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Shrewsbury in General
Member Name: mouette
Shrewsbury in General
Date: 12/10/05, updated on 24/10/10 (1838 review reads)
Advantages: A picturesque historic town. Easy to get to.
Disadvantages: Not the easiest town for people in wheelchairs
So is it worth it?
YES. It's a charming market town nestled on a hill and virtually surrounded by the River Severn. Picturesque was a word made for Shrewsbury and it is a lovely place to wander around at a leisurely pace. Ideal for a weekend break, it is also a great place to start from if discovering Mid Wales and the South Shropshire Hills. I give details of how to get to Shrewsbury below ('how to find it').
The centre of Shrewsbury, thanks to the river, has been largely protected from the character assassination that many towns have had to endure. Sure it has its malls with the names you'll all recognise, but it also has small alleyways (some called shuts as they were closed at night), abundant old black and white houses, medieval streets, independent shops and, of course, the river.
It is (within the river horseshoe) a small compact town that is best seen on foot, and that is the best way of getting around. I always park to the west of the town, in the Frankwell car park, as it is cheap and gives easy access to the town centre. The downside is that you have to cross a bouncy bridge and you enter from the Riverside Shopping Centre, a rather tatty and unattractive first view.
Wherever you start from, if shopping is your thing the place to head for is Pride Hill, a pedestrianised street that, along with its two shopping malls - the Darwin Centre and Pride Hill (which both lead out to the Riverside Shopping Centre), has many of the favourite household names. Like all towns it has suffered from store closures and though the Woolworths store was quickly snapped up by H&M, others in Pride Hill remain empty.
That said, as Shrewsbury is an affluent town in a largely affluent county there remain plenty of shops that will enhance any window shopping experience. There are shops selling designer clothes (for ladies - The Dresser or Carol Grants, men - Pockets), trendy clothes (never visited any myself!), delicatessants (try Appleyard's - a foodies heaven), art galleries (Callaghan's - beautiful but very expensive art; Bear Steps Gallery - local and affordable), organic food shops, wine merchants (Tanners - award winning), antiques, haberdasheries...the list goes on and even includes a specialist chocolate shop (make for the Chocolate Gourmet). Much of the independent choices can be found in Butchers Row, Wyle Cop, Grope Lane, St. Alkmunds Place, Dogpole and Mardol streets (great names aren't they).
There are more shops in and around the Market Square, which is dominated by the Old Market Hall. Built in 1596 it now houses a film and digital media centre and is the backdrop to some occasional and rather average market stalls.
After all that shopping food and drink might be on your mind. There are plenty of pubs to choose from, many of them with a good range of beers and comfortable atmospheres. If you like a smoke free environment try the Three Fishes Inn in Fish Street, one of the oldest streets in Shrewsbury (and worth a visit in its own right).
For food, I recommend the Armoury down near the river on Victoria Avenue (good pub food in comfortable surroundings); the Bellstone Hotel on Barker Street (brasserie with wide choice) is good for lunches; Franks Café Bar on the Welsh Bridge (great atmosphere at night) and Draper's Hall, St, Mary's Street (quality food set in an old medieval building). Loch Fyne has been a welcome addition. There are many more to choose from that cover a range of international cuisines, and the Shrewsbury Guide link below is a good place to start.
Should you want to walk off lunch then a great place to head is the aforementioned Quarry Park, a large (29 acres) riverside park that includes formal gardens (the Dingle - made famous by Percy Thrower) and a fitness centre - if walking isn't enough.
Events are also held in the park, including the annual Shrewsbury flower show, which according to Guinness World Records the world's longest running horticultural show. It is held over 2 days in August and has a huge range of flowers, vegetables, garden designs, entertainment (this year's included horse jumping, quad bike tricks and Katherine Jenkins singing - all in the pouring rain) and to cap it all fireworks.
The park also hosts various events. Jools Holland and guests, Will Young, Travis and others have performed over the years. Always a open bring your own picnic type of event.
