain bikers should head to Cannop Trail Centre in the Forest of Dean which has forest trails for all abilities. There are cycling routes around the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley available to download which can provide plenty of inspiration for your cycling adventure.
15. Enjoy Outdoor Activities at the Forest of Dean
For outdoor enthusiasts and woodland lovers, a visit to the Forest of Dean located just east of the Wye Valley is a must. This ancient forest offers a range of activities, including hiking, cycling, and treetop challenges.
There are a range of sites to visit in the Forest of Dean, each offering their own selection of activities. For example, Mallards Pike is home to a beautiful lake which is prefect for an easy stroll or for the adrenaline junkies there is GoApe’s Treetop Challenge which offers a selection of zipwires and treetop obstacles.
Alternatively, at Beechenhurst you can enjoy the Sculpture Trail which combines an amble in the forest with art appreciation or head to GoApes Treetop Adventure, which again offers a combination of zipwires and treetop obstacles but is better suited to younger children.
Working as a GoApe Instructor in the Forest of Dean throughout 2023 I can definitely recommend a visit to one of these locations!
16. Canoe the Wye
If you’re a water sports enthusiast, the River Wye offers plenty of opportunities for fun and adventure. Kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding are just some of the activities you can enjoy on the river.
The gently flowing water around the bends of Symond Yat are a great location for beginner levels and are some of the most scenic sections to enjoy. Advanced paddlers can try the faster waters south of Symonds Yat and on towards Chepstow.
If you have your own kayak or paddleboard the Environment Agency has a list of potential routes to enjoy. Alternatively, Canoe the Wye offer half day canoe hire for £60 and operate from Symonds Yat West and WyeDean Canoe and Adventure Centre offer rentals from Symonds Yat East.
17. Go Underground at Clearwell Caves
Whilst many of the Wye Valley activities involve enjoying the beautiful landscapes from above the ground, there are also beautiful things to see below ground. Clearwell Caves are located south of Coleford, not far from Puzzlewood Forrest.
The subterranean world at Clearwell holds an extensive network of natural caves and mine workings. The walkways meander between chambers, providing information about the geological formations and history of iron ore mining in the area.
The natural features are illuminated by colourful lights which add to the unique ambience of the caverns. These are particularly majestic at Christmas when the caves are lit up in festive colours.
18. Explore Nearby Hay-on-Wye
Whilst not technically not located in the Wye Valley itself, one of the prettiest towns located along the Wye River is Hay-on-Wye. This charming market town is famed for being the Book Town of Wales due to its vast collection of second-hand bookstores. It’s also known for the annual Hay Literary Festival which is attended by famous people from all over the world.
However, there is a lot more to Hay-on-Wye than just books, so for more information take a look at this what to do in Hay-on-Wye article.
Places to Stay in the Wye Valley
The Wye Valley is a big area to explore so there are lots of accommodation options for your visit, from charming bed and breakfasts to luxurious hotels and cozy cottages. Ross-on-Wye is the most central town for using as a base however there are plenty of options in other smaller towns such at Tintern, Chepstow and Symonds Yat. Here are a few of my favourite choices.
The Wye Valley Hotel is a small country hotel in the riverside village of Tintern. The newly decorated rooms offer a comfortable stay whilst the open fire bar offers the perfect place to relax after a day of site-seeing.
The Saracens Head Inn at Symonds Yat is a historic riverside hotel offering comfortable rooms with stunning views of the River Wye. With a traditional pub atmosphere, it’s an ideal spot to unwind after a day of exploration.
Set on the prettiest street in Ross-on-Wye, the Kings Head Hotel is a 14th century hotel which still maintains many of its original features such as oak beams and a large stone fireplace. The on-site restaurant serves locally sourced cuisine, and its central location is perfect for viewing top sights in the Wye Valley.
Getting Around the Wye Valley
Public transport from major cities in the UK is available to some of the major towns in the Wye Valley such as Chepstow and Ross-on-Wye, however as a rural area, exploring sites around the region is best done through private transport.
Rental Cars is a good option for finding the best deals on car rentals in the UK.
Final Thoughts on Wye Valley Things To Do
Nestled along the border of England and Wales, the Wye Valley is a picturesque region of the UK and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. From breathtaking scenic walks to challenging hikes, from kayaking on the River Wye to exploring ruined castles, there’s something for everyone in this vibrant region.
Whether you’re a nature lover, an adrenaline junkie, or simply looking for a relaxing getaway, the Wye Valley has something to offer everyone.