Written by Marie Kreft
Broome Park Farm Catherton Rd, Cleobury Mortimer; 01299 270647; www.broomeparkfarm.co.uk. Stay on a working farm on the Shropshire/Worcestershire border (not far from the wonderful Hobsons Brewery) in four-star B&B comfort, where sustainability is a way of life. At Broome Park Farm your breakfast will not have travelled far to reach you: sausages and bacon come from the farm’s own pigs; eggs are laid daily by the resident hens; apples are grown on site for pressing; and owner Catherine makes her own jam and keeps bees. She and her family support the local bakers and dairy too. The two en-suite double rooms are both large enough to accommodate two extra cots or children’s beds if you’re travelling as a family – and younger guests may appreciate the trampoline and zip wire outside. This is a perfect base for south Shropshire and beyond (if you’re keen to head for the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Ironbridge, it’s worth knowing that guests are treated to a 25% discount on Annual Passport tickets to the ten museums) – and ideal for walking and cycling holidays, located as it is at the southern end of the Jack Mytton Way. If you’re planning to arrive by public transport, you can arrange to be picked up and dropped off from nearby Cleobury Mortimer – a handsome Shropshire town with a famous crooked spire.
Castle View B&B Stokesay SY7 9AL; 01588 673712; www.castleviewstokesay.co.uk. This large and comfortable Victorian stone house is just off the A49, a mile from Craven Arms (which has a train station); also in walking distance of the astonishing fortified manor house of Stokesay Castle. It would suit a cycling holiday, and the owners provide space in their locked garage in case you need to store your bike. The three guest rooms comprise a double with en-suite bathroom, a twin with private bathroom, and a single room with separate (but private) shower and toilet room. Because of the age and layout of the house it may not all be suitable for people with mobility needs, but do have a look at the dedicated accessibility page on the B&B’s website if you need detailed information. Breakfast is a full Shropshire affair and the owners’ son is a baker so you’re guaranteed delicious bread – perhaps topped with the B&B’s own prize-winning marmalade (which was honoured in the World’s Original Marmalade Awards).
Hopton House B&B Hopton Heath SY7 0QD; 01547 530885; www.shropshirebreakfast.co.uk. When not whipping up cakes and first-class breakfasts for guests (the latter featuring local bacon and sausages if you want them, and free-range eggs from the resident chickens), Hopton House’s owner Karen Thorne is running masterclasses for would-be B&B owners, who travel from far and wide to tap into her expertise. So you can be sure you’re in excellent hands in this idyllic patch of south Shropshire – which is within walking distance of Hopton Heath station and the inspiring ruins of Hopton Castle. Hopton House is frequently cited in best English B&B round-up articles, and deservedly so. All rooms have super king-size beds and en suite with double-ended bath and powerful shower, ensuring you’re met with luxury after a day in the hills. Breakfast is a leisurely affair, served from 08.00–10.30 to encourage lie-ins. This B&B has a strong environmental policy and half the 1.75-acre garden is given over to meadow. One of the rooms, the Barn, is designated dog-friendly. Guests over 16 only.
Orchard House Ashford Bowdler, near Ludlow SY8 4DJ; 01584 831270; www.orchard-barn.co.uk (cottage also available for self-catering). This 300-year-old converted barn is about two miles south of Ludlow on the A49 – and therefore an ideal base for exploring the foodie town as well as the wider south Shropshire countryside. Orchard House is a B&B run to a four-star standard by Judith and Noel Eyres, who provide a warm welcome, cosy rooms (think exposed oak beams and rustic chic) and delicious breakfasts. Everything is local and wholesome: Hereford apple juice, meat from Ludlow butchers, organic yogurt, and free-range eggs from a nearby farm. If you prefer the privacy of self-catering, then the one-bedroom Orchard Cottage is a lovely hideaway. No children under 12. There’s a great farm shop at Ashford Bowdler.
The Poppy House 20 Market Sq, Bishop’s Castle SY9 5BN; 01588 638443; www.poppyhouse.co.uk. The Poppy House is a light and sunny licensed tea room and restaurant in two-brewery-blessed Bishop’s Castle, serving well-presented café fare (sandwiches, jacket potatoes, salads) and hearty English breakfasts. A dedicated drying room takes care of cyclists’ and walkers’ wet clothing. It’s also a four-star B&B with two charming double rooms and two larger family rooms – with complimentary breakfast in bed if that’s what takes your fancy.
