Quite simply, there have not been enough days in the month. Our 31 Great Days Out In Shropshire series – one for each day throughout August – signposted people to some of the best family days out the county and its borderlands has to offer.
And at a time when budgets are tight, days out have become a real alternative to summer holidays.
But there were, of course, too many terrific destinations across the region to include.
Shropshire is spilling over with authentic, rural days out, from farms which have diversified to remain true to their agricultural heritage and now invite the public to enjoy a taste of the past, to walks at county landmarks such as the Long Mynd and The Wrekin.
We pointed out that Shropshire’s quiet countryside appeal was happily free from the fabricated virtues of theme parks, and it seems many readers agreed.
In response to the launch feature that pointed out the county did not have its own Alton Towers but was full of peaceful thrills, the Original Jake wrote: “Ah, Alton Towers. A magical land of fibreglass, piped music and the sickly reek of doughnuts everywhere. Lovely.”
We detect a note of irony, and support for Shropshire’s more authentic attractions.
Reader Paul Brown, from Shrewsbury, says: “I highly recommend a day out at Chirk Castle. Its history is fascinating. The castle is stunning and you can spend a whole day in the gardens alone.”
Craven Arms-based Stephanie Hayes suggests: “The Shropshire Hills shuttle buses make for a great day out in Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, providing easy access into the hills for walking, sightseeing, pub lunches, picnic and more.”
And the good folk at the River’s Rest at Ludlow run for the hills with their recommendation. They tweeted: “The sheer beauty of the Shropshire Hills. A must for all visitors to the area.”
Rambler and writer Ron Bond, from Oswestry, says all you need for a good day out is pair of walking boots. The county is one of the best in Britain for exploring the countryside. One of Ron’s favourites is a walk to Hindford and back.
“Excellent pubs with lots of narrowboats at this time,” he says, not to mention the chance of bumping into James Bond star Daniel Craig, whose dad lives locally.
We were also recommended to signpost readers to the recently restored Upton Cressett Hall, near Bridgnorth, a magnificent Tudor mansion named the best ‘hidden gem’ in last year’s Hudson’s Heritage Awards.
We’ll raise a glass to that . . . talking of which, Shropshire is becoming a capital for brewing real ales and increasing numbers are throwing open their doors to enthusiasts who arrive from near and far. Joule’s Brewery in Market Drayton hosts popular tours, and Bill Bainbridge, head brewer at the UK’s oldest brewery, Three Tuns Brewery in Bishop’s Castle, says his HQ is now visited by pilgrims from all over the world.
However, not all readers agree that some of the great days out are actually all that great. They may have encountered the attraction on the wrong day, or it did not live up to expectations of its billing, but whatever the reason obviously one hat does not fit all.
One reader, called Matt, wrote in about Wroxeter Roman City, saying: “I went there last year with my wife and three young children. The admission price is exorbitant for the actual attraction and there was nothing for children except a Roman Treasure Hunt (find Roman cut-outs – boring!).
“We visited the Roman villa only to find it empty and of no interest – nothing like it was on the series. As a family we enjoy stately homes and British heritage but, I’m sorry Wroxeter, you need to put in a lot more effort to encourage a wider range of visitor.”
On another day, however, it might be a different story. Other readers gave a hugely positive response to days out at Wroxeter.
Paul Gossage, director of marketing and PR for Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, says: “The 31 Great Days Out features have been a wonderful reminder of what a fantastic county Shropshire is to live in, as it offers so many different fascinating places to visit.
“While we welcome people from all over the world to the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site, it always lovely to hear that people are from the local area, keen to enjoy a day out on their doorstep.
“People often think that they have to travel for hours to have a day out, so it is great to see an initiative that encourages people to be a local tourist.”
There is, most agree, too much to do in 31 days. Simon McCloy, chief executive at Shropshire Tourism, says: “Shropshire is one of the least crowded and most peaceful areas of England yet, with over 90 attractions, 32 castles, 22 market towns, several countryside sites, churches and abbeys and more than our fair share of gardens and nurseries too.
“It is no surprise that there are simply too many places to visit and things to do in just one month. Research shows that three quarters of visitors to Shropshire are likely to return, so they obviously feel the same!”
By Ben Bentley