Lick your lips in Ludlow
A short break to Ludlow proved a tempting destination for Mike and Jill Hampshire
The view of Ludlow from the hills above the river Teme quickly convinced us that we had made a good choice for our Easter short touring break in South Shropshire. As we took in our first sighting of the town the imposing Norman castle dominated the valley. Set a little further back we could see the tower of St Lawrence’s church surrounded by numerous half-timbered houses and Georgian town houses. The ancient town walls encircled wide streets and narrow alleyways. The river Teme frothed and bubbled over weirs below us, its banks lined with trees newly coming into leaf. All this against a backcloth of the ring of gently rising hills dotted with sheep. It was time to explore!
We had spent a very comfortable B&B night at the working Marlbrook Hall farm a few miles west of Ludlow and our hosts had enthusiastically provided us with a long list of places to visit and things to see during our couple of days. It has to be said that the list was dominated by eating!
A noted gastronomic centre…
Ludlow has a deserved reputation as a gastronomic centre with high class restaurants, speciality food shops as well as thriving markets heaving with fresh local produce. As we explored the various walkways and busy streets we came across some of the shops and eateries we had been told to look out for: The Mousetrap, ‘a sight of lactic excellence’, displaying a vast array of cheeses; the Chocolate Gourmet ‘a dream shop for chocoholics’; Wall and Son, a traditional butcher proud to be one of the makers of the Ludlow Sausage; Price and Sons’ mouth-watering breads and confectionery and The Fruit Bowl with fruit and vegetables spilling outside from the shop..
Drawn to the market square we drifted between enticing displays of local produce under their bright blue and white awnings. Market stalls laboured under the weight of mighty savoury pies; inviting cakes and tarts; local ciders and beers; pyramids of jars of pickles, jams and honey; cascades of bread; attractively arranged field-fresh vegetables. The banter of friendly market stall traders added to the atmosphere; many old hands, but others developing their passion for food like young Sam with his ‘Scrummy Bites’ stall – sadly almost sold out by the time we spotted him!
…and an old town vista
The carillon bells of St Lawrence drew us away. We discovered this gem of a church tucked immediately behind the Butter Cross. Proud locals regard the church of St Lawrence as their ‘Cathedral of the Marches’ and it certainly merits a lengthy, quiet visit. We ventured up the 200 steps to the top of the tower and from this vantage point could fully appreciate the grid layout of the medieval hill-top town whose wealth was based originally on the wool and cloth trade. The town’s defensive wall was punctuated in the past by seven main and postern gates. Only one remains, still sporting deep grooves for lowering the portcullis. The varied higgledy piggledy roof tops beneath us provided witness to there being some 500 listed buildings in Ludlow.
A choice of eateries
Back down on the ground and being foody travellers, it was time to search out some of the eateries in Ludlow. Quality Square has a couple of pleasing, relaxed bistro-type lunch time stops, but we chose to take an early ‘tea and cakes’ snack in the quaint atmosphere of De Grey’s ‘quintessential English Tea Room’ (their own description!). The building dates back to 1570 and diners sit under exposed beams half expecting Elizabeth Tudor to wander in for a ‘quick cuppa’. For an evening meal we chose the wholefood restaurant called ‘The Olive Branch’. Served by enthusiastic young staff and eating by candlelight, it was a very enjoyable, reasonably priced home-cooked meal with an inventive menu. Well-heeled visitors to Ludlow can book into Mr Underhill’s, a Michelin star ‘restaurant-with rooms’ down on the river bank, but for our second evening we enjoyed an excellent meal at the Courtyard restaurant back in Quality Square.
If you feel the calorie intake from this foody extravaganza too high, then try a brisk walk around the town walls following the leaflet guide available from the Tourist Board in Castle Square. But why not be more adventurous and take to the South Shropshire hills encircling Ludlow and look back upon the town nestling above the river Teme. Many regard Ludlow as the loveliest town in England. We are not arguing with them.