A Day out in Hertford
PUBLISHED: 12:28 24 February 2015 | UPDATED: 12:28 24 February 2015
With a castle, scenic rivers and some of Hertfordshire's best food venues, you won't struggle to find a reason to visit Hertford. But there's plenty of lesser-known treasures that make the county town a great venue for a day out too. Laura Vickers explores
Start with a stroll
Hertford is a walker’s paradise. As well as dozens of historic buildings to admire in the town, the pretty Parliament Square (so called because parliament temporarily relocated to Hertford during the plague in 1563), there are a number of picturesque riverside walks to enjoy. Wildlife enthusiasts will love the wet meadow of Hartham Common and The King’s Mead, as well as the otter habitat at Jacob’s Island and Chadwell Springs at the base of Bushey Dell Nature Reserve.
Hertford Museum (well worth a visit in its own right) also hosts regular Hidden Hertford Walks exploring various aspects of the town’s history.
Learn at Lunch
If you’re visiting with children – especially little bookworms – then take them for lunch at the Leaf Café opposite the library in Old Cross. The café doubles as a children’s bookshop and there are regular book and craft events for families, as well as creative writing workshops and visits from children’s authors.
If you’re looking for a more low-key lunch, Giambrone’s Italian deli and coffee bar on central Fore Street does delicious authentic Mediterranean dishes like lasagne and incredible deli boards of meats, breads and cheese as well as lovely limoncello. Lussman’s fish and grill, also on Fore Street, has an £11.95 two-course lunch (or £14.50 for three dishes) – fine-dining at chain restaurant prices.
Hertford offers a frankly dizzying range of independent shops offering unique experiences that make for a memorable visit.
CandyCane at Bull Plain is a Willy Wonka-esque sweetshop with a huge array of offerings, and is a must-visit for its legendary milkshakes, which make a delicious afternoon treat.
Manic Ceramics is worth a slight detour to Port Vale on the outskirts of the town. The paint-your-own-pottery store has been providing Hertford with memorable afternoons for more than 10 years and has a range of workshops and clubs for kids and grown-ups alike. Its regular informal Ladies Night (when you can bring along bottles of wine) is also a hit.
A wander over to London Road (also on the outskirts of town) will take you to the third-generation run family farm shop, Foxholes. As well as locally-reared meat, there’s a tempting selection of cheeses, boozy treats and other local produce such as the wonderful Dawlicious ice cream, made from the milk of Jersey cows farmed at nearby Hertford Heath. Stay for a cuppa and some homemade cakes at Granny Smith’s Tea Shop.
Dine in Style
Hertford is well-known for its restaurant scene, and there are plenty of independent venues to choose from serving a wide variety of world cuisines.
The Whistling Duck is well worth the trip to Lower Hatfield Road on the edge of town. With views over countryside and the River Lea it’s a lovely setting for an excellent wide-ranging menu with a focus on local produce.
A visit to the 16th century White Horse pub on Castle Street on Thursdays will introduce you to its delicious tapas nghts, as well as a pleasing choice of real ales to sip in a cosy corner.
For an evening with a flavour of the east, try Old Siam on Parliament Square, which many believe to be home of the finest Thai food in the county. Aside from the delicate, aromatic dishes on offer, all the stunning teak furnishings come from the Thai owner’s homeland.
A Night to Remember
Both the Corn Exchange and Hertford Theatre promise a night of rousing entertainment, while there are memorable nights to be had elsewhere too.
Hertford Castle hosts special family events throughout the year, including its popular open-air cinema nights. Wine-lovers should visit The Salisbury Arms, the Fore Street venue hosts many Hertfordshire Wine School tastings – the wine and chocolate pairing evening here on February 13 (£27.50) will make a tasty alternative Valentine’s Day treat.
For something truly unforgettable, visit an open evening at the University of Hertfordshire Bayfordbury Observatory a few miles south of Hertford, where you will be treated to expert demonstrations, a tour of the sky in the planetarium and access to the seven powerful optical telescopes. The theme of the next evening on February 27 is the International Year of Light.