What can I say about Ludlow in Shropshire, England?
Well, it was the “winner of the Great Town Award 2006”. It has one of the 100 (or was it 1000?) best old houses (or was it pub?) in England according to an information sign outside the house (or pub). Is (according the local information leaflets) FAMOUS for its markets, small as the one we saw seemed. And it has a huge very tattered old castle.
Not that Ludlow is not worth a visit if you are in the area, close to the Welsh borders, it just has not and does not make enough of itself. This is rather disappointing, as the town and castle has a very old and very long and very interesting history. The town seems content to live on the fact it has the castle and that people will come. The place overall just feels a step or two behind having real potential. The way that so many English attractions and resorts do.
The Ludlow castle dates right back to the 11th Century when the Normans first built it as part of the defences against Welsh invasions. Over its time some of the famous names of English history have lived there, including Edward V, Prince Arthur and Mary Tudor (Queen of England) who would winter there. It is a mix of centuries of buildings from Norman, Medieval and Tudor. It was finally abandoned in the late 17th century, and eventually in 1811 the ruins were bought by the Earl of Powis from the Crown. The family still own them.
The town of Ludlow, that is at the gates of the castle, was built over 900 years ago, and was a planned town from the start (versus emerging and evolving), so it has grid pattern of street and is surrounded by remnants of the old city walls. It was bustling and vibrant when the wool and cloth industries were buoyant in the area.
To keep visitors coming, other than just to see the castle, the town has many festivals and markets across the year, and almost every weekend there seems to be one or another. These range from the regular crafts, antiques, produce through to bigger May Fair, Transport Festival, Secret Gardens of Ludlow, Open Air Brass Concerts, Green Festival, Food and Drink Festival, and the Medieval Christmas Fayre.
So what else is there to do other than the markets?
The Ludlow Castle is the main attraction. It costs just under £5 per adult to walk round, and is a large sprawling complex of ruins. I have made a video tour of the main features. I actually really enjoyed exploring the castle, there are information boards dotted around telling you what the ruins were of, and some of it is fairly well intact and you can climb up really high on some parts and get great views – making it clear why the Normans chose the spot as you can see for miles and miles. I did feel though more could be done to bring the history and stories more alive.
There is also a “splendid tea room” according to the leaflets. It is ok but not sure really “splendid”. There is also a large gift shop with some great costumes for kids, and some great model soldiers and the such.
Watch the video tour of the castle on YouTube or on blog postimg:
There are guided walking tours of the town during the summer that last about 90 minutes, or you can buy the Ludlow Town Trail leaflet from the castle or the information office and do it yourself.
The St Lawrence church (one of the feature churches in the book “England’s Thousand Best Churches”) is another site to visit.
You don’t need more than a day to enjoy Ludlow.
See all my photos of Ludlow and the castle: click here
Here are some links and what they say about the town:
Ludlow and its castle are perched on a cliff above the picturesque River Teme in south Shropshire, one of the most unspoiled parts of rural England. The town breathes history at every turn, but it’s far from being a museum piece. The town centre’s ordered elegance is evidence of the 900 year old Norman planned town. Fascinating architecture – castle, church, medieval and Georgian buildings fill the historic town centre. Independent, characterful shops and traditional market. Surrounded by the beautiful and unspoiled countryside of the Welsh Marches – the England-Wales border country
Excellent reputation for food and drink – home of the first (and best) UK food festival, award-winning restaurants, superb food producers and great food shops abound.
“The most perfect town in England” – John Betjeman
Ludlow Castle, the finest of medieval ruined castles, set in glorious Shropshire countryside, at the heart of this superb, bustling black & white market town. Walk through the Castle grounds and see the ancient houses of kings, queens, princes, judges and the nobility – a glimpse into the lifestyle of medieval society. The Castle, firstly a Norman Fortress and extended over the centuries to become a fortified Royal Palace, has ensured Ludlow’s place in English history – originally built to hold back unconquered Welsh, passing through generations of the de Lacy and Mortimer families to Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York. It became Crown property in 1461 and remained a royal castle for the next 350 years, during which time the Council of the Marches was formed with responsibility for the Government of Wales and the border counties. Abandoned in 1689 the castle quickly fell into ruin, described as ‘the very perfection of decay’ by Daniel Defoe. Since 1811 the castle has been owned by the Earls of Powis, who have arrested further decline, and allowed this magnificent historical monument to be open to the public. Today the Castle is the home to Ludlow’s major festivals throughout the year and open for all to enjoy
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