Written by Marie Kreft
The Old Rectory Wheathill WV16 6QT; 01746 787209; www.theoldrectorywheathill.com. This country-house B&B is housed in a classic Georgian rectory, complete with three large and light bedrooms (available as doubles or twins) and laidback luxury. Upon your arrival, enjoy a delicious afternoon tea, either on the terrace or in the elegant drawing room, warmed by a log fire.
Walkers and riders are welcome: muddy clothing can be left in the boot room, the house is located on a bridleway that leads to the Jack Mytton Way, and there’s space to accommodate horses and dogs. A small sauna can be used for soothing tired muscles after a day out riding or walking.
Most of the food is homegrown or a very local affair: eggs from the ducks and chickens that roam the seven-acre gardens, jams and compotes from the summer fruits, veg from the vegetable garden. The owners often make their own bread and squeeze their own orange juice. Everything else is sourced locally: meat from a nearby farm, fresh artisan bread from Ludlow and yogurts from a dairy just over the border in Wales. In the evening you can order a supper tray or – by prior arrangement – sit down for a three-course candlelit dinner around a large table with other guests. There’s a small but select wine cellar and honesty bar. The Old Rectory has a five-star gold rating from Visit Britain and many plaudits besides.
Wenlock Pottery Shineton St, Much Wenlock TF13 6HT; 01952 727600; www.wenlockpottery.co.uk. This former Methodist chapel is the place in Shropshire to throw pots. Enjoy a drink in the licensed bar or buy some handmade stoneware. Pre-booked tours are available (including evening tours), as well as a ‘ceramic café’ for visitors who wish to paint their own plates and mugs. It’s also a highly popular three-room B&B with a four-star rating from Shropshire Tourism. The Wenlock Room is particularly special, with a dresser full of cutlery, plates and glasses in case you want to bring a picnic or takeaway to your room.
YHA Wilderhope Manor Longville, Much Wenlock TF13 6EG; 01694 771363; www.yha.org.uk/hostel/yha-wilderhope-manor. A famous Shropshire Civil War story is that of Major Smallman of Wilderhope Manor, a Royalist who rode his horse over the precipice of Wenlock Edge to avoid being captured by Roundheads. The horse was killed but Major Smallman lived to see the Restoration. It is thought his jump, commemorated at Major’s Leap (SO600991), inspired the ending of Mary Webb’s Gone to Earth.
You can stay in Major Smallman’s gabled grey stone Elizabethan manor for a bargain price, as it’s run by the Youth Hostel Association. Renovated in 2012, it even has a bridal suite with a four-poster bed – and would make a wonderful exclusive-hire venue for a private party. Many fruitful walking opportunities surround Wilderhope Manor – and you can be up on Wenlock Edge, a densely wooded 15-mile limestone escarpment running from near Ironbridge all the way to Craven Arms, within minutes.
The Down Inn Ludlow Rd, Bridgnorth WV16 6UA; 01746 789539; www.thedowninn.co.uk. Four miles from Bridgnorth, the Down Inn is a cosy, family-run country inn with nine beautifully clean and airy en-suite bedrooms. For extra space, request the family room; there’s also an easy-access bedroom with wet room on the ground floor. The tariff is reasonable, the ales are local, the English breakfasts are generous and the carvery served downstairs will fill you up for a bargain price. My accommodation of choice when I need a base in the area for family gatherings.
The Hundred House Norton TF11 9EE; 01952 580240; www.hundredhouse.co.uk. Half a mile north of Apley Farm (not far from Bridgnorth) is this eccentric-in-a-good-way Georgian country inn with restaurant, lauded for its Secret Gardens (with herb garden, water garden, big array of roses and surprises to stumble across) and two AA-rosette dining. The menu is inspired by cuisines from across the world and realised using the best of local and seasonal produce – including fruit and vegetables from the garden. This is fine dining without fussiness (or indeed measly portions: you’ll need a big appetite). For overnight guests the quirkily decadent rooms are a delight, with antique furnishings, chandeliers and four-poster or half-tester beds, and en-suite bathrooms with Victoria & Albert baths and luxurious rainshowers. You may even find a swing in your room. For its sumptuous styling and warm hospitality, one of many plaudits the Hundred House has received is a prestigious César Award, in the Utterly Enjoyable Mild Eccentricity category.
