Kit P

Hills, meres, canals and castles — Shropshire Way South and North

Andy Howell (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Hills, meres, canals and castles — Shropshire Way South and North

Hiking Collection by Kit P

The Shropshire Way is a fantastic long-distance footpath that rambles about the county and occasionally dips a toe into neighbouring Wales. This 202-mile (325 km) trail is split into two loops; one to the south and the other to the north. With hills, ancient towns, meandering rivers and plenty of wonderful views, this is an adventure strenuous in length but easy on the eyes.

While the Shropshire Way has existed for many years, it went through somewhat of a renovation in 2017 and is a well-defined route with waymarkers. Both loops start out from Shrewsbury, which allows you to do one loop or both, without having to alter your plans much. At 126.3 miles (203.3 km), the south section is significantly longer than the north.

Much of the southern loop explores the stunning landscapes of the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This sprawling region is a thriving area of farmland, villages, woodlands and a huge variety of hills. As you summit one hill and take in the views, you’ll be greeted by great geological diversity, from rolling green mounds to craggy ridgelines.

With castles, manor houses and ancient ruins to spot, this is a hike steeped in history. The northern loop spends much of its time tracing the border with Wales and has a much more watery theme. You’ll follow the Llangollen and Montgomery canals, the River Vyrnwy and the Severn back to Shrewsbury.

The stages I’ve outlined in this Collection more or less follow those recommended by the Shropshire Way Association, the charity that maintains the route. Most of the time, the Tours start and end in a place with at least some accommodation although, in a couple of stages, you’ll need to book transport to reach a settlement.

As the Way includes a spur up to Whitchurch, I’ve planned the route to encompass this and then continue onto Ellesmere without retracing your steps. As a result, it deviates a little from the actual route, but not by much. If you want to skip the spur, just after Whixall on stage 12, head west along the Way to Ellesmere and follow stage 13 when you reach Roundthorn Bridge on the canal.

Shropshire is a gorgeous county cloaked in countryside with little in the way of major settlements. Shrewsbury and Telford are the largest towns but really, the county is delightfully rural. That being said, almost every village has a pub and small supermarkets are never far away.

You can walk the Way at any time of year however it’s worth bearing in mind that you might struggle to complete longer stages during short daylight hours and the northern loop is liable to flooding in winter. As a result, late spring to early autumn is the best time for much of this expedition.

Shrewsbury has a well-served train station with direct links to Birmingham, from where you can travel to anywhere in the country. Several of the stages also begin and end in towns with stations on the Shrewsbury line, including Ludlow, Craven Arms and Wem. Accommodation along the route is varied, with several YHA hostels and plenty of B&Bs, hotels, campsite and private rented accommodation, such as Airbnb options.

On The Map

Tours & Highlights

    Difficult
    06:47
    15.5 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,400 ft
    750 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This first stage leaves the ancient market town of Shrewsbury and heads immediately out into its gorgeous surroundings. The route is gently undulating and has one major hill; Wilderley Hill. At 15.5 miles long (24.9 km), this hike is a solid start to the Shropshire Way but doesn’t present any technical challenges.

    Start at Shrewsbury’s historic Kingsland Bridge, a toll bridge which is free for pedestrians, and gaze over the edge to the River Severn. Follow the trail as it winds its way through quiet suburbs and out through Pulley and Bayston Hill. Leaving Shrewsbury behind, the Way whisks you into farmland towards Lyth Hill.

    A country park, Lyth Hill offers a ridge walk with excellent views to the east and south. Pause here on a bench for a snack and a rest after the ascent. Upon descent, the trail wanders across field after field and up the northern flank of Wilderley Hill. There’s a steady climb to the summit but it’s well worth the effort – on a clear day, the views are far-reaching across the Shropshire Hills AONB.

    The Way leaves Wilderley Hill via the Portway, an ancient path linking nearby settlements. Then, you descend into a steep-sided valley and hike alongside Darnford Brook to reach the village of Bridges. Here, you’ll find a YHA youth hostel and a pub offering accommodation and food.

    Difficult
    05:31
    11.9 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,500 ft
    1,725 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This stage marches across some of the Shropshire Hills’ most extraordinary landscapes, with craggy summits and exquisite views in abundance. You’ll hike through valleys, up to teetering boulders and down through quaint little villages. The first two-thirds are the hilliest and the final stretch is more relaxed.

    Start in the village of Bridges and follow a quiet road to the north-west. It might feel like you’re off in the wrong direction, given that the southern loop more or less circles around to the east. Leaving the road, the Way climbs up to the Stiperstones National Nature Reserve; not somewhere you’ll forget in a hurry.