The Porch House High St, Bishop’s Castle SY9 5BE; 01588 638854; www.theporchhouse.com (also available for self-catering). The Porch House is a distinguished Elizabethan (c1564) building which looks entirely at one with the sloping high street of Bishop’s Castle. You can stay here in one of two self-catering apartments (named ‘Clun’ and ‘Ludlow’), or on a B&B basis in the Blue or Red rooms. (Clun may also be available for B&B). All rooms have original beams and oak floors, in keeping with the age of the building, with modern comforts including a super king-size bed. There are other special touches, such as the provision of handmade goats’ milk soap, produced locally and wrapped especially for the Porch House. In the morning, if you’re taking the B&B option, you’ll wake up to a full Shropshire breakfast: provenance is important to owners Gill and John Lucas, who list many of their suppliers on their website. Walkers and cyclists are especially welcome, and a free luggage transfer may be available. The building type makes this accommodation unsuitable for children aged under ten. The Porch House also houses a brilliant delicatessen (New Deli) and the homely Chai Shop, serving homemade Indian cuisine.
The Quarry House Church Rd, Newcastle-on-Clun SY7 8QJ; 01588 640774; www.quarry-house.com. At the end of the Clun valley is this relaxed and friendly B&B in a converted barn, with three clean and comfortable guest bedrooms made up with crisp linen. It’s a perfect stop for several long-distance footpaths: the Offa’s Dyke Path and the Shropshire Way run very close to the Quarry House – and you can also pick up a scenic walk into Clun with its interesting church and real-ale pubs. In the morning you have a choice of delicious breakfasts: a full cooked Shropshire brekkie, perhaps, or scrambled eggs with smoked salmon. Bread and jam are homemade. If you’re staying over you can order a two- or three-course dinner if you wish; the B&B is also home to a private restaurant, seating four to ten people. Menus are flexible and there’s no alcohol licence so feel free to bring your own wine.
Timberstone Bed & Breakfast Clee Stanton SY8 3EL; 01584 823519; www.timberstoneludlow.co.uk (self-catering also available). I first read about Timberstone B&B in a 2008 Guardian piece by Alastair Sawday in which he quotes owner Tracey’s recipe for the Slow life. ‘Choose to see the glass half-full, plant something you can harvest, take a country walk, do a good deed every day, think of five things that make you smile, take a few deep breaths and exhale slowly, take the time to cook a proper meal, sit down at the table to eat as a family, switch off the TV, drink good wine, put on some music and dance!’
Tracey and her partner Alex moved to Ludlow (or, rather, the nearby hamlet of Clee Stanton) before it became known as a foodie destination, establishing a sumptuous B&B that combines comfortable accommodation with delicious food (Tracey used to work for Michelin-starred chef Shaun Hill). Four en-suite rooms with fine linen and luxurious quilts await guests, while in the morning there’s a choice of breakfasts favouring local, homemade, organic and fairtrade ingredients. Two- or three-course dinners and a children’s supper can be ordered in advance (and there’s a thoughtful wine and cocktail list) or, if you wish to sample Ludlow’s dining scene, babysitting can be arranged. The full use of Timberstone is also available on a self-catering basis, sleeping up to 16 guests.
Victoria House 48 High St, Church Stretton SY6 6BX; 01694 723823; www.victoriahouse-shropshire.co.uk. Victoria House is home to a popular café named Jemima’s Kitchen, which owner Diane Chadwick named after her Scottish mum, who inspired her to cook. Fruit, cheese and plain scones are freshly baked – and what isn’t made in-house is sourced locally. It’s an excellent place to fuel up with breakfast before a walk on the Long Mynd. This elegant townhouse, with a back garden overlooking Church Stretton’s Norman church of St Laurence’s, also has six guest rooms (five en suite and one with private bathroom and dressing room), all tastefully decorated with antique furniture, original artwork and luxurious soft furnishings. Breakfasts are cooked to order using local and, where possible, organic ingredients: bacon and sausages, for example, come from a nearby farm. Diane’s business, which is signed up to Green Tourism and the Shropshire Hills Sustainable Business Scheme, has a strong environmental policy.