Raven Hotel Barrow St, Much Wenlock TF13 6EN ([tel] 01952 727251; www.ravenhotel.com. A two AA-rosette restaurant with rooms, the Raven Hotel has a special place in Much Wenlock’s Olympic history. In 1890 it hosted a pivotal dinner between Dr William Penny Brookes and Baron Pierre de Coubertin following the Wenlock Olympian Games (look for a copy of the menu from that night in the bar). The conversation that ensued must have been exhilarating, full of ideas and plans. Of course history alone is not enough to recommend a place: thankfully now the Raven has understated elegance and a bright young chef in Jason Hodnett who works super-local produce into a frequently changing, fine-dining British menu. For a treat representing excellent value look for the five- or seven-course surprise tasting menu with optional wine flight. The character of the guest rooms are determined by their location within the hotel: those within the original 17th-century coaching inn are spacious with large sash windows, while the courtyard rooms in converted medieval barns have cosy oak beams and trusses. A short stroll from the main building is Much Wenlock’s Victorian forge where you’ll find the remaining rooms, large and airy with – in several cases – decorative cast-iron fireplaces.
Live the Adventure House 1 Manor Farm Barns, Stottesdon DY14 8UA; 01746 718436; www.ovac.co.uk. Live the Adventure on the Shropshire and Worcestershire border offers training, residential courses and a huge range of outdoor activities including climbing, raft building, paintballing, archery and orienteering. You can stay here for a self-catering holiday in Live the Adventure House (also known as 1 Manor Farm Barns), with its one double bedroom, four single bedrooms and two bathrooms. It’s cosily furnished and equipped with a wood burner for the evenings following your adrenaline-fuelled days. You’d need a car for this holiday as the area is bereft of bus routes. However, there’s a brilliant pub just on the doorstep, called the Fighting Cocks. Proprietor Sandra Jefferies has converted a stone outbuilding to become Shop at the Cocks, supporting local suppliers and giving the people of Stottesdon a place to buy essentials and stop for a chat. For this Sandra has been personally congratulated by Prince Charles. For her homemade pies, seasonal produce (which is very local: the sausages come from Sandra’s own pigs) and roaring fire, Sandra is personally congratulated – perhaps not as impressively but every bit as heartily – by me. St Mary’s Church in the village has many interesting features including a tympanum thought to be over 900 years old.
Mose Cottage & Big Mose Bunkhouse Dudmaston Estate, Quatt WV15 6QN; 01746 780866; National Trust. What a treat to be able to stay on the Dudmaston Estate, with its undulating gardens, lake (the tranquil Big Pool), parkland, dingle and farmland. The basic but comfortable Big Mose Bunkhouse sleeps up to 20 people in four bunkrooms – and there’s a camping ground attached to accommodate even bigger groups. The converted Tudor farmhouse has a fully equipped kitchen and large living area with TV and DVD player. It’s a perfect walking and cycling base for exploring southeast Shropshire and beyond. You’ll need to bring your own sleeping bags or bedding.
Please note that the cottage accommodation referred to as ‘Mose Cottage’ in Slow Travel: Shropshire is Sternsmill Cottage. Located on the edge of the Dudmaston Estate, it’s a 19th-century semi-detached cottage over three floors (sleeping four people in two bedrooms) with river walks along the Severn. Peace and calm come as standard; you also get free access to the Dudmaston Estate (when open) during your stay.
Temple of Diana Weston Park, Weston-under-Lizard TF11 8LE; 01952 852100; www.ruralretreats.co.uk/England/Shropshire-Holiday-Cottages/Temple-of-Diana_SH027. In 2015 society magazine Tatler ranked Weston Park’s Temple of Diana amongst ‘the best places to rent cottages on country estates’. Which will tell you something about this holiday home’s clientele and price tag – and also that it’s exquisite. As Tatler also points out, the residence, built in the 1760s, is too big to be classed as a cottage: it will sleep six in three double bedrooms and includes a three-bay glazed orangery, circular tea room, octagonal music room, games room and comfy snug.
Straddling Shropshire and Staffordshire, Weston Park is the ancestral seat of the Earls of Bradford, with a thousand acres of Capability Brown landscape and many secrets to uncover. It’s also the location for the Midlands leg of the V Festival every summer.