Hopton Castle is a ruined castle keep situated outside the village of Hopton Heath. There was a settlement there before the Norman Conquest but the building that exists today was most likely built in the 13th century but in a style to suggest an earlier date. During the civil war it was owned by the Wallops who where parliamentarians in a part of the country dominated by forces loyal to King Charles. A garrison of 30 men commanded by Colonel Samuel More (who kept a diary of the events) was held siege for 30 days by Prince Rupert Royalists. Although More lived to become the governor of Montgomery Castle, many of the surrendered troops were brutally killed, and ‘Hopton Quarter’ became a byword for treacherous treatment by opponents. You can see a film of the siege of Hopton Castle here.
The castle was restored and opened to the public in 2011. Admission is free.
Bury Ditches, located a few miles outside Bishops Castle and Clun is an impressive iron age hill fort on a beautiful site managed by the Forestry Commission. The ditches themselves are comprised of four massive earthwork ramparts and you can walk around the perimeter and really get a feel for what it would have been like in the iron age. Needless to say the views from the top of Bury Ditches are fantastic, stretching out to Clee Hill, Wenlock Edge and the Stiperstones. The fort was ‘rediscovered’ in 1976 when a storm felled a number of trees at the summit and the ramparts where revealed.
Wenlock Priory is a fantastically atmospheric ruined Anglo Saxon monastery outside Much Wenlock. It was founded in 680 by King Merewalh of Mercia. It was a ‘dual house’ in that it was a community of both monks and nuns. The Priory’s second abbess was Miburga, daughter of Anglo Saxon royalty who was later made a saint and who features in Shropshire myth and legend. Wenlock Priory is now run by English Heritage.
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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.
Acton Scott Historic Working Farm is a fascinating Shropshire attraction that was the setting of BBC2’s ‘Victorian Farm’. A trip Acton Scott is a fantastic family day out. There are daily demonstrations of period skills and the kids will love the animals including horses, cows, pigs and goats. Open from the 8th of April till the 29th of October.
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.
Wilderhope Manor is a grade 1 listed Elizabethan gabled manor house nestled in the beautiful countryside around Apedale just on the other side of Wenlock Edge from Sutton Court Farm. It was owned by the Smallman family who built it from the surrounding limestone in1585. Major Thomas Smallman owned it during the Civil War – as a royalist he wass forced to flee Cromwells Troops and made a do or die leap off Wenlock edge which he survived by his unfortunate horse did not. This has become known as the Majors Leap. His ghost is now said to haunt the house.
The house itself is a particularly fine example of an Tudor Manor and much of the original interior remains. Walks from the house are particularly good with routes up to Wenlock Edge.
Owned by the National Trust It’s run as YHA accommodation but you can still go for walks around the outside anytime and see inside on Wednesdays and Sundays between 2 and 6.