It is somewhat criminal how little exposure the English county of Shropshire receives. With a total area of 1,346 square miles, it is the country’s largest inland county. Perhaps it is the lack of a coast that does not make it that attractive for tourist handbooks, but once you go to this unspoilt part of the world you soon realise that a coastline is the last thing this idyllic location needs.
Shropshire places at number 42 out of England’s 48 ceremonial counties in regards to density. It’s a part of the world where you can happily get lost.
Bordering Shropshire to the north west is the Welsh county of Powys, which is another of monstrous size. The long border between the two counties gives the place a unique feel. This amalgamation of such close co-habiting nationalities gives the area a distinct cultural feel that is hard to find in many other areas. The air is clean and fresh, the landscape of the two combined are breath-taking, and the ability to be in two places at once is pretty nifty.
Considering the sheer vastness of the place, planning is imperative. Rural roads in the area can get rather small and signposts few and far between. So, familiarising yourself with a map of the region will stand you in good stead.
Below is an in-depth guide to the wonderful counties of Shropshire and Powys.
The Wrekin (Shropshire)
- Located 4.3 miles west of the town of Telford is the Wrekin, a hill that is extremely popular with walkers. At the summit, all 407 metres high, you can see numerous parts of Shropshire. However, your eye does not stay in Shropshire. Also on view are parts of Staffordshire and the Black Country, while on clear days places as far away Beetham Tower (77.5 miles away) in Manchester, Winter Hill (91.1 miles away) in Lancashire and Cleeve Hill (85.9 miles away) in Gloucestershire can be seen. The view truly is spectacular and, what is better, to enjoy them you don’t have to break your back. The ascent to the top is extremely easy. You can even get a pushchair up there if you wanted to.
Lake Vyrnwy (Powys)
- Lake Vyrnwy was built in the 1880s with the purpose of supplying fresh water to Liverpool. This is a purpose that it still has today. With an 11-mile circumference, it makes for a perfect leisurely bike ride, taking in the numerous sights of wonder along the way. The dam, all 44 metres high of it, that holds all the water is extremely impressive and not to mention important.
- There is a road that runs across the length of the 357m dam, which is 39m thick at its base. If you look into the water on a clear day it is possible to see the flooded town that was sunk to make way for the dam. In the surrounding area you will find the largest tree in England and Wales, while bird lovers will be in their element. The place is a sanctuary for them.
Llanrhaeadr Waterfall (Powys)
by Dave Hamster
- At 80 metres in height Llanrhaeadr Waterfall is the largest single drop waterfall in the United Kingdom. The waterfall just sums up this part of the world brilliantly. It is unspoilt. In the height of summer you can expect to find plenty of families milling around at the bottom of the fall or eating in the one café but even at the height of summer it isn’t overtly busy. The walk up to the top of the waterfall is rather steep but not too challenging, and when you reach the top of the waterfall and look over it is a feeling of mesmerisation. Giving you a full understanding of the earth’s ferocious, unrelenting power and a sense of unity with the earth itself.
Off the beaten track (Both)
- With fields, hills, forests, lakes, caves, and rivers dotted all over the area, you should never be too far away from a blissful wonder.
- Located in the south of the county, Ludlow is of huge historical and cultural importance to Shropshire. In the present day it is considered as the food capital of the county and as one of the best food towns in the country. At its culinary height it was the only town in the country to have three Michelin-starred restaurants. Right now it has just one, Mr Underhills, but has a further eight AA Rosette starred restaurants. The annual Ludlow Food Festival is one of real prestige and gastronomic perfection, while the specialist food shops in the town centre are also fantastic.
- You could say the food in Ludlow is fit for a king. It was for King Edward IV, who lived there in the 15th century, as too, his two boys, who later went on to be the tragic “Princes in the Tower”. Ludlow Castle, their home, is considered as one of England’s finest castles. With a history that may have stretched as far back as the Norman Conquest of 1066, it really is a marvel, while the architecture and the outside landscaping are second to none. The castle is not alone. The town has nearly 500 listed buildings, some of which are perfect examples of the medieval and Tudor-style half-timbered buildings.
- On the outskirts of town, you will find Ludlow Racecourse. This is an intimate venue for thoroughbred racing. As the second best attended sport in the UK, horse racing has a certain place in British culture and with it being the “Sport of Kings” is it not befitting that you watch the horses at a place of kings? Winning with a horse racing bet whilst enjoying some of the finer champagnes certainly does make for a well spent summer evening.
