The Best Places to Visit in Shropshire
Shropshire: Darwin, the Industrial Revolution and rolling hills.
It’s not easy to navigate Shropshire, because it’s so ruddy big. In fact, it’s England’s largest inland county – they should give awards for it. Although, we suppose it’d be the same winners every year, barring any dramatic land reforms. That said, the county – which lies on the border with Wales – deserves all sorts of prizes, including the award for being the birthplace of Charles Darwin and the award for being home to the modern sweet pea. It was also the setting for the world’s first iron bridge and the area where you’ll find the country’s oldest and best preserved manor house.
As you explore the western boundaries of the county, you’ll notice more and more Welsh influence, with place names and streets in the language. Lose yourself in the spaces between the towns, where you can admire some of the best bucolic views of England’s green and pleasant land. Here’s our expert Plum Guide list of places to visit in Shropshire.
Shrewsbury is one of the most interesting places to visit in Shropshire, believe it or not. It’s the county town and the cradle of evolution (in the sense that it was the birthplace of Charles Darwin, rather than the place where life first appeared). Despite being the largest town for a great distance, it has retained its quaint, old-world charm. Amble down cobbled lanes overlooked by timber façades, before admiring the historic houses. Reach the redbrick Shrewsbury Castle that dates back to the Middle Ages and browse the exhibits of the Shropshire Regimental Museum within. Here, you’ll piece together the military history of the area, through the costumes and weaponry among other artefacts.
Marvel at the circular nave of the St. Chad’s Church and inspect the colourful stained glass windows of the St. Mary’s Church. On a fine day, bring your kids for a picnic by the River Severn in The Quarry, which has a botanical park and a playground. Check out the intriguing works of art within the elegant edifice of the Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery, before taking an interactive tour of the Shrewsbury Prison. Other highlights include the Shrewsbury Abbey and the Attingham Park. Last but not least, visit The Mount, which was the birthplace of Charles Darwin. Research everything there is to know about evolution beforehand, in order to be able to impress your family with your own misunderstanding of it. It’ll be great.
The Ironbridge Gorge Valley
Here, you’ll find the world’s first iron bridge and an enormous gorge through which the River Severn flows. (Fun fact: the River Severn is the longest river in Great Britain. You can follow it all the way to Wales – just make sure to make the most of the journey by visiting some of our favourite places in Wales when you get there). Anyway, the gorge was formed by a glacier at the end of the last Ice Age. The bridge is a historical monument to the industrial period the area went through, and was built in 1779 to connect Broseley to the mining town of Madeley.
Looking for some educational places to visit in Shropshire? Head to the various museums in the area to learn about the true impact of the bridge and the various minerals that were mined from the gorge. The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust runs a total of ten museums in the area – which seems a little extravagant: you probably don’t need to see all ten to learn everything you want to know about the iron, the bridge and the mining history of the region. But hey, it’s a way to pass the time in one of the cradles of the Industrial Revolution.
Piece together the industrial past through such sights as the Coalport China Museum and make sure to stop in at the Museum of the Gorge, the Broseley Pipeworks and the Blists Hill Victorian Town among other top attractions. Just south of Ironbridge, stay at a majestic mansion or go west to stay in a palatial complex.
When it comes to things to do in Shropshire, visiting a castle has to be up there. The vast county has 32 castles, so you’re spoilt for choice. We’ve gone with Stokesay Castle, because its known to be one of the best-preserved medieval manor houses in the country. It was built in the 13th century, and has somehow survived 800 years pretty much intact. See the little characters engraved in the timbers lining the façade and head up to the tower for gorgeous views of the leafy surrounding countryside. Head to the tearoom for the thing you wanted all along: cakes and sandwiches. These are the things that make a stressful holiday with your family or friends all worthwhile.
Visit the villages
There are countless quaint villages around Shropshire, each with their own charms and idiosyncratic features. Church Stretton is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Shropshire: a tiny market town known as Little Switzerland for its picturesque and imposing hills. Clun was described by a poet as the ‘Quietest place under the sun,’ Sir John Betjemen labelled Ludlow the ‘loveliest town in England’ and Much Wenlock has a funny name. It’s also considered the origin story of the modern take on the Olympic Games. Looking for somewhere to stay in Shropshire? At Plum Guide, our fastidious home critics have personally checked out our lodgings in the county, and would recommend this rustic gem – or even a stay in a redbrick castle.