Ross-on-Wye boasts a rich history that has shaped its present-day identity. The town’s name, “Ross,” originates from the Welsh or Celtic term for a “promontory.” However, in 1931, the General Post Office opted to rebrand the town as “Ross-on-Wye” to eliminate any confusion with other locations bearing the same or similar names, such as Ross in Scotland.
Proudly claiming the title of “the birthplace of British tourism,” Ross-on-Wye has long attracted visitors with its captivating river scenery, dramatic landscapes, and historic castles and abbeys. The town’s journey to becoming a sought-after tourist destination began in 1745 when Dr. John Egerton, the local rector, started taking friends on boat trips down the valley from his Ross rectory.
The popularity of these excursions grew exponentially after the 1782 publication of William Gilpin’s book, Observations on the River Wye. As the first illustrated tour guide in Britain, the book highlighted the picturesque appeal of the Wye Valley. The demand for Wye Valley tours surged, with eight boats making regular excursions along the river by 1808, many of them hired from inns in Ross and Monmouth.
By 1850, over 20 visitors had documented their own experiences of the Wye Tour, firmly establishing the area as a premier tourist destination.