Best known as the birthplace for the industrial revolution and the green rolling hills that dominate the landscape, Shropshire is a beautiful rural county that lies in between Birmingham and Wales. However, there is more to this peaceful countryside that first meets the eye. Hidden beneath the unspoilt landscape you will find World Heritage Sites, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, fascinating historic towns and fantastic visitor attractions.
Whether you are looking for a quiet romantic break, a fun family get together or an active adrenaline fuelled adventure, this beautiful part of Britain is a fantastic place to visit. Here are some of the best things to do in Shropshire on holiday.
The blend of modern and medieval, quaint cobbled streets and vibrant café culture makes the attractive market town of Shrewsbury a fantastic place to base yourself on holiday. Lose yourself in the twisty-turning lanes (called ‘Shuts’) which are lined with beautiful black and white half-timbered houses or meander along the River Severn and enjoy a picnic in the idyllic riverside park.
If you like history head to the town centre which is the oldest part of the city. You will love exploring Shrewsbury’s 660 listed buildings, following the Darwin Murder Mystery Treasure Trail and soaking up the centuries of atmosphere in the medieval Castle and Abbey. Marvel at the elaborate stained-glass windows in St Mary’s church and admire the unique circular design of St Chad’s church where Charles Darwin was baptised in 1809. Whilst not for the fainthearted, a heritage tour at Shrewsbury Prison is a fascinating experience. Walk in the footsteps of prisoners on a tour from a former prison guard or put on a hard hat and explore the tunnels and cells underground. If you are feeling really brave book yourself onto the evening ghost tour to explore one of the countries most haunted prisons!
Once you have explored Shrewsbury on foot, you should admire this beautiful town from the water. Take a boat trip on Sabrina, hire a canoe or even try your hand at Stand Up Paddleboarding. If you would like to venture into the countryside, just a few miles east of Shrewsbury you will find Haughmond Hill, a large woodland with stunning views of Shrewsbury, the River Severn and beyond to the Welsh hills. If you are lucky you might even spot some deer.
If you have worked up an appetite you will be pleased to know that there are numerous restaurants, pubs and cafes in Shrewsbury. Sitting on the banks of the River Severn, with a beer garden and decked terrace overlooking the river, the Boathouse is a lovely spot for an afternoon drink or spot of lunch. In the winter you can warm up inside by the open fire. Or dine in one of the oldest black and white half-timbered buildings in Shrewsbury at Henry Tudor House. Its zinc bar and elegant chandeliers combined with the oak framed restaurant makes it a special place to visit for lunch, dinner or just a drink at the bar.
If you would rather cook in the comfort of your holiday home you should pick up some culinary delights from the cosmopolitan Market Hall. Not only can you buy meat, seafood, delicious homemade bread and pastries but you will find an interesting selection of specialist foods. It’s hard not to be tempted by the Thai and Indian Street food, tapas and seafood bar on the way out!
Designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Shropshire Hills are one of the region’s most popular attractions and they should definitely be on your list of things to do in Shropshire. The beautiful landscape, where remote upland hills merge into rolling pastures, woods and valleys, is perfect for walking and cycling. Whether you are after a strenuous walk in rugged countryside or you prefer a gentle amble followed by a hearty pub lunch, there is plenty to suit all tastes and abilities in this peaceful corner of the country.
If you are looking for a challenge, The Heart of Wales Line Trail is an increasingly popular long distance walk which starts in Craven Arms, at the heart of the Shropshire Hills, and runs all the way to Llanelli near Swansea. The walk is broken down into manageable sections with stations at Broome, Hopton Heath, Bucknell or Knighten Station. If you would prefer to take in a bit of history and heritage whilst out in the hills visit the Fron Iron Age Hill Fort on a hilly 9 mile trek from Newcastle-on-Clun or discover mining remains on a 5 mile lowland walk on the edge of the Stiperstones National Nature Reserve. If you are after a walk that starts and finishes at a pub head to Ratlinghope, just east of the Stiperstones, where you will find a lovely 6 and half mile walk that starts and finishes at The Bridge pub. Shelve, near Minsterley, is another friendly town just west of the Stiperstones which is an ideal base for a self-catering holiday in Shropshire.
The Shropshire Hills are dotted with a number of charming towns and villages. Church Stretton, which lies at the centre of the Shropshire Hills, is known as one of the ‘Walkers are Welcome’ towns. One of the most popular walks from the village is on the heath and moorland plateau of Long Mynd. Much of this area is owned by the National Trust and there are some fantastic walking and cycling paths to explore. Just down the road at Marshbrook is the Shropshire Mountain Bike and Outdoor Pursuits Centre where you can find out all you need to know about the best mountain biking trails in the area or hire a trail guide for the day.
If you are done with throwing yourself down muddy bike trails or trekking across the hills, Church Stretton has several superb antique shops to browse, or you can play a round of golf at one of the most picturesque golf courses in the country. If you have got a head for heights and want to see these stunning hills from a completely different angle you can take to the skies for a paragliding lesson. Leavesley Aviation and XY Paragliding are two local paragliding centres where you can either book yourselves onto a course or go on a tandem flight.
The small town of Clun is especially pretty and peaceful. With a number of stunning walks on your doorstep, a river to fish in and the ruins of a castle to explore it is a great place to stay. The White Horse is a friendly walking pub if you fancy quenching your thirst at the end of the day.
Any green fingered enthusiasts should visit the north of the county where they will find Shropshire’s best gardens and parkland. At Dorothy Clive Garden, near Market Drayton, you can explore a network of paths through a number of formal and informal landscapes. Be wowed by the 30 metre long laburnum arch, enjoy the summer flowering rose walk, visit the edible woodland or attend one of the horticultural events such as the annual Chilli Festival or a cookery course. And no visit to Dorothy Clive Garden can be complete without treating yourself to a cream tea in the quintessentially English tearoom!
