Walking the Shropshire Hills

by Karen Simons

When I set out from Church Stretton on Contours’ Shropshire Hills walking holiday it was with a spring in my step and the great anticipation of revisiting some of my favourite places in the country. Church Stretton itself is one of those towns that I have fond memories of and it makes an ideal starting and finishing point for this circular trail.

Along Long Mynd

Shropshire Hills Walking Holiday: Carding Hill ValleyThe first part of the walk sets the tone: it wanders up the charming Carding Mill Valley, following a bubbling clear brook to the top of the famous Long Mynd.

As you climb steadily and the views start to stretch out all around you, you are never far from the friendly hill ponies and ground nesting birds, like the skylarks who rise up singing their hearts out in front of you.

Shropshire Hills Walking Holiday: Long MyndShropshire Hills Walking Holiday: Golden Valley sheepOnce at the top, a clear path leads you through the heather and then branches off to keep high on the ridge through farmland before dropping down into a wonderful long wooded valley aptly named Golden Valley. It was lovely to walk through the ancient woodland and see the lambs with their mothers foraging around by the stream.

Soon the houses of Ratlinhope came into view and then the welcoming sight of The Bridges Inn, which is conveniently open all day!

A Visit to Stiperstones

Shropshire Hills Walking Holiday: StiperstonesAfter a break at the inn, I followed the trail up a quiet road towards the Stiperstones. I had really been looking forward to seeing the stones again and they were soon clearly evident on the skyline.

I enjoyed a gentle climb up to enter the National Nature Reserve and ever closer to the stones. The weather was perfect, a clear blue sky with the most spectacular views below. The path is rocky but the journey past this 480-million-year-old rock formation is awe-inspiring. There is a visitor car park for the reserve and this was the first time I actually saw some other people, but they were soon left behind as I walked on to enter the next nature reserve at Nipstone Rocks.

Shropshire Hills Walking Holiday: Towards Bishops CastleHere the path wove through the heather and gorse moorland atop another rocky hilltop before descending down to farmland again. The gentle descent from the next hill was a delight — it was through the longest avenue of beech trees, then across a wide plain passing through the site of a castle and motte before the final stretch into Bishops Castle.

Bishops Castle has an array of tea-shops and a local brewery with some interesting old buildings. It’s a great place to spend the night.

On to Offa’s Dyke

Shropshire Hills Walking Holiday: Offas Dyke PathThe next morning, the trail followed fields and rolling hills through the quietest of countryside. It headed along a river valley and then through wooded hillside to join up with Offa’s Dyke Path.

I had been eagerly anticipating this stretch, although it was not for the fainthearted, being a particularly roller-coaster section of the famous earthwork. The first climb through woodland on the path brings you out onto a clear hillside where the dyke is a magnificent example of what this huge undertaking must have looked like some thirteen hundred years ago. All was still, and it felt humbling to be walking in history with just the sounds of nature surrounding me.

Having left the dyke, one more delight awaited as I found the final hill into Clun surprisingly uplifting. It was a long grassy hill which was a great finish to the day with the prospect of a good look round the delightful little town of Clun ahead.

Shropshire Hills Walking Holiday: Into Clun

Enjoying Bury Ditches

Shropshire Hills Walking Holiday: Clun Castle

Clun, like Bishops Castle, is a lovely place to stay. When the next day dawned bright again I had a magic moment taking a final look at the castle in the clear morning light.

Setting off from Clun, the trail climbed gently up and onto some really enjoyable wooded paths before eventually entering the iron-age hill fort of Bury Ditches. This was another highlight of the walk, as you cannot help but be impressed both by the earthworks of the hill fort but also by its position. It is breathtaking to stand at the centre of the ditch and take in all the surrounding countryside.

Leaving Bury Ditches behind, the trail went into more ancient woodland where I spotted a herd of wild goats. I walked on through farmland and along quiet lanes to the charming hamlet of Hopesay, with a worthwhile climb of Hopesay Hill. Here, a herd of deer bounded off across the common land at the top of the hill, a great sight.

Shropshire Hills Walking Holiday: Hopesay Hill
Shropshire Hills Walking Holiday: To Craven Arms

The first signs for Craven Arms signalled the homeward straight and another few miles of lovely walking through rolling fields to the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre. Craven Arms is a diverse town originally built around the public house of its name. A short distance off the trail here lies Stokesay Castle, an absolute must if you have the time, being the best preserved fortified manor house in England.

Craven Arms to Church Stretton

Rejoining the trail at the Discovery Centre the next morning saw a short walk to climb up Halford Wood to the top of a small hill. Big views and the start of Wenlock Edge lay clear in front.

A quiet lane brought me to the beginning of the Edge and the thrill of walking along this 19-mile escarpment from its southwestern end, albeit for just a mile or so. There is a feeling of timelessness and I was amazed to find myself alone on this spectacular path through the ancient trees that cover every mile of its length. I thought back and realised that my whole walk had been like this, alone but never alone with the joy of something new and exciting every step of the way.

Shropshire Hills Walking Holiday: Ragleth Hill

Coming off the Edge, I found where Wenlock Spring Water was bottled and then carried on to Acton Scott Historic Farm before the final hill. This was Ragleth Hill and after a steep climb I was rewarded with arguably the best views of the walk – Church Stretton and the Long Mynd to one side and the Clee Hills to the other. Ahead lay the stunning Caer Caradoc, another famous hill fort, and beyond it the Lawley and of course The Wrekin. This was a moment to savour before returning to Church Stretton and the welcoming tea-shops below.

Shropshire Hills Walking Holiday: Church Stretton Below

The creak of leather on soft turf, the sunshine on my back,
This Shropshire not just a hill, valley and field but history, character and charm.

Spring bursting forth as the miles roll by draws my soul together in wonder and awe.
So walk and enjoy this wonderful trail,
For today won’t be like tomorrow.

Contours Holidays pride ourselves on our expert knowledge of the UK's trails. We regularly set out to check our routes and directions and to make improvements on the holidays we offer. You can find several write-ups of staff expeditions in our Trail Diaries.

Walk the Shropshire Hills

  • Traversing the Shropshire hills and enjoying far-reaching views across the county and over to Wales.

  • Admiring the ancient Clun castle and Stokesay castle, and learning about their turbulent history.

  • Crossing the iconic Offa's Dyke Path and catching a glimpse of King Offa's famous ancient landmark.

© Contours Walking Holidays Shropshire Hills map
Circular trail beginning at Church Stretton
52 miles (83 km)
2nd January to 24th December

Walk the Shropshire Hills

Code Tour Duration Difficulty Price per person
SHRH1 A circular trail beginning at Church Stretton 5 nights, 4 days walking Demanding £540
SHRH2 A circular trail beginning at Church Stretton 6 nights, 5 days walking Moderate / Demanding £645

Originally published 14/06/19

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