Long Mountain Centre Rowley, Pleasant View SY5 9RY; 01743 891274; www.longmountaincentre.co.uk . Long Mountain Centre, which is officially in south Shropshire but easily accessible from Shrewsbury too, organises riding lessons, hacks, pony camps, bridleway riding and riding holidays. The eco-friendly centre (complete with compost heap, green cleaning products and careful monitoring of energy) has two-bedroom log cabins set among 54 acres for riding and walking, and can accommodate your horse on site. Each of the six cabins is centrally heated with generous living space and French doors leading out onto a decked veranda. Non-riders are also welcome to holiday in this romantic location.
Middle Woodbatch Farm Woodbatch Rd, Bishop’s Castle SY9 5JS; 01588 630141; www.middlewoodbatchfarm.co.uk. Ten minutes by car from Bishop’s Castle is this farmhouse B&B, in view of Henley Woods and the Long Mynd. The Owl and Badger rooms are comfortable and welcoming for walkers and riders – the latter can bring their own horses and accommodate them in purpose-built stables. This is a good place to start out on an adventure: Middle Woodbatch Farm links up with two bridleways leading to the Kerry Ridgeway, an old drovers’ route. Also check the website for a circular walking route around the farm, or ask the knowledgeable owners for more ideas. In the morning you can enjoy a filling breakfast: local bacon and sausages, the farm’s own free-range eggs, Shropshire honey…
Outside is a garden for guests’ use, and a mown field for campers (with space for ten pitches). As well as toilets, wet rooms with showers and a fully equipped kitchen, there are power points for charging in case you simply can’t live without your mobile. Each pitch has a designated fire bowl for cooking, and firewood is for sale.
Brow Farm Campsite Ratlinghope SY5 0SR; 01588 650641; www.browfarmcampsite.co.uk. Twelve idyllic acres await you and your camping kit at Brow Farm, so there’s no need to book. This is an idyllic spot in the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and ideal for walkers and explorers: the Shropshire Way runs alongside the farm, while in the summer the Shropshire Hills Shuttle Buses stop just outside. You can hire a fire pit for cooking and, when you’re in need of a pint or dinner cooked by someone else, the excellent Bridges pub is only a ten-minute walk away. Much of the site consists of wildflower meadows – untouched by chemicals or artificial fertilisers – and owner John Sankey has planted many trees to encourage wildlife. While there’s free Wi-Fi, you won’t get mobile phone coverage in this neck of the woods (although some might see that as an advantage). Camping pods may be hired in advance.
While you’re staying in the area, do take a peek at the churchyard of St Margaret’s where you’ll find the grave of the last known sin eater in England, Richard Munslow (d1906). Sin eating was a custom peculiar to the Welsh Marches and north Wales wherein a willing person was paid to eat bread and drink ale or wine over the corpse of a person who had died suddenly without the chance to confess their sins. Believers thought the sin eater would take on the sins of the deceased, allowing their purified soul to enter heaven. While sin eaters were usually very poor, Richard Munslow was a farmer with 70–75 acres of land at nearby Upper Darnford. The grave may give a clue as to why Mr Munslow decided to revive the custom of sin eating: he lost four infant children in his lifetime; three in the space of one week in 1870. Shropshire poet-novelist Mary Webb reimagined Ratlinghope as ‘Slepe’ in her first novel The Golden Arrow, such is the village’s quietude.
Feather Down Farm Acton Scott SY6 6QQ; 01420 80804; www.featherdown.co.uk. The Feather Down concept originated in the Netherlands over a decade ago: it’s a way for working farms to open their fields and rural experiences to guests, and for guests (predominantly urban-dwelling families with young children) to enjoy a back-to-nature glamping holiday. They were the idea of Luite Moraal, the Dutch entrepreneur who first brought Center Parcs to the UK. Feather Down’s spacious ‘tents’ are actually called Canvas Lodges and, while they have no electricity or hot running water, they are kitted out with wooden floors, real beds with crisp linen and snuggly duvets, a wood-burning stove for cooking, and a flushable toilet. The idea is that you get involved with life on the farm, when you wish, and also enjoy the simpler things in life with the people you love: candlelit evenings playing board games, perhaps? It’s not a cheap holiday, but it probably will be memorable and special.
This Feather Down Farm is about four miles south of Church Stretton. Acton Scott Historic Working Farm is a popular visitor attraction (featured on BBC2’s Victorian Farm and Ben Fogle’s Escape in Time) where heavy horses work the land and you can pat Tamworth pigs, Shropshire sheep and Longhorn and Shorthorn cows – the ‘traditional’ livestock that someone farming in south Shropshire between around 1870–1920 would recognise. Acton Scott also nurtures the skills of yesteryears: a blacksmith, wheelwright and farrier make daily visits and demonstrations during open season.
