Is Shropshire the new Ibiza? No. But then again when I decided to spend a week there, with my 14 week old daughter and a limited budget, the last thing I wanted or needed was seven days of bpms and bandanas. They do still wear them over there right?
As most of the decisions I make in my life tend to be based on eating food, I looked towards the mysterious county of Shropshire for inspiration, as a day trip to Ludlow & Shrewsbury the previous year had ticked a lot of my foodie boxes as well as being rather picturesque and gloriously lacking in scallies/miserable gets. And so it was we ended up staying in a magical little place called the Dipping Shed with my good friend Greeny (he of football coaching article fame) and his similarly young family. The place itself is a converted barn situated on top of a hill in the grounds of posh manor type place called Walcot Hall. Fortunately the barn conversion had been done by someone who knew what they were doing, meaning we got to spend an entire week surrounded by all manner of tasteful curios, from Victorian wooden legs to cushions made in prison via some natty furry hoof-handled knives.
We then spent a week in a (relatively) relaxed state, taking advantage of the lack of TV to catch up on some good books in between idyllic, Enid Blyton/lashings of ginger beer style day trips out to the surrounding villages in search of local produce for tea. Here are a few places that stood out…
Ludlow – Check out the French Pantry for grape musk mustard and all manner of authentic pates and quality booze, the Mouse Trap shop for a wonderful array of cheeses (my favourite being the mould covered Dorstone) and nice scando crisp-breads, there are also three no-nonsense butchers that make some of the finest Pork pies, scotch eggs and sausages you will ever encounter, the Ludlow Food Centre is also great as a one stop shop for cider, ale, fruit, bread, cheese and pretty much anything else local and tasty.
Bishop’s Castle – The town hall has a little food market every Friday, that’s where I scored a really nice home-made winberry pie and an authentic tasting soda bread loaf, there’s a decent deli nearby too and the butcher at the bottom of the hill sells fantastic Scotch eggs.
Much Wenlock – Possibly the most attractive place we visited, great for ice-creams, pubs, a nice deli (the missus bought me an amazing Seville rice pudding mix) and a butcher’s (A Ryan & Son), that sold one of the nicest pies I think I’ve ever eaten, it was Venison & Red wine and makes me want to cry just thinking about it. I also saw a Vicar in a panama hat walking around in bare feet, pure Agatha Christie steez.
Church Stretton – We had a nice chippy here, we also scored an impressive array of ales from the local ethnic shop (and some nice sausages), it was called Entertaining Elephants and is definitely worth a look. Hobson’s Ruby porter (aka Postman’s Knock) was our favourite tipple though the scrumpy did come in handy when we realised they hadn’t put any vinegar on our chips.
And this is where we stayed http://www.walcothall.com/
Even if we hadn’t got to stuff our faces with such amazing English fayre, I’m pretty sure we’d still have had a proper top time. I never thought I’d hear myself saying it but Shropshire, only two hours drive from my house gives the Dordogne, Tuscany or any other (Guardian reading) European destination a serious run for its money. I absolutely love the place and can’t wait to go back.
Check out the pics and then rip up your passport.