Canoe the Severn, foodie Ludlow, walk the famous hills … 10 brilliant things to do in Shropshire | Travel
Canoe the River Severn
A great choice for those looking for serious adventure (and know how to handle a canoe), this five- or seven-day tour offers the chance to disappear into Shropshire’s most beautiful landscapes. The trip – which can cover the entire 125 miles of river – is self-guided, but 24-hour assistance is available. The boat is safety-tracked and there is only one boat departure per slot, ensuring total peace and tranquillity. Accommodation must be booked separately, with riversidecampsites, B&Bs and hotels all within easy reach of the river.
A five-day trip costs from £595 including all equipment; bigsevernadventure.co.uk.
Walk the hills
Shropshire’s numerous footpaths and network of walks is much loved and a series of newly created walks by Shropshire AONB – Paths Less Trammelled – is set to offer different, lesser-known routes to famous landmarks such as the Long Mynd and Caer Caradoc. The six walks, all mapped and tested, will soon be available to download.
Drive the Burway
For less-keen walkers, the Burway offers a chance to access the spectacular views from the Long Mynd without having to lace up your walking boots. Shropshire’s highest public road climbs steeply from Church Stretton up to the plateau, at almost 500m above sea level, with a sheer drop on one side and wide enough for just one car (meaning good reversing skills are essential). The glorious views make the white-knuckle drive worth it, and there are often gliders swooping in the skies above. Back on ground level, reward yourself with coffee and cake at Heather & Batch, in Church Stretton.
This wonderful water park is a great choice for a fun – if damp – family afternoon. Alderford’s 14 acres of water offer everything from wild swimming to canoeing and paddle-boarding taster sessions, or visitors can simply languid enjoy a lakeside picnic. The big draw here is the Aquapark, which has been upgraded for 2022; an inflatable playground set on the water, with obstacles to climb, jump and bounce over, including a 3.8 metre tower and water trampolines (it opens on 9 April). Wetsuits are available to hire and buoyancy aids will be included in the price. The Lakeside Kitchen is an excellent place to warm up after a chilly dip and there’s a terrific farm shop next door offering local goodies to take home.
Peplow Farm Cottages, near Market Drayton
Newly opened last summer, these former estate workers’ cottages have been Converted into super-stylish boltholes that pair the trimmings of a boutique hotel with the freedom of self-catering. Owners Russ and Helen welcome new arrivals with a basket of goodies and a roaring log fire, with visitors invited to explore the 60-acre estate – it’s home to otters, kingfishers and swarms of butterflies. There are walks from the door, fishing on the lake and isolated firepits for night-time stargazing over fajitas and s’mores, along with a kitchen garden where guests can pick fruit and vegetables to cook. The village of Hopton (where you will find the excellent Bear pub) is just a few minutes’ drive away.
Owl Cottage, sleeping four, costs from £1,050 per week; luxurycottages.com
Rest and Wild, Downton, near Ludlow
Hidden away among the 5,000 acres of the Downton Estate, Rest and Wild has four luxury cabins with two more set to open in May. All offer complete isolation, so much so that each cabin has its own rolltop bath positioned outside, to make the most of the views across to Clee Hill. Locally sourced foodie treats can be delivered, from breakfast packs to pizzas, barbecue hampers and booze, or pop into nearby Ludlow, Shropshire’s food-lovers’ hub, for treats from the Mousetrap Cheese Shop (6 Church Street) or fresh fish and seafood from the Fish House (Tolsey House, 51 Bullring).
Cabins from £175 a night; restandwild.co
Stokesay Castle, near Ludlow
One of the best-preserved 13th-century manor houses in England, Stokesay has undergone extensive restoration in recent years, from the timber-framed gatehouse with beautifully ornate carving in its frame, to the north tower, where you can still see parts of the original medieval tiled floor. There’s plenty to keep kids occupied, with a family trail to find the Giant’s Lost Key, and new displays throughout the castle, bringing its rich history to life. The tearoom has a log burner to warm you up on colder days and it also serves traditional Shropshire dishes, with plenty of treats to take home from the well-stocked heritage shop.
Booking is advised; english-heritage.org.uk
Northern Shropshire is dotted with some of England’s most beautiful gardens, from classic country house borders at Wollerton Old Hall (wollertonoldhallgarden.com) to the Dorothy Clive Garden – 12 acres of woodland, winter gardens and scented rose walks, set on a hill above the Shropshire-Cheshire border, and Hodnet Hall Gardens, renowned for its array of rare plants and trees. Goldstone Hall makes an excellent place to stay; a wonderfully cosy, family-run hotel with a five-acre RHS partner garden, that combines a blazing summer border with huge kitchen garden. Guests can join thrice-weekly early -morning tours, or simply enjoy the garden larder in the upmarket restaurant.
Doubles from £160 B&B; goldstonehall.co.uk
Poetry Pharmacy, Bishop’s Castle
Shropshire’s most bohemian town is home to the world’s first walk-in Poetry Pharmacy (poetrypharmacy.co.uk) – a combination of bookshop, café and creative-writing hub with its own poetry pharmacist on hand. Make an appointment in advance to see the pharmacist, who can prescribe and hand-pick poems to soothe tangled emotions or simply provide uplifting reading. The half-hour consultation includes tea and a goodie bag, which includes an Anti-Stress Poetry Anthology. Combine a visit to the pharmacy with a stay at the Castle Hotel, which has 12 chic rooms with wonderful views of the Shropshire Hills, three bustling bars and a restaurant serving contemporary pub classics.
Doubles from £125 B&B; thecastlehotel bishopscastle.co.uk
Home to more than 50 independent traders, Shrewsbury Market is one of England’s best and most vibrant, with stalls offering everything from books, antiques and gifts to a huge array of local fruit and vegetables, alongside artisanal meats, cheeses and breads and locally produced wines, beers and gins. Open from Tuesday to Saturday every week, the market is dotted with small cafés and restaurants. Or head to Csons (csons-shrewsbury.co.uk), run by four brothers, with inventive dishes from around the world. Later this year, visitors to the town will be able to see inside Flaxmill Maltings (shrewsburyflaxmillmaltings.org.uk), a vast 18th-century mill that will offer an unparalleled insight into the town’s industrial past.