Here are a few pictures of some of our latest food offerings, created by Executive Chef Michael Fowler and Head Chef Richard Weare.
We serve food seven days a week, lunchtimes and evenings.
*Photos by Jack Spicer Adams
It is difficult to ignore the hand-pulled ferry boat which rests outside the Saracen’s Head Inn, but what’s its history, and is it merely a tourist attraction or is this little mode of transport still invaluable part of local life?
The ferry at the Saracens is one of two hand-pulled ferries on this short stretch of the River Wye, the ferries at Symond’s Yat are enshrined in locally history and they make up a traditional way of life.
Travel back in time to 1800, and the Wye was a busy place for industry, it also posed a potential barrier between the two sides of the river, and this is a river that has always commanded respect with many losing their lives when swimming or attempting to cross. An interesting 19th century child’s gravestone at St Margaret’s Church, Welsh Bicknor is testament to the dangers of the Wye. It describes cause of death by drowning in the river, locals will have more recent memories of such tragic stories.
During the early 19th century, there were 25 hand ferries between Ross and Chepstow, many of which were similar to the present day Saracen’s ferry.
It is thought by historians that the ferries were introduced in Roman Times to link the forts of the Doward and the Yat. They have certainly served Military, Civilian, Tourist and Horse traffic since this era.
The ferry outside the Saracens is a hand pull cable ferry. The ferryman uses the overhead tensioned cable which is connected to the boat by a rope, this is to prevent the boat from drifting down stream should the ferryman lose control of the boat, which is what is what apparently happened many years ago with the boat drifting down to the rapids. Health and safety is far more stringent these days.
While the ferry appeals to tourists, it is still today a very useful and important part of local life for those wishing to travel between Symonds Yat East and West. The only connection by road is upstream over Huntsham bridge (a five-mile trip). By foot the other option is a three mile round-trip walk down to the Biblins suspension bridge and back. The suspension bridge was built in 1957.
The ferry has been captured in a lovely article by Melissa Mouchemore:
Warm, still, overcast – my favourite summer weather – and a rare solitary weekend escape. The river languid and glassy, cumulonimbus woodlands rolling up towards the 500ft crag of Symonds Yat. Nothing to do but drink coffee on the terrace of the Saracens Head Inn and watch, as the sign near the pub calls it, the Ancient Hand Ferry. PERFECT.
Read Melissa’s full article >>here<<
Of all the ferry men who operated the Saracen’s Head ferry in recent years, Andy Gardener or ‘Animal’ as he was known affectionately by locals, was by far the most colourful and entertaining.
Andy would take the boat to the middle of the river and sing to the bemused customers of the pub on the terraces, but by the end of the day he would be back inside drinking and sharing stories with tourists, not to mention his arm wrestling challenges. A kind and gentle man, a commemorative plaque rests on the wall by the ferry steps.
High river levels in winter prevent the ferry from being used, but for most of the year, this buoyant little river shuttle carries literally thousands of people, animals and bicycles back and forth, for a small charge which goes towards the maintenance and wages of those who pull the ferry. Whether it’s to collect a lone hiker or the constant stream of tourists on a sunny bank holiday, the Saracen’s Head Inn ensure this bit of ancient history remains in place for both tourists and locals.
That clinking of chains is now part of Symonds Yat life, and for some, the songs and laughter of Andy Gardener can still be heard drifting up the Yat gorge on still summer eves.
If you’re looking for a bottle of fine wine in Herefordshire or the Wye Valley, you might want to drop by to see what is on offer here at the Saracen’s Head Inn.
We have built up a wide selection of wines from all over the world to offer our guests something extra special when looking for a bottle of red or white wine, or perhaps just the one glass over dinner, or in the bar.
Chris and Pete choose these wines with the help of our local wine suppliers (and experts) Jim and Catherine Cozens, of Vineyard Wines in Symonds Yat West.
Our wine list includes light bodied and dry white wines, aromatic and fruity white wines, rich and full white wines, classic French white wines, sparkling wine and champagne, fruity and juicy red wines, soft and rounded red wines, rich and full bodied red wines, classic French red wines and rose.
Here is an example of fine wines from the more traditional regions which are on offer by the bottle here at our Inn (unfortunately these are not available by the glass):
Elegant, complex fruit flavours, smooth tannins, good balance
and a long finish.
Chateau La Tour De Mons 2007 Ac Margaux, Cru Bourgeois, Bordeaux.
Relatively deep colour. Refined nose mingling red fruit and delicate, slightly toasted wood. Ethereal mouthfeel with extremely refined tannins. Although the aromas are still backward, finesse and length are already apparent. A stylish Margaux.
Chateau Lestage-Simon 2005 Ac Haut Medoc, Cru Bourgeois Superieur, Bordeaux.
Chateau Lestage-Simon is based in the Haut-Medoc region of Bordeaux, on the banks of the Gironde. This has intense bramble fruit with hints of liquorice. The palate is full and weighty with blackcurrents and a gentle spicy warmth balanced by well structured tannins. Grape Varieties: Merlot 80%, Cabernet Sauvignon 20%
A lively Sauvignon Blanc from the south of France. This wine has classic aromas of torn leaves, nettle and green peppers. It’s super fresh and zingy and a very verstaile foodie wine.
Chablis, Premier Cru Vau-Ligneau ‘Tastevinage’ 2012.
A full and rich style of Chablis. The nose is a blend of caramel and butterscotch married with ripe mango and other tropical fruits along with apple tones. The palate shows a steely, linear, mineral style with citrus characters. The richness is nicely balanced with good acidity and freshness.
St-Veran 2012 Domaine Des Perserons, ‘Les Quartier Des Girouttes’ S.Burgundy.
From the cooler 2012 vintage, this has vibrant citrus fruit, complex minerality and poise. It is a truly good example of a traditional white Burgundy and a delicious food accompaniment. Girouettes are weather vains to be found on the numerous church spires typical of the Mâconnais.
Oven-baked Whole Camembert
Camembert is a soft, creamy, surface-ripened cow’s milk cheese. It was first made in the late 18th century at Camembert, Normandy in northern France.
Tintern is a blended mature creamy Cheddar cheese flavoured with fresh chives and shallots, made by Abergavenny Fine Foods. Typically produced in wheels of 2.25 kg, it is sold in a distinctive lime green wax covering.
Perl Las is an organic, cows’ milk cheese produced in Boncath in West Wales. A blue Caerphilly cheese, Perl Las has a delicate, salty flavour when young, but becomes golden in colour and stronger and more lemony in taste as it matures. It has a creamy, lingering aftertaste. Produced in wheels of 2.5 kg and trickles of 600 g, the cheese has won several awards
A branded soft cheese range is the latest development in the recent revival of Welsh cheesemaking and marks a first for soft cheese development in Wales.
Caws Teifi Cheese has been producing prize-winning raw milk cheese for over three decades. Teifi make artisanal cheese using the best local ingredients and highest quality locally sourced raw milk. When you taste their cheese you are tasting the rich clover-filled fields of Wales.
Our lovely Summer menus have been updated, from Charcuterie Sharing Boards to Vegetarian Quiche, Breconshire 12oz Rib Eye Steak to Pan Seared Salmon, we have something for every palate:
“Our ingredients are carefully selected and wherever possible are seasonal and locally produced. We are passionate about what we do and everything we serve has been prepared freshly for you.” – Head Chef, The Saracens Head Inn.