Just down the road at Woollerton Old Hall you cannot fail to be inspired by the 4 acres of gorgeous colourful gardens. Or just a few miles west from here you will find the magical woodland wonderland of Hawkstone Follies. Set in 100 acres of historic parkland and rugged sandstone hills you will have hours of fun exploring the cliffs and crags, the networks of caves and rhododendron jungles. Bird lovers can marvel at the birds of prey on a hawk walk whilst the kids (and adults!) can enjoy a game of archery or build a den.
North Shropshire is also home to one of the largest raised peatbogs in the UK. Whilst this might not sound as attractive as rolling hills and historic gardens, these peatbogs are one of the rarest habitats on earth and are home to a huge variety of wildlife. To experience a completely different landscape head to Fenn’s, Whixall and Bettisfield Mosses where you can explore a number of different trails through the open wilderness. See if you can spot Kingfishers, raft spiders and Britain’s largest dragonfly.
The World Heritage Site of Ironbridge is the birthplace of the industrial revolution and is a must for anyone interested in history or engineering. Home to a huge number of preserved Victorian industrial buildings and museums, you could easily spend your entire holiday in this fascinating town! Alternatively visit the pretty towns of Whitchurch or Market Drayton which are linked to each other by miles and miles of canals. Whether you are strolling along a towpath, or on the water itself, these waterways are a wonderful way of exploring this unspoilt countryside.
Family days out in Shropshire
Whether you are looking for adventure, history and culture, wet weather activities, or simply somewhere to go for a nice family walk, Shropshire is the perfect playground for kids. Adventurous families will be spoiled for choice for things to do. The Edge Adventure Activities in Much Wenlock offer a huge array of activities ranging from Segway and junior quad biking to zip wires, high ropes and archery. Or try your hand at mountain biking, rock climbing or gorge walking with Gateway Outdoors in Shrewsbury.
If you are looking for something slightly less adventurous, but equally as energetic, blow the cobwebs away on one of the many walking and cycling paths in the Shropshire Hills. At Nescliffe Hill Country Park explore the extensive network of tracks and trails through the 70 hectares of woods and heathland. The orienteering course is perfect for a mini family adventure or see if you can find the iron age hill fort and World War II trenches. For those who prefer four legs to two, enjoy the stunning scenery on horseback at the Long Mountain Centre.
Animal lovers should head to Park Hall Farm near Oswestry. From pig racing and pony grooming, to meeting the rabbits, guinea pigs and alpacas there are plenty of furry friends to keep everyone amused. The kids can let off some steam in either the indoor or outdoor play areas, and if that’s not enough you can visit one of the farm’s four museums. If you are interested in nature you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to visit the Battlefield Falconry Centre near Shrewsbury where you can see over 30 different types of owls, falcons and hawks. Be wowed by the walk in the woods with a Harris hawk and a falconer or take part in a bird handling session.
Aeroplane fanatics will love the RAF museum at Shifnal and railway enthusiasts should visit England’s oldest and steepest electronic funicular railway in Bridgnorth where you can enjoy a steep ride between aptly-named High and Low Towns. Bridgnorth is a great choice for a family day out in Shropshire. Once a busy river port town, it’s now a peaceful place for walking, picnics and shopping.
If the weather isn’t on your side one of the best things to do in Shropshire is to head to Ironbridge. Kids will be fascinated by a trip to Enginuity, a fantastic hands-on museum where you can generate electricity, build an earthquake proof tower and see the world’s longest span model bridge made from 205,000 Lego bricks! Or go back in time and experience what it was like to live 150 years ago at the Blists Hill Victorian Town. Meet Victorian bakers, ironmakers and dressmakers and treat the kids to some 19th century sweets. If the sun comes out, enjoy a ride on the Victorian fairground or a horse and cart ride around the town.
Just a few miles down the road in Telford, any small kid will be enchanted by a day out at the magical world of Wonderland. Enjoy finding where your children’s favourite fairytale characters live as you explore the 9 acres of natural woodland. Wander through dinosaur valley, get lost in the maze and have a game of crazy golf. There is also an indoor play centre.
Shropshire for foodies
All that activity is bound to work up an appetite and Shropshire doesn’t disappoint when it comes to satisfying hungry tummies. In fact, many people visit Shropshire purely for a gastro experience. From farmers markets groaning with fresh and delicious local produce to Michelin star restaurants, there’s something to tempt even the finest of palette. Ludlow and Ellesmere are especially good for sourcing first class ingredients and fine dining restaurants. Ludlow also hosts 3 popular festivals each year, including the renowned food festival every September in Ludlow Castle.
As well as having delicious food, Shropshire has dozens of breweries which are busy keeping the country fuelled with expertly brewed beers. Real ale lovers should head to the Three Tuns Brewery in Bishops Castle where you will be treated to a unique tour of one of the oldest breweries in the country.
There are a huge number of things to do in Shropshire. From adrenaline junkies to foodies and romantic breaks to family adventures, there is something for everyone in this idyllic county. Explore the stunning scenery of the Shropshire Hills, enjoy the peace and quiet of the small picturesque villages or soak up some culture in the historic towns of Shrewsbury and Ironbridge.
At Independent Cottages we have a number of self-catering holiday cottages in Shropshire. Choose a cosy romantic cottage in the heart of the Shropshire Hills or a large family house or dog-friendly rental in one of the many pretty villages and towns. Bring your dog, walking boots and an appetite for adventure and new gastronomic experiences. You will leave with a smile on your face and a promise to return.