December 4, 2021

Thrills in the hills: You don’t need to be a mountaineer to enjoy Shropshire’s gentle hikes 

Find your thrills in the hills: You don’t need to be a mountaineer to enjoy Shropshire’s gentle hikes

  • The Shropshire Hills are near the West Midlands and the North-West, and a three-hour drive from London
  • At the heart of the hills, Church Stretton was once a favoured spa town and often termed ‘Little Switzerland’ 
  • ‘The scenery is awe-inspiring — some of the prettiest in all of England,’ writes the Daily Mail’s Steve Thomas 

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Regular visitors to the Shropshire Hills may feel they know the terrain well, but beware: things may not always work out quite that way.

After reaching the top of Hope Bowdler Hill in fast-falling snow, it is probably best, for example, not to start videoing yourself for a jokey Julie Andrews-inspired online post.

Then to find yourself dazed and disorientated realising that any footprints and sign of the trail have disappeared on the wide‑open summit. Which is what happened to me (I had absolutely no idea which direction I was facing).

The Daily Mail’s Steve Thomas explored the Shropshire Hills. Pictured is the view from Hope Bowdler Hill

When approaching the Shropshire Hills, the way is quite flat, except when coming from the west. The gently rolling landscape appears on the horizon from a long way out. The scenery is awe-inspiring — some of the prettiest in all of England.

At the heart of the hills, Church Stretton was once a favoured spa town and often termed ‘Little Switzerland’. And when you get up close, that tag makes perfect sense.

Yet the Shropshire Hills are close to the West Midlands and the North-West, and a little over a three-hour drive from London. Up on a long walk, though, you feel far removed from all the hustle and urban bustle.

For an outdoor or nature enthusiast, it’s a revelation. There are miles of fine trails to explore. Most are well marked, easy to navigate (when not in snow storms) and less stressful to follow than some of their rougher-cut cousins across the Welsh border.

Church Stretton is small but has a good selection of restaurants, watering holes and places to stay. It sits in a flat-bottomed valley that straddles the A49 and the Welsh border railway line. 

Within minutes of stepping out from town you find yourself at the well-manicured feet of the hills, and are served up with an all-you-can-hike buffet of trail options. 

Wild horses roam the Long Mynd, a long and flat heather-topped hill that is smothered in trails

Wild horses roam the Long Mynd, a long and flat heather-topped hill that is smothered in trails

Easy-going: A rewarding walk towards Shropshire’s rugged Caer Caradoc Hill

Easy-going: A rewarding walk towards Shropshire’s rugged Caer Caradoc Hill

From here on in, it’s more or less just you and the pint-sized wild horses that roam the hills.

West of town is the Long Mynd, a long and flat heather-topped hill that is smothered in trails. These can be knit together to suit your energy levels. If clambering to the 1,693ft summit sounds like heavy going then you can simply walk the plateau trails.

My own favourite walks are those on the less trodden eastern flank of town, over the Hope Bowdler and Caer Caradoc hills. These are a little tougher on the legs and more rugged in nature.

Walking is a superb way to experience the local nature, especially when the seasonal heather blooms through the late summer purple patch and also as the autumnal colours mellow out.

Remember to be prepared for the occasional adverse weather blip and the low mist that can fall over these hills.

And, of course, try to avoid any Julie Andrews-inspired online posts if the snow starts coming down.  

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