Please note that there are three Feather Down locations in Shropshire – do search the website to view the other two, near Cheswardine and Shrewsbury. At the time of writing bookings for the Acton Scott site were being managed by a Feather Down affiliate, so you may need to phone the number above to make a booking. Details will be updated here when known.
Foxholes Castle Camping Montgomery Rd, Bishop’s Castle SY9 5HA; 01588 638924 (email through website preferred); www.foxholes-castle.co.uk. With plenty of space for tents, campers and caravans (note: no electric hook-ups), Foxholes Castle Camping is just ten minutes’ walk along the Shropshire Way to the small, arty town of Bishop’s Castle, where you’ll find excellent pubs and not one but two famous breweries. Foxholes is a wonderful spot. Since taking over the site in 2006 the owners have planted over 2,000 trees and shrubs as well as leaving meadow grass to grow, encouraging greater numbers of and diversity in birds – including owls – and wildlife. They’re big on caring for the environment – and green technology around the site includes a solar-panelled shower block, the harvesting of rainwater, and water used from an abandoned well for toilet flushing. For rainy summers or less hardy campers there’s a six-bed bunkhouse; also a six-berth cabin and eight-berth eco cabin in case you require still more home comforts. Children welcome.
The Green Caravan Park Wentnor SY9 5EF; 01588 650605; www.greencaravanpark.co.uk. Ideal for exploring the Long Mynd and Bishop’s Castle, the Green Caravan Park is a sheltered, level site with the gentle River East Onny running through it – a paddler’s paradise. This, and the children’s play area, make it popular with young families, who also enjoy the convenience of the Inn on the Green at the site entrance. Nearby is the Crown Inn too – a homely and welcoming pub dating from the 16th century. Part of the park is set aside as a wild area. The owners’ dedication to protecting the natural habitat of the site made the Green Caravan Park a former David Bellamy Conservation Award winner. Caravan and camping pitches are available and well-behaved dogs kept on leads are welcome. While staying in Wentnor, be sure to pay a visit to St Michael and All Angels Church with its weather-boarded tower and ‘hurricane tomb’, dedicated to seven members of the same family wiped out by a storm in 1772.
Shropshire Hills Mountain Bike and Outdoor Pursuit Centre (now known as Mountain Edge Resort) Marshbrook, near Church Stretton SY6 6QE; 01694 781515; www.camping-shropshire.co.uk. Lodge, pod, shepherd’s hut or pitch: you can be as glampy or campy as you wish at the newly branded Mountain Edge Resort, near Church Stretton on the edge of the Long Mynd. Three new log cabin lodges will be available from May 2016, while each of the six already established camping pods provides insulated, heated and lit (yet basic) accommodation for up to five people. There’s also a shepherd’s hut, sleeping two, and a campsite with ten pitches (where raised fire pits and BBQs are allowed). The site even has its own pub, the Station Inn (soon to be renamed Mountain Edge Cafe-Bar-Restaurant), hosting a popular Grill & Butcher Night on Fridays. The beer line-up includes a special: Woods Blazing Bikes Trailblazer – named after the on-site mountain bike shop. Indeed, Mountain Edge Resort is a great place for mountain bikers to stay: Marshbrook is just minutes away from some excellent downhill courses, in the form of Minton Batch and Pole Bank on the Long Mynd.
Westhope College near Craven Arms SY7 9JL; 01584 861293; www.westhope.org.uk. Just above the Corvedale, shaded beneath the banks and coppices of Wenlock Edge, is Westhope College. Predominantly a craft college, offering a dazzling variety of one-off sessions, longer courses and full-board residential programmes, this is a place for nurturing mind and soul as well as acquiring new skills and preserving old ones: embroidery, patchwork, felting, basketry and willow weaving, copper foiling, glasswork, sewing and needlework, dyeing, batik, applique, tapestry, woodcarving, enamelling…
If even your fingers are in need of a break, philosophy and meditation courses now also feature in the brochure, which you can download from the college website. In 1981 Anne Dyer MBE founded the college with Elizabeth Rumble in the handsome gabled house, originally a pair of cottages, which has been owned and extended by her distinguished family for several generations. The college grounds, stretching over ten acres (open for wandering at weekends for a small fee), are particularly distinctive: Anne told me she is applying to have the garden registered as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, not least because of a profusion of common spotted orchids thriving in the meadow. The walled garden provides sustenance to college residents and nearby in the valley Anne owns castlemilk moorit sheep, longhorn cattle and kunekune pigs which also make their way to the dining room in various forms. If you’re craft-minded, get ready to swoon at the Friends’ Shop, stocking yarns, fabrics, buttons and accessories, and the libraries of craft-related books. The Tea Shed is open (w/ends in summer, 10.30– 15.30) and other times by arrangement) to anyone in need of homemade cake, good coffee or a long cool drink.
