Built by Benjamin Flounders in 1841 on top of Callow Hill, this 80ft high tower has changed owners several times (at one stage the actor Julie Christie held the deeds) but is now in the safe hands of the Flounders Folly Trust, which restored it and reopened it to the public in 2004.
Benjamin Flounders was a Quaker from Yorkshire who inherited the estate of Culmington. He never actually had a house in the area, instead choosing to lodge at the Angel in Ludlow during his vists to the estate. It fell into disrepair after World War 2, but was restored with the inclusion of a metal staircase so that visitors can climb to the viewing platform at the top. It is worth a visit on any day as the views over the countryside are fantastic from the top of Callow Hill.
You can climb Callow Hill and sound underneath this imposing monolith anytime you like, but it is also open once a month for visitors to climb the 78 stairs for commanding views of the Malverns, the Black Mountains and beyond. You can park at the bottom of Callow Hill but Flounders Folly also makes a good walking destination from The Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre in Craven Arm.
Stokesay Castle, Shropshire, is a fortified manor house is set in a stunning location in the Only river valley between Craven Arms and Ludlow. It is one of the best preserved medieval castles in the country.
The orinal castle was built by local landowners the De Lacys, but the castle as it stands was the work of Laurence of Ludlow, a wealthy wool merchant in the 13th century. It is a symbol of the importance of the area in a europe wide trade of the valuable commodity of British, and particularly Welsh, wool.
Stokesay Castle is made up of the Solar block flanked by the north and west towers, a 17th century half timbered gatehouse surrounded by moat. It was never intended to be a serious fortification and probably served as a manor house. It is one of the best preserved medieval fortified manors in the country. Currently operated by English Heritage it can be viewed from the outside but tour around the buildings is recommended, particularly to see the wood panelling of the solar room.
There are often events in the castle including stagings of Shakespeare’s plays by travelling theatre companies. If you get a chance to see one while you’re visiting it is highly recommended – the backdrop of the castle courtyard is amazing.
There is a tea room in the car park and an English Heritage gift shop with an interesting range of plants for sale at the entrance to the castle. The chapel of St John The Baptist is also with a visit and is just outside the castle grounds. Walks up the hill behind the castle are also recommended, and the visit can be combined with the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre.
The Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre is possibly the best introduction to the Shropshire Hills AONB. It is a particularly good for kids and can be combined with a visit to Stokesay Castle. Learn about the unique landscape and history of the area in the ‘Shropshire Through Time’ exhibition. They have a replica of what is most likely the oldest Wooly Mammoth skeleton found in the UK, found at Condover. There is a spectacular panoramic film of the hills narrated by actor Billy Postlethwaite, who’s father Pete lived in Bishops Castle. There is also a cafe and gift shop which has an excellent range of local interest books and maps. From the centre there are several excellent and well signposted walks including the ‘Wart Hill Wanderer’, the ‘Norton Camp Climb’ which ascends steeply to an old iron age hill fort and ‘Stokesay Walks’.
The Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre is surrounded by ‘Onny Meadows’, a 30 acre site that runs alongside the beautiful river Onny and is being gradually being ecologically restored. Its officially recognised Dragonfly Hotspot is not to be missed in the summer when these magnificent insects are in flight.
The centre also runs lots of events and courses including cinema screenings in it’s fantastic panoramic digital cinema, as well as being the base for ‘Grow, Cook and Learn’ which aims to connect people with the food, landscape and history of the Shropshire Hills.