Shropshire. One of Britain’s most unspoilt counties. A rewarding short break driving destination. And a place long immortalised in verse:

“Into my heart on air that kills From yonder far country blows: What are those blue remembered hills, What spires, what farms are those?” A E Housman ‘A Shropshire Lad’

Even if you haven’t read the poem, you might just recognise the words. ‘A Shropshire Lad’ was a collection of 63 poems published in 1896 depicting scenes from country life and was particularly popular with English infantryman fighting in the First World War trenches. Essentially, its verses are a piece of escapism – much needed then, just as what Shropshire has to offer the modern tourist in search of a place apart in these crazy times is much-needed now.

The Shropshire Hills, which link the Midlands with the Welsh mountains, look particularly appealing in the strident sunshine of a perfect British summer. The ‘Blue Remembered Hills’ flow into craggy ridges, home to forts and castles that testify to hundreds of years of struggle between the Welsh and English. And almost nowhere in the UK is more than about half a day’s drive away.

So potentially then, the kind of refreshing place you might never previously have considered for a really refreshing long weekend break. Our starting point for our visit wasn’t in any of Shropshire’s major towns but right out in the county’s countryside in the little hamlet of Northwood, about 20 minutes drive north of Shrewsbury. Here host and equine expert Chantal has created ‘Narnia’, a delightful 4 Star self-catering cottage with wood burner, barbeque, underfloor heating, a Super King-size bed and all the comforts of home in accommodation that can sleep up to four. You can even bring your dog – just Google search ‘AirB&B Narnia Northwood’.

Too soon, it was time to point our choice of car for the trip, Volvo’s V60 Cross Country, towards the county capital, founded by the Saxons in the 8th century with a name derived from the Saxon name ’Scrobbesbyrig’. The V60 Cross Country’s slightly raised ride height had helped us on the slightly rougher farm tracks in the Shropshire countryside and its easy manoeuvrability was welcome in Shrewsbury’s tighter 17th and 18th century streets.

One of those leads to the English Bridge, next to which stands the Lion & Pheasant Hotel (, a townhouse hotel with 23 rooms that stands right on the River Severn. It’s perfectly placed as a base from which to explore Shrewsbury on foot and take in attractions like Shrewsbury Abbey and the town’s museum and art gallery. You might also choose to take a river boat up the Severn. Or even visit Shrewsbury Prison, built in 1793 and for the last 200 years home to thousands of criminals.

You’re spoiled for places to eat in Shropshire’s capital of course, but in the evening, we chose instead to point the Volvo 20 minutes out of town to the charming 12th Century settlement of Church Stretton. There, we found Housmans restaurant, which has been serving modern European cuisine to visitors since 2009 ( They specialise in succulent steak and real Shropshire ales; the poet would have approved.

For our second night’s meal, we headed in the other direction to Whitchurch, where TV chef James Sherwin is establishing quite a culinary reputation with his restaurant ‘Wild Shropshire’ ( Here, there is no menu. Instead, the food served on any particular night will reflect seasonal choices from James’ own garden. Visiting Wild Shropshire is less a meal appointment and more an eating event. We’d never experienced anything quite like it.

We also used Shrewsbury as our base for visiting Ludlow, located just off the A49 on the road to Hereford and a place of medieval sites with history dating back to 1086. The town’s ruined castle is its bustling centrepiece in the tourist season where story tellers (or ‘yarn spinners’ as the locals call them) keep the atmosphere friendly and welcoming.

Locals claim that ‘every house has a story; and every public building too. Climb the tower of St Lawrence’s church and you’ll get panoramic views of the Clee Hills. The ‘Blue Remembered’ ones that Housman talked about. The kind of memory you’ll carry with you after a Shropshire visit.

Visiting Shropshire Need to Know

General Information

Where To Stay

Narnia-Northwood AirBnb Lion and Pheasant Hotel – Shrewsbury (

Where To Eat

Housmans – Church Stretton ( Wild Shropshire – Whitchurch (