Family UK holidays

Steer clear of crowds on a short break in Shropshire with kids

Last updated 12th August 2023

Plan a short break in the UK at this time of year and chances are everyone else has the same idea. That’s why Kim Jones decided to ditch the crowds and head to Shropshire instead, here’s why she thinks you should follow her lead.


Paddleboarding, Alderford Lake, Shropshire

Shropshire is green and it’s pleasant. It’s also unspoilt and uncrowded, yet steeped in history and heritage. Nevertheless, this pretty county still tends to get overlooked for short breaks, particularly in favour of places like the Lake District or Peak District.

So, keen to do something different this year, we headed to Shrewsbury and spent four days discovering things to do in Shropshire that don’t involve queues and jumped up school holiday costs.


Feathers Hotel, Ludlow, Shropshire short breaks

Day 1. Start Shropshire short breaks in Ludlow

Driving from Cardiff, our first stop in Shropshire was the pretty, historic market town of Ludlow.

Its streets are lined with medieval, Tudor and Georgian buildings, and coaching inns. Interesting independent stores, are another local talent, so you can pretty shop for anything here from gifts and glassware to home-grown design, vintage homeware and sustainable beauty products.

There’s also an outdoor market which dates back 900 years and trades on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. This is the spot to find local produce, flowers and plants, antiques, artisan crafts, books and just about anything else you can think of.


Ludlow Castle, Shropshire

Explore Ludlow Castle and hang on for afternoon tea

Shopping aside, don’t miss  Ludlow Castle. This medieval fortress sits on top of the town, so the views are amazing, and you get to explore its rooms, as well as the towers and grounds.

Then drop in to the historic Feathers Hotel on the high street. It’s a Grade I listed, half-timbered building that’s a real town landmark. Step inside and you’ll find lumpy floors and creaking floorboards, sloping beamed ceilings and a huge sense of history. Of course we came for their well-loved afternoon tea, and we were not disappointed. Think dainty finger sandwiches, homemade quiche, scones, miniature cakes, and you get the idea.


Stokesay Castle Gatehouse, Ludlow

Keep the medieval mood going at Stokesay Castle

Happily fuelled up, our next stop was the English Heritage wonder, Stokesay Castle near Craven Arms.

This preserved, fortified manor house, constructed at the end of the 13th century by Laurence of Ludlow – one of the richest men in England – really transports you back to medieval times.

In The Great Hall, you’ll see ceilings blackened by the fire that was kept alight in the middle of the room during banquets. The preserved solar, living quarters, are a delight to investigate, and kids love climbing the winding stairs of the fairy tale tower and looking out over the Shropshire Hills.


Stokesay Castle Gardens, Ludlow

Follow the giant fun family trail

There’s a free audio tour, but the family trail is the real winner. It’s based on the legend that the two hills surrounding Stokesay are giants, and your task is following clues to help them find their lost key.

The pretty walled flower garden is awash with colour in spring and summer, and a mooch around the moat walk is another must-do. Look out for swallows swooping and feeding, plenty of them make their home in the castle’s eaves.


Hawkstone Park Follies, Shropshire

Day 2. Walk your socks off at Hawkestone Park Follies

Whimsical, unique pleasure gardens Hawkstone Park Follies in Weston-under-Redcastle, are 100 acres of parkland developed in the 19th century to include tree-lined walks, grottoes and follies.

Take one of five marked trails around the landscape and cliffs. Although the ‘full route’ takes around 3 hours and might test the time constraints on short breaks, there are also one and two hour walks which fit nicely. However, all require sensible shoes and the terrain’s not suitable for pushchairs.

Along the way there are tall towers to climb and ‘precarious’ bridges to cross. Kids can venture into dark gullies and caves to discover petrified forests. And there’s even an arboretum: home to giant redwoods and ever-adorable monkey puzzle trees.


Intriguing features pepper Hawkstone Park

Walks dotted with fun kids’ activities, heaven

Great news for parents is that the routes are peppered with activities for children, strategically placed at regular intervals, so nobody gets bored walking. You’ll also find play parks to stop off at for some swooping down slides plus the chance to build a survival shelter. And there’s the chance to feed a baby dragon with leaves, work as a team to balance some buckets perfectly, and spot carefully placed ‘eyeballs’ in the trees.


RAF Museum, Cosford, Shropshire

Fly round the flight museum on Shropshire short breaks

Day Two’s afternoon saw us head over to RAF Museum Midlands in Cosford. Here we discovered huge hangars full of aircraft and all got to marvel at how these things ever take off. Try to make time for the accompanying exhibitions which tells the human stories behind the thrills and spills of flying.

The Cold War exhibit houses 19 aircraft, tanks and vehicles including Britain’s V-Bombers: the Vulcan, Victor and Valiant. And at the ‘Bomber Command’ hangar you can see and explore stories of the crew, technology and raids throughout World War II. Plus, the fascinating ‘Test Flight’ exhibits secret aircraft built to test new theories or lines of research in aeronautics.

There’s also an outdoor play area, as well as a flight simulator where you can fly an RAF Eurofighter Typhoon over the Lake district or into a Spitfire.

We can highly recommend the Airfield Kitchen in the museum’s vision centre for authentic pizzas, burgers, sandwiches and pastries, along with a Cadet’s 5-item packed lunch just for kids. Though entrance to the museum is free, there are charges for flight simulator experiences.


