Sarah Ebner, who blogs at School Gate for The Times (subscription required), recently travelled to Shropshire with her family. Here, she describes what makes it a fun family getaway.
Beautiful scenery, lots to do and great fun. What wasn’t there to like about our holiday in Shropshire? Oh yes, the rain.
But let’s go back to the start. Why did I pick Shropshire for a family break? Well, I had wanted to visit Ironbridge, the famous world heritage site, for several years and planned to do so at the end of our five-day break. We began instead in the middle of the Shropshire hills, near the small market town of Church Stretton. The landscape truly is gorgeous, and on our first day, the rain actually held off. This meant we were able to walk along the River Mynd and take in the magnificent scenery. I really was overwhelmed by the beauty of the area. Within the UK, only Scotland comes near it, in my (humble) opinion.
We stayed in the kind of place which parents dream of. Mynd House is a bed and breakfast with a top floor that’s absolutely perfect for families. It consists of two delightful, interconnecting rooms (I love my 10- and 7-year old, but prefer not to share a bedroom with them) and a bathroom with its own Jacuzzi.
Mynd House also provides a slap-up breakfast. We were given vegetarian sausages, and tomato and basil muffins when we explained that we didn’t eat meat. Carnivores are also well catered for.
Church Stretton is at the southern end of Shropshire, not far from Acton Scott Historic Working Farm. This might be familiar from the “Victorian Farm” television programme, and was extremely enjoyable to visit, with beautifully preserved buildings, very cute animals and demonstrations of period skills. The demonstrations at Acton Scott are regular; there tends to be something every day.
As I said, the entire trip was planned because of Ironbridge. It has 10 award-winning museums, spread along the valley besides the River Severn, and still spanned by the world’s first iron bridge. As you drive past the beautiful Severn Gorge, it is astonishing to think that the Industrial Revolution was forged here. Ironbridge is about an hour away from Church Stretton, so we spent one night at the Holiday Inn, Telford. We recommend it, as children eat free and there’s also a swimming pool.
We decided we would need two days to visit Ironbridge and I think that’s wise, as there is so much to see.
On the first day we visited the much heralded Blists Hill Victorian Town. I had extremely high expectations, and was especially looking forward to the old-fashioned shops and guides in period costume. The weather didn’t help, but it was a little disappointing that we were expected to pay for so many extras (such as candle dipping) and that the actors weren’t very pro-active. I couldn’t help comparing it with Beamish (near Durham), another living history museum, but with staff who initiated conversations and were more informative. Still, the kids loved seeing the actors, sampling the sweets, and especially the rides at the fair (which you pay for with old-fashioned coins). And it did give you an idea of what life was like then – especially the rather forbidding school.
The Iron Bridge itself was terrific, and so was Enginuity, the interactive design and technology Centre. This is a real hands-on science centre, with a multitude of activities, for all ages.
The very unusual highlight was the Tar Tunnel. In 1787, miners struck a spring of natural bitumen, a black treacle-like substance. The tunnel is still full of bitumen, and it was fascinating to walk along and see it oozing from the walls. That’s something you don’t see everyday. Unlike the rain.
Sarah Ebner and family stayed at Mynd House, £140 per night for the family suite, and The Holiday Inn, Telford, which cost £69 for a family room per night.
Resources for visiting:
Mynd House, www.myndhouse.com
Holiday Inn Telford, www.holidayinn.com/hotels/us/en/telford/teluk/hoteldetail
For more on Shropshire, visit www.shropshiretourism.co.uk/