For residential guests there are 14 bedrooms in various configurations (including singles, twins and triples, with accessible downstairs accommodation) and shared bathrooms.
YHA Bridges Ratlinghope SY5 0SP; 01588 650656; www.yha.org.uk/hostel/yha-bridges. This youth hostel opened in May 1931 in a former schoolhouse, making it one of the Youth Hostel Association’s first places to stay. It’s in an idyllic location in quiet Ratlinghope, near the Long Mynd and just behind a brilliant pub called the Bridges (see the separate Bridges listing below). Private en-suite and dorm rooms are available at bargain prices, while camping facilities outside accommodate outdoorsier guests. There’s a cosy lounge with open fire, space for muddy boots and cycle storage. Evening meals and breakfasts are served in the homely dining room for an extra charge, often utilising homegrown veg from the vegetable patch.
YHA Clun Mill Clun SY7 8NY; 0845 3719112; www.yha.org.uk/hostel/yha-clun-mill. Here’s your chance to stay in a restored water mill in Clun – one of AE Housman’s ‘quietest places under the sun’. This youth hostel has plenty of original character, and space to accommodate up to 23 people inside, in a combination of dorms, private rooms and en-suite rooms. There’s a kitchen and social area complete with a cosy wood-burning stove.
Outside, 20 camping pitches are ideal for organised groups and families. A dedicated camping kitchen and shower room have 24-hour access; there’s also an efficient drying room to ensure your comfort. A BBQ pit is available, but do be aware that fires are prohibited. The whole place is occasionally available (and would be wonderful) for private hire for a special occasion.
Fishmore Hall Fishmore Rd, Ludlow SY8 3DP; 01584 875148; www.fishmorehall.co.uk. About a mile outside Ludlow off the A49, Fishmore Hall is a privately owned country house with 15 luxurious and individually styled bedrooms – many of which have views through large sash windows into the south Shropshire countryside. The bathrooms are sumptuous too: walk-in showers with waterfall shower heads, double-ended baths, Molton Brown goodies and fluffy bathrobes and slippers. In Forelles, Fishmore Hall’s restaurant – with its vista of green fields to the Clee hills – head chef Andrew Birch serves imaginative fine-dining dishes using ingredients sourced from within 30 miles of Ludlow (with the exception of seafood which comes from Brixham and the Isle of Skye). Try the tasting menu for maximum excitement (and value).
The Baron at Bucknell Bucknell SY7 0AH; 01547 530549; www.baronatbucknell.co.uk (camping also available). Also known as the Baron of Beef, this warm and comfortable inn is five minutes from Bucknell station. Expect generous portions of well-cooked pub food, with many ingredients sourced from Shropshire, Herefordshire and Powys. The Baron’s website outlines ten walks that start and finish at the pub: https://www.baronatbucknell.co.uk. For overnight guests there are five luxurious rooms (each individually styled) with the promise of a hearty local breakfast the next morning. Or you can take camping space in the small level paddock. (Do note that the latter is basic: there are no pot-washing facilities, and there’s only one shower.)
The Bridges Ratlinghope SY5 0ST; 01588 650260; https://m.facebook.com/Thebridgespub. Also known as the Horseshoe Inn, located at the foot of the Long Mynd where the River East Onny meets Darnford Brook, this former coaching stop between Shrewsbury and Bishop’s Castle attracts walkers (including dog walkers, whose pets are welcome in the bar), cyclists and people who appreciate good beer. It’s a tap house for the Three Tuns Brewery. The food is traditional pub fare inspired by the Shropshire hills; I can still feel hungry at the memory of a bowl of smoky cauliflower and Shropshire Blue cheese soup, the perfect overture to Sunday lunch. Just yards away from the pub are a few clean and comfortable rooms (including a family suite, sleeping up to six people, complete with a kitchenette) and a ground-floor bunkroom sleeping up to six people.
