A weekend break in Shrewsbury, Shropshire is perfect in winter or around Christmas time. For some reason, people seem to pick Chester or York for a weekend of shopping and eating, overlooking the smaller Shrewsbury. But it’s exactly the same deal but without the crowds. It has pretty Tudor buildings, a public garden designed by the famous Percy Thrower of Gardener’s World fame, cosy pubs, good restaurants and independent shops. And you can get there easily by train, which means sampling all said cosy pubs is a must.
The Guardian recently featured Shrewsbury in their top 10 UK towns for winter breaks, similar to their top 10 UK towns list that featured our other favourite, Kirkby Lonsdale. There’s obviously a running theme here.
The Lion + Pheasant Hotel
Ever since we first went on a whim a few years ago, we’ve been regular visitors to Shrewsbury. In fact, we kind of became obsessed with it and keep telling people to go there.
It also has the best hotel we’ve ever stayed in: the gorgeous Lion + Pheasant Hotel. Beautifully grey and Scandi inside.
It’s the only hotel we know is always going to be safe to recommend to friends – and no, we’re not being paid to say that (wish we were, like).
Isn’t it dead tricky recommending places to stay?! People always ask us because we’ve been to so many places. But they’re always after different things and you don’t want to run the risk of telling someone they’ll love a hotel only for them to find it too expensive/cheap/fancy/basic. The Lion + Pheasant isn’t cheap but it would be impossible to be disappointed by it. We actually included it in our travel round-up of 2016 as best hotel.
Also, it has a fantastic bar that is an absolute delight in winter with more fairylights than you could ever dream of. So if you’re just in Shrewsbury for the day and don’t need to stay over, you can still pop in for a drink.
The Quarry Park and views along the River Severn
Anyway, once we’d deposited our suitcase at the hotel, we set off for a walk along the River Severn.
The river curves round the edge of the town. Follow it down into the Quarry Park. You’ll probably see people rowing boats down the river, even in winter. Looks horrific to me.
We always have to crack a photo of us into the blogs don’t we? This time, they both turned out awful. Still including them because silver ankle boots.
The Dingle garden
When you have the bandstand in sight, you’re near the Dingle. Turn off the path by the river and head up to the walls.
Inside is this amazing sunken garden created by Percy Thrower and maintained to incredible standards all year round. It’s best in spring or summer, but even in mid-December, it was a little oasis. It has a pond with fountains, surrounded by various sculptures.
In winter, it only takes 10 minutes to wander round. When the weather is better, every inch of it is packed with colour and you can easily spend half an hour taking it all in.
Overlooking the Quarry Park is St Chad’s Church, where Charles Darwin was baptised. We went inside it on a previous trip just to have a nose round and it was quite nice if you’re into that kind of thing (churches, that is).
For a Christmassy touch, you can have a look in its graveyard for Ebenezer Scrooge’s gravestone from ‘A Christmas Carol’, which was filmed in Shrewsbury #festivefact. I only know this because when we were walking out of the park, we passed a themed guided tour.
Picturesque streets and houses
After coming out of the park, we wandered along the old town walls towards the shops via some of Shrewsbury’s prettiest little streets.
There were some seriously beautiful Christmas wreaths on the doors. I want to live in one of these gorgeous houses.
Shrewsbury has an indoor shopping centre and main high street with all the usual chain shops you get everywhere, which is handy but pointless going to them if you have them at home anyway.
The best independent shops are tucked away off the main drag.
Some of our favourite Shrewsbury shops that we always go in are:
- White Orchard on Butcher Row (pictured above)
- Vinegar Hill on St Mary’s Street
- Wysteria Lane and Maggie Mae’s Vintage, both on Dogpole
- Hummingbird on Market Street
- Cooking Kneads on Wyle Cop
- Urban Folk on Grope Lane
- and our absolute favourite, Listers Interiors on Hill’s Lane.
Grope Lane, Wyle Cop and more
You may have gathered from all the olde-worlde street names above that Shrewsbury has a lot of character. Who doesn’t enjoy the name ‘Grope Lane’?
The whole town is a mass of winding little lanes and higgledy-piggledy shops, cafés and pubs.
We stopped off at the v trendy 77 Wyle Cop for a hot chocolate to re-fuel during the shopping expedition.
Suitably revived, we had a last look round some shops, including an interesting homeware shop that had just opened on Wyle Cop.
Now, I’ve completely forgot the name and can’t find it online but it sold modern, unusual home accessories so if anyone knows what it was, give us a shout…
A quick pint at the Three Fishes Inn
Having exhausted the shops and our feet, we headed for a few drinks at the Three Fishes Inn on Fish Street (pictured below).
We always seem to end up going there even though it’s a CAMRA/real ale type pub rather than craft beer/IPA, which is more our cup of tea. But it is very cosy and has a nice atmosphere.
It’s also very close to the Bear Steps (also pictured below), one of the many quirky little cut-throughs in the town.
Post-pint, it was getting towards feeding time so we mooched back to the hotel to change.
Japanese and Korean food at Momo No Ki
We aren’t creatures of habit on our travels but seemingly this goes out of the window when it comes to Shrewsbury because we not only stay at the same place but also eat at the same place(s).
It’s either the Peach Tree if we want modern European style food, or our absolute favourite Momo No Ki for the best ramen we’ve had outside of Japan. Momo No Ki also has loads of other delicious Japanese and Korean dishes at very reasonable prices.
Two tips for Momo No Ki:
- The portions, unlike in Japan, are on the larger side of average so you might want to pace yourself…
- If there are specials on, have them. Whatever they are. They’re always delicious. Everything pictured below was off the specials menu and we’ve completely forgotten what they were all called but everything was fantastic.
After our meal, we just had a few drinks back in the Lion + Pheasant bar before an excellent night’s sleep in our stunning Scandinavian room… which we forgot to take a photo of until after we’d slept in it. So I’m afraid the photo just doesn’t do it any justice.
You’ll just have to go on their website or take our word for it that it was beautiful before we messed it up.
Breakfast at the Lion + Pheasant
The next day, we were still really full from Momo No Ki but didn’t want to miss out on the Lion + Pheasant’s gorgeous breakfast.
A haddock omelette was a slightly lighter option than the eggs Benedict we normally both have (although one of us still managed it…).
They also give you all the fruit and pastries you want, but they were beyond us this time.
There’s more to it but…
On the Sunday, we had the blogging nightmare of a dead camera battery, which cuts this short for you.
The plan was to take photos of the castle but alas, the battery had other plans. But if you’re interested, Shrewsbury does indeed have its own medieval castle.
It also has lots of other stuff we’ve missed this trip, but this definitely won’t be our last blog on Shrewsbury because it’s somewhere we’ll always return to. Screw you, Chester and York (although you are also quite good).
And if any of our readers can give tips on other cute towns to go that are under an hour and a half on the train from Stockport, do let us know.
A weekend break in Shrewsbury: useful information
How to get there
Shrewsbury’s train station is fairly central to the town and well connected.
Where to stay
We’ve been regular visitors to Shrewsbury ever since we first went on a whim a few years ago and became obsessed with it. We’ve concluded that it also has the best hotel we’ve ever stayed in: the gorgeous Lion + Pheasant Hotel, which is all beautifully grey and Scandi inside.
How to get around
The city centre is all very walkable.
When to go
It’s perfect for a weekend break in winter, especially around Christmas time when it’s all lit up and lovely. But equally, the Dingle garden comes into its own in spring and summer.
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