Ludlow is fortified by a bend in the River Teme in the Welsh Marches borderland. Proud residents preserve their heritage with the care of white-gloved curators. In and around its cobbled streets and listed buildings, a reflection of the wealth of Shropshire’s woolen, cloth and glove trades, there are independent shops and restaurants and cafes favoring local produce. Antique shops, delicatessens, and countryside views complete its appeal.
The ruins overlooking Ludlow were the home of Arthur, the Prince of Wales (son of Henry VII) and his wife, Catherine of Aragon. Arthur and Catherine moved into the castle after their wedding, but Arthur died six months later. Catherine claimed that she had never consummated the union, which allowed her to mate with Arthur’s younger brother, Henry VIII.
Today, Ludlow Castle is a family attraction that hosts events, this year including concerts by Bastille and the Kaiser Chiefs. Climb its towers to survey the city and miles of surrounding fields. Its position, first chosen in 1086, was strengthened by the addition of the Ludlow town walls beginning in 1233.
How to get there and get around
The train station is a 10-minute walk from the city center and is served by the Transport for Wales (tfw.wales) service, with connections to GWR routes (gwr.com) for travel to other parts of England.
leave your bags
The Townhouse Ludlow is a guest house just off Broad Street, one of the main thoroughfares. The rooms are generous in size with traditional decor. The high ceilings are adorned with exposed beams and the cream, red and green color scheme is accentuated by floral and flocked bedspreads and curtains. Four-poster or heavy-frame beds, high-backed armchairs, and deep sofas complete the look. Tea, hot chocolate and cookies are well stocked and amenities include a fridge and coffee maker. During winter double rooms start from £110 on weekdays or £120 at weekends. The Townhouse does not offer breakfast, but there are plenty of options within a five-minute walk.
Browse the stores
Rotary phones, rainbow-striped faux fur vests, dog bandanas: a collection of gifts from Ludlow’s boutiques should answer the most discerning recipients. Bodenhams, which was founded in 1860 and sells menswear, womenswear, homewares and lingerie, is the oldest.
Pottery, gins, plants and more are available at the outdoor market in the town square on Castle Street. More than 40 stalls set up here every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday of the year. There is also a market most Sundays.
Head to Eclectica for colorful outfits, The Silver Pear for knickknacks, and Mousetrap Cheese Shop for bits of smelly treasure. Castle Bookshop has a large selection of titles, including literature on the town. There are two delis in the centre: Harp Lane (run by the team behind The Townhouse Ludlow) and the Broad Bean. Wander the back streets of Ludlow to browse the Mod Lang vinyl record collection, then wander Old Street for some antiques.
Kin Kitchen is Ludlow’s newest independent cafe, with a menu that includes produce grown in their garden and sourced from local vendors. Sunlight pours into the back room, with a sofa, a coffee table made from the trunk of a felled tree, and clapboard walls creating an elegant yet homey setting. It’s open for breakfast and dinner, with a Sunday brunch menu that includes dishes like a Full Ludlow Butcher’s Breakfast (£10.50) and Stuffed Mushrooms on Toasted Beer Bread (£7). Clients can also book one of their elegant apartments.
If all you’re craving is pastry and cappuccino, stop by Local to Ludlow Café on the Square.
Shelters for rainy days
Ludlow Museum, £1.10 adults, under 16s free) is housed in the 18th-century Buttercross Building. It details local history from the Stone Age to the World Wars, with fossils, a medieval chasuble and audio accounts from its collection. Ludlow Assembly Rooms has a program of films, theater and art exhibitions.
The Church of San Lorenzo, or “The Cathedral of the Marches”, dates back 800 years. Take a look at its stained glass windows, misericords, and the place where Prince Arthur’s “heart” (probably a colloquial term for his intestines) was buried. A 15 minute bus ride will take you to The Ludlow Farm Shop.
A drink by the fire
Ludlow’s lounge pubs are a cool stop after or before dinner, with no phone calls, arcade games, or TVs. Try The Blood Bay and The dog hangs well; the latter could easily be mistaken for a private living room from the street and has a fireplace inside.
Along the same street as The Dog Hangs Well is The Feathers Hotel, built in 1619 and opened as an inn in 1670. The half-timbered facade, armor and irregular rooms create a spooky atmosphere and its accommodation has been known to attract “ghost hunters.”
A venue for local bands and a two-minute walk from the train station, Ludlow Brewery also has a wood-burning stove for enjoying home-brewed beers.
Three things you may not know about Ludlow…
1) He was the Norman forerunner of people like Milton Keynes; a new planned city, built on a grid.
2) The castle became the administrative center of the Welsh Marches in the 16th century.
3) John Betjeman wrote that it was “probably the loveliest town in England”.
CSons at The Green Café is a Ludlow favorite using local, seasonal produce. West Midlands mushroom tamales and dark chocolate rum mousse cake are among your Friday night dinner.
The same family (CSons comes from four brothers with the last name Crouch) is behind Sourced Pizza in Quality Square, where sourdough serves as the base for options like Shropshire Shrooms and Shroppy Giuseppe.
For a light walk try the “Whitcliffe & Breadwalk”. Starting at the castle entrance, walk along Dinham (through the castle gardens), follow the path downhill and cross the river over Dinham Bridge. Take the trail to the left for a view of the castle and town, before passing a mini waterfall and the dam.
Alternatively, the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is less than 25 minutes’ drive away and has more strenuous walks. Find out more at visitshropshire.co.uk, theludlowguide.co.uk and letsgoludlow.com.