. Mountainous and rugged in the southwest, the highest point here being the Stiperstones, the county is more level in the east, although still hilly, with the River Severn winding through lush valleys. North of the Severn are the meres - a sort of Shropshire lake district - for which the county is famous. The Salop plain stretches from Whitchurch in the north to Church Stretton in the southwest, and the Wrekin rises from this plain to around 1200 feet.. in the south are the Clee Hills.
. Much of this area on the western edge of England is largely hill country, very verdant and deeply sliced with river valleys. it retains a remote, almost cut off atmosphere, even though the county town of Shrewsbury on the Severn was a gateway to the principality of Wales.
Origin of name: Latin: Civitas Scrobbensis, "the city around the scrub folk". The county could easily have followed in the footsteps of Dorset and Somerset and be known as Shropset, but due to the power and influence of Shrewsbury the county name took its form from the town (pronounced "Shro'sbury"), leading the district to be called Shrewsburyshire which was inevitably shortened to Shropshire. Norman clerks found the Shrewsburyshire intolerable to write or pronounce and abbreviated it all to Salop.
Name first recorded: 1006 as Scrobbesbyrigscir.
County Motto: floreat Sotopio ("Let Salop Flourish").
SHREWSBURY Two church spires pierce the skyline of this finely preserved medieval town. St Mary's spire was one of the three tallest in England; St Alkmund's is the other, its Lord Hill Column is only just shorter than Nelson's column.
BISHOP'S CASTLE Very pretty off-the-beaten track town clinging to a steep hillside with plenty of interesting pubs (including the Three Tuns, dating back to 1642), restaurants and antique shops to browse through.
BRIDGNORTH Worth seeing alone for the flight of steps and railway with the steepest gradient in England that links the High and Low Towns.
CHURCH STRETTON Said to have the highest golf course in England (much of it over 1,200 feet).
DAWLEY Domesday town which became a constituent part of Telford 'New Town'. Dawley Castle, built in 1361, owned by King Richard II but destroyed in 1645.
DONNINGTON Once an important flax and hemp centre, this town has a cobbled market place with attractive Georgian houses. Matthew Flinders, who discovered that compasses were affected by the iron in ships, died here in 1814.
ELLESMERE Attractive capital of the county's Lakeland with nine meres of its own and many boats jostling for
IRONBRIDGE/COALBROOKDALE Home to probably the most famous bridge in the country, the world's first iron bridge at 196 feet in length, it straddles a gorge across the Severn and is now justifiably a World Heritage Site.
NEWPORT inland fishing town since Saxon times!
OSWESTRY Unpretentious market town, Welsh in character with Georgian and Victorian buildings standing in harmony. Nearby, the Old Racecourse is a high stretch of common with great views.
TELFORD New, brash and a seemingly endless array of roundabouts and business parks, this was Britain's first new major city for centuries, begun in 1963.
. Hadley . Oakengates . Shifnal
Severn, Perry, Roden, Tern, Clun, Onny,
Brown Clee at 1772 feet.
. June 29: Rush Strewing Ceremony - Barrowden Church. Rushes from nearby fields are used in keeping with a provision that the field tenant - the Church - keeps up the ceremony each year.
. Sunday following June 29th: Hay Strewing Ceremony - Langham Church.
. Sunday nearest June 29th: Hay Strewing Ceremony
. Braunston Church. Part of a legacy from early Lord of the Manor to the parish clerk as a reward for finding his lost daughter. The East Midlands Gas Board now makes an annual payment in lieu of hay, as the original meadow now lies under the local gasworks.
. August: Mayor-making Ceremony - Oakham. Traditional greeting ceremony between new incumbent and predecessor.
. May: Oakham Fair - Oakham.
. 1st week in August: Rutland Agricultural Fair - Showground, Oakham.
. August Bank Holiday: Oakham Horticultural Show.
. Charles Darwin was born and educated in Shrewsbury. There's a statue in the library gardens.
. The ashes of A. E. Housman repose in Ludlow churchyard.
. Clive of India was born in Market Drayton.
. The composer of Merrie England, Sir Edward German, was born at Whitchurch.
. Britain's 'first lady' in the early 1990's, Norma Major wife of John, is a Shropshire lass.
The County of Shropshire has a two-tier set-up apart from the Wrekin, which controls its own affairs. Shropshire County Council and the five districts of Bridgnorth, North Shropshire, Oswestry, Shrewsbury & Atcham and South Shropshire administer the rest of the County.. The towns of Oldbury and Halesowen are Shropshire detached in Worcestershire under the administration of the two unitary councils of Dudley and Sandwell.
YOU CAN STILL soak in the flavour of a medieval border county in Shropshire and imagine how crossing Offa's Dyke for a Welshman might mean losing his right hand, or even his head! Medieval towns such as Shrewsbury and Oswestry are stunning and sport some of the most picturesque black and white timber and plaster houses of the late Middle Ages. Away from the towns this is a county of yeoman farmers and country squires that has changed little since those times of yore. Shropshire's wondrously mingled and often dramatic
scenery is I suppose now forever associated with the poetry of A. E. Housman, a local poet always in love with his county home. In A Shropshire Lad he depicts much of this most rural of counties, its splendid lushly green pastures spreading west and up unto the very walls of Wales. The Welsh influence lingers here, with many families claiming Celtic ancestry.