Castle Hotel Bishop’s Castle SY9 5BN; 01588 638403; www.thecastlehotelbishopscastle.co.uk. In 1899 artist H Thornhill Timmins described this Georgian hotel as ‘one of those large, roomy caravansarys’. It’s just as inviting today with a secluded garden and daily changing menu upon which I’m always glad to see local ingredients, especially cheese, featuring prominently. Walkers and cyclists are made very welcome. The 12 en-suite bedrooms are reached via a lovely Georgian staircase and include doubles, twins and family rooms. Due to the age and style of the building, staying here may present access problems for people with mobility needs – although the kind staff will help you as much as they can.
Charlton Arms Ludford Bridge, Ludlow SY8 1PJ; 01584 872813; www.thecharltonarms.co.uk. A warmly welcoming pub on Ludlow’s medieval Ludford Bridge, the Charlton Arms is a great place for Sunday roast, with all meat sourced from Shropshire and the Welsh Marches. It’s run by Cedric and Amy Bosi: brother and sister-in-law to French chef Claude Bosi who currently holds two Michelin stars at his London restaurant Hibiscus (which started life in Ludlow). The B&B accommodation at the Charlton Arms comprises of nine bedrooms, ranging from comfortable doubles to the luxurious Othello Suite with private terrace and hot tub. Several rooms overlook the River Teme. After food writer and critic Jay Rayner stayed here he tweeted: ‘a great dinner and a killer breakfast!’
The Crown Country Inn Munslow SY7 9ET; 01584 841205; www.crowncountryinn.co.uk. Once a Shropshire hundred house, then licensed as an inn in 1790, the Crown Country Inn – with its inglenook fireplaces, flagstone floors and inviting wood beams – is one of those places I dream of retreating to on a chilly autumn evening. Especially as I know the food in the two AA-rosette Corvedale Restaurant (which was a courtroom in the 17th century, sometimes presided over by ‘the hanging’ Judge Jeffreys) will be excellent: chef-patron Richard Arnold serves the best of the region’s ingredients in generous portions and always with an exciting twist. After dinner and wine, you can stumble up to a comfortable timber-beamed bedroom: the Georgian stable block behind the inn houses three B&B rooms – all named after castles along the Corvedale. The inn is rated four AA-star, and you can sleep well knowing breakfast will be highly satisfying.
The Crown Inn Wentnor SY9 5EE; 01588 650613; https://thecrowninnwentnor.co.uk. Wentnor’s 16th-century inn is homely and welcoming, all low beams, exposed brick fireplaces and hanging horse tack. Local breweries (including Hobsons) are well represented and the pub fare is satisfying, using meat sourced from Church Stretton and vegetables grown locally. The B&B accommodation comprises four bright, clean and characterful rooms (two double and two single) with the option of a full English or veggie breakfast in the morning.
The Clive Bromfield SY8 2JR; 01584 856565; www.theclive.co.uk. A comfortable accommodation option just a couple of miles outside of Ludlow, the Clive is a well-regarded restaurant on the Earl of Plymouth’s Oakly Park Estate, next door to the famous Ludlow Farm Shop and Ludlow Kitchen. The 18th-century building is a former farmhouse; nowadays the adjoining barns provide 15 spacious en-suite rooms for guests, including a family room and junior suite.
Annie’s Cabin Caynham Mill SY8 3BH; 07977 091928; www.ludlowecologcabins.co.uk. I can’t think of much I’d rather do this weekend than stay in a hand-built, Finnish-style log cabin in a meadow, two miles from Ludlow, with people I love. Perhaps I’d pick up some fresh local provisions from the market in town, then retreat to Annie’s Cabin with plenty of good red wine for a cosy evening of cooking, dining, conversation and a board game or two … Annie’s Cabin was built from Douglas firs (sourced not too far away, in mid Wales) in a way that was intended to minimise the impact on the environment both during its build and over its lifetime. Eco credentials include solar water heating, an 11kw wood pellet stove, induction hob and low-energy lighting. It’s super-stylish inside too, though, with two decked terraces, a Shaker-style cream kitchen, cosy bedrooms (one double and one twin) and a nifty music system. With level access throughout, it’s also suitable for people with mobility needs.
