Friday, July 22, 2011

Why visit Shropshire?

Shropshire is one of Britain’s best kept secrets; off the beaten track of most of the major cities, it’s a quiet and peaceful county full of potential, and what’s better? Chances are that most people either won’t have heard of it, or haven’t been there.

Don’t let the anonymity fool you though, Shropshire has got a great deal to offer to the adventurous tourist...

The Shropshire Basics

Shropshire is England’s largest inland county and lies to the west of Birmingham, which is just east of the Welsh border. Britain’s longest river, the river Severn, traverses the county through the Severn Valley. The river is overlooked for some of its journey by one of Britain's few remaining steam railways. The Severn Valley Railway offers a rare chance to observe the beautiful country-side while experiencing travel as it was at the turn of the 20th century.

Picturesque Scenery

Shropshire’s biggest draw is the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (yes, that is its real name) which covers one quarter of the county. It is a tranquil landscape with hills, woods and farms that offer the opportunity to walk, cycle and ride horses along its many paths and tracks.

It is one of Britain’s finest landscapes and includes open spaces, hidden valleys and river valleys; Wenlock Edge, the Stiperstones and the Long Mynd. These will all provide you with breathtaking views and memorable experiences.

Long Mynd
Market towns intersperse this area each with their own character, offering local produce and niche shops for you to visit and enjoy. Some of these famous towns have features which are truly unique, such as Bridgnorth with the only working inland Cliff Railway which is well worth a visit!

Shropshire and its scenic beauty
Medieval History

As part of Shropshire’s heritage this area also provides the opportunity to visit many castles and hill forts that once protected the border from Wales. There are 25 hill forts in Shropshire, evidence of Iron Age settlements, and an impressive 32 castles.

These include Ludlow Castle, an impressive 11th century structure that provides guided tours and impressive views of the medieval town as well as the opportunity to visit Michelin starred restaurants. Myths and legends abound these structures and are well worth a visit as well as spending time visiting the local area.

Ludlow Castle
Six medieval abbeys and priories, including Shrewsbury, Buildwas and Much Wenlock, are also open to visitors and, although are left as ruins, are preserved and accessible to visitors and provide an insight into life in medieval Shropshire.

Heritage from the Industrial Era

Shropshire’s heritage is not only medieval, it was also an important centre for the birth of the industrial revolution in England in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Situated on the banks of the River Severn, and close to the town of Broseley, lies the picturesque village of Coalbrookdale, an unlikely scene for the beginnings of industry. Nevertheless, it was here that Abraham Darby first developed techniques to refine the iron making process; several museums, the remains of the blast furnaces and the preservation of the Darby houses are open to visitors as a testament to their achievements.

The Ironbridge Gorge Museums include ten museums in total that cover the World Heritage Site, including the world famous Ironbridge itself. These museums are interactive and are family friendly, such as the Blists Hill Victorian Town which is a reconstruction of a nineteenth century town providing visitors with the opportunity to visit the shops, ride on a Victorian fairground, see industry at work and much more.

Ironbridge bridge and memorial

Finding somewhere to stay in Shropshire is a bit of a lucky dip. You can easily find yourself a nice hotel in Wolverhampton or Telford but to truly experience Shropshire you need to find a proper Bed and Breakfast.

For the most part these can be found online or in directories, but there’s always a chance that you’ll pass the perfect farmhouse with a sign in front so leaving your schedule flexible has it’s merits.

There are also several budget hotels chains in the area. Travellodge, for example, has 7 establishments in the county offering comfortable and clean rooms at affordable rates.

Shropshire has the lot: it has been the setting for many British films and television series; celebrities such as Harrison Ford and Calista Flockheart have chosen to holiday here in the past and even Bill Clinton visited as part of the GM Summit. Lord of the Rings author J.R.R Tolkien caught some of Shropshire's magic when he created Middle Earth. If you are looking for unspoilt towns, a range of activities and attractions and breathtaking views then a visit to Shropshire is for you.

This post was provided by Michael Derges from printer cartridge retailer

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