Alderford Lake Inflatable Waterpark, Shropshire

Day 3. Take to the water on adventures in Alderford

Alderford Lake, near Whitchurch is a water-lover’s idea of heaven. There’s an aqua adventure where families can slide, climb and splash around on an inflatable assault course. Older kids will be keen to hire SUPs (including an 8-person Mega SUP, perfect for families). Alternatively, the lake also rents Canadian canoes and kayaks.

We loved their escape islands which work on exactly the same basis as escape rooms, only on water. So you’re given an hour to solve a series of clues that help you escape from an island in the middle of the lake.

There are four islands to choose from: Extinction, Tiki Island, The Curse of Camelot and The Forbidden Lair. Extinction is perfect for children who love being an explorer sent to an island to help find the world’s last remaining dinosaur egg.


Alderford Escape Islands, Shropshire

We tried our hand escaping Tiki Island

We tried out Tiki Island: AKA a remote island in the south Pacific where we were tasked to find totems that needed returning to a sacred tribe, before disaster struck.

First, we met our games-master on dry land and were given walkie talkies to use if we needed extra help  (spoiler alert: we did!). Then it was off on a dinghy to the island and the excitement of running around attempting to unlock boxes and decode clues. Proud to announce: we escaped, albeit with only seconds to spare.

Tired, happy and hungry, we rounded off our visit at the inviting Alderford Lakeside Kitchen. Lunches include sandwiches, nachos, along with impressive gluten-free and vegan menus.

Discover Pensacola and find your own, personal Way to Beach


Sabrina sailing the Severn Loop, Shrewsbury

Day 4. Show Shrewsbury some love on short breaks

Shrewsbury town nestles in the shelter of the Shropshire Hills, alongside the river Severn.

To get your bearings, first off climb aboard the passenger boat Sabrina for a 45-minute cruise around the Severn loop.

As you cruise, you’ll pass landmarks like the Welsh Bridge, Theatre Severn and Shrewsbury Castle. You’ll also catch a glimpse of the town’s pretty 29-acre park, as well as the Quarry, and the Quantum Leap sculpture built in the town’s Geo Gardens. Interesting to know that all these were created to celebrate Shrewsbury’s most famous son, Charles Darwin.


Shrewsbury Castle Path

Take a wander round the Tudor town centre

Back on dry land, explore the Tudor centre of town with its half-timbered houses and the newly revamped Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery in the town square: free to enter.

Don’t miss a visit to Shrewsbury’s market hall, a former winner of Britain’s Favourite Market. It was built in the 1960s, so it’s not the loveliest of buildings.  But inside? It’s home to over 60 traders and a real treasure trove for ardent shoppers.


Bird’s Nest Cafe, Shrewsbury Market

It also boasts a buzzing food scene with an eclectic range of bars, cafés and restaurants. As well as Indian and Thai food, there’s a tea house selling Chinese dumplings, and even a Gin palace where cocktails are served with cheese and charcuterie. We tried delicious global street food at  The Bird’s Nest Cafe and can recommend the Thai Larb or Harissa Chicken Flatbread and Halloumi Gyro.


Shrewsbury Prison Tour, Shropshire

Add a prison visit into Shropshire short breaks

Not for the faint-hearted, a tour of Shrewsbury Prison lets you see what life was like in this Victorian-built jail through the ages. The prison-officer guided tour takes you around the jail, and tells  startling stories about what it’s really like to be locked up, and the modern day problems of addiction in prison. There’s also a trip to the execution room, so a self-guided tour is probably a better idea for younger kids.



Burlton Cottages, kitchen/dining room

Where to stay on short breaks in Shropshire

Self-catering is a good choice for short breaks, so we stayed at the beautiful Burlton Cottages, part of a working arable farm near Shrewsbury and nestled in calming countryside.

There are four luxury cottages to choose from, three of which were developed in 2014 from original 19th century outbuildings. Each comes complete with character ceiling beams and cosy underfloor heating, and all are impeccably designed and furnished. There’s also a newly built cottage completed in 2022 and wheelchair accessible.


Burlton Cottages pool

How to turn short breaks into spa breaks

As an added bonus, Burlton cottages have their own spa with swimming pool, hot-tub, steam room and sauna plus treatment rooms. Plus, each cottage has up to two hours exclusive use of the pool every day, and you can choose two consecutive hours or two separate one-hour time slots.

There are also playing fields where you can kick a football, play pitch and putt or rounders, and all sorts of sport equipment is available to borrow from the on-site games store.

Alternatively take a walk around the 500 acre farm, where wildlife thrives thanks to environmental farming methods, like grass margins left close to ditches on the edge of the farm’s fields. And bird-watchers can expect to be treated to glimpses of lapwings, owls, woodpeckers, skylarks, and corn buntings.

How to plan short breaks in Shropshire

How to get there

Shropshire includes the Shropshire Hills AONB and sits in the Midlands, west of Birmingham. Trains from Birmingham to Shrewsbury take from 1 hour, 11 minutes.

Where to stay

Burlton Cottages are at Charity Farm, Burlton, Shrewsbury

Good to know

Start planning short breaks to Shropshire with Visit Shropshire

This article contains affiliate links. We may earn commission when you click on them. This does not influence our editorial standards. We only recommend products and services we believe will enhance your family travel experience.