Bromfield Priory Gatehouse Bromfield SY8 2JU; 01628 825925; via www.landmarktrust.org.uk. Bromfield’s a great spot to base yourself for a weekend or longer. Close to Ludlow, it’s home to Ludlow Farm Shop – a dream of a farm shop with a kitchen café too. Bromfield Priory Gatehouse is managed by the Landmark Trust, known for preserving historic buildings that would otherwise be in danger of neglect, nurturing traditional skills, and enabling ordinary people to stay in extraordinary places. Having served time as a manorial court and also a village school, the gatehouse is a medieval timber-framed building, now sleeping six people (in one double and two twin rooms), with beautifully airy open-plan living space. While you’re there, do take a peep inside the church of St Mary the Virgin which contains what is widely quoted as ‘the best specimen of the worst period of ecclesiastical art’. The 17th-century cherubs painted on the ceiling in the chancel must be seen to be believed.
Buckshead Eco-cottage Newcastle, near Clun; 07799 681134; www.buckshead-ecocottage.co.uk. This is perhaps one of the greenest self-catering options you can wish to find in Shropshire. Clun Valley Organic Farm (which incorporates Rhos Fiddle nature reserve, managed by Shropshire Wildlife Trust) is a moorland organic hill farm managing cattle, sheep and a range of crops. On the farm is Buckshead Eco-cottage, a traditional stone house renovated by the owners using local materials wherever possible and utilising eco-friendly design principles. The floors and units are made from local wood, for example, and the kitchen worktops come from recycled coffee pots. The cottage is not connected to the National Grid, so a wind turbine generates electricity and solar panels provide hot water, while a Clearview wood-burning stove (made locally, near Bishop’s Castle) picks up the slack on less sunny days (and heats the living space too). During your stay you’re welcome to make use of the organic vegetables growing in the garden, as well as enjoying the large patio. You can buy organic meat from the farm. Bikes are provided for guests, who can also have fun in the games room – equipped with pool table, table tennis, darts and table football.
Castle House Apartments Ludlow Castle, Ludlow SY8 1AY; 01584 874465; www.ludlowcastle.com/accommodation. Make like Prince Arthur and his bride Catherine of Aragon on their honeymoon, and stay within the walls of Ludlow Castle. Renovations to the grand mansion of Castle House were completed in 2007 (under the specification of the Earl of Powis and the trustees of the Powis estate), creating three self-catering apartments finished and equipped to exacting standards – each with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Your welcome hamper will include local bread, cheese and jams, plus a bottle of full-bodied red (with a white chilling nicely in the fridge). Each cottage has a designated parking space.
Criggin Cottage Melin-y-Grogue, Llanfairwaterdine LD7 1TU; 01547 510341; www.criggin.co.uk. Here’s a secluded holiday home with views over the Shropshire hills and River Teme. An early Victorian detached house built from stone and slate, Criggin Cottage has two double bedrooms, both with en-suite bathrooms, and every mod con you could wish for during a week away. Downstairs, an open-plan kitchen, handmade from locally sourced oak, plus underfloor heating and a log-burning stove (logs provided) make for a romantic and comfortable living space. All guests are treated to a welcome hamper; you can also arrange to be stocked up with lots of local produce before you arrive.
The Dick Turpin Cottage Cockford Hall, Clun SY7 8LR; 01588 640327; www.dickturpincottage.com. ‘Heaven for two’ goes the strapline for this detached stone, timber and slate hideaway in the grounds of Cockford Hall and overlooking the Clun valley. The quirky yet immaculate décor, thoughtful touches and warm welcome have earned romantic Dick Turpin Cottage a VisitEngland Gold Award and rave reviews from several national publications. You’d need a car for a holiday here as the cottage’s setting is pretty remote.
Eaton Manor Country Estate Eaton-under-Heywood, Church Stretton SY6 7DH; 01694 724814; www.eatonmanor.co.uk. This rural retreat set in 500 acres of countryside (about four miles from Church Stretton) comprises four- and five-star holiday cottages, a converted barn called Toad Hall (sleeping 14) and the impressive detached Manor House, accommodating up to 14 guests in seven bedrooms (all en suite) over three floors. It’s a sleekly managed independent operation (run by the fourth generation of the Madeley family to live and work at the estate) with a strong green policy that includes supporting the local economy and community as well as the environment. The estate has won many awards, including a Recognition of Service Excellence award from VisitEngland. With plenty to occupy everyone on the site, including a games room, swimming pool and playing field, Eaton Manor would provide the perfect base for a large family reunion – and there are many ‘additional guest amenities’ you can book to enhance your stay, including private chef services, real-ale delivery, afternoon tea, archery sessions, babysitting, wellness treatments and murder mystery evenings.
