Ludlow local Hannah Mackley reveals the best walks to experience the history and natural beauty of the Shropshire Hills and indulge in its most delicious food...
Only five minute’s drive (or a half hour walk) out of Ludlow and you’ll find Mortimer Forest. Head for High Vinnalls via the stunning views of Ludlow from the viewpoint at the top of Whitcliffe Common. Mortimer Forest is a beautiful stretch of Forestry Commission woodland with well-signposted tracks and trails – great for mountain bikers, walkers, and options for gentle strolls too – I’ve spent many hours here with pushchairs, bikes and dogs.
The car park can be busy, but don’t be alarmed – once you’re out of the main areas, you often hardly see a soul. My favourite walk is the Climbing Jack route, which takes you up and over the top of High Vinnalls – the uphill climb is well worth it when you get to the summit and look out over the miles and miles of countryside, it’s glorious.
Another route here is my favourite in Spring – with bluebells and wild garlic in great swathes under the trees, it feels like nowhere else on earth. I’m not sure what the official name is, but head up then turn left when you get to the first main bit of forestry track (ignore the all ability trail bits) before dropping down to the left through the woods – it’s where lots of the mountain bikers go. Follow your nose – when the garlic’s out, you really can smell it a mile off!
A wonderful walk, straight from Ludlow town centre, out into open countryside and back - I’m so lucky to live in a town where I can walk in beautiful places that feel like real countryside straight from my front door. Going from the Market Square, head left past the Castle, down Dinham Hill and over Dinham Bridge.
Turn right at the Cliffe Hotel sign, past the allotments on your left (with a little nose at how other people’s beans are doing…) and on the single track road out past fields and farms and on through the Oakley Park Estate. The road is generally quiet so it’s a good one for children and bikes, with gentle hills and not much traffic. Get delicious picnic food at the Ludlow Food Centre, or have lunch in their café, and wander slowly home.
Extend the route slightly along the river bank as you get back into Ludlow, instead of heading back over Dinham Bridge, follow the river path down past the weirs and have a pint at The Charlton Arms by Ludford Bridge whilst watching the dippers and kingfishers from the terrace – after all, you’ve earned it…
Being a local girl, this one is a personal favourite; I’ve done it for years – first as a child and now with my own family – it’s not particularly taxing, but a good walk for when you just want to stretch your legs and not go for miles. Starting from the market square, head left past the castle and down towards Dinham Bridge. CSONS at the Green Café is to the right by the Millenium Green – so grab a coffee to pep you up for the way round, or stop for lunch or tea on the way back, definitely worth the stop.
The Bread Walk is a circular route so you can either go left along the river or up the short sharp hill with steep steps and enjoy a longer downhill yomp back around to the left. About half way round, you’ll find one of the very best views of Ludlow from the top of Whitcliffe Common, so definitely make time to stop and find a bench before carrying on.
Truly stunning, and so peaceful – only a short drive from Ludlow finds you at Downton. Much of the walk is through private country estate land, so take a map if you haven’t walked around here before - many of the lanes here are private so get the map out before you leave, you’ll also need to find somewhere to park near one of the footpaths.
It’s a super walk, over fields and tracks, and much of it by the river – some areas can be quite overgrown, but the odd nettle sting is definitely worth it when you get to the horseshoe weir. The landscape here was designed as part of the Picturesque Movement by the local gentry, and it’s beautiful.
Take a change of shoes and you could even squeeze in lunch at Old Downton Lodge, but they’re so nice there they probably wouldn’t mind if muddy boots were left by the door. If you’re feeling particularly intrepid another time, you could do more of the Shropshire Way – part of it goes through this area and takes in some of the most beautiful parts of the county.
This is a lovely walk, where you hardly see a soul. If you’re feeling energetic, walk from town down Lower Wood Road until you reach the gateway right at the end. Then head up left and follow the tracks to the wonderful Victorian water tower.
The water is piped all the way from the Elan Valley to Birmingham – it’s gravity-fed and takes three days, quite a feat of Victorian engineering. So take the time to pause and hear it rushing by… Very rare that you see another soul up here, it’s a glorious place to explore – there are heaps of loops you can do all across Mortimers Forest, so grab a map and work out how you can tie the water tower in, definitely worth doing.
You can follow the higher route from here all the way back to Ludlow with great views to Downton Castle and Wenlock Edge in the distance. It’s a good route to do in reverse as a loop too.
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