    This wild, sprawling hill is home to shattered quartzite screen, jagged tors and extraordinary views. Hike along the ridge to the magnificent tors of the Devil’s Chair, Manstone Rock and Cranberry Rock. On a sunny day, this is one of the best photo opps of the entire Shropshire Way. Follow the trail off the Stiperstones and across more undulating landscapes to reach Linley Hill and descend to the River West Onny.

    In the hamlet of More, you’ll walk straight across the site of an ancient motte and bailey castle. Continue up a slight hill to Bishop’s Castle, where this Tour ends. This old town has accommodation and food options as well as a museum and the remains of a castle.

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  • Difficult
    05:21
    11.5 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,450 ft
    1,450 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This is a stage of excellent views and endless, rolling fields. You’ll enjoy challenging ascents and steep descents with plenty of places to pause and admire the scenery. Castles, ridgelines and woodlands all make an appearance on this hike. The settlements you pass are small and this section of the Way is rural, so bring your food for the day.

    Starting in the gorgeous town of Bishop’s Castle, the Way leads you around the side of a small hill and alongside a stream, heading north-east. The first hill of the Tour begins shortly and the path climbs steeply between Colebatch Hill and Reilth Top. These hills are blanketed in patchwork farmland and the views open up in different directions as you walk.

    Descending steeply to the River Unk, the trail leads along a stream through woodland and then ascends again for a significantly undulating section. You hike through Clun Forest here, which isn’t a forest but marks the region of a medieval hunting ground. The Cefns Ridge is the last high section of the stage and provides fantastic views of the surroundings.

    Heading downhill to Clun, you rejoin the River Unk briefly. In Clun itself, seek out the Norman ruins of Clun Castle, fabulously backdropped by colourful fields. In the town, you’ll find plenty of food and accommodation options, including a YHA youth hostel.

    Difficult
    05:18
    11.4 mi
    2.1 mph
    1,450 ft
    1,675 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Well and truly embracing the Shropshire Hills AONB, this hike takes you up to excellent viewpoints and down into vibrant valleys. Two hillforts reveal the ancient history of this area while the seemingly endless patchwork fields show how this county is still as rural as ever. There are some steep ascents on this Tour, but nothing technical.

    Starting in Bishop’s Castle, this 11.4-mile (18.3 km) walk begins ascending immediately along a lane and then across farmland to woodland. You climb Sunnyhill to the Bury Ditches hillfort, one of the best-preserved in Shropshire. Clear at the summit, admire the views before descending to Kempton and the River Kemp.

    The trail climbs again, passing below another hillfort and heading up to Hopesay Hill. Ramble about the top to find brilliant views of the Long Mynd plateau and the hilly surroundings. Hike down into Craven Arms, where this Tour ends.

    Craven Arms is an old market town on the banks of the River Onny. There’s plenty going on here and you won’t struggle to find an excellent pub dinner and a comfy bed for the night. The town also has a train station with connections to Shrewsbury. There’s little in the way of food along the Tour, so it’s best to take everything you need with you. Bishop’s Castle and Craven Arms both have supermarkets.

    Intermediate
    04:44
    11.0 mi
    2.3 mph
    625 ft
    675 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Unlike the previous stages, this hike sees just one hill before spending the rest of its 11.8-mile (19 km) wandering along relatively flat landscapes. This walk takes in much local history, with the stunning Stokesay Castle kicking things off before passing through ancient Bromfield and ending in Ludlow, a town brimming with remnants of the past.

    Start in Craven Arms and head south to find your first castle of the stage. An exquisite fortified manor house now under the management of English Heritage, Stokesay Castle dates back to the 13th century. From here, you hike up the hill to the hamlet of Aldon. Enjoy the views in this section and relish the flat scenery to come.

    The Way leads you down through farmland to Bromfield, which is the site of a Roman villa and retains a lovely old church with an impressive gatehouse. The final section takes you into Ludlow from the west. This town is of exceptional beauty and historic grandeur, so be prepared to be amazed.

    Crossing the lovely Dinham Bridge, explore the incredible castle and wander around the centre, spying historic buildings everywhere. Ludlow is awash with lovely restaurants, gourmet food shops, boutiques and accommodation options. It also has a train station, but you’ll hardly want to leave.

    Difficult
    05:10
    11.1 mi
    2.1 mph
    1,750 ft
    1,075 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage of the southern loop takes you to the third-highest point of the Shropshire Hills AONB at Titterstone Clee, which sits only a fraction lower than Brown Clee and the Stiperstones. The hike climbs gradually and leaves its descent until the last third, so there aren’t too many ups and downs over the course of the route.

