THE Prince of Wales raised a glass to a town’s 250th anniversary festival of tourism – by sampling a Forest brewery’s beer.

Prince Charles visited Ross-on-Wye town centre on Tuesday, November 5, to officially launch a year-long celebration of the town’s role as the “birthplace” of the British package holiday.

In doing so, he was following in his mother, the Queen’s, footsteps, who visited the town way back in 1957, and was welcomed and escorted on his 70-minute visit by Ross town mayor Cllr Jane Roberts.

His Royal Highness chatted with stallholders and sampled beer offered to him by the award-winning Hillside Brewery in Longhope, giving the ale the royal seal of approval.

Asked what Charles had made of his taster-sized glass of Over The Hill mild, owner Paul Williamson revealed: “He said it was nice and it had a good body.

“He seemed to enjoy it, which is fantastic.”

Charles also lit a torch to celebrate the Gilpin 2020 Festival, which will mark the 250th anniversary of artist and travel writer William Gilpin taking a two-day tour of the Wye Valley in 1770.

The torch lighting was not without its problems, though, as the wind blew it out first time, prompting Charles and the large crowd to break out in laughter.

The Prince took time to chat to veterans, schoolchildren, members of community groups, and food and drink producers, and met a woman dressed as a giant hedgehog, a symbol of Ross-on-Wye dating back more than 1,500 years.

Speaking before Char-les lit the torch, Gilpin Festival committee chair Andrew Blake said: “When Gilpin promoted the picturesque nature of the Wye Valley in his guide book, it inspired many others to visit, making Ross arguably the birthplace of British tourism.”

Using fire from the torch, pupils from John Kyrle High School later lit a beacon at the Prospect, one of the oldest public parks in the country, which overlooks the Wye Tour launch site.

A choir made up of children from local four schools – Brampton Abbots, St Joseph’s, John Kyrle and Ashfield Park – welcomed the Prince, alongside the choir of St Mary’s church and Ross Town Band.

A guard of honour was formed by members of the Royal British Legion and he spoke to each of the veterans in turn.

On a walkabout he met the ‘Ross little pickers,’ children who collect litter, and staff from Ross Pre-School Playgroup who were among organisations with stalls along Broad Street.

Arriving at the 360- year-old Market House, he watched pupils from Walford School perform a Commonwealth dance before meeting producers under the arches, including the brewery.

As a keen farmer, the Prince showed great interest in the products of butcher Tim Hanks of Hanks’ Meat and Game, before going upstairs to meet artists and makers of Made in Ross.

Then, to the delight of the crowd, he retraced his mother’s footsteps onto the balcony 62 years after her visit.

Back on the street, he met the hedgehog symbol of Ross – which is linked to the old regional name of Archenfield, the ‘Land of Urchins’, the old name for hedgehogs – and heard the Children’s Chorus sing.

Ross-on-Wye Tourism Association chair, Caroline Utting, said the Prince’s visit was a boost for the profile of the town, which is set in the Wye Valley AONB, and next year’s festival.

“For the Prince to choose it as his theme for the visit is a wonderful gift,” she said. “Tourism is very, very important in the local area.”

Gilpin published what is regarded as the UK’s first package tour guide, charting the picturesque journey from Ross-on-Wye to Chepstow.

The Wye Tour saw artists, poets and other lovers of natural beauty like Wordswoth, Coleridge and JMW Turner take boats downriver as far as Chepstow. Charles Dickens also became a regular visitor, staying in the Royal George Hotel.

For more details of Gilpin 2020 events, visit