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Nestled amongst the breathtaking Shropshire Hills and within the loop of the River Severn, the picturesque town of Shrewsbury is often referred to as the Town of Flowers.
This is due not only to the award-winning floral blooms which adorn streets and shop facias during the spring and summer months, but also to the famous Shrewsbury Flower Show. The annual two-day event has taken place in the town’s Quarry Park for more than 130 years - albeit with breaks during World War Two and the recent pandemic.
Packed to its medieval rafters with history, featuring a wealth of independent retailers, restaurants and pubs, and boasting an impressive programme of events & activities, Shrewsbury is a fantastic destination for families to visit this school summer holiday.
Here’s just a taste of what the county town has on offer...
Wander up the Wyle Cop - a fairly steep street leading into the centre of the town - and you’ll find yourself marvelling at the overhanging timber-framed Tudor buildings which house some of Shrewsbury’s most noteable independent retailers - as well as one of its oldest pubs. A popular watering hole with locals, The Nag’s Head is worth popping into just to see the remains of Gibbons Mansion at the rear. Dating back to 1570, the house features in the 1984 version of A Christmas Carol, filmed in Shrewsbury and starring American Oscar winner George C Scott.
A little further along the Cop, to your left, you’ll find Henry Tudor House (HTH). One of the town’s oldest half-timbered buildings, it’s documented that Henry VII sought refuge there while on his way to the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. HTH is now a popular restaurant, bar & live-music venue, hosting well-known comedians and musicians. Pop by and see the imposing art works commissioned by the current owners, Graham and Claire. The sight of Freddie Mercury, George Michael and David Bowie dressed in Tudor attire is something to behold!
Venture along the top of the Cop and the High Street and you’ll arrive at The Square - an open space dominated by the Old Market Hall, which now houses an intimate council-run cafe bar and cosy cinema. Flanked by coffee shops, restaurants and retailers, The Square is a popular meeting place which regularly hosts local maker markets and events. It’s here that you’ll find the Tourist Information Centre, housed on the ground floor of Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery, a destination widely admired for its collection of fine art, ceramics and natural history. Unlocking The Severn, a major exhibition exploring the underwater world of the River Severn, shows at the venue until the end of August.
If in need of a beverage or a bite to eat at this point, then check out STOP Cafe, sited at the rear of the Museum & Art Gallery’s ground floor. One of the town’s many wonderful coffee shops, STOP serves delicious cakes and reasonably priced light lunches.
Nearby, quirkily named alleyways - known locally as ‘shuts’ - harbour secrets of bygone years. One of the most infamous shuts is Grope Lane, which apparently got its name due to the fact that prostitutes used to frequent it.
Just five minutes’ walk away from The Square is Shrewsbury Market Hall. Don’t be deceived by the underwhelming 1960s facade of this mighty building, because inside, a veritable cornucopia of food and retail delights awaits. From authentic Indian street food, delicious Chinese tea & dumplings, seafood specialities, tasty Thai dishes and a bar featuring a rotating menu of 140 gins, craft beers, wines and spirits, through to unusual and quirky gift, craft and speciality stores, Shrewsbury Market Hall is a must-visit destination.
A stone’s throw away from the market is the Quarry Park, a recreational hub near to the town centre. A favourite with families, dog walkers, runners and cyclists, the lime-tree-lined park also houses The Dingle Garden, a showcase of ornamental flowers, rockeries and water features which also includes the stone statue of Sabrina, the Goddess of the River Severn, donated to the people of Shrewsbury by the Earl of Bradford in 1879.
Sabrina is also the name given to the boat that takes visitors along the Severn. Operating daily between 10am and 4pm, Sabrina sails from the Welsh Bridge to the English Bridge, along the way taking in views of The Quarry, the statue of Hercules, Kingsland Bridge, Shrewsbury School, the Old Brewery and Town Walls. The boat docks right outside three bars/eateries: The Armoury, The Riverbank and Hickory’s Smokehouse - all of which are popular with diners. If you fancy sitting in a pub garden, then head back into The Quarry and over the Kingsland Bridge to The Boathouse, one of two town-centre pubs with views up the River Severn. The Crown in Coleham, a 15-minute walk along the footpath, is the other.
Head back into town via Claremont Hill, where you’ll find popular purveyor of sweet treats, Planet Doughnut. Forget that well-known brand you find in supermarkets and service stations - nothing comes close to the mouthwatering offerings available at this quickly expanding Shrewsbury-based business.
