Cradled by a practical ox-bow of the River Severn, visiting Shrewsbury is almost like stepping back in time. Within the Medieval twist of old streets lies a wealth of things to see and do that are easily accessible to those travelling on a budget.
Shrewsbury is a delight just to walk around for the unexpected little nooks and crannies that you will find on the way. The architecture has the capacity to surprise at every turn, with beautiful examples of half-timbered Tudor architecture and regal Georgian buildings. While it can be a joy to just wander and get lost to find Shrewsbury, there are also trails you can follow that bring you to the best that is on offer.
Aside from architecture there are beautiful gardens and museums that illuminate the old market town’s past, including its experience of the Roman era, the Tudor and Stuart monarchs, the Industrial Revolution, through to the modern day.
See a relic of the Industrial Revolution at Flaxmill Maltings
Also known as Ditherington Flax Mill, this iconic building on Shrewsbury’s skyline was once a flax mill, used in spinning yarn for the linen industry. The building lay derelict for many years and would traditionally have been in line for demolition, had it not been saved by local groups, like Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings (who run the visitor centre and tours when booked in advance), who saw its potential as a sight for visitors. Currently the exhibitions highlight what life was like in the mills, through to old machinery and architecture.
Spring Gardens, SY1 2SY
Follow the Charles Darwin Trail
The great naturalist Charles Darwin was born, raised and schooled in Shrewsbury. One of the great things about the town is that much of the original layout from his time here in the early 19th century is unlikely to have changed much. You can follow a specially-designed route that takes you to places of interest from his life, such as Shrewsbury Library, which was formerly the school Darwin attended and which now has his statue outside. This is an excellent trail, particularly for first time visitors looking to get a good overview of the town.
Start: Darwin Gate/Finish: Unitarian Church
Explore the Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery
Discover phases of the town’s past through the excellent exhibitions at the Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery (SM&AG). Galleries include: the Roman, showing carved stonework from that era; the Shropshire, which explores the region’s history; the Tudor and Stewart, with art and valuable artefacts dating to the turbulent time in British rule. There are also special exhibitions on a variety of subjects. There is a small fee to visit and the SM&AG is open daily in summer, and Tuesday to Sunday from October to March.
The Music Hall, Market Street, SY1 1LG
Wander the winding old streets of the old town looking for quirks
Head into the maze of Medieval streets in the town centre, starting at the train station and winding up the Dana, a cobble path. This is the first of many little alleys, known in town as ‘shuts’ that trace the original layout of Shrewsbury centuries ago. Along these lanes are hundreds of listed buildings that come is all manner of wonderful shapes and styles of architecture, from bulky towers to delicate half-timbered facades fronted by flower gardens. There are carvings in bridges and unusual street names that hint at the street’s past function, like Butcher Row, so keep your eyes peeled.
Have a picnic in The Quarry
One of the remarkable things about Shrewsbury is that some of the most valuable land has been kept free from construction over the centuries and open to the public. Known as the Quarry, the open parkland is bordered on three sides by the bend of the river. At its core is The Dingle, a profusion of vibrant flower beds, criss-crossing pathways, fountains and a small lake. There are plenty of benches in this park, but in summer, many people take blankets to the open grass and bring a picnic lunch.
By Paul Stafford