    Start in the gloriously old town of Ludlow and stock up on lunch and snacks as this Tour seldom sees settlements. Head out east and hike up to Caynham hillfort for some pretty views back over Ludlow. Onwards, walk across farmland to pass Knowbury and see farms busy working throughout the year.

    The trail leads you up Titterstone Clee Hill to its summit at 1,749 feet (533 m). This hilltop provides fantastic views in every direction and, in good weather, makes for a fine snack stop. You’ll also spot a radar dome and station up here, but their presence isn’t too much of an intrusion upon the beauty.

    Hike down the hill’s grassy slope to the village Bromdon and on, towards the B4364 at Wheathill. This is where the Tour ends and its rural nature means you’ll need to book a taxi to take you to nearby accommodation in Burwarton. The Three Horseshoes pub just up the road is a good place to eat and wait for your taxi. Alternatively, you can catch the number 143 bus from the pub to Burwarton, but it only runs once a day in that direction, around school-closing time.

    Difficult
    05:20
    11.5 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,325 ft
    1,625 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This stage of the Way begins by hiking to the highest point in the AONB, Brown Clee. A large hill with a ridgeline, the views are mesmerising and reveal just how rural Shropshire is. Starting and ending away from settlements, you need to plan this Tour perhaps more carefully than others.

    Start at Wheathill and head north, across the farmland at the base of Brown Clee. The trail has steep sections before it reaches the open land near the summit. Ramble over the heather-strewn moorland and enjoy far-reaching views of the fantastic Shropshire Hills. Like Titterstone Clee Hill, Brown Clee has masts on both its summits. The first you’ll reach is a relay station but continue north along its ridge to reach the trig point at the true summit.

    The way leaves Brown Clee via its northern side and winds around the curve of the hill to finally exit into the fields to the north-west. The hiking from here is on footpaths across farmland, all the way to Wilderhope Hall. This historic manor house is now a YHA youth hostel, the perfect place to spend the night. The hostel offers self-catering and restaurant facilities.

    Difficult
    05:30
    12.8 mi
    2.3 mph
    600 ft
    1,150 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This stage of the Way takes in plenty of intriguing scenery including an old tramway, glorious woodlands, an ancient town and some exceptional views. Gently undulating but with no real ascent or descents, this is a marvellous hike through Shropshire’s pretty countryside.

    Start at Wilderhope Hall and hike through vibrant woodland to reach an old quarry tramway. You follow this for the first half of the 12.8-mile (20.6 km) hike,largely through forest. At Presthope, around two-thirds of the way along the tramway, you reach long-forgotten lime kilns and a limestone quarry.

    Continuing on to Much Wenlock, you have the opportunity to explore this historic town. Grab a bite to eat, admire the old architecture and explore the ruined priory. The Way leaves the town behind to head north across farmland, passing an old windmill and wandering through woodlands. The final section takes you through Benthall Edge Wood to the grand Iron Bridge over the River Severn in, well, Ironbridge.

    This beautiful town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, sits in a gorge and is an icon of the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. There’s much to explore here with fascinating museums, ruins and architecture. You can find food and accommodation easily in the immediate area.

    Difficult
    05:21
    11.1 mi
    2.1 mph
    1,900 ft
    1,725 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The section of the Way leaves historic Ironbridge and leads you to one of Shropshire’s most iconic landmarks; the Wrekin. After its recent renovation, the Shropshire Way also takes you over the Ercall, the Wrekin’s smaller neighbour. As a result, this 11.1-mile (17.9 km) hike has some fairly hefty climbs in it although nothing technical.

    Start in Ironbridge, the site of the first iron bridge to be built and one of the most important towns at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution. You leave the town via the old ironworks, which now feature a museum, and hike up a trail alongside Loamhole Brook. Turning away from the little valley, the path leads uphill again to Bragger’s Hill and the village of Little Wenlock.

    As you leave Little Wenlock, the Wrekin rises on the western horizon.It’s not long until you reach its southern end after walking along Spout Lane. The hike up the Wrekin is cloaked in plantation woodland along forestry tracks. First, you reach the summit of Little Hill after which the trail gets steeper to the top of the Wrekin. The summit is above the treeline and offers gobsmacking views stretching for miles.

    The trail descends steeply and almost immediately rises again, to reach the top of the Ercall. You then cross under the M54 and hike into Wellington, where this stage ends. On the edge of Telford, Wellington has everything you need; a train station, accommodation options, supermarkets and restaurants.