If music or theatre is of interest then the new Shrewsbury theatre, The Severn Theatre, opened in 2009. It has a 650 seat main auditorium and a 250 seat studio theatre for more experimental performances. The range of shows has got better since its opening year, and the auditorium is comfortable with good views and acousitics. For film, there is a cinema which is walkable from the centre on Old Potts Way (outside the horseshoe) for mainstream films or for more 'arty' films the Old Market Hall mentioned above. The Old Music Hall, which used to be the towns' theatre is bing re-furbished and will re-open in 2012 as a musem and art gallery.
It could be you are after some late night dancing and there are a number of clubs - Diva for over 25's, Liquid, Flairs, Ministry, The Butterworth with lots of events - though my night clubbing days are now just a distant memory so I can't comment on the quality.
There are of course a few places to visit that don't include shops or alcohol for those trying to avoid temptation.
Castles can be found all along the English / Welsh border, and Shrewsbury is no exception. With parts dating from the 11th Century it has had many alterations and additions and now houses the collections of the Shropshire Regimental Museum - so if military history is for you the castle is a must see. Views aren't too bad either. Being an old town there are a number of medieval churches; The Abbey (which survived Henry VIII's destructive phase), St. Mary's (the best example of an original medieval church), St. Alkmund's Church, and the rebuilt St. Chad's, all of which are worth a quick visit.
If you want to take things really slowly you can take boat trips on the river - they leave from the Victoria Quay, next to the Welsh Bridge or alternatively head back to your hotel room and sleep.
Places to Stay include B&B's from around £20pp upto Hotels for £175 per room. Most fall somewhere in between £40 and £100. The best hotel is the Prince Rupert, the former home of Prince Rupert, James I's grandson. Parts of the hotel are very old, so rooms vary in size but it has a certain charm and service is good.
If you have exhausted the town itself, nearby (not all inclusive) there are the National Trust properties of Attingham Park and Powis Castle, Acton Burnell Castle (English Heritage), Llangollen Canal and Weston Park (where they hold the annual V festival).
How to find it.
Shrewsbury is situated on the English / Welsh border and is approximately 70 miles west of Birmingham. It is easily accessible by car with dual carriage way (A5) / motorway (M54) from the M6. Trains come from all directions and it is in easy reach of Birmingham, Chester, Liverpool and Manchester. Coach is also an option with National Express
If you drive, park and ride locations are signed from all main directions (cost £1), though I recommend that anyone heading from the North, West or South heads for the Frankwell car park which is on the Welsh side of town, just before the unsurprisingly named Welsh Bridge. Only £3 for all day parking is a rare bargain. If coming from the East a good parking choice is Shrewsbury Football club's ground (make sure they are playing away from home!) which is just before the English Bridge.
Park and Ride Parking: Oxon (West) - Off A458 Welshpool Road, Meole Brace (South) Off A5112 Hereford Road, Harlescott (North East) - Off A5112 Whitchurch Road
Bits and pieces of Other
If you need to do food shopping there is a Sainsbury's, Tesco, Asda and Morrisons in the town.
The Tourist Information Centre is located within the Music Hall which is on the Market Square
The Welsh Bridges and English bridges are the only way into the centre of the town (unless you count a single lane toll bridge) and they date from the 18th century.
Previous names for Shrewsbury: Pengwern (Briton), Scrobbes-brig (Saxon), Salopesberia (Norman)
You can gaze up at the Statue of 'Clive of India' in Market Square or that of Charles Darwin at the town library. Other famous locals include Wilfred Owen, Percy Thrower, Mary Webb and the fictional Brother Cadfael.
Not so good
Castle Street, High Street and Mardol would be better pedestrianised.
It's on a hill and there are cobbled streets which isn't so good for wheelchairs.
Useful web links
Food info: www.shrewsburyguide.info/shrewsbury_food.html
The Theatre Severn: www.theatresevern.co.uk/
The Old Market Hall: www.oldmarkethall.co.uk/
The Music Hall: www.musichall.co.uk
Thanks for reading.
Summary: Shrewsbury is the historic medieval county town of Shropshire, 9 miles east of the Welsh border