Green and pleasant land

Venture to the western edge of England for a serenely socially distanced escape


One of the least populated counties in England, Shropshire has to be high on the list for a holiday away from the crowds. But that’s not its only temptation. Home to the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it’s ideal whether you’re searching for peace and quiet, wonderful walks or space for families to get outdoors.

And there are great days out as well, including plenty within easy reach of glampsites like Hopton Court.

Ludlow Castle

The historic town of Ludlow is famous for its food, with an emphasis on slow food: around 80 per cent of the food sold at Ludlow Farmshop comes from Shropshire and the surrounding counties, including an impressive array of cheeses, while the area is also home to a string of microbreweries.

For centuries, Ludlow was at the heart of England’s history — home to princes and pretenders to the throne, the castle dates back to the 11th century and was one of the first stone castles to be built in the country.

Described as “the very perfection of decay” by Daniel Defoe, the ruins which remain are open to the public once more, and there’s no booking required, although there’s limited access to the Norman tower. 

Go walking

Walkers have ample choice in Shropshire — as well as the Shropshire Way and Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail, you can also wander past old Iron Age forts in Mortimer Forest, discover the quartzite rock formations known as the Stiperstones (according to legend, dropped by the devil when his apron strings broke) and climb to the top of Titterstone Clee Hill, one of the highest points in the area.

Don’t miss a stroll in the Wyre Forest, on the edge of Shropshire and Worcestershire. This ancient woodland dates back around 10,000 years — Stone Age man would have been among the first to chop down trees here.

Something to ponder as you walk one of the circular trails. A couple are easy to do with children, or there are longer walks and cycle trails, as well as two Go Ape high-ropes courses.

Shropshire through Time

It’s hard to believe the green fields of Shropshire would once have stood at the equator, covered by a warm and shallow sea. But you can trace the county’s journey through time, shaped by Ice Ages and once home to mammoths, at the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre.

Starting next to a replica mammoth skeleton — four genuine ones have been excavated in the area — the small centre takes visitors through Roman history to Iron Age forts and Norman castles, all of which can still be seen and explored in Shropshire.

There’s also a video introduction and then more walking trails leading from the centre through the surrounding countryside.The usual interactive elements are currently not available, although there is a trail for kids, with the entry prices reduced as a result. 

Shropshire’s historic houses

Ludlow Castle isn’t the only historic site in the area. Start in Roman times at the English Heritage site of Wroxeter Roman City. The former Viriconium was once the fourth largest city in Roman Britain, almost as large as Pompeii.

Although some of the buildings are closed at the moment, you can still explore the remains of the bathhouse and the grounds (tickets must be booked).

You can also visit the ruins of Clun Castle, built just after the Norman Conquest, and the fortified medieval building of Stokesay Castle is reopening on August 1.

There are also National Trust properties to discover, including Attingham Park, transformed in the 18th century on the site of the former Haughmond Abbey. The walled garden, pleasure grounds and deer park are open to the public with booked tickets.

Ironbridge Gorge Museums

The museums by Shropshire’s iron bridge are beginning to reopen, including Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron, which tells its story — and reminds visitors to the county that Shropshire is more than a rural idyll, having played an important role in the Industrial Revolution.

But there are few better places to appreciate that than Blists Hill Victorian Town, a living-history museum where you can step inside Victorian shops and homes, as well as buying a bag of 19th century sweets (and learning why you wouldn’t have wanted the chandler’s green candles in your home). Tickets must be booked.


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