    Difficult
    07:42
    18.5 mi
    2.4 mph
    475 ft
    675 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This stage is a hefty 18.8 miles (30.2 km) and is the final section of the southern loop. It has little in the way of elevation change and is a straightforward walk, but if you’d prefer to split it, you can stop at Upton Magna or Uffington and catch the number 524 bus to Shrewsbury. The hike passes through low-lying land littered with rivers, streams and farmhouses. It includes Haughmond Hill which isn’t particularly high at all and enters Shrewsbury along the Severn.

    The start in Wellington has changed with the rerouting of the Way in recent years. It now leads through the heart of historic Wellington before entering the countryside near Allscott. Cross the River Tern and pass through the hamlet of Isombridge before crossing the River Roden.

    Fields and farms are the central themes of the next section and if you’re looking for a pub lunch, stop in Rodington, Upton Magna or take a detour to Withington. Ascending Haughmond Hill is gentle and wooded although not densely. The hill makes for a lovely stroll and, while there is a working quarry on its western side, it’s fairly well hidden away.

    The trail leads off the hill and down to Uffington, not to be confused with the one in Oxfordshire that has a chalk white horse. The Way loosely follows the Severn until it makes a turn directly to its banks, which you follow into the heart of Shrewsbury town. This marks the end of the southern loop.

    There’s much to explore in historic Shrewsbury, from museums and its grand cathedral to boutique shops and independent cafes.

    Difficult
    06:54
    16.4 mi
    2.4 mph
    675 ft
    575 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This is the first section of the Shropshire Way’s northern loop and leads you north to the county’s flatter landscapes. This extensive plain is highly fertile, making for wonderful farmland. The route remains rural but there are more towns and villages nearby than in the southern loop. This pretty Tour is fairly flat with just one notable hill at Grinshill.

    Starting in Shrewsbury, this route follows the River Severn out of the town and leads you to Haughmond Abbey, at the bottom of Haughmond Hill. Admire the ruins before hiking north and winding across flat fields to the villages of Upper Astley and Astley. You reach Hadnall, first passing over the railway and seeing the old station building, then walking into the village, a good place for a pub lunch.

    The trail leads due north across farmland and up the hill at Grinshill, into Corbett Wood. It’s worth taking a little detour here to the trig point for wonderful views of the fields below. The Wood is stunning in itself, thriving with birds and wildlife and particularly gorgeous in summer. Leaving the woodland, it’s gently downhill across fields, all the way to the town of Wem.

    In Wem, you’ll find plenty of accommodation and food options as well as a train station. A historic market town, strolling around the high street is a lovely way to relax after your walk. With pretty buildings and a small range of shops, Wem is relaxed and, incidentally, the home of the sweet pea.

    Difficult
    05:57
    14.5 mi
    2.4 mph
    250 ft
    225 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This stage is actually a spur in the loop but as the endpoint in Whitchurch is pretty, I’ve plotted the next stage 13 to go directly from Whitchurch to Ellesmere, so there’s no backtracking required. Alternatively, if you’d like to cut out Whitchurch, you can walk from Wem to Ellesmere following the Way. Simply take the left (south-western) branch above Whixall instead of the right (eastern) branch,follow the first quarter of this Tour and pick it up in stage 13.

    Start in the historic market town of Wem and follow the trail north across flat fields to Ryebank hamlet. The trail turns right here and follows a quiet lane before going off-road straight ahead at the t-junction. A mixture of fields and lanes take you north to Whixall and, four fields above the village, is the crossroads in the Way. Turn right for Whitchurch, left for Ellesmere.

    You’re heading to Whitchurch on this Tour, so it’s more fields and lanes as the trail meanders east. After crossing the A49, a former Roman Road, you enter Prees Heath Common. This lovely common is home to gorse, heather, grass and trees; a vibrant habitat for the nature reserve’s wildlife. Hike north across the common to Prees Heath village, then branch north-east up to the Brown Moss Local Nature Reserve with its ponds and wildfowl.

    Arriving in Whitchurch, you have reached the very north of Shropshire. This market town borders Wales and Cheshire. It’s filled with wonderful old buildings and still retains its thriving market town atmosphere. This hike actually goes straight through the town and up to Grindley Brook Locks, on the Llangollen Canal. Both Grindley Brook and Whitchurch have accommodation, supermarkets and restaurants.

    Difficult
    06:11
    15.1 mi
    2.4 mph
    250 ft
    225 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    A section of this Tour, from Whitchurch to Roundthorn Bridge is not technically the Shropshire Way. Instead, it follows the towpath of the Llangollen Canal, to avoid having to backtrack along the spur route to Whitchurch. This hike largely uses the towpath and seldom leaves the canal until the outskirts of Ellesmere. This means you can enjoy flat walking and all the wildlife and sights that come with canals; kingfishers, reeds, locks, bridges and narrowboats. Beautiful.

    Starting at Grindley Brook Locks (or Whitchurch, if you overnighted there), hike along the towpath and settle into an easy rhythm, with nothing but the sounds of nature to guide your thoughts. You walk close by the border with Wales for this stage, so if you look over the hedge to the west, you’ll likely be gazing at Welsh land.

    Roundthorn Bridge is a pretty, redbrick Grade II-listed structure dating back to around 1800. The next is Morris’ Bridge, a traditional, hand-operated lifting bridge. Shortly after, the Way leaves the canal briefly to tramp along lanes and fields before rejoining it at Cornhill Bridge. You stick with the canal, passing several meres (large ponds), until the outskirts of Ellesmere.

    The trail leaves the canal and heads to the Mere, Ellesmere’s beautiful lake, alongside a motte and bailey castle. With timbered buildings and a strong market town atmosphere, you’ll find plenty to occupy you in this lovely place. Accommodation, restaurants and supermarkets are easy to access.

    Difficult
    05:43
    14.0 mi
    2.5 mph
    125 ft
    175 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Another canal-based stage, this hike leads you along both the Llangollen Canal and the Montgomery Canal, including a drained section. Locks, bridges, villages and peaceful towpaths make this 14-mile (22.5 km) walk rather peaceful.

    Start in Ellesmere and follow the canal out to the south as it meanders about the agricultural landscape. After Coachman’s Bridge, a lovely stone span, the trail briefly leaves the waterway to cut across fields (often wet in winter) and rejoins it at Lower Frankton. This pretty hamlet is home to the Lower Frankton locks, a canal staircase.

    This is where the Way turns from the Llangollen Canal and follows the Montgomery Canal. Follow it down to Queen’s Head, a hamlet with a well-placed pub. The next village is Maesbury Marsh a little further down, another good place for a pub lunch if you fancy. Between Morton and Pant, the canal is drained and awaiting restoration, making for an interesting bit of walking. The canal bed here is overgrown but the towpath remains reasonably well-maintained.

    When the waterway is reinstated to the south of Pant, it’s not much farther until Llanymynech, where this Tour ends. This pretty village straddles the English/Welsh border and has several wonderful inns which provide food and accommodation.

    Difficult
    05:58
    14.5 mi
    2.4 mph
    375 ft
    350 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage follows the River Vyrnwy for the first half as it curves and loops its way through farmland. The river is liable to flooding in the winter, making this a Tour for drier months. Flat as a pancake until the hill at Nesscliffe, this is a relaxing hike across fields and a few lanes. Serene to the very end, birdsong will be your constant companion.

    Starting in Llanymynech, the first few miles of this hike cross the English/Welsh border several times so you’ll never be quite sure which nation you’re in. Best to bring some Welsh cakes just in case. After a while, the river becomes the border instead, so you’ll be safe to snack on English muffins.

    Leaving the river at Melverley, the Way travels along lanes, across fields and through woodlands to reach Nesscliffe. Rather than going directly to the village, the trail loops to the north-west and then ascends into the country park above the settlement. This is no bad thing, for the country park is stunning and offers lovely views. Be sure to stop by Kynaston Cave too.

    Nesscliffe has very limited accommodation options so book well in advance or catch the number 70 bus to Shrewsbury for many more choices. The bus leaves from outside the Three Pigeons pub, which is also a good place to get a meal and has its own accommodation.

    Difficult
    05:09
    12.4 mi
    2.4 mph
    350 ft
    425 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The final stage largely follows the Severn Way, meandering about the landscape via fields and lanes to the end in Shrewsbury. Flat, the final quarter follows the river closely as it loops into and around the historic market town.

    Start from Nesscliffe and cross over the A5 to reach the village of Wilcott. A quiet lane will take you to Felton Butler hamlet, before it whisks you off across a series of fields. Lanes and tracks lead to Montford Bridge, a quaint village with an old bridge spanning the River Severn. The trail then cuts across farmland to reach the Severn again, at Shelton on the outskirts of Shrewsbury.

    Follow the river path on its languishing curves and keep an eye out for Darwin’s Garden, a tiny patch of land where Charles Darwin played as a child when he lived here. The trail is the perfect way to enter the market town and end the Shropshire Way.

    The Way ends where it began, at Kingsland Bridge. Take your time exploring all that Shrewsbury has to offer, with its stunning cathedral, timbered buildings and independent shops. It has a well-served train station and plenty of local buses, for when you are ready to leave.

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    16
  • Distance
    213 mi
  • Duration
    92:36 h
  • Elevation
    14,425 ft
Kit P

Hills, meres, canals and castles — Shropshire Way South and North