- The small town of Montgomery has remnants of medieval history within its town walls. Walking to the top of the ruined castle gives you lovely views of the surrounding area, while it is also a nice destination to hand yourself over to tranquillity.
- If it is a quaint look into the past that you are after, then you will want to head to the Old Bell Museum. This tiny museum, which costs just one pound to enter, gives you an in-depth look to the local area, but it is the staff who really make it worth visiting. They are all residents of the area and therefore have a vested interest in showing off their little old town. Not only can they provide you with a pleasurable history lesson, but they are also on hand to answer any questions and have a good natter.
- As morbid as it sounds, the grave of John Davies is well worth visiting. Back in 1821, Davies was sentenced to death by hanging for a highway robbery. Davies maintained his innocence until the day he was hung where he prayed that God would not allow grass to grow on his grave for 100 hundred years to show his innocence. Although there is now grass on the grave, Davies’ resting place remained bare for over 100 years.
Shrewsbury (Shropshire) by Lukemn
- The capital of Shropshire is surrounded by the River Severn, the longest river in the United Kingdom, making it a complete nightmare for the residents whenever the banks break, which they quite often do. However, in the summer months, if there is such a thing in middle England, the river makes for great fun. Swim, row, fish, whatever, it can all be done on the Severn.
- Presuming you are there in the summer, which is the opportune month to visit the area, a trip to the Quarry would certainly be of benefit. As parks go, this really is up there, and because it isn’t situated in a massive city there is plenty of space. The name Percy Thrower may not mean much to you, but in his day he was the rockstar of gardening, ascending to the position of Park Superintendent aged a record 32-years-old. The TV personality’s legacy is found in the middle of the park as the Dingle Gardens. You needn’t be interested in horticulture to appreciate the opulence and beauty of this ornamental garden, while the fragrance is a delight for the nostrils.
- Nightlife in Shrewsbury is the best in the region. The town has a pleasant mix of uptown bars, pubs, clubs and restaurants. It also home to the Theatre Severn, which has an eclectic mix of live performers. Entertainment coming up includes musicians Midge Ure and Russell Watson, comedy coming from Lee Nelson, Ed Byrne and more, and other theatre staples like Swan Lake. In short, it has a little bit of everything.
- Machynlleth served as the seat of the Welsh Parliament under Owain Glyndwr, the last native Welsh king, in 1404, and as such makes claims to be the “ancient capital of Wales”. Despite its minute size of just more than 2,000 residents, Machynlleth has twice applied for city status in 2000 and 2002. They were rejected on both occasions. Over the years, armies of both the Roman Empire and Oliver Cromwell have been within the town, and you can visit what is believed to be the building that hosted the Welsh Parliament of 1404.
- The town sits in the south of Snowdon, giving the region a unique Alpine terrain that is absolutely perfect for mountain biking. The Dyfi Valley has numerous trails for you to go down, ranging from the benign to extreme. If you fancy yourself as a mountain biker, good luck with the ClimachX.
Where there is the land there is golf, and here there is a lot of golf. In Shropshire alone there are 26 courses, some of which are tremendous.
by Bochum1805 – Course located on top of Quarry.
- With 15 holes in Wales and three in England, Llanymynech certainly is a one of a kind golf course. In fact it is the only course in Europe that is in two countries. The fourth hole sees you drive in England and putt out in Wales. However, besides the novelty aspect, this is one seriously good golf course.
- The course is located on top of a former quarry with sheer cliff faces surrounding it. The challenging course is countered by the paramount views of the Shropshire plains. It is a deliberately narrow 18 holes and you are advised to leave your driver in your bag if you want to score well.
- Llanymynech has a famous son, a very famous son. One time Masters winner and winning Ryder captain and player Ian Woosnam learned to play golf on this course. He was the holder of the course record for 24 years!
Hawkstone Park (Shropshire)
- Like Llanymynech, Hawkstone Park has given the golfing world a Major winner in the shape of Sandy Lyle, winner of two Majors.
- With 48 pristine holes set in fantastic parkland location, you can keep yourself occupied for two days. The Championship course is an extremely enjoyable experience.
There is a lot more to Shropshire and Powys than what is written down. The two counties are at their best when you are discovering them. They are a gift that just keeps on giving. We sometimes forget the true beauty of nature, but out there it is hard not to admire it.
If you want an unwinding holiday with plenty of walking and exploring some of the most picturesque settings in the world, then Shropshire and Powys is your calling.