Central to its compact county is its capital, Shrewsbury It's a place that shows its age with great charm - many brick and half-timbered buildings, both black and white and in weathered wood, bulge and lean over picturesque old streets such as Grope Lane. There are other fine examples in Shrewsbury's school and in Abbot's House, Rowley's House, and ancient coaching inns like the Lion. There's an eccentric Georgian circular church and a 12th- century castle of pale sand- stone with a garden. A unique aspect of Shropshire's county town is its position, almost encircled by the river Severn.
Nearby is charmingly named Ditherington, where the oldest known iron-framed building is claimed as a prototype of the skyscraper. Atcham Church was first built with stones from Roman Viroconium, now Wroxeter. Haughmond Abbey is a striking Norman ruin. There's a lot of interest to find in southeastern Shropshire. Outside the city, towards Wellington, is Attingham Park, a noble porticoed mansion with curving side wings and a notable picture gallery hung with old masters and designed by John Nash. Attingham has grounds laid out by Humpry Repton.
The Wrekin, local legend has it, is a great shovelful of dirt dumped by the devil when he was beguiled into carrying the weight no further. This rocky outcrop certainly thrusts up suddenly out of the plain and there are panoramic views from the summit.
Beyond Wellington and its school is Tong, with a noted church, and Boscobel House with a tree marking the spot where the future Charles II supposedly hid in the Royal Oak. Near here is Weston Park, a Charles II house, and old houses at Shifnal were described by Charles Dickens in The Old Curiosity Shop.. To the north is Lilleshall Abbey and the new town of Telford, named after the engineer, and a sort- of Shropshire Milton Keynes. Buildwas Abbey, a Cistercian foundation near Cressage, shows the fine, simple architecture of the order. Coalbrookdale, an early centre of iron smelting, has a museum and ironmaster's cottages while at Blists Hill there is an open-air museum with industrial exhibits. Towards the Staffordshire border is Bridgnorth, an old and inviting town on the Severn divided into two levels, one high up connected by steps and a cliff railway, the other by the river. The high town has a leaning castle keep, steep streets of tall chimneyed houses, and a half-timbered hall that was made from an old barn. There is a church designed by Thomas Telford. Near the town is a cluster of country mansions - Wilderhope's Tudor stone manor, Elizabethan Shipton and Morville, and Acton Round Hall at AldenhamPark, among others.
Between the lovely Clee Hills and Wenlock Edge, two parallel hill ranges, lies the valley of the Corve, known as Corvedale. The beautiful vale is a country of handsome old farmhouses and fertile fields. The Corve runs into the Teme, and this takes you into Ludlow, one of the most memorable of Shropshire's towns. Ludlow's neat and compact centre has many pleasures, from its narrow alleys and fine Georgian and Regency houses to medieval buildings and notably some remarkable old inns; the ornately half- timbered Feathers is 15th century and has many interior details such as elaborate plaster ceilings and wall paintings. Ludlow's claim for the largest parish church in England is disputed by at least three more in other parts of the country, but St Laurence certainly has a grand and elegant 15th-century air. The northern part of the county is open arable land. It has many small villages of black and white work. and stately manor houses, reflecting the riches brought to local families by farming these fields. The typical old houses are often built on local sandstone blocks, their upper storeys half timbered in complex patterns, under slate roofs. Aside from these regional aspects the black and white villages are real places to live, such as Hodnet with its Norman church and extensive water gardens at the imposing brick
Victorian hall. This is very satisfying countryside, spreading wide to the Cheshire border. Notable places include Whitchurch, with Roman origins and a net of old streets, gaining its name from an early White Church, and Oswestry, with rail and canal links - at nearby Chirk is anaqueduct and a stone viaduct carrying the rails. The west and southwest of the county is the loveliest, wild and empty with great mysterious hills. The Long Mynd, a wonderful ridge stretching for 10 miles, and the Clun Forest hills are places apart. On the edge of the hill mass the main centre of this sheep-farming area is the pleasant little market town of Church Stretton. It is a good centre for walkers who want to climb these hills.
Clun was founded in the Bronze Age and prehistoric relics are kept at the museum. There is a Bronze Age stone circle on a nearby hilltop, and high earthwork walls encircle a fortress at Chapel Lawn. Wroxeter has parts of a Roman town to show and there's a museum of life in Viroconium Cornoviorum. At Quatt the church is deceptive - it looks 18th century but inside it is medieval with a Norman font. The church at Stokesay has Norman stones, but is largely 17th century with a typical pulpit and sounding board. Nearby Stokesay Castle is a rare example of a fortified moated manor house.
Ludlow is crowned with a looming sandstone castle where Milton's masque Comus was first performed, and now a drama festival transforms the fortress every summer. Here the two young sons of Edward IV were kept before being taken to their death in the Tower of London, and it was the home of the infamous Mortimer who plotted with Queen Isabella to murder Edward II at Berkeley to achieve power through the queen's son.