Spring Walks: 3 Castles, 3 Breweries, 4 walks

These 4 days took in some of the finest walking in the beautiful South Shropshire hills, 3 of the West of England’s finest small independent breweries and 3 of the most distinctive historic castles in the area.

The walking began with a half day, 12 mile, walk followed by the second day of 16 miles and the third of 14 miles. The last day was long but very rewarding.  Days 2 and 3 were two of the most beautiful walks we have discovered.

Each evening finished with a full-gig, starting at 8pm, except at The Plough, Wistanstow on Wednesday 1st June when there was a session. Many brought their own instruments and joined in. Click here for details of the gigs.

Day 1. Tuesday 31st May. We started with a half day, 12 mile walk from Aymestry to Ludlow Castle, along the Mortimer Trail.

After lunch at the Riverside pub, we followed the Mortimer Trail up to Croft Ambrey, a National Trust site, and on through the ancient woodland of Mortimer Forest with dramatic views to east and west with a final dramatic descent through Whitecliffe Common overlooking Ludlow Castle and the town. The finish was at Ludlow Castle. The Ludlow Brewery was then a short walk / drive from there where we had a celebratory and well earner pint before the band disappeared for the sound check.

The brewery is in a superbly renovated engine shed next to the Railway Station and is a great venue, serving the excellent Ludlow Gold. It is well worth a visit.

Day 2. Wednesday 1st June. Walkers brought a packed lunch. We started at 9.30am at Ludlow Castle. This walk was 16 miles. We droped down to cross the River Teme, ascending Whitecliffe and heading west through Bringewood Chase, with its large herds of Fallow Deer. We then headed north along the Herefordshire Trail and dropped steeply into the Teme Valley to re-cross the river at Castle Bridge and stopped for lunch in front of Downton Castle around 12.30.

1.15 approx. we left the Teme Valley and cross the A4113 at Decoy Cottage and headed northwest out into the rolling arable fields of the Onny Valley, with superb views of Ludlow behind us. We reached an isolated Primitive Methodist Chapel and descended into the curiously named Brandhill Gutter. We passed though and over Stoke Wood to descend towards the impressive Stokesay Castle, with Craven Arms beyond. Stokesay is well worth a visit, open 10am to 6pm. We drove to The Plough at Wistanstow, just north of Craven Arms, for a session in the evening. Food is available at The Plough, click here for their menu. Please call 01588 673 251 to book.

Day 3. Thursday 2nd June. Started 9.30 at Stokesay Castle. Walkers brought a packed lunch. This walk was 14 miles. A gentler day in every sense and a beautiful morning’s walk to start. Leaving the Onny Valley on The Shropshire Way, we crossed the single-track Heart of Wales line and passed through the parkland of Sibdon Carwood Castle and over Hopesay Hill with wonderful views to the west and down into the small village of Hopesay for our first stop by the church. Again climbing gently, we headed west, passing into the tiny hamlet of Kempton and up through Walcott Park to take our 2nd stop and lunch at the picnic area and car-park at the main approach to Bury Ditches, the large iron-age fort and historic site which dominates this highest point of our day’s walk with great panoramic views of iconic Border hills.

In the distance is Bishop’s Castle and we descended into the valley through Brockton and across to Colebatch to enter BC on the Shropshire Way. Finished by 4.30 at The Three Tuns. Time to relax. The 3 Tuns serves great food. Click here for their menu. Please call 01588 638 797 to book a meal.

Day 4. Friday 3rd June. Started at the Three Tuns. 9.00 am. 19 miles today. Walkers brought a packed lunch. This was a long tough day with 3 long ascents. We re-traced our steps along the Shropshire Way, crossing the A488 and through the characterful hamlet of Acton and climbing through Red Wood and over into the Clun Valley. First short stop, after some 6 miles, was in Clun which has the excellent White Horse pub and a supermarket close by.

We then had a long ascent of Clun Hill and over to descend to the tiny hamlet of Pentre, before following the River Redlake to Chapel Lawn. This remote valley, overlooked by the ancient hill-fort of Caer Caradoc has that unique timeless atmosphere of Border valleys. Still heading south we climbed to Stowe Hill and over to descend Ragged Kingdom, a lot easier than coming up, but this time June Tabor was not there to sing for us. Short stop at the bridge over the Teme below Stowe.

Our last ascent was a long one up to Reeves Hill and over to Stonewall Hill where we were rewarded by the dramatic all-round views, south to the Black Mountains and north to the Long Mynd and Clee Hills. We had a gentle descent to Presteigne to finish with a celebratory drink at The Duke’s Arms, next door to the Gig at The Assembly Rooms.