Shropshire
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Shropshire is a bit off the radar but it’s every bit as impressive as the more famous Lake District or Yorkshire Dales and far less crowded for an enjoyable break.

“Where exactly is Shropshire?” was the blanket response I got when telling people about my staycation. Their reactions surprised me, although I have to admit I knew little about the county other than its vague geography.

With Wales to the west and Birmingham about an hour’s drive east, it’s not like Shropshire is in the middle of nowhere.

It hasn’t got its name in lights like the Lake District or the Yorkshire Dales but, as I found, it doesn’t mean it’s any less impressive.

Driving through the undulating hills of the Shropshire countryside, I was taken aback at how stunning the landscape is. Why don’t more people talk about this place, I wondered.

But secretly I was glad it’s a bit off the radar. It meant we weren’t fighting through crowds like in some of the better known tourist areas.

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On one walk – a 6.8-mile trek to Linley Beeches – we didn’t see a single person. Just a few cows and sheep for company. That ramble took us to a mile-long double row of ancient beech trees at Linley Hill, standing to attention like a line of soldiers. These are some of the county’s most iconic treescapes.

Shropshire is a walker’s paradise so off we went – me, my husband Ben and our six-month-old Asa strapped to him.

Next we tackled Caer Caradoc hill. A word of advice – don’t let the word “hill” fool you. It felt like a mountain in places for us novice ramblers.

Caer Caradoc overlooks the market town of Church Stretton which has an abundance of cafes, antique shops and independent traders. If walking up hills isn’t your thing you can enjoy pounding the pavements here instead.

As soon as you enter Berry’s – an award-winning coffee house set within the ground floor of a Queen Anne townhouse – you’re met by a counter of delicious looking cakes. But I ordered scrambled eggs and smoked salmon to power me up those hills.

This area is an excellent base for holidaymakers, especially hikers, horse riders, mountain bikers and nature-lovers.

Our home-from-home for the week was The Dovecote, built over an 18th century coach house, and booked through Sykes Cottages, just down the road in the village of Wistanstow.

Surrounded by the fields of the Shropshire Hills, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it offers the ultimate setting for a romantic retreat for two (plus baby).

After upping our step count, the welcoming cottage also provided the perfect antidote – a hot tub.

Inside is an open-plan living space. With high ceilings and a magnificent inglenook fireplace with woodburning stove, it’s the ideal space to relax.

Contemporary furnishings perfectly complement the character and charm of the property’s exposed brickwork and original beams. Sympathetically restored, all of the ironwork in the cottage is either original or handmade by the local blacksmith.

On the first floor is a chic master bedroom with king-size bed and roll-top bath with handheld shower, as well as an en-suite shower room.

Outside, a pretty garden surrounds the hot tub, which is where we spent every night with a glass of wine after putting the baby to bed.

Owners Julie and Wayne go the extra mile with thoughtful touches for their guests. We arrived to find a box of indulgent doughnuts waiting for us – just what we needed after a long drive – as well as a pint of milk.

They’d also set up a travel cot at the end of the bed for our little one.

When we prised ourselves out of the hot tub we explored more of the surrounding countryside, including the National Trust’s Long Mynd, with its stunning heather-clad plateau.

We also visited nearby Ludlow for the day. Only a 15-minute train ride or drive south, this thriving medieval market town has gorgeous architecture as well as Michelin star restaurants and its very own castle.

We enjoyed Sunday lunch at Ye Olde Bull Ring Tavern, a characterful pub dating back to the 14th century.

The town of Craven Arms was a two-mile walk away from our cottage and has a well-stocked country supermarket.

And within stumbling distance of our holiday home was the Plough Inn, just a five-minute stroll down the road.

But there was plenty to keep us occupied at The Dovecote, with a Smart TV with Freeview and access to Amazon and Netflix, as well as wi-fi and a Sonos music system.

A starter pack for the woodburning stove was provided and a pizza oven is available on request.

So now I’ve told you all about the delights of secret Shropshire, do pass it on. But maybe not to too many people…

By Janine Yaqoob

Source: Mirror

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