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I've just got back from a weekend in Ludlow, spent wandering around their justifiably famous Medieval Christmas Fayre - which is held inside the grounds of the picturesque Ludlow Castle, which dates to the appropriate period of history, adding authenticity, not that such a thing was lacking. As well as the expected New Age nonsense, there were some seriously good fun things to see, eat and do at the Fayre - stalls selling local crafts and food and drink, archery to have a go at, sword fights to watch, and best of all, everyone was in medieval dress (some stalls actually sell it!) This continued into the town, where people were dressed up in the pubs and shops - so the atmosphere followed you home. We stayed at the Bromley Court B&B - HIGHLY recommended - it's three separate cottages, with dedicated entrances, so you have loads of privacy, the place was gorgeous inside, with such attention to detail - plasters supplied in the bathroom, for example, and local honey for breakfast! They supply all the fixings of a DIY breakfast - cereal, toast, fruits, yoghurt, ham, boiled eggs, cheese, croissants etc, as well as useful things like vinegar, salt, pepper, sauces, and teas, coffees and hot chocolate so you can happily camp out for a few days and just buy easy meals. Ludlow is also famous for its association with the Slow Food movement, and has an annual Food Festival - I'm going next year, I've decided! If you want a weekend away from it all, in gorgeous surroundings (the Shropshire landscape is lovely, and there is loads to do nearby as well), then give Ludlow a whirl.
Ludlow Castle has a history stretching back to the 11th Century when work first began on it. It was considerably enlarged in the 14 Century and was the site of a skirmish in the Wars of the Roses a hundred years later. It was also a home for Edward IV's sons who later became 'The Princes In The Tower' as well as Prince Arthur (Henry VIII's brother) and Queen Mary Tudor spent some years here. This then is a Castle with a lot of history. So what is it like? It remains not as a complete ruin and many of the features built over the ages remain almost in tact and certainly recognisable. There is the basic but classic Norman structure enhanced by additions of Medieval and Tudor origin. There is a moat with a bridge to cross to get into the inner area and the Keep. It would be particularly useful for any school children to visit if they are studying castles in their history classes. The castle does also have extensive grounds to walk around and picnic areas inside and outside. Ludlow itself is an attractive market town with lots of interesting craft shops and a market which runs 3 days a week. Many of the houses and restaurants date back to the 16th- 17th - and 18th century and it is like walking onto a Jane Austen set in many parts. There are a large number of antique shops but we found prices to be exhorbitantly high, still its always nice to browse. Ludlow and its castle make an enjoyable destination for a day out. The surrounding countryside of Shropshire make it a pleasant trip too as there are pleasant villages and towns like Knighton, Bridgnorth and Welshpool in close proximity. Admission at the Castle is £3.00 for adults and £1.50 for children, and £2.50 for senior citizens. A family ticket at £8.50 hardly saves you anything unless you've 3 children.
What are you looking for in a weekend break? Historic buildings, beautiful countryside, michelin star restaurants or a relaxed atmosphere? All can be found by visiting Ludlow in Shropshire. I must admit at the beginning of this article to being slightly biased - I was raised in this stunning town! So what is special? Firstly the setting. An unspoilt town of black and white and georgian buildings, set by the river Teme. Above the town rises the spire of St Lawrence Church, one of the finest parish churches in the country. On the other side the Norman castle still defends the town. Ludlow still has the grid system laid down by the Romans. It is easy to wander through streets filled with Tudor buildings reflecting it power in Tudors times. Arthur, Henry VIIIs elder brother had his honeymmon here at the castle with Catherine of Aragon. She was later to marry Henry. In earlier time the famous Princes of the Tower also stayed at Ludlow. Today the castle is a great place to walk around- don't miss the circular chapel. In the summer the Ludlow Festival holds open air performances of one of Shapespeare's plays. Nearby is the parish church, a symbol of the town's importance and wealth. Its soaring perpendicular architecture is like a minature cathedral. It contains fine stained glass, carvings and Elizabethan tombs. Ask for the key to go up the tower to view the rollling countryside. It will alsways be associated with A.E. Houseman and his poem "A Shropshire Lad". Broad Street has been described by Betjamin as one of the most beautiful streets in England with it fine georgian houses when Ludlow again became a fashionable haunt for the gentry. Nelson stayed here. As you go through the Bull Ring you reach Corve Street and the famous Feathers Hotel one of the oldest inns in the country. It has a nice front bar for a drink if you can't afford to stay here. This is just the icing on the cake. You can try boating on the river, visit the race course or just enjoy the michelin star restaurants here - more than anywhere outside London. People are coming here for the food alone. If you feel like some exercise enjoy the surrounding hills. Accommodation is plentiful and varied. Ring the local tourist office and give it a try!