My wife and I have just spent a couple of days enjoying a spa hotel break in Shropshire. We like drivable short breaks in the UK . They give you a change of scenery and culture without travelling for hours and hours, and you don’t have to cook. There is so much less stress and pre-planning involved than with a long holiday or holiday abroad. And you don’t need passports, travel insurance, loads of documents and foreign money. You don’t have to go to an airport and queue in zig-zag lines to take your shoes off and put them back on again to do an 8 mile walk to the departure gate. You’re not restricted by baggage allowances and language, you don’t have to drive on the incorrect side of the road, and from experience there is less chance of getting funny tummy or malaria.
Its not all plain sailing (or rather plain driving) however. You do need as much luggage for two days in the UK as you do for a fortnight in Spain because you will need to pack your winter coats and shoes (even in the summer) and you will take home-comforts and gadgets just because you can fit them in the car. Also, you do have to you have to be prepared for traffic delays unless you are rich enough to go by rail and there are no strikes or feathers on the tracks. In fact ‘traffic obstructions on the road’ are a big thing these days – just ask my satnav – as more and more herberts crash or breakdown for the fun of it.
Anyway, this time we went to a hotel in Oswestry. Situated in a quiet corner of Shropshire, Oswestry isn’t the prettiest, most buzzing and fashionable place but… it is a tidy, pleasant market town, has plenty of character, a good few independent shops and we found the locals to be extremely friendly. Its big plus point is the fact that it is surrounded by history (castles and heritage attractions), and attractive countryside. It is also close to, in fact half surrounded by, Wales and close to little Welsh gems like Llangollen.
During our stay, we visited the wonderful British Ironwork Centre and Sculpture Park. Here you can put your arm in the mouth of a shark, walk with elephants and meet Spiderman, Robocop and SpongeBob SquarePants, all in the same afternoon– whilst following up with a coffee and meal in the Forge cafe. We walked the 90 acres of land, exploring the amazing sculptures, browsed the artisan workshops and the showroom filled with the most eclectic and funky collection of iron goods and home accessories The centre also has a social conscience – focussing on sculptures of endangered species and promoting awareness of national and global sustainability issues. Here are a few of the photos I took.
Other highlights of our trip was the Stonehouse Brewery on the outskirts of Oswestry where we enjoyed a great meal and some fine beers in a wonderful setting adjoining a babbling brook and an apple orchard. And believe me, we needed a drink having walked there from the town and getting lost on public footpaths on a hot day. If you are in the area and fancy a visit, go on a weekend when you can catch a train (the Cambrian Heritage Railway) from the town to the Western Wharf ‘period’ station adjoining the Brewery and join one of the brewery tours. I was so in the moment enjoying my beers and meal I forgot to take photos!
The photos below feature Cae Glas Park – one of the nicest and most pristine town park I have been to for some time. Packed within its 7 acres there there is a bandstand, a ‘Sports Village’, a bowling green, children’s play area, areas of spring and summer bedding displays, a pavilion, greenhouses and a house which is rented out. After a good ‘pottering’ and a game of crazy golf, we crossed through the Memorial gates across the road to our hotel for a rest and spruce up before setting out for our evening meal.
On Wednesday, we sampled the busy and colourful Oswestry street and indoor Market. I had to be dragged away from the two vinyl record stalls after (according to my wife) spending too much time rummaging and talking to the Welsh stallholders.
Oswestry was never on our bucket list of places to go. My sister in law suggested it after finding a good hotel deal and we knew it was an interesting area. I’m glad we went. It just shows you how much there is out there to see and experience within 100 miles or so and without giving yourself stress and silly expense.
Here are some more images of Oswestry……