Situated on the border of Wales called the "Welsh Marches", Shropshire is a hidden English gem offering glorious countryside and picturesque scenery. This little known part of the country has the advantage of remaining very much unspoiled and authentic with its rolling green hills, rivers, pretty villages and castles.Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the World Heritage Site of Ironbridge Gorge, a place that not many people have heard of but that played a major role in the birth of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century. Of course, a visit is not complete without seeing the Iron Bridge, the very first arch bridge in the world to be made of cast iron, crossing the River Severn. The sight of this massive bridge sitting right by the small village of Ironbridge, nestled in the lush valleys and woodlands almost takes you by surprise which is absolutely delightful.
Located only 5 minutes away is Blists Hill, an open-air museum recreating a Victorian town where you can experience what life was like more than 100 years ago. I spent a whole afternoon there, walking around, popping into the chemist, the sweet shop or the pub and looking at the craftsmen working in the sawmill or carpentry. Actors dressed in period costume bring this town back to life giving you a real insight on the Victorian lifestyle back in the day.
After seeing pictures of Stokesay Castle, considered as "the finest and best preserved fortified medieval manor house in England", I really wanted to return to Shropshire and explore the region more. So, on a sunny Spring day, my friend and I took the car and decided to skip the main route and use the more narrow and rural roads instead. If you don't get motion sickness and you're ready to grit your teeth every time you have to pass a car, driving through the hills and the picturesque villages is a real treat! Being French, this is exactly what English countryside looked like in my mind, and the green hills with the sheep were definitely not just a cliche!
So we finally arrived at the stunning Stokesay Castle, it was so beautiful and well preserved that it almost didn't seem real. The grounds of the castle are lovely and simple (no fancy garden with extravagant plants and flowers), and you can find a small chapel next to it with its old cemetery. After a 2-hour walk near the castle and a picnic at the top of a hill, we travelled to Ludlow (which was only 15 a minutes drive away), a market town considered to be one of the food capitals of the country due to its abundance of prestigious restaurants and food festivals. The Tudor period timber-framed houses are a pleasure to look at, each more beautiful and surprising than the next, not to mention Ludlow Castle, a Norman castle built more than 900 years ago.
Our final stop was Shrewsbury, a historic market town (much bigger than Ludlow) lying on the River Severn which has kept most of its original medieval street plan. Boasting more than 660 listed-building, walking around the town is an interesting and free activity itself. You can find plenty of black and white timber-framed houses, narrow streets and again, a lot of restaurants.
Shropshire may not be the most visited area in the country but this little corner offers the best of England: idyllic countryside, History and great food.
For more information on Shropshire visit our dedicated page Shropshire
By Claire Bouedo
Date: 2017-11-28 13:17:41