Meander up nearby Pride Hill and you’ll arrive at Shrewsbury Library, to the left, and the town’s castle, to the right. Perched on a slight hill overlooking the railway station and River Severn, the Grade I sandstone building is home to the Soldiers of Shropshire Museum, which houses a collection of uniforms, weapons, medals and silverware. Within its manicured grounds stands Laura’s Tower. Built by Thomas Telford in 1790 as a summer house for the daughter of Sir William Pulteney MP, this Grade II listed building affords panoramic views across Shrewsbury, the winding River Severn and the countryside beyond. Sadly, the spectacular red brick building is now only open to the public one day a year, as part of the nationwide Heritage Open Day Festival in September.
Next, make your way to St Mary’s Place, where you’ll find the town’s only completely medieval church. Boasting one of the largest spires in England, St Mary’s is home to a world-renowned collection of stained glass (pictured). No longer used for worship, the venue is now a popular visitor attraction and comes complete not only with interpretation panels but also informed and enthusiastic stewards, on hand to share their expansive knowledge of its wealth of history. You’ll also find the independently run River View Cafe on site, serving locally sourced produce. This is another highly recommended destination for refuelling.
At the rear of St Mary’s lies The Parade Shopping Centre. This Grade II listed building, with its Georgian facade and main entrance flanked by four hugely impressive stone pillars, was once Shrewsbury’s infirmary. Now housing more of the town’s independent and specialist retailers, it’s definitely worth a visit, if only to get a peek of the River Severn and beyond from the rear of the building.
Out of St Mary’s, head across the road to St Alkmund’s Place, home to another of Shrewsbury’s five churches. To your right, you’ll find the Bear Steps Gallery and tea rooms - both fine examples of the town’s timber-framed buildings. Local legend has it that this area was home to one of Shrewsbury’s bear pits. Allow yourself time to soak up the history before maybe indulging in a tipple at one of the nearby traditional pubs: The Three Fishes on Fish Street; The Bull on Butcher Row; or The Wheatsheaf on the corner of High Street. If you fancy a cocktail, check out The Libertine or House Of The Rising Sun.
Fancy a retail fix?
Shrewsbury is full of wonderful independent places to shop - you’re almost certain to find something to tempt you to part with your cash. One of the best places to start is Wyle Cop. Here, you’ll find one-off clothing brands at Ella Ecru and Oberon, recycled cashmere accessories at Turtle Doves, and beautiful gifts at Lovely Little World. Check out White Lotus Living and Number 8 (St Mary’s Street) for interiors big and small, and Wyld Home for faux flowers and foliage. The latter also stocks a mean line in kitsch cushions.
Every day is Christmas Day at Christmas Perks, with festive decorations on sale all year round. You can also pick up Shrewsbury-related momentos, including baubles, magnets, local prints and paintings.
Wyle Blue World is a unique retail space selling gifts and homewares from around the globe. At the back of the shop is a ‘secret garden’, where you can kick back and indulge in blueBAR gin and sharing platters.
At the corner of Fish Street is Work Shop. Here you can pick up bespoke gifts ranging from reasonably priced contemporary jewellery and prints, to candles and homewares.
And of course, there’s always Shrewsbury Market Hall.
Shrewsbury’s Most Famous Son
It’s said that Charles Darwin’s liberal upbringing - together with his education at Shrewsbury School - helped nurture his inquisitive mind and sow the seeds for his famous book, On The Origin Of Species.
A bronze statue of Darwin takes centre stage outside the imposing facade of Shrewsbury Library on Castle Gates. Built in 1550, the premises was originally home to Shrewsbury School - where Charles would have spent his formative years - before transforming to its current use in 1882.
Today, the life and work of the world-famous naturalist is celebrated with the annual DarwIN Shrewsbury Festival and a visitor trail around the town. The latter highlights buildings and locations that played a pivotal role in Darwin’s early life. The town’s main shopping centre, a boutique hotel (Darwin’s Hotel) and a restaurant/bar (Darwin’s Kitchen) also pay homage to Shrewsbury’s most famous son. Quantum Leap - a must-see 40ft-high sculpture at Mardol Quay - was unveiled as part of the town’s Darwin Bicentenary celebrations in 2009.
Find out more at originalshrewsbury.co.uk
Posted on Fri 24 Sep
Posted on Thu 23 Sep