Middle Farm Cottages Betchcott near Church Stretton SY6 6NP; 01694 751232; www.middlefarmcottages.co.uk. With rare-breed sheep, pigs and an ‘eclectic mix of chickens’, this small farm near Church Stretton offers a perfect getaway for couples or families. There are three beautifully furnished cottages (sleeping six, two and two) for guests, awarded with the Enjoy England Gold Award four-star standard and full of thoughtful touches – including rock cakes for your arrival, and local handmade soap.
Middle Farm supplies some of the best restaurants in Shrewsbury with its home-reared British Lop pork: you’ll be able to buy some from the pantry during your stay too, as well as fresh eggs from the farm and goodies from other local suppliers. You can also pick your own veg, when in season, from the large, purpose-built beds when in season.
The book Doing it in Wellies, complete with gorgeous colour photographs, tells owner Sam Gray’s stories of living the good life with her family on their Betchcott smallholding.
Pooh Hall Cottages Woodside, Clun SY7 0JB; 01588 640075; www.pooh-hallcottages.co.uk. Pooh Hall Cottages came highly recommended to me by a lady who works for Shropshire Tourism – and I’m happy to take her at her word. Here are three romantic cottages built in Shropshire stone, each perfectly proportioned for two: the Bothy and the Gatehouse and Keeper’s Cottage (pets are allowed in the former two, at no extra charge). In each cottage you’ll find chic yet homely furnishings and outside, no matter what sort of week you’ve experienced, views of the Clun valley that will have your shoulders instantly relaxing. When you book your break you’ll receive a short seasonal menu from which you can order meals for delivery during your stay. Pooh Hall’s Sue and Peter Murray used to own a three-rosette restaurant, so you can be sure they’ll bring something delectable to your door.
Redford Farm Barns Nash SY8 3BA; 01865 764087; www.redfordfarmbarns.co.uk. Red Farm Barns, not far from Ludlow, comprises Ludlow Barn (sleeping four people) and Tenbury Barn (sleeping six adults and three children), which can be rented together to form one ‘celebration house’ for a reunion with family or friends. Its style is described on the website as ‘urban boutique meets rural chic’ – and indeed the barns are beautifully kitted out with tasteful furnishings and luxurious bathrooms (five in total) and kitchens. The living space is sociably open plan, but there is plenty of space to retreat for quiet time – including a chillout bar in a neighbouring barn. Outside are chickens, a covered BBQ with roomy dining area and 12 acres of land to explore, as well as walks leading straight out into the south Shropshire countryside.
Upper Heath Farm Heath SY7 9DS; 01584 823845; www.upperheathfarm.com. I love the hamlet of Heath up in the Clee Hills because, standing isolated in a field of grass and buttercups, is a grade I-listed Norman chapel. Apart from updates to the roof over the centuries and some 16th or 17th-century whitewashing (from beneath which traces of medieval murals have since resurfaced), the chapel is largely unchanged since the 12th century. You’ll find the hefty iron key to the chapel door behind the noticeboard at the entrance to the field – a tiny adventure in itself.
Heath is also home to Upper Heath Farm where, amidst 16 acres of paddocks and fields, you can enjoy a self-catering holiday in the stylishly converted Stable Cottage. It sleeps four people in one double and one twin room and, with a private courtyard, is suitable for families with children. The farm has stabling, grazing and a tack room, so you can bring your own horses on holiday. Your welcome hamper will include eggs from the farm’s own hens.
Walcot Hall Lydbury North SY7 8AZ; 01588 680570; www.walcothall.com (glamping also available). This grand Georgian house was once owned by Robert Clive, better known as Clive of India, who hailed from Market Drayton in north Shropshire. You can stay there today in one of 13 holiday cottages – each one individual and special, from apartments in the main house to a quirky reconstructed chapel in the Walcot Arboretum. (You get the run of the grounds, which are enchanting: look for the almighty Douglas fir planted by Lord Powis in 1842.) Or you could try some glamping in a former showman’s caravan, converted firetruck, a shepherd’s hut or yurt. Exclusive hire is available for weddings and big family reunions.