An English market town along the border with Wales, Bishop’s Castle sits at a crossroads man and beast have traveled since prehistoric times.
Located in southwest Shropshire among the Shropshire Hills (a Designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), Bishop’s Castle is ideal for your home base when exploring this part of England. You are surrounded by the Long Mynd, farmland, and villages. Bishop’s Castle is a place of great natural beauty, the best food in England, walking holidays, hospitality, gliding, Real Ale, history, myths, and castles.
I visited Bishop’s Castle while on a hotel scouting trip in western England. I explored and gathered information while being hosted at Bank House B&B.
1. Have Your Tea In An English Herb Garden
When staying in Bishops Castle, the Bank House B&B was my host for lodging. Whether you are a solo walker or a family spending a holiday in the hills. In the center of town, the Bank House is a historic building that’s undergone many faces from bank to B&B.
A lovely garden waits for you to take tea, read, or simply listen to the bees’ buzz. The award-winning Georgian building has an intriguing layout. A colossal split staircase leading to each side of the second floor is breathtaking and a reminder of a time the house was divided.
Every comfort is provided, including a teapot at your bedside and a hot-water bottle for your bed. The cooked to order breakfast each morning offers anything you might desire. This quiet and comfortable lodging is a model of unforgettable hospitality and Georgian renovation.
2. Walk The Shropshire Way
It’s not your usual 11-day, 297-mile hike; it’s a walk. So all you need is a day pack.
The Shropshire Way is not mindless walking. Instead, the track reveals the best of this often-overlooked area, Shropshire Hills, Shropshire, England.
While walking the long-distance footpath, you’ll climb over stiles, pass through kissing gates, and traverse sheep-covered hills. Wander through Medieval towns, summit remote rocky crags, cross iron bridges, explore ruins of forts and castles, then bivouac in B&Bs and pubs.
You’re meant to walk a bit, linger a bit, take in the sites, immerse yourself in village life, and take in The Shropshire Hills.
3. Restore At The Bog
The Bog visitor center is unlike any you’ll visit anywhere. The center for the Shropshire Way and the Shropshire Hills was once the valley schoolhouse. Today, the Bog is home to volunteers that make a warm and dry place for walkers and hikers to have a cup of tea, eat mouthwatering cakes and pies, or enjoy a picnic lunch. Maps, guides, and books for the trail and regional history are exceptional. Many are available nowhere else.
4. Glide The Long Mynd
I might have said connecting a plane with no engine or propeller to a bungee cord, then firing it off the side of a hill is fool-hardy; that is until I tried it. I loved the 3,000-foot view of the moor, heather, hills, farms, and woodlands surrounding Bishop’s Castle.
The Long Mynd is a plateau in the Shropshire Hills. The principal inhabitants are sheep, wild horses, grass, heather, and reeds. The table is world-renowned for gliding, hang gliding, and parasailing. It’s perfectly formed for gliding or jumping off the side of a hill.
The Midland Gliding Club is the only glider port in the region. The club is welcoming to all. Pilots and passengers range in age from 12 to 90. Flights, lessons, rental gliders, lodging, food, drinks, and live entertainment are offered. You can park an RV or set up a tent. There’s no better way to hike the Shropshire Hills and get a hike preview from the air.
5. Cycling The Countryside
Cycling in Shropshire has been elevated to an art form by Wheely Wonderful Cycling. Home-based in Ludlow, Wheely will arrange cycle tours of the Bishop’s Castle countryside.
You can take a day tour or spend 2 or 3 days touring country lanes, villages, farmland, and riverbanks. You stay in Pubs and B&Bs along the way. Your bags are moved along for you from stop to stop. Curated tours are offered for natural beauty, rivers, history, food, drink, and castles. What a way to cycle.
6. Drink Bishop’s Castle Real Ale
In 1642, the Three Tuns Brewery was established. Bishop’s Castle is home to England’s oldest brewery, Three Tuns. Three Bells is the oldest continuously operating pub and a small brewery making real ale.
Sitting on the border with Wales, Shropshire is known for forts and castles built to stop the invading Welsh. Yet, ironically, Welsh shepherds bringing sheep to the market were welcomed at public houses, each serving their own house-brewed ale.
Some of the local pubs and breweries have survived for almost 400 years. More than 16 microbreweries populate the region, bringing traditional ales and modern brews to thirsty consumers. This is the place to find real ale and some of England’s best food.
7. Explore The Church Of St. John The Baptist
Wander through the churchyard before going inside the Church of St John the Baptist. This medieval church was rebuilt in the 17th and 18th-centuries. The churchyard has many graves. I found the stones and burial vaults fascinating.
The architecture ranges from Gothic to modern with lovely leaded and stained-glass windows. I was told the church has a fine choir and that all are welcome to services to enjoy the music.
8. Drop By A House On Crutches
The House on Crutches Museum holds the artifacts of Bishop’s Castle’s daily life from the 19th and 20th-centuries. You’ll get a glimpse of farm and rural life on the borders between Wales and Shropshire. Extensive artifacts from the railway to Bishop’s Castle illuminate how important trains were to this remote area.
Docents are always on hand to share a story and explain artifacts. The crutches in the museum’s name are posts that hold up an overhanging second-story addition.
9. Stokesay Castle
Stokesay Castle was constructed in the 13th century. Exploring the castle is mysterious, romantic, and enlightening. The great hall is genuinely great. I could easily imagine medieval Lords and Ladies feasting and socializing in the expansive chamber.
Climbing the narrow, stone, spiraling stairs to a tower will provide your daily workout, but the view is worth every gasp. Some rooms have been fully restored and contain period-appropriate furnishings, rugs, and tapestries.
It’s easy to spend a day here exploring the castle, gatehouse, church, and grounds. An events program presents activities for all ages, focusing on children and history.
A gift shop and tearoom will round out your visit to this beautifully preserved property.
10. Visit The Last Sin-Eater’s Grave
Richard Munslow was a sin-eater. In fact, he was the last sin-eater in England. He died in 1906 and is buried in a churchyard at St. Margaret’s Church in Ratlinghope, about 10-miles from Bishop’s Castle.
A sin-eater is a person that eats a special meal to spiritually take on the sins of a deceased person. The ritual eating of bread and ale was usually at the graveside. The sin-eater was paid to take the departed’s sins upon their mortal soul to give the departed eternal peace.
The last sin-eater in England is buried in his community at St. Margaret’s Church. This idyllic stone church and park-like churchyard are worth exploring. The architecture inside and out is a mixture of several eras.
The church has medieval origins. It was rebuilt in the 17th-century, then restored in the 19th and 20th-centuries. Careful inspection will reveal details from many periods. Inside the church is a small library. It’s loaded with local history.
11. Ludlow Foodie Experience
Ludlow is the food center of England. On market mornings, trucks and vans park around the Ludlow Market Square. Fruit, vegetables, eggs, poultry, beef, lamb, and pork are proudly displayed and sold. Milk from cows, sheep, and goats produce magnificent English cheese.
Banners name farm and farmer. Most show gold ribbons; many are best-of-show or national champions.
Ludlow, a black and white half-timbered market town, has been a food center for hundreds of years. It’s a great place to consider a progressive lunch or dinner. Move from cafe to pub for each course as you wander around the square.
Ludlow is about 30 minutes from Bishop’s Castle.
12. Have Some Mushy Peas
The Castle Hotel is one of the oldest buildings in Bishop’s Castle. It’s a charming 12-room hotel, bar, and restaurant. You can dine in the bar, terrace, or restaurant.
No matter where you choose to eat at the Castle Hotel, order the fish and chips. It’s served with the traditional mushy peas, a dish I love. The Castle Hotel has the freshest and best I’ve tasted, seasoned with mint and thyme — delicious despite the name.
13. Sit In The Devil’s Chair
The Stiperstones is a quartzite rock hill rising from the gently rolling Shropshire Hills surrounding Bishop’s Castle. The Devil’s Chair is one of the six named tors (outcroppings).
The Stiperstones is a National Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest. Wildlife is abundant. Bring your camera, field glasses, and sturdy boots. Climbing the Stiperstones is challenging but worth it to sit in the Devil’s Chair.
Getting there: Bishop’s Castle is about a 3.5-hour drive from London. It’s 4 hours by train and 6 hours by bus. If you are coming from London, I suggest taking the train and getting your rental car in Bishop’s Castle. You can relax and take in the scenery, enjoy a meal, drink, or nap while on the train.
Come to Bishop’s Castle in Shropshire to escape and restore. Life is a bit slower. But nature is protected, history is honored, folks are friendly, food is unforgettable, and ale is the best in England.
If you’re planning a visit to the UK, keep in mind that there are many charming towns to visit: