With its fascinating history, idyllic market towns, infinite walking possibilities and exciting gourmet scene, Shropshire offers everything a traveller might need.
Quiet and beauty
Much of the rustic beauty of the region can be found within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), designated in 1958 to protect and enhance the region’s hills, farmland, woods, valleys and batches, richly varied geology and diverse wildlife.
If you’re a hill walker, Shropshire’s natural geography with its farms and open countryside offer abundant opportunities for quiet contemplation. Wreathed in mystery and legend, as with the Stiperstones six-mile quest, or depicted on a medieval Mappa Mundi as with Titterstone Clee, Shropshire awaits your wanderings with a variety of routes.
To walk the Stiperstones on a clear day is uplifting and invigorating © Eddie Cloud, Shutterstock
There are waymarked trails starting from the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre; from the highest ones in the Clee Hills to long-distance trails as Wild Edric’s Way, Shropshire walks’ will lead you high and low through its most beautiful valleys, hills and villages.
Another part of Shropshire’s charm is its peace and serenity, largely connected to the fact that Shropshire has one of the lowest county population densities in the UK.
A rural heritage
Due to the county’s farming heritage and its fertile soil, Shropshire yields delicious meat and fresh produce. They celebrate, as we all should, the importance and pleasures of the local, the seasonal, and often the organic.
All around the county you’ll find beautifully presented farm shops, food festivals and innovative chefs working wonders with produce from Shropshire and its neighbouring counties. Ludlow’s reputation as a gourmet town is deservedly lasting, thanks to the Ludlow Food Festival, the UK’s first food festival and perhaps the most famous. It was originally set up in response to the building of a supermarket on the outskirts of town, understandably taken as a threat to Ludlow’s independent shops and producers.
In parts of Shropshire, local has always been the norm © Ashleigh Cadet, Ludlow Food Festival
Furthermore, Shropshire’s calendar is illuminated with festivals and fairs, celebrating everything from apples, flowers, steam machinery and ale to gingerbread, coracles and storytelling.
If you find cheer in beer, there’s a beer festival in Bishop’s Castle, where they celebrate the town’s two breweries and excellent pubs. One of them, the Three Tuns, happens to be the oldest working brewery in Britain.
Shropshire is a county with a history that has changed the world, being the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, the modern Olympics and Charles Darwin.
Shropshire’s industrial legacy is evident not only through the books, wall plaques and conservation efforts, but also for the mining towns to explore, canals and towpaths and disused railway tracks in the region.
The story of the gorge in Ironbridge was already thousands of years old at the peak of the Industrial Revolution, so it’s no exaggeration to say Ironbridge Gorge was the birthplace of heavy modern industry. Becoming a World Heritage Site in 1986, it has plenty of visitor attractions such as shops, tea rooms, galleries and museums.
The raw materials of Ironbridge Gorge enabled engineers and ironmasters to realise innovations that would change the path of industry and indeed the world © Stocker1970, Shutterstock
The Olympic games as we know them today, were originally started in Much Wenlock, where William Penny Brookes, a Victorian doctor and social reformer, founded the Much Wenlock Olympian Society to ‘promote the Moral and Physical benefits of Exercise’. It was in 1889, when French aristocrat Baron Pierre de Coubertin visited the town for the Wenlock Olympian Games, that he took Dr Brookes’ dream to an international level. Even though Dr Brookes died four months before the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens, his legacy is still alive in this quiet Shropshire town, where they celebrate it every July.
Apart from being at the physical heart of the county and a ‘fine example of a Tudor town’, Shrewsbury is Charles Darwin’s birthplace. Several walks and landmarks will guide you around the boyhood haunts of the man whose theory of evolution changed the way we understand the world.
Whilst the Georgian house where Darwin was born is not open to the public, you can find a bronze statue of him in the courtyard of the Shrewsbury library, which was once Darwin’s school. You can also celebrate his birthday every 12 February and toast his memory at noon, when people gather to mark the beginning of the Darwin Festival, comprising two days of walks, lectures and children’s events around the town.
A town garden and the circular Darwin River Walk celebrate both Charles Darwin and the geological diversity of Shropshire.
A good number of regions in Shropshire have a healthy dose of independent shops. In Shrewsbury, Wyle Cop is a road lined with interesting independent shops and inviting cafés which takes its unusual name from the Welsh ‘hwylfa’ meaning ‘road up a hill’ and ‘coppa’ meaning ‘summit’.
By supporting sustainable artisan producers we reduce our impact on the planet © Shropshire Town Council
Another 25 independent shops can be found in the Parade shopping centre, nearby St Mary’s Place, which also has the River View café, with a balcony terrace and views over the Severn.
Ludlow shares the belief that supporting local suppliers, artisan producers and traditional skills are the secrets to a thriving town, and holds organisations such as Slow Food Ludlow Marches, Ludlow Farmshop and Local to Ludlow.
Shropshire and its surrounds are full of castles and ruins with countless stories of battles and feuds, churches of architectural importance, striking Tudor buildings and country houses. Shropshire is blessed with over 300 churches dating back hundreds of years with some even dating to Saxon times.
These include the black-and-white oak-framed St Peter’s at Melverley, the ‘tin tabernacle’ church of St John the Baptist in Maesbury, St Laurence’s in Ludlow, the isolated Norman chapel in Heath, St Bartholomew’s in Tong, St Mary’s in Shrewsbury and St Mary’s in Acton Burnell.
Stokesay Castle has a moat dry and perfect for a toddler-friendly scamper. © Gordon Dickens
Recalling the Tudor tradition, Ludlow has The Feathers Hotel on the Bull Ring, the model of a black-and-white Jacobean coaching inn and one of the most photographed hotels in England. In Hodnet you can find a restaurant on the remains of the Heber-Percy’s Tudor mansion, built in the 1860s.
Whitchurch has a Tudor building with low ceilings and inviting nooks, which has been a pub since at least 1667, and the independent cinema in Shrewsbury uses too the original beamed Tudor ceiling built by wool merchants.
When it comes to castles, you can find the best preserved of its kind of England, Stokesay ‘Castle’ (built in the late 13th century), England’s first community-run castle in Whittington or ruins with a notable literary heritage in Clun.
The ruins of the Norman castle of Ludlow are not only rich in masonry, but also in colourful stories that the walls themselves hold, whilst Bishop’s Castle is home to Britain’s oldest working brewery, and its very name conjures images of the turbulent history of the Welsh Marches.
Want to find out more reasons to visit Shropshire